This is the question I get asked every single time I tell people I have lived in Poland. The frown deepens when I tell I picked Wroclaw amongst far more well-known choices as Copenhagen or Vienna. “Vivi, whyyyy?!”
Well, outside Europe, Wroclaw is barely heard of. I always had the desire to experience life in different places but, being completely honest with you, I was never that curious about Poland. I didn´t know anything about Its culture and I had zero knowledge about the language. All I knew was some historic facts and that their winter is freezing cold. Enough reason to cross it out of the list, right? Hmm, not quite.
The thing is, until then, I had always lived in countries I could speak at least a bit of the language and I had tons of information about. Why not try something completely new this time? Why not give myself the chance to live somewhere I would never have chosen before, but the opportunity is here, now? And that´s how I ended up in Wroclaw.
Long story short, I absolutely fell in love with this city. Today, I´m going to tell you why you should consider adding Wroclaw to your itinerary!
. Stuffing yourself is cheap!
This is one of the biggest advantages of Wroclaw: you can still get a nice meal for under 8 euros. And, make no mistake, the polish do love a big heavy meal! I never ate so much for so less. You can find quality burgers for as cheap as 4 euros at Burger LTD or Moaburguer, for example, huge pierogi portions for 6 euros at Pierogarnia and generous meat plates for 8-9 euros at Kurna Chata .
If you are into healthy food, don´t worry, it´s been a while the city has been offering visitors many smoothie stores, vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. A meal at Baszta , a thai vegetarian restaurant, will cost you around 6 euros, for example.
With these prices, it´s hard to want to cook at home, but it´s also an option if you can to save even more money.
Bakeries are also cheap, if you avoid the trendy ones. My favorite is Nasza Paczkarnia , and if you go there you will immediately discover why: they serve big, delicious treats for prices as low as 80 cents. Depending on the time of the day, you might have to spend a few minutes in the huge line. But it´s worth it, I promise!
. History & Public Art
Wroclaw has many stories to tell, all you have to do is listen. You can hear the walls of Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, for example, tell you how it emerged as the first brick building in Poland. The sight of this construction is just stunning, no wonder it took 5 centuries to be finished! You can also cross a street in the city center together with the many bronze statues called “anonymous pedestrians”, who tell their tales of resistance and underground movement against the Communist regime, which ruled the country until 1989. You can also visit the University of Wroclaw´s main building, which would share some interesting anecdotes about the time it was a temporary headquarter for the Nazis or, on a brighter note, about the Nobel Prize winners that studied there.
You can also visit the many museums in order to learn a bit more about Wroclaw´s history. Still, one thing you cannot skip is dwarf hunting. Wait, what?! Dwarf hunting is one of the most fun ways to visit the most remarkable places in town and honor History. There are over 350 bronze dwarfs scattered around, each engaged in different actions like drinking, sleeping and singing, or representing professions, like the chimney sweeper and the vet. Some were built in order to honor people that have achieved something remarkable in the city like Professor Miodek, an important linguist who taught in the Institute of Polish Philology of Wroclaw for decades.
The little statues are a homage to a group which used to ridicule the Soviet regime during the 80´s by painting dwarfs in public areas surveilled by the government. Looking for the dwarfs is a lot of fun and also informative, since there´s a reason why each and every single one of them exist and why they were placed where they currently stand. You might even find a pole dancing dwarf…..You didn´t hear it from me!
To help you in this quest, you can buy a dwarf map at one of the tourist shops at the market square, or use Android apps like Wroclaw Dwarfs or Dwarf-some Wroclaw . For more info about this public art, visit the official page here .
. Charming Architecture
If the public art didn´t convince you of how charming this city is, maybe the architecture will! Though Wroclaw was one of the last cities to fall during the Second World War, and half of the old town was left in ruins, the city recovered well – here you will find one of the most beautiful market squares in Europe!
Wroclaw´s main square is surrounded by colorful medieval houses in different shapes and sizes, creating the most joyful sight of the city even in rainy days. This is a pedestrian area, so you can take as many pictures as you want in as many different angles as you like without the risk of being rushed by car honks or being run over by a tram.
