I live in Berlin working and sightseeing. Settling down in this city is not easy and a bit rough unlike living in other cities. Fortunately, I was able to find a time to take a break from a stressful daily life and to see things differently while in Germany.
Berlin is close to the German-Polish border. The Berlin transportation company even provides a combined train ticket offer in border towns on both sides in Germany and Poland that allows a ticket holder to travel those areas as long as the ticket is valid. From Berlin, the possible holiday destinations are Poznan, Szczecin, Gdansk etc (all in Poland).
I picked Wroclaw not just for its good transport connection from/to Berlin but also for its reputation as the European Capital of Culture 2016. I was very curious to know what made this city qualified for being chosen as the Capital of Culture. I also saw reviews stating that there are a lot of things to see and do in this town within 3 to 4 days, which was a perfect fit for my travel plans.
If you are planning your own trip to Central Europe, check out this perfect 3-day itinerary to Budapest.
What to do or see
I would say if you are a museum geek, you feel like you won’t have enough time to see a tonne of museums here, which ranges from the country’s oldest postal museum to a military museum and to a national museum.
Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of museums so I only did a Polish national museum in Wroclaw. It houses a wider array of exhibitions including sarcophagi of Polish kings and queens, 17-18 century paintings and silver utensils, contemporary designs and even artifacts from Asia including Japan! Allow ample time to make the most of what you see here.
The must-see in Wroclaw is an opulent market square, Rynek. It looks like a series of matchbox houses with different yet elegant designs. It was initially built as a marketplace, but in later years, the town underwent different administrations (German, Czech, Polish) , thus you will get to find various regional architectures in Europe. I would recommend that you visit the square in the evenings. All buildings are lit up and there are no words to describe its beauty sufficiently. Dining with loved ones, family and friends along this stunning location is indeed a luxurious, lovely and unforgettable time in Wroclaw.
Just walking distance from the Rynek, you will enter the church district which is also breath-taking. The area was once home to buildings owned by various local religious groups and business establishments from orphanages to bishops and to influential merchants. Today, it is like a museum of medieval buildings worth visiting.
Keep walking up north, you will reach the botanical garden in no time. It’s one of the institutions under the care of University of Wroclaw but it’s open to the public. Thousands of exotic/local species collected from all over the world will soothe you while strolling through the entire garden. I recommend that you visit here at an earlier time of the day to enjoy the peaceful and serene ambiance and to embrace the particular view (pictured below). Find the red brick building that you can see from the white lotus pond at the south of the garden.
Side trip to Klodzko
On my last full day in Poland, I took a side trip to Klodzko which is a small town with a 1h train connection from Wroclaw after researching on TripAdvisor again. This completely worked out for me. Unlike Wroclaw where some people speak English and where there are a couple of tourist information offices, the town is not so touristy and everyone speaks Polish. Despite this, it was a satisfying excursion there.
If you are interested in visiting Klodzko too, I would recommend getting down at Klodzko Miasto (Klodzko Old Town) station to easily access to the tourist attractions and catching a train back to Wroclaw at Klodzko Glowny (Klodzko Central Station). Unfortunately, the return train does not seem to stop at the Old Town station due to heavy construction work going on there. It may take an hour and half walk from the city to the Central Station.
Klodzko Fortress is definitely the best sightseeing spot in there. Originally, built as a Prussian military base, the area was used for multiple functions including a battlefield hospital, a prison, food storage etc. The area today welcomes visitors and hosts concerts or other events for locals and tourists alike. The large amount of exhibition at the Fortress is enchanting and attractive. Don't hesitate to allocate your half day here to fully embrace the site. Especially, the military kitchen/hospital room sections make the full use of the mannequins and the replicas that perfectly replicate the life of Prussian military staff during the war and peaceful times. Any visual learners (like myself) will benefit from this exhibit. Do not forget to go up to the lookout where you can get a bird’s eye view of Klodzko city. The area is absolutely elevated.
Now you may climb down to the city. It should be so pretty and eloquent just as much as you saw it on top of the Fortress. The city hall square looks like it’s taken out of some romantic movie, and reflects on the complicated history of the town. Look up and take a look at the mural, portraying heavily armed soldiers, towns on the front line, and some messages in Polish. Just like Wroclaw, Klodzko has experienced administrations and battles from many groups like the Mongols, the Czech, the Austrian and so on. It might be hard for you to imagine that you are standing on the former battleground of the Mongolian soldiers and Polish kings.
Klodzko has strong ties with Bohemia (present-day Czechia) and the perfect example of this, is St. John’s bridge linking the old town to the new quarter. It is reportedly said, that this is modeled on Charles’ Bridge in Prague due to its strong resemblance but the Klodzko bridge has been there longer than the Prague counterpart. You may need a shorter time crossing it, and see fewer statues on it than you do in Prague though. The bridge was commissioned to the local architect back in the 12th century and is still built sternly thanks to the great contraction technology back then.
Where to stay
Corner Hostel made my Wroclaw stay comfortable and absolutely unforgettable.The location is superb, just a few minutes walk from the glorious market square and all other tourist/local attractions in the old town. No need to worry about missing transportation if you have lost track of time. Friendly staff are always there for you at a 24-hour reception. Bottled soft drinks are available there too. The Hostel has a female dorm which is a big plus for me as a female traveler. Everything from the kitchen to bathrooms to dorms was sparkling clean in the Hostel.
What to eat
Try local dishes without hesitation. Kuchinia Marche is the perfect place for you if you would like to taste as many types of local food as you can at one time. As a buffet restaurant, you might have a bit of a hard time to choose from a wider array of irresistible cuisines. Go for their baked potatoes, stuffed peppers with ketchup rice, red beet salads, and creamy strawberries. Don’t forget their homemade drinks as well.
Bar Feniks is not your typical bar. Variety of local savory/sweet dishes are on display - situated right next to the shopping arcade, locals often come here too after shopping around. The bar owner recommended trying out a sour red beet soup which was the best food while taking a short break from the harsh European heatwave. If you love the soup as much as I did, you may want to replicate it at home. The recipe is here.
Wherever you look for things to eat, always remember Pielogis (Polish dumplings with various kinds of fillings). Eaten either boiled or fried, a plate of Pielogi not just satisfies your hunger but also makes you feel happy.
Zapiekanka is a Polish breadstick that comes with different toppings and is a go-to food to kickstart your day with a cup of coffee.
You might have considered Wroclaw as a side trip destination from Berlin, and I would like to say you won’t regret your choice. If Berlin is a hipster and contemporary, Wroclaw is proud of its tradition and cultural heritage. It will be an absolutely rewarding trip for you to happy people living and breathing in a medieval fairy tale city.
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