The capital of Lower Silesia (Dolny Slask) has a huge Old Town built on several islands connected by over 100 bridges. Apart from its unique location, Wroclaw amazes with its volume of Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Several musical and theater festivals, as well as its busy nightlife, attract innumerable visitors from all over Poland and abroad. Wroclaw's extremely complicated history, combining the cultural influences of Germany, Bohemia, Austria and Poland, has left its mark on the atmosphere of the city.
While most tourists who travel to Poland flock to the popular destinations of Krakow or Warsaw, visiting the smaller (more unknown) town of Wroclaw (Wrocław) would be your best bet. Immediately you’ll notice that the picturesque old town has many buildings painted in rich colors that bring the city to life, and show the city’s youthful vibe. The colors range from subtle earth tones to pastels, nothing too over the top. No matter what your mood, or how dreary the weather is when you travel, you’ll definitely leave happier and more cheerful after a visit. The medieval market square, a placed lined up with restaurants, flower boxes, and incredible architecture, also leaves you with your jaw dropping to the ground.
Market Square Wroclaw
When you visit Wroclaw, you start seeing the Market Square as the heart of the city. This is where shopping, food and business gather for everybody, even if you’re a local or a tourist. While you are walking around one of the largest markets in Europe, don’t forget that most of the buildings there are replicas. Rynek we Wrocławiu, Wroclaw’s Market Square name in polish, was completely rebuilt from the pile of ruins that was Wroclaw after the Second World War and the Siege of 1945. Most of what you see today is the work of those who resettled in the city after the expelling the Germans from it. They even replaced the statue seated south of the Town Hall. Now you can see the famous Polish writer Aleksander Fredro but this was the seat of King Frederick II of Germany. And this wasn’t the only thing that changed.
The buildings around the square have different styles, ranging from Art Nouveau to Gothic. The impressive facades of the townhouses deserve all the attention they can get. The Old Town Hall, the New City Hall and many houses occupy the middle part of the ring that surrounds the square. I have learned through the years that one of the best things to do when walking around a historical city is to look up and see the details in every building. Wroclaw seems made exactly for that.
At Rynek 11, you can see a structure designed by Heinrich Rump. It offers a small glimpse into what this square would look like if the plans from Max Berg, who designed the Centennial Hall, would have come to fruition. His idea may sound ludicrous today but it was almost put into place. He wanted to demolish the building surrounding the Rynek and replace them with concrete towers more than 20 stores high. Nothing big happened to the buildings surrounding the square but we cannot say the same for those in the middle of it. Two-thirds of them were demolished and replaced with offices built in a modernist style. But, since the square was heavily damaged during the Second World War, the buildings were restored after the Baroque and Classicism styles they had before.
History of Wroclaw Market Square
The history from the Wroclaw Market Square dates back to the 13th century. Most of what you see in the old city center was laid out by city planners back in 1241 following Magdeburg Law. Over time, the houses surrounding the square started to appear and by the middle of the 14th century, they had formed something like what we have now. Back then it was and it still is one of the largest squares in Europe with 213 by 178 meters.
When you walk around the Market Square, it's hard to ignore the beauty that is Wroclaw’s Town Hall. Construction of the building started somewhere in the 13th century and it last 250 years. This is why it showcases a mix of architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance. And it even has an astronomical clock.
Adjacent to the Market Square, you can find Plac Solny with an impressive architecture that deserves a lot of pictures. This square was the place for salt, leather products and honey. Today is a 24 hour flower market. Look at the light posts here and you will find a few of the famous Wroclaw Dwarfs! Don’t be fooled by the idea that Wroclaw Market Square is just a bunch of old buildings. We said before that this is the heart of Wroclaw and there is enough to do around the area. During the summer, the square is full with people on its bars.
National Museum Wroclaw
A treasure trove of fine art, 200 meters east of the Panorama of Racławice. Medieval stone sculpture are on display on the ground floor. Exhibits include the Romanesque tympanum from the portal of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. There are also 14th century sarcophagi from the Church of Saints Vincent and James. Of interest are the collections of Silesian paintings, ceramics, silverware and furnishings from the 16th to 19th centuries. The 2nd floor holds Polish art, mainly paintings, from the 17th century to the present.
The collection covers most of Poland’s big names. These include Jacek Malczewski, Stanisław Wyspiański, Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz) and Jan Matejko. Be prepared for moody portraits and massive battle scenes. Among the modern painters, Władysław Hasior, Eugeniusz Stankiewicz-Get and Tadeusz Makowski are names to look out for, especially for their humorous takes on war and religion.
|Address||plac Powstańców Warszawy 5, Wroclaw|
|Telephone||+48 71 343 56 43|
The Depot History Center
The Depot History Center is one of Wroclaw's most remarkable sites. Located in the heart of Grabiszynska street, it was here since August 1980 that the coastal workers' strike began. This strike resulted in the creation of the Solidarity group, which lead to the rise of a peace movement that helped overthrow Poland's communist dictatorship.