One of the most impressive buildings here is definitely the old city hall. It is dated from the 13th century and its imposing gothic architecture deserves at least a few minutes of your time!
Walking around the city without much previous information was my favorite thing, because it always found ways to surprise me. When I thought I was in love with the medieval resident houses of the market square, the gothic city hall and the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Wroclaw introduced me some beautiful classic and art-nouveau architecture. The Hotel Monopol is a great example of the latter, while the Opera house stands for the former.
Always walk aimlessly but attentively in order to find many of Wroclaw´s architectural gems…even department stores´ buildings will certainly catch your eye!
. Cozy Cafés
This might have been the first reason why I fell in love with Wroclaw. There are many nice and cozy Cafés which will invite you to spend a whole afternoon sipping on tea and eating cake with a book in your hands.
One of my ultimate favorites is also located in one of my dearest corners of the city. The Love & Chocolate is a super cute café with a privileged view to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and to the charming Most Tumski bridge. I could sit here and look out of this window with a warm cup of chocolate for hours! By the way, if you indeed order a cup of chocolate, try the one with pumpkin spice!
Crossing the bridge, you will find the Cafeteria Chic. I normally choose cozy over fancy, but this one is a nice mixture of both! Though it is not the cheapest, the apple cake is definitely worth the price and so is the cheesecake. The atmosphere is so nostalgic, you will feel like you are having tea about 50 years ago!
The Vinyl Café is also not to be missed. Its pink walls, mismatched cups and chairs will make you feel like you are sitting in your grandma´s living room during the 80´s (and I mean this in a good way!). The coffee is fair trade, the cakes are tasty and you will be surrounded by hundreds of vinyl discs. If this sounds too vintage for you, try the Bema Café , which offers a much more modern vibe but still keeps its cozy atmosphere.
But, if you are an “old times” fan like me, the Kawalerka Café and the Czajownia are also options you won´t regret to try. Czajownia is, by the way, one of my favorite tea houses EVER!
. It´s a fun City!
The nightlife of Wroclaw has a reputation. Though I was never a party girl (“never” here means “ never after my 30´s”, lol), walking around the city center at night one could tell the night would still be young for a loooong time past midnight. It wasn´t rare to wake up early to go to classes and see people getting out of clubs still.
The alcohol prices are also very cheap in comparison to other countries in Europe, which makes Wroclaw an awesome party city. My friends and I loved to get drinks at Papa Bar, where you will spend 5-9 euros on fancy cocktails – it gets cheaper during happy hour! In Germany, we pay normally around 3-8 euros more for the same cocktails in cities like Frankfurt. The Cocktail Bar Max & Dom Whisky is also a nice option on the fancier side, still for cheap prices! Do yourself a favor and try the grasshopper drink there! Also, hold your cameras ready, because the fruity drinks are highly instagrammable!
Another favorite bar is the Czeski Film, with a darker atmosphere but with even cheaper drinks than Papa Bar! There, you can find really good long drinks for as cheap as 4,50 euros. At the famous Czupito , a really fun shot bar, you can score 2 shots for about 1,20 euros during happy hour. A pint of local beer will cost you around 1,50 euros at a restaurant. Man, it will be hard to stay sober!
. The People are friendly
As I stated before, I didn´t know much about Poland before I moved there, so I didn´t really know what to expect from the people. I´m glad to say, I was positively surprised! Somehow, my time there made me feel a bit like in Brazil (except for the cold!) – the people are loud, extremely friendly and ready to help. Most of the young people speak English really well, but the older and those who don´t will still try to help you if you need.
I never forgot the episode when I was late to go to the university and I couldn´t find a working ticket machine where I could buy my bus ticket. After I had run around the whole city center and was about to give up, an older lady realized my despair and called the company responsible for the machines. After what looked like a very heated discussion, she literally took me by the hand and showed me a working machine just outside the center ring. Without speaking a word of the same language, I thanked her a lot and we said our goodbyes.
This was just one episode of kindness I experienced in Wroclaw out of many. Because of them, and all the items mentioned above, I will keep going back there for sure!