Fun things to do in Wroclaw

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Wroclaw

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    Church of Mary on Sand Island

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 19, 2014

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    The majestic gothic church on Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek), dedicated to the Virgin Mary, used to be the convent church of the adjacent Augustine abbey. It is a hall church with rather narrow side aisles. A peculiarity are the vaults (photo 4) which look like "braids" due to the alternating position of the pillars.

    The church is furnitured with several late gothic altars. These are not in their original place - the museum of the archdiocese gave them to the church after World War II to substitute the (baroque) altars which had been destroyed by fire.

    We could not get further in than to the gate underneath the gallery in the west - the nave seems to be barred except for mass. The side chapel on the right is also accessible.

    This side chapel hosts a large nativity with countless figures and toys, a model train, and other mechanical pieces that move. A very old lady guards the chapel and turns on light and mechanics when there are visitors, plus some music that probably meets her taste, but it all matches well. This nativity is fun to watch. It may even reconcile children with their parents' desire to visit yet another church...

    The Nativity Vaults in the side nave
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    Dworzec glowny - Central Station

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 19, 2014

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    Wroclaw's main train station deserves a "Things to do" tip because of its architecture. Unless you have to run for a train, take your time to wander a bit round and look at the details. The station building has been renovateed and refurbished before the European soccer championship in 2012. Now it is all shiny in bright Indian yellow.

    The neogothic station building was opened in 1857. This is a rather early example of gothic revival in (then) Germany; English neogothic buildings were used as model for the design. The front with the main entrance, restaurants and offices, and the side wings are stone buildings. Behind, it's steel and glass. The main entrance is flanked by two towers that make the central wing resemble a neogothic castle-palace.

    The transversal hall with the ticket and information counters was the original arrival hall. One train track was not sufficient for long, so the vaulted station hall with four platforms was added behind it, and the first hall became what it is now. Ticket counters and information desk reside behind pretty woodcarved framing.

    When looking for your train, note that there are two different numberings, and two numbers displayed on the timetable. "Peron" is the platform, "tor" the track. There are platforms 1 - 4 and tracks 1 - 8. Platform 2 has the tracks 3 and 4, for example (photo 5).

    More photos in the travelogue: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ca2b5/

    Main entrance First hall Station seen from Skytower
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    A Walk on the Islands

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 11, 2014

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    A walk on the islands offers new views of the buildings by the river bank and the Oder river. The footpaths have, or most of them, recently been redesigned and newly paved. The islands are connected by footbridges and covered in parks. So you can explore to your liking.

    Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) is the seat of some abbeys and has three churches. There and on Wyspa Mlynska (Mill Island) watermills used to be working, one 19th century mill building over the canal between the two is still there. From Wyspa Mlynska a path and bridge lead over to the parks on Wyspa Slodowa and Bielarska. A favourite of mine is the statue of Socrates on Wyspa Bielarska, with its big hands and feet (photo 5).

    However, I would not do this walk in the evening. I walked there on a Sunday morning and there were a lot of "Saturday night leftovers" - broken bottles and garbage on the one hand, drunk guys sleeping on several of the benches on the other. I felt a bit insecure. Not sure what (and who) is going on there at night. It was August, though, hence no university students. I have been told that the islands, especially Wyspa Slodowa, are a favourite meeting point of the students to sit and drink beer, so during the semester the atmosphere will be different for sure. Footnote: Drinking in public places is officially not allowed, but everyone does and everyone knows, and the students' trick is, if a police patrol arrives, putting the beer to the ground and telling them, "This isn't our beer, we do not know who it belongs to." ;-)

    Old mill View towards the university Socrates statue
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    "Transition" - the invisible underground passage

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 9, 2014

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    The monument consists of fourteen life-size bronze figures, depicting passers-by, ordinary people of all ages, crossing the street through a non-existent underground passage. On one side of the street they seem to sink into the pavement, on the other side they re-emerge.
    Their dress and acessoires, old-fashioned and outdated, suggest that these are people from the communist era. There are workers of various professions, a young mother with her baby in a pram, an old woman walking with a cane, her handbag cluthed tight, others are returning from the office or from grocery shopping.

    The people depicted remain anonymous, the significance of the sculptures is not clear. On the one hand it is funny to see them disappearing in the gropund and reappearing on the opposite side, a fancy idea of the sculptor. On the other hand, the monument can also be interpreted more seriously, as symbolizing the transition and changes in Poland since the end of communism, or as referring to the era of the martial law in the 1980s when the opposition had to go 'underground'.

