The first rule for newcomers in Wroclaw: do not try to reach the center in a car! You will get stuck in a maze of one-way streets that will lead to so much confusion you might totally forget about parking the car. The only chance is if you are unimaginably lucky and someone frees up a place right in front of your nose.
If you really need to enter the vicinity of the market square, because, for example, you are going to stay there for the period of the championship, don’t use specially dedicated parking places because you will spend a lot of money on them (tens of PLN per day). Instead, park in the zones along the streets where it’s 3 PLN per hour and you only need to pay from 9am to 5pm.
Public transport runs quite smoothly, and the trams are especially fun for kids as so-called ‘aquariums’, which get their name because of their large amount of glass surface, are still in use on the tracks.
Students vs busy bees
Residents of Wroclaw notice the fundamental division of society into two groups: students and busy bees. The students, as students, have a specific approach to life. They never hurry and always find time for everything, but maybe not for what they actually should do. Workaholics however, participate in the eternal race, trying to prove to themselves that the daily grind will give them a good life in retirement.
This division is reflected in the structure of eating places in Wroclaw. There are those where you eat a large, two-course dinner, drink down a compote and for all that pay only a few zloty. There are also those where you will exchange half the contents of your purse for a dish with strange names.
Short-order bars, wine & dumplings
The first group includes a number of short-order bars (called ‘milk bars’ in Polish). During my stay in Wroclaw I walked past a few; mostly they are a spitting image of those from black and white newsreels of the People’s Poland era – glazed premises with grandma curtains in the windows, as crowded as American shopping malls on Black Friday.
The most popular bars are: Miś at Kuźnicza 48, Jacek i Agatka (pl. Nowy Targ 27) and Misz-masz (ul. Nożownicza 14-16). All of them are located near the market square. If you feel like trying homemade pancakes, drop scones, dumplings or solid pork chop and do not have exorbitant aesthetic needs in respect to premises, you must visit one of these bars.
Among more expensive places, locals recommend the Bernard restaurant located at the market square. There they serve both Polish and Czech cuisine. You can choose from meat and vegetarian dishes, soups, salads, an extensive wine list and family-produced beer. The warm interior with lots of paintings on the walls and friendly service are additional advantages of this place.
But for me the best place is a dumpling house: Pierogarnia Stary Mlyn (Market Square 26). In addition to traditional dumplings, you can try dumplings from the oven. Portions are served with three or five pieces, but think carefully before you order, because the dumplings are the size of a fist! Fortunately, if you cannot fit them into your stomach, you can pack them in a bag to take away.
Sets of dumplings, with a few exceptions, can be freely combined. Devilish, hetman, friar, rural – under these names amazing flavour compositions are hidden. I really enjoyed the Five Cheese dumplings; as the name suggests, in each of these five dumplings there is another type of cheese. The only downside to this place is the terrible crowd – you almost always need to wait for a table. It is better to go there in a larger group, otherwise you risk squashing around a tiny table in the corner.
More than market square
Wroclaw social life takes place primarily on the market square. In the colourful crammed tenements are countless pubs, cafes and chains like McDonald's and Pizza Hut. You can dine, bite a cake, drink coffee, then maybe progress to something stronger without moving from the spot. However, it is worth going beyond the walls of the market square and taking a look at the streets surrounding it.
For example, at Kuźnicza street you will find Kalambur & Kalaczakra: two clubs – one for smokers and the other for non-smokers. A place full of students, with very interesting decor and good music, including jazz, among others. A typical jazz club, however, is Vertigo (ul. Oławska 13), where you will find a dark, atmospheric interior with music legends smiling from the walls. There is also Mleczarnia at Pawła Włodkowica street, with delicious chocolate, coffee and homemade pastries.
Looking for an all-night clubbing marathon? In Wroclaw it takes place in Pasaż Niepolda, where there are clubs everywhere, a lot of people and an atmosphere conducive to making new acquaintances. Some praise the place, others advise to avoid it ("because of the masses, piston and compression").
A bit of sightseeing
If you desire ‘real’ sightseeing after seeing pubs, you have to go to Panorama of the Battle of Racławice. It’s an amazing, giant painting – the oldest and only existing example of panorama painting in Poland, and is 15m high and 120m long! It is a mastery of perspective, proportion and chiaroscuro – the depth of the canvas makes you want to enter it!
The museum is located at Purkyniego 11. Normal tickets cost 30 PLN and reduced are 23 PLN. In the locker room you can leave your jackets and backpacks for free. Sessions take place every half hour, and include walking in a circle on the platform with a male voice-over talking about the different parts of the image, with the possibility of listening in seventeen languages. It is better to book tickets in advance because they often sell out several sessions ahead.
It's also fun to visit the top of the Sky Tower, the tallest building in Poland, and look down on the city. To be honest, on top of the building there is nothing, only glass, an empty interior with white walls and a vending machine for coffee, but that view is breath-taking – if there is no fog ;)
Entrances are every 15 minutes, and tickets are available in the mall at the bottom of the building. It may turn out also that tickets are all sold out hours ahead, but that’s why we have a shopping mall there ;) Shops, cafes, restaurants, interactive games for children – there is much to do!
And finally the hall. The Centennial Hall. A beautiful property inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and one of the top masterpieces of 20th century architecture. It’s odd to watch matches in this hall – I think it will be an interesting experience for you. The first time it is necessary to arrive early, otherwise you will miss twenty minutes of the match admiring the giant dome over the field.
You will need to get used to the arrangement of the stands that seem to emerge from the walls, as the pillars in the corners of the arena initially distract a little bit from watching the show. The advantage of the hall is its relatively small capacity – from anywhere there is a good visibility and you feel the closeness of the players.
One interesting thing to end. In Wroclaw there are 163 stone dwarves! You can look out for them while walking around the city. The list of the little monuments can be found here: krasnale.pl/en/.
Enjoy the trip!