Wrocław is turning from a hidden secret to a real classic for Poland city trips. Many Wroclaw sights are unique and can easily fill a whole weekend. Wroclaw does not have to take a back seat to the other Polish metropolises Warsaw, Krakow or Gdansk. Wroclaw was even the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and is only about 4 hours away from Berlin by train and can be reached from many other European destinations by plane or train. Reason enough to introduce you to the best Wroclaw sights.
Wroclaw Old Town Sights
In the Old Town of Wroclaw alone there are so many sights and architectural monuments that you could fill half a dozen other cities with them. The Old Town is still the best place to spend time.
Rynek – Wroclaw Ring
At 212 by 175 meters, Wroclaw’s Ring is one of the largest market squares in Poland. Countless beautiful buildings here attract the attention of viewers. Of particular interest are the houses Hansel and Gretel, the building To the Golden Dog, House To the Golden Anchor (Rynek 52), House To the Griffin (Rynek 2), House To the Seven Electors (Rynek 8) and the monument to Alexander Fredro, which originally stood in Lviv.
The City Hall is one of the icons of the city of Wroclaw and of course it is also located on the Rynek Square. It is one of the most beautiful gothic buildings in Europe and definitely belongs on your sightseeing plan for Wroclaw. Well Gothic it is to a large extent. The 66 meter high city hall tower is a testimony of the Renaissance, but still fits well into the ensemble, as does the astronomical clock on the east side.
In the cellar of the town hall there is also the Piwnica Świdnicka. It is considered to be the oldest restaurant in the whole of Poland and has been operating almost without interruption since 1273. However, it is currently closed. The city wants to have the rooms renovated. The renovation is expected to cost more than one million Euro though. In the town hall itself there is the exhibition of the Museum of Bourgeois Art. It is not stunning, but you will get to see the interiors of the town hall and that makes the visit pay off.
Right next to the town hall you can find the pillory, where people were paraded since the year Columbus is said to have discovered America (1492). For Wroclaw, the pillory was a sign of pride, showing that the city was ruled by law and order. People were still executed there until the 18th century and pilloried until the 19th century. Heavily destroyed during the Second World War and demolished in 1947, the pillory was rebuilt in 1985. Today it is the most popular meeting place in the city and anyone who is going on a date in Wroclaw is best doing it here.
University and University Museum
The University of Wrocław was once founded as a school for Jesuits in the 17th century. Secularized by the Prussian authorities in 1811, it quickly developed into a center of education. Especially in the 20th century it was home to some famous scientists. Among them there have been 9 Nobel Prize winners so far. The main building is open to tourists who can enjoy the amazing baroque interiors, which date back to the time when the Jesuits were in charge. Pay full admission for all 4 halls and enjoy the Aula Leopoldina, which still looks more like a church than a university hall. Then climb the Mathematical Tower and take in the view over the Odra River and parts of the Old Town.
Wroclaw Market Hall
It is rare to see real market halls that are still used as such. For this reason alone, the Wroclaw Market Hall is one of the Wroclaw sights you should not miss. It was also here where the famous serial killer Karl Denke, who probably killed far more than 40 people, sold body parts in pickle jars. But don’t worry, that was about 100 years ago and Denke hanged himself in his cell. So you can safely try some of the regional specialties that are available here.
White Stork Synagoge
The White Stork Synagogue was built in 1829 and is named after an inn that stood here in the same place before. Due to its location in a backyard and the proximity to the surrounding buildings, the synagogue was spared from destruction by the Nazis. Nevertheless, Jews were deported from here to the death camps. After the war, the synagogue fell into disrepair and was returned to the Jewish community only in 1996. Today, prayers are held here, but there is also an exhibition on the history of the Jews in Silesia.