    Location: intersection of ul. Swidnicka and Pilsudski, not far from the central station

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    Zoo: Historical Buildings

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 8, 2014

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    The zoo in Wroclaw was opened in 1865. Apart from seeing the animals, to architecture enthusiasts the buildings are also of interest. The oldest part on the western side of the grounds has a number of historical animal houses which are still in use, though modernized inside and/or their purposes were changed if they did not seem suitable any more. These buildings were designed in the era of historism, the styles were adapted to the inhabitants. While the bears lived in a medieval castle, for the elephants and monkeys 'oriental' styles were chosen.

    Photo 1: The former restaurant now hosts the Terrarium and the butterfly hall.

    Photo 2: The elephant house was supposed to look like an Indian palace, probably.

    Photo 3: The monkey house also has an 'oriental' look.

    Photo 4: On the other hand, there are the modern designs of the newest buildings like the Afrykarium, which is still under construction currently (summer 2014). This basin is the new home of the fur seals.

    Photo 5: The "castle" by the riverside hosts the owls nowadays. Originally it was built for the bears. It is hard to imagine that they kept grown bears in these narrow compartments. Poor beasts. We can be glad that times have changed.

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    Zoo

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 8, 2014

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    Wroclaw's zoo is one of the largest in Poland. It is a modern scientific zoo which takes part in international breeding programmes of endangered specieses. They have all the important animals from all around the world that you can expect in a large zoo. Then there is an aquarium, a terrarium for reptiles and insects, a butterfly hall, playgrounds and of course abundant supply of food and souvenirs available. Half a day is easily spent inside, or even longer. The zoo is very popular in the city, especially with families. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and in addition to animals I also saw what felt like thousands of Polish children...
    My favourite animal photos are in this travelogue: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ca14f/

    The zoo is located in the eastern part of the city, close to Hala Stulecia. The entrance gate is a relic of the 1913 century exhibition, it used to be the main entrance to the exhibition grounds and was later adapted. In fact the zoo occupies a part of the former exhibition grounds. Its origins are older, though - it was founded already in 1864 and is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. Some 19th century buildings are preserved - see separate tip on the architecture.

    The old buildings cause some problems because they are not up to modern standards and not adequate for the animals' needs. The zoo is undertaking many efforts to create new, larger and better homes for the animals. Currently there is a huge construction site in the middle of the zoo grounds, which is going to be the new Afrykarium, which will show mostly water-dwelling animals from Africa. Another project is the Odrarium, where visitors will see and learn about life in Wroclaw's river. Already completed are for example the new vast enclosures for lynx and wildcats, the rhinoceros house, the Madagascar pavillon.

    My enthusiasm comes with a few grains of salt, though. At many enclosures the visitors are rather far away from the animals - which is good for the animals because they have their peace and quiet, but not so good for the visitors as it is often hard to spot the animals in the distance. Also, other zoos are better at hiding the electric fences and other security measures. Here, some enclosures have a distinct prison flair, for example the one for the brown bears (photo 3) which is actually a wide stretch of forest and rocky land and a perfectly fine home for the bears, but as a visitor the first thing you notice are the fences. Some older enclosures urgently need renovation and modernizing - but of course they cannot do everything at once.

    For up to date information on entrance fees and opening hours, please check the website: http://www.zoo.wroclaw.pl/index.php - in 2014 the entrance fee is 30 PLN for adults.
    Since the grounds are large, paths are winding and navigation is difficult despite signposts and info boards, it is wise to invest 3 PLN more and buy a zoo map.

    Entrance gate (1913) Gibbons: Who is watching whom? Brown bear high security area Okapi paddock
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    • Zoo
    • Aquarium

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    Monument to Boleslaw Cardinal Kominek

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 8, 2014

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    A monument on Sand Island is dedicated to Boleslaw Kominek, the first Polish Archbishop of Wroclaw - officially only from 1972 to 1974, he had been denominated and consecrated much earlier but due to troubles with the regime could not reside in Wroclaw and take his office. After the experience of World War II, the expulsion of the German population, the division of Europe, and the Cold War, he was one of the first who sought reconciliation with post-war Germany. Kominek was the author of a letter from the Polish bishops to their German colleagues in 1965, which contained the famous sentence: "We forgive and we ask to be forgiven."

    This phrase is quoted in Polish and German on the inclined pavement below his statue. The monument depicts him with a peace dove taking off from his hands.

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    Monument to Slaughtered Animals

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 8, 2014

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    The lifesize bronze animals in Stare Jatki, the former butchers' lane, are a popular attraction with small and big kids;-) People like to sit on them and pose with them for photos. The group includes two pigs, a goat, a goose, a rabbit, a cock and a hen - all of them animals which are popular in pots and pans.

    The animals were created by various artists. Inscriptions on the wall behind them list their names, and also the sponsors. There are plans to further extend the group.

