Wroclaw, a capital of the Lower Silesia region, belongs to the Poland’s oldest and most beautiful cities. Situated on Odra River, the city is crossed by tributaries and canals with the dozen isles and over one hundred bridges, for which it is called the Polish Venice.
The history of Wroclaw perfectly reflects the turbulent history of Poland, as the city has repeatedly been an object of power struggles and has rebuilt itself from the ashes several times. Founded sometime in the 9th century by the Slavic Slezan tribe, Wroclaw quickly grew and gained prominence as the religious and economic centre. In the 13th century the city has been razed to the ground by the Tartar army and rebuilt soon after around the massive Market Square, which can still be seen today. In the 14th century the city was annexed to Bohemia and remained in the foreign hands for next six hundred years, being passed to the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, Germen Empire and eventually Weimar Republic. At the same time the city continued to develop joining the Hanseatic League and gaining recognition as trading centre, but also suffered great losses in the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century.
During the centuries under the foreign reign Wroclaw has almost completely lost its Polish identity, eventually becoming the Nazis’ stronghold during the Word War II and the last city to surrender in 1945. Returned to Poland as a result of Potsdam conference, Wroclaw has been re-populated with Polish settlers from the East, who inherited a foreign city destroyed in 70%. After the long and painful rebuilding process, as well as recuperating from communist oppression, the city successfully re-emerged as economic, cultural and academic centre it has been in the past.
Today Wroclaw is one of the undisputed highlights of Poland and draws great number of visitors every year. The historical and cultural heart of the city is the Old Town with its impressive Market Square, the second biggest in Poland after the one in Krakow, adjoined by the smaller but equally beautiful Salt Market. Surrounded by historical town houses, the Market Square is crowned with the 16th century Gothic-Renaissance Town Hall. At the other corner of the Market, enclosed by two charming arched houses known by locals as little John and little Mary, you will see the Gothic St. Elizabeth Church, the tallest in the city. From here the route leads to the University Quarter with plenty of inexpensive cafes and the lively atmosphere of students’ life. Inside the Wroclaw University you cannot miss Aula Leopoldina – the magnificent Baroque ceremonial hall.
We also recommend to visit Ostrow Tumski – the oldest part of Wroclaw, where the city was first founded. Often called the Cathedral Island, this district is renowned for numerous Gothic churches, the most precious of them being the 13th century St John the Baptist Cathedral containing remains of the first Romanesque church.
Wandering around the city, be sure to look for famous Wroclaw’s dwarfs. You can find the small figurines everywhere in the city, catching them in various poses and most unexpected places.