The City of Gnomes: Wrocław

Since I’ve been in Europe, so many people have told me how amazing Wrocław is and how I have to visit while I am in Poland. I’ve traveled quite a bit around Poland, but I hadn’t been there yet so I decided to finally take the advice and visit with my friend, Sofia.

The colorful buildings of the Wrocław Old Town square
The colorful buildings of the Wrocław Old Town square

When we decided to go last minute on Friday (as usual…) we booked our tickets online for Polskibus and woke up early then next morning to begin our trip. The bus ride to Wrocław was about three hours, but we got free snacks on the bus which was such a nice surprise! We arrived on a perfect day with warm and sunny weather that was a nice break from the recently chilly and rainy days we’ve had in Kraków.

A tired traveler gnome
A tired traveler gnome

One of my favorite things to do in the Polish cities I’ve visited has been going on Free Walking Tours, which offer different types of tours ever day from old town tours to food tours, and I’ve had a great experience every time! I highly recommend them for getting to know a city and the tour guides are usually so knowledgeable about recommending great places to eat or things to do—check out more at http://freewalkingtour.com/

Veteran gnome
Veteran gnome
A gnome who realized he got a bit too much ice cream and wants to share
A gnome who realized he got a bit too much ice cream and wants to share

Unfortunately none of the tours really fit into our schedule so we had to do some self-guided tours instead. We stopped by tourist information, grabbed some free maps, and started exploring.

Wrocław's main square from above
Wrocław’s main square from above

The history of Wrocław is particularly interesting because it was previously a part of Germany and is also known by its German name, Breslau. The city became a part of Poland after the border changes of World War II though the German influence is definitely visible in the city’s architecture. The buildings in the main square are so distinctive and unlike any others that I’ve seen in Poland, and they are so beautifully colorful as well! One of my favorite parts of the trip was being able to see the market square from the top of St. Elizabeth’s Church. We paid a few złoty to climb something like 300 steps and by the time we reached the top my legs were shaking and I could barely breathe. But once I stopped wheezing and stepped onto the balcony area it was all worth it for the amazing views of the whole city!

The bridge into the oldest part of Wrocław
The bridge into the oldest part of Wrocław

A short walk from the center market square across the bridge brought us across the Odra River to Słodowa Island, which were so peaceful with people just sitting and reading, enjoying the weather. We then crossed into the very old part of Wrocław and saw the oldest part of the city with beautiful old churches and small winding streets.

Papa Krasnal!
Papa Krasnal!

Wrocław is particularly known for little gnome sculptures hidden around the city—there are rumored to be over 300! There is even a free walking tour on the gnomes that I would love to take if I would ever be able to go back because they are so silly but they can also be really easy to miss.

It wasn’t until I did some more research on them that I found out that these little statues are quite new—the first one was placed there in 2001 and others have been popping up since then. The first sculpture, Papa Krasnal, was apparently placed as a symbol of the absurdist movement of the ‘Orange Alternative’ against communism in the 80s, but since then other artists have joined the movement and they are so popular that apps even exists to help tourists find them! A website even exists that tells some of the stories of the gnome: http://krasnale.pl/en/  http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/wroclaw/sightseeing/Wroclaw-s-Gnomes

Gnomes waiting to withdraw some cash
Gnomes waiting to withdraw some cash
My favorite little scholar gnome
My favorite little scholar gnome

There was still so much that I would have liked to see, like one of the many museums or the botanical garden, but as usual there is never enough time. We had decided to make our visit just a day trip because we had a lot going on in Kraków, but I am still grateful for the short time that I spent in this beautiful city, and all the little gnome friends that I made on the way!

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The City of Gnomes: Wrocław

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