    The inscription on the bronze platter in the pavement translates to: "In honor of Animals for Slaughter - The Consuments". Now is that supposed to be funny, or isn't it rather cynical?

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    Monument to Boleslaw Chrobry

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 8, 2014

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    Boleslaw Chrobry (Boleslaw the Brave) became the first King of Poland in the year 1000. During his reign the boundaries of Poland were vastly extended. He founded the archbishopric of Gnesen and thus supported Christian mission. More about his life and reign is summed up quite well in the Wikipedia article so I don't want to repeat it here.

    Local friends tell me they find this monument totally ugly. Well, I have seen worse, I actually like it. Make up your own mind! The monument is not socialist art but a rather recent artwork - maybe that's why it causes such strong emotions. The statue is only seven years old. It was created by three artists and erected in September 2007.
    Before 1945 there was a monument to the German Emperor Wilhelm II in this place.

    Location: ul. Swidnicka/Podwale, where ul. Swidnicka crosses the Fosa miejska, in the open square between opera house, Corpus Christi church and Renoma mall.

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    Skytower

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 5, 2014

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    The most recent addition to Wroclaw's skyline is impossible to overlook. Total height is 212 metres. It was actually supposed to be even taller but the economical crisis in 2008 caused a slight reduction of plans. The Skytower was completed in 2012 and is the highest building not only in Wroclaw but in the whole of Poland. The investor behind it is one of the richest people in the country, Leszek Czarnecki. This for the lovers of superlatives! Some apartments are still available, so if you are looking for a home with a view and have money to blow...
    I hear from local friends that among Wroclawians the tower has a nickname which should not be said aloud - use your imagination.

    The Skytower is a city of its own for about 4.000 people - one could spend a whole life in there without ever leaving it. The tower contains luxury apartments. The "sail" serves as office buildings. The lower parts contain a shopping mall, doctors studios, fitness club and just about everything. There is even a jogging trail on the roof for daily exercise.

    Note the sculpture outside the main entrance, entitled "Profile of Time" (photos 3 and 5). The sign says Dalí and it is a genuine Dalí indeed.

    The 49th floor at the top of the tower is a public viewpoint which offers a fantastic view of the city (see separate tip).

    More photos of "The Skytower and the City" in here: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ca0b9/

    Getting there: Tram 2, 6, 7, 14, 17, 20, 24 to "Wielka" - no need to look for stop names, though, as this tram stop is next to the tower and you have to try really hard to miss this building.

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    Skytower Viewpoint

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 5, 2014

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    The 49th floor of the Skytower is a public viewpoint. On a clear day the view is fabulous. I have only been up at midday - it must also be impressive at sunset and at night.
    The fast lift takes you to the top in about 50 seconds, something like one second per floor.
    The view covers not the full round, because the observation deck is located in the "cut off" top part, but about 270° in total. It is all indoors behind solid glass. The windowpanes go down to the floor, so people with a fear of heights may need a bit of courage.

    Some zoom views taken from the observation deck: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ca0b5/

    Website: http://galeria.skytower.pl/punkt-widokowy.html
    Opening hours: Time slots are given from 9.00 (Sunday: 10.00) to 21.30, every 30 minutes.
    Entrance fee:
    on weekdays: adults 10 PLN, kids and concessions 5 PLN
    on weekends: adults 14 PLN, kids and concessions 7 PLN
    Time slots: Tickets are sold for time slots every 30 minutes. You then have half an hour in total to enjoy the view including the lift ride up and down. They are strict, there is no staying behind on the observation deck to extend your stay.
    There are 50 tickets available for every time slot. So you may not necessarily be able to go up immediately. Plan enough time. You can go shopping in the mall and have a coffee and snack (only American style coffee bars, unfortunately), or buy a ticket for a later time in the day and come back.
    Punctuality: Be at the lift a few minutes before your time slot. Late comers will not be taken up any more.
    Reservations: are possible for groups only (see website), not for individuals!

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    Krasnale or Krasnoludki: The Gnome Invasion

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 2, 2014

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    There is a second city in the city, inhabited by little people, and a second society that happily lives among the Wroclawians. More and more of them are moving in every year. They work in various crafts and professions, they have their own infrastructure including post office and bank, and they enjoy their leasure time just as much as humans do. The representants appear at many street corners or doorways.

    Yes I am talking about the gnomes. In Wroclaw they are known als Krasnale or Krasnoludki. They are bronze figurines, approx. 30 cms high, which can be found in many spots in the old town and also in other quarters.