Sights on Ostrów Tumski
If you thought that the Old Town is the absolute highlight of Wroclaw, you clearly haven’t been to Ostrów Tumski – Cathedral Island. This is not only where the city was founded. The small streets and the impressive cathedral are the best motifs for photos. It is worthwhile first of all to look from the old town side over the Odra to the Cathedral Island. This way you can see the whole beauty of the place. You will probably get to the island via the Cathedral Bridge, which decorated with thousands of love locks that people left there. On the island itself, most of the buildings are in the hands of the archbishopric.
Cathedral St. John the Baptist
The cathedral, which was started in the 13th century, is one of the most beautiful churches in Poland. It is famous not only for its beautiful stained glass windows, but also for the great view (read more under Viewpoints). Also the organ once was among the largest in the world.
The Wroclaw Botanical Garden, which is also located on Cathedral Island, is often overlooked. It was established under the Prussians as part of the university and is one of the city’s real insider tips. Hundreds of plants can be seen here. Picturesque bridges provide beautiful photo motifs.
Best panoramic view of Wrocław
Wrocław is a city of towers. No less than four of the famous Wrocław landmarks offer the opportunity to enjoy the view of Wrocław from above. And the viewing platforms are all very different too!
If you think Poland’s highest observation deck is in Warsaw, you’re wrong. Poland’s tallest building is indeed the Palace of Culture Warsaw, but the Skytower Wrocław has the highest observation terrace at 212 meters. And the best part is that you can take the elevator to the top and enjoy the view.
Skytower Wrocław Infos
Address: Powstańców Śląskich 95 Opening hours: Tours from Monday to Friday always on the hour and half hour between 9 am and 8:30 pm. On weekends, you can take the elevator up until 9:30 pm. Tickets cost 11 or reduced 6 zloty (about 2.50 or 1.50 euros) during the week and 16 or reduced 8 zloty (4 euros or 2 euros) on weekends. The discount also applies to students with ID.
Tower of St. Elizabeth
I most enjoyed the view from the tower of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wroclaw, because the church is very close to the Rynek. From there, you can also overlook the entire old town. This compensates for the fitness program that you have to complete to get there. You have to climb more than 300 steps in the narrow corridor to the top. That was really exhausting, especially since I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Back down again, you should also definitely go to the brick church.
Info about the tower of St. Elizabeth’s Church
Address: św. Elżbiety 1/2
Opening hours: From 9 am to 6 pm everyone comes for 5 zloty (about 1.25 euros up). Sporting fitness provided 🙂 The church is not open to tourists during services.
Wroclaw Cathedral Tower
In addition to the Elizabeth Church just described, the cathedral is also a really great building. In general, the whole of Ostrow Tumski is very worth seeing. Almost all the churches in the city are made of red brick. This is actually my favorite building material for old buildings. And you can find the color red in the brickwork on the buildings of Wroclaw a lot. From the tower you have an amazing view over the Odra river and towards the old town. Recommended.
Info about the tower of the cathedral
Address: plac Katedralny
Opening hours: From 10 to 17.30 it goes for 4 zloty (reduced 2) in the cathedral and for 5 zloty (reduced 4) with the lift up to the tower. Therefore, no fitness is required here either. However, a height tolerance is recommended. The church is not open to tourists during services on Sunday and so does not open until 2 pm.
Bridge of penitents
Another interesting panorama point is the Bridge of the Penitents, which connects the two towers of St. Magdalene. Here you also have a fantastic view over the city at a height of 45 meters.
Infos on the Bridge of Penitents
Address: Szewska 10
Opening hours: From 10 am to 6 pm you go to the bridge for 8 zloty (reduced 5).
Wroclaw was rightly the European Capital of Culture 2016. There is not only an art academy in the city. In many places of the city there are works of art to see. Sculptures are waiting for you almost everywhere. Galleries offer interesting modern art and also older works of art entice you to visit.
They stand in all sorts of places and seem to virtually haunt you. And in fact, they were once a political symbol as well. In the 1980s, the artist Major Waldemar Fydrych painted the Wroclaw Gnomes everywhere in protest against the communist regime. Initially, a monument named Papa Krasnal was erected in 2005 to commemorate the event. Then the city commissioned another artist to erect 5 gnomes. From here the hype began and now there are over 400 gnomes in the city. The city of Wrocław has even given away gnomes to the twin cities. Many tourists literally go on the hunt for the gnomes* – a great activity with kids, by the way.