    The origins of the gnome figures are said to be related to the Orange Alternative, a protest movement of students in 1980/81 that used the gnome as their symbol. Other locals told me, though, that this is a rumour and they are just a tourist attraction. Decide for yourselves what you want to believe! The first gnome, nicknamed Papa Krasnal, was, however, put up as a memorial to the Orange Alternative in ul. Swidnicka in 2001. However, he seems to be gone, a least I could not find him in the crossing where he was supposed to be!

    In 2013 the total number of gnomes was given as about 250. New ones appear all the time. Most are sponsored by businesses, shops etc. who chose the motif and have the little statue created by an artist. Other gnomes refer to the historical significance and tradition of the place whre they are located, like the miller on Wyspa Piasek or the butcher in ul. Jatki.

    If you want to go ‘hunting’ for them you can buy a map of the city with their locations marked at the tourist information and at souvenir and book shops. The map also has pictures of them and explanations about each gnome’s name and occupation in three languages including English. There are new ones all the time and not all of them are registered, hence the map is not complete.

    I got myself the map but I think that spotting them by coincidence is more fun. Watch out for people who take photos of and/or pose for photos at weird street corners where there seems to be nothing to take a photo of... there surely is a gnome involved.

    More photos will be in the travelogues!

    In ul. Swidnicka Gnome Bank ATM in Rynek The Professor at the old university Lantern climber in Plac Solny The Tourist in Rynek
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    Best Spot for Sunset Photos

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 2, 2014

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    Photos 1 - 3: The best spot for taking sunset photos by the river is Most Pokoju - the bridge that leads from Museum Narodowe over to Ostrów Tumski. The downstream side is facing west and you have the whole panorama of the historical buildings, the abbeys and their spires on the left river bank, Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) ahead, and Ostrów Tumski with the cathedral on the right. The length of the bridge allows finding the perfect location to have the setting sun in a gap between the buldings and its reflection on the water. If you are lucky there will even be a boat passing in the foreground.

    Photo 4: This picture was taken from Most Grunwaldzki. The direction is also good for sunset pictures but the panorama is not as fine. The bridge is further away from the historical skyline and Most Pokoju gets in the way.

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    Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church

    by german_eagle Written Aug 31, 2014

    The somewhat confusing title of this tip refers to the cathedral St. Vincent and St. Jacob of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church. We came across this church, a large Gothic brickstone construction, on our walk from the tram stop at Hala Targowa (the market hall) to the centre of the old town.

    The church was a donation of Henry II the Pious (1196 – 9 April 1241) in 1226. He was of the Silesian line of the Piast dynasty, was Duke of Silesia at Wroclaw and Duke of Krakow. He died in the battle of Legnica against the Mongols.

    Anyway, the church was VERY severely damaged when the Germans blew it up in 1945, making room for defending the city against the Soviet troops. Only recently the reconstruction of the church was completed, but the majority of art works inside is lost - it looks quite bare.

    The church was given to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church in 1999. A very friendly lady welcomed us at the entrance, talked a mile a minute in Polish which we didn't understand (LOL), handed us each a candle which, as we understood, we were supposed to light while saying a prayer. Which we did.

    The showcase in the church is the Hochberg chapel at the southern side: It was destroyed, too, but reconstructed. The original St. Mary chapel from the 14th century was turned into a Baroque masterpiece in the years 1723-27, commissioned by Abbot Ferdinand von Hochberg and meant as his mausoleum. The magnificent works of art in the chapel, frescoes, stucco, marble and gilded pieces, are quite the eye-catchers. The focus of the altar is a nice pieta.

    There are a number of icons in the church, a few nice original works and more (lousy) copies. You can also step down to the crypt, which was also destroyed and where Henry II the Pious was buried. It's quite a mess at the moment ...

    main nave Hochberg chapel, portal Hochberg chapel crypt
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    Reconcilation church St. Dorothy

    by german_eagle Updated Aug 25, 2014

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    This church (like the adjoining convent) was built from 1351 on by the Augustinian monks. It was completed 1401 (quick!). The church is very large (83 m long) and towers up above the surrounding buildings but unfortunately the new shopping mall next to it (on the grounds of the former convent) ruins the overall impression.

    The Augustinian monks left the convent in 1530. Later Minorit monks took over, and when the convent was secularised 1810 St. Dorothy became parish church. The church stayed catholic despite Martin Luther preaching there in 1524, thus it also got an ornate Baroque decoration in 1686. In WWII the church was only slightly damaged, the interior stayed intact. Thus it is one of the most authentic churches in Wroclaw, and also very different from the others. Well worth seeing!

    Reconcilation church St. Dorothy Reconcilation church St. Dorothy, portal Reconcilation church St. Dorothy, interior Reconcilation church St. Dorothy, interior
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