An impressive monument is the artwork Passage, also called the Monument to the Anonymous Passers-by. The work by Jerzy Kalina commemorates the victims of communist terror who disappeared during the period of martial law in communist Poland in the 1980s. The figures sink on one side of a traffic light intersection into the ground, while on the other side seven figure reappear.
Street Art in Wrocław
The street art in Wrocław is hard to miss. Many walls are covered with oversized graffiti. Sculptures and works of art can be found everywhere on the streets. There is a lively gallery scene, which, among other things, organize a joint gallery evening in Wrocław every year. You can also take a walk to explore the lively art scene in the neighborhood between the Old Town and Nadodrze train station.
Neon Side Gallery (Galeria Neonów) is a collection of neon signs hung together in a backyard. This used to be the location of the Reklama company, which produced neon signs. The owner of the gallery, Tomasz Kosmalski, wanted to save the advertisements and therefore bought more and more of them. Today there are more than 30 advertisements that delight visitors.
The Racławice Panorama was originally dedicated in 1894 in Lviv (today Ukraine) on the 100th anniversary of the victory of the Polish army led by General Tadeusz Kościuszko over the Russian army in the Battle of Racławice. Due to the expulsion of Poles from Eastern Galicia, the panorama was dismantled and stowed away. Not wanting to anger the Soviets, the Polish Communists hid the panorama until it was displayed again in the 1980s in a specially constructed building. The painting measures 15 by 114 meters, making it one of the largest paintings in the world.
Polish Poster Gallery Wroclaw
You should end your tour of the galleries in Wrocław at the Polish Poster Gallery. There you can find, among other things, many alternative movie posters and other things from the advertising history of communist Poland. A virtually unknown fact is that since film posters for films from the West were not allowed during the communist era, each of the Eastern bloc countries had its own posters. Gallery owner Krzysztof Marcinkiewicz exhibits the best posters here and has a catalog with 5000 additional motifs. If you don’t know where else to find galleries, you can get some helpful tips here. But then you have to carry the posters with you all the time, because there is no way you are gonna leave here without one 🙂
Address: Polish Poster Gallery, ul. Św. Mikołaja 54/55, open daily from 12 to 6pm. In addition to posters, there are also postcards and many interesting stories about Polish poster art.
Steel sculpture NAWA on Wsypa Daliowa Island
Admirers will find an unusual work of art on the island of Wyspa Daliowa. The large sculpture NAWA by designer Oskar Zięta from Wroclaw is almost 7 meters high and 15 meters wide and reflects the surroundings. The glossy stainless steel project was erected for the celebration of the European Capital of Culture 2016 entitled “Metamorphosis of Culture”.
Architectural Wrocław sights – The most beautiful buildings of Wrocław
Wroclaw used to be called Breslau, it was Polish, then Austrian, Prussian, German, occupied by the Soviets and now it’s Polish, but still often feels Silesian. A pretty good base not only for tasty food, but also for different architectural styles. To be fair, though, the Austrians and Germans have left the most traces.
Wroclaw Centennial Hall – Unique UNESCO World Heritage Site
Although many admire the churches of the city, some visitors do not necessarily have in mind that in Wrocław you can also find other interesting architectural styles. In particular, the Centennial Hall. It was built from 1911 to 1913 by the Wroclaw architect Max Berg. Personally, it reminds me a bit of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. But it is actually an event and exhibition hall. It can be visited. However, we recommend that you combine your visit to the Centennial Hall with a guided tour to learn more about this fascinating world heritage site.
The needle-shaped monument was erected in Wrocław in 1948 on the occasion of an exhibition about the “regained Western territories”. At that time still over 100 meters high, parts of the sculpture fell victim to a storm. Today, the needle is therefore only 90 meters high, but has just been renovated and is one of the city’s landmarks.
In front of the hall there is also a large water basin. In the basin there are many fountains, which create a magnificent fountain system, which is illuminated in many different colors and is a popular tourist attraction in Wroclaw.
Grunwald Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in Poland. Originally it was opened as the Emperor’s Bridge and Wilhelm II, the German emperor, was present in person. It was damaged during World War II but then repaired and reopened by 1947 – now as Most Grunwaldzki in memory of the Battle of Tannenberg.
Department Store Rudolf Petersdorff
In addition, there are many houses and decorations from the Art Nouveau style in the city. A little later still came the Modernist department store architecture. The large department stores in Wroclaw, such as the Kaufhaus Rudolf Petersdorff on Ulica Szewska, belonged mostly to Jewish families. They were expropriated in the course of Jewish expulsion by the Nazis. The department store was built by the famous architect Erich Mendelsohn, who also built the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin. The department store in Wroclaw stands with half a cylinder in the public space. i find it simply beautiful.
Wertheim Department Store – today Renoma
The former Wertheim department store is one of my favorite buildings in Wroclaw. Built between 1928 and 1930 according to plans by architect Hermann Dernburg, it was the city’s largest department store at the time. Completely burned out during the war, it was given its current name Renoma in the Polish People’s Republic. Since 2009, the department store is now a shopping center and attracts many visitors.
Turn of the Century Buildings
But one should not overlook the Warenhaus Feniks (Rynek 31-32), the former department store of the Barasch brothers. The Art Nouveau façade and the globe on the roof are reminders of the glorious days of Wroclaw. In this course, you should also visit the Hotel Monopol (Ulica Świdnicka), where Marlene Dietrich and Pablo Picasso stayed.
Parks and gardens in Wrocław
Wroclaw is not only a very beautiful city, but also very green one. Riverside paths along the Odra River and many islands, as well as parks and gardens invite you to linger and relax from the noise of the busy city.
Park Szczytnicki is the largest park in the city with over 100 hectares and one of the must see Wroclaw sights. The park was first laid out in 1785, but the most important extension was made by Peter Joseph Lenné, who also designed the gardens and parks of the Prussian palaces, especially in Potsdam and Berlin. Another special feature is the wooden church of St. John Nepomuk, which was actually built by carpenters in the village of Stary Koźle and came to Wroclaw in 1913 only.
Japanese Garden Wroclaw
Right next to the Centennial Hall, the Japanese Garden was created between 1909 and 1912. It was also created for the Wroclaw Centennial Exhibition, but subsequently fell into disrepair. In the 1990s, the Japanese Embassy in Poland helped restore the park. The park is called Hakkoen, the Red and White Garden, which is a reference to the colors of the national flag that both countries share. Today there are again some Japanese style buildings to see here, so you will actually feel a bit like in Japan during your visit.
Zoo Wrocław und Afrykarium
Wroclaw Zoo is one of the zoos with the most species in the world with more than 1,100 animal species and over 10,000 animals. It is definitely the largest zoo in Poland. It was one of the first zoos in the German Empire where animals were shown in outdoor enclosures and not only in cages. Heavily destroyed during World War II, the zoo was reopened in 1947 and has been expanded ever since. Today, the so-called Afrykarium is especially popular. In this oceanarium and enclosure, the themed areas of the Red Sea, hippos and great lakes, a shark tank, the Skeleton Coast in Namibia and the Congo Hall attract visitors.
Wroclaw sightseeing tours
To get a perfect overview of the sights of Wroclaw, you can easily organize a tour with a guide. We can recommend you the following tours.
- 3-hour city tour on history and culture* – Great overview of the city and the main sights.
- Wroclaw Centennial Hall and Surroundings* – Check out the Centennial Hall with a knowledgeable guide to learn interesting details you wouldn’t find on your own.
- Culinary City Tour* – Love also goes to Wroclaw especially through the stomach!
If that doesn’t appeal to you, check out the other deals on Breslau tours*.