You won't find many places that tell the story of Wroclaw better than here. Visitors in June and July will find plenty to discover. In addition to the museum's main exhibition, Wroclaw 1945 - 2016, which looks at the city's post-war history, there are also two temporary outdoor exhibitions.
Museum of Bourgeois Art Wroclaw
The unusual name here hides the main attraction: the Gothic interiors of the Old Town Hall. Look for the Great Hall (Sala Wielka) on the 1st floor, with carved decorations from the second half of the 15th century. Adjoining it is the Princes’ Room (Sala Książęca), built as a chapel in the middle of the 14th century. The historic rooms house several exhibitions, including the Wrocław Treasury (Wrocławski Skarb) of gold and silverware from the 16th to 19th centuries.
One of the 10 most important examples of 20th-century modernism according to the American Getty Foundation, the Centennial Hall is one of the major monuments of Wroclaw. The fact that the Centennial Hall made it to this list is a great honor. It is of no surprise to me, because it is a breakthrough facility in the history of architecture.A hundred years ago, its form, structure and materials used, broke the structural constrictions of the time. Even today, it is a subject of research on the architecture of that era.
In October, the American Getty Foundation awarded 200,000 dollars to conserve the Wroclaw's Centennial Hall. Apart from the Wroclaw monument, financial support was granted to nine other gems of 20th-century modernism: Sydney Opera House, Le Corbusier's apartment and studio in Paris or Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in Chicago and Eames House in Los Angeles.
The Centennial Hall was built in 1913, for the one hundredth anniversary of the allied defeat of Napoleon, as a place for exhibitions presenting the history and commercial output of Silesia. Constructed in 1911-13 between Szczytnicki Park and a zoo, it was intended for holding mass events. An innovative concept of the urban construction specialist, Max Berg, won the contest, which – even though it was expensive and unlike anything in existence at the time – was appreciated the most among the 43 submitted entries.
Berg designed a building devoid of the decorations that were so characteristic of the 19th-century architecture, to emphasize the truth of the material used to build the 42-metre-high hall – reinforced concrete. Light and resilient, with great technical limits, but at the beginning of the 20th century people were afraid that it would fall.
Natives of Wroclaw did not understand why Berg did not care to use steel, as many of his predecessors had done. However, they did admire the monumental character of the 42-metre-high structure modeled on famous Gothic structures, with the biggest dome in existence at the time (65 meters in diameter), that overshadowed Rome’s Pantheon. They were proud that a world-class building was being constructed in their city. The concrete used to build the building from the Opole's Silesia concrete plant was subjected to strict tests. Areas that were to carry significant loads were strengthened with a resilient granite from Strzegom, and the windows were made of ironwood that was imported from Australia.
The outcome was admired the grand opening on 20 May 1913 by Frederick William, Ernst Gunther, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and other major personalities of Wrocław. Apart from the Hall, the guests visited the Four Domes Pavilion designed by Hans Poelzig, the Pergola and the recreation facilities. They also admired the Japanese Garden designed by duke Fritz Maximilian von Hochberg, with the assistance of a Japanese gardener, Mankichi Arai.
They were impressed by the largest pipe organ in the world at the time – with 222 registers and 16,706 pipes, designed by Sauer, a famous Frankfurt-based company. Today, pieces of the pipe organ are stored in Wrocław's Archcathedral, and some pipes – in the Częstochowa's Basilica in Jasna Góra.
Before World War II, the Hall was the venue for speeches given by major officers of the Nazi Party, including Adolf Hitler. The Hall survived World War II without sustaining major damage. Only the pipe organ was put in disrepair.
In the People's Republic of Poland, the Hall was opened in 1948 with an Exhibition of Regained Territories. A steel spire, built especially for that occasion and designed by Stanisław Hempel, survives until today.
In 2006 the Centennial Hall was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Restoration was completed in 2010. It cost 200 million zlotys to renovate the facility and its surroundings. Another renovation is being planned. With the consent of UNESCO, the renovation would include a lowering of the floor to increase audience capacity – from seven to ten thousand people – so that the venue would be able to host more people at upcoming major sporting events. In 2014 Wroclaw hosted the World Volleyball Championships.
The University of Wroclaw has a rich history of more than three centuries. Founded by Leopold I Habsburg the university evolved from a modest school run by Jesuits into one of the biggest academic institutions in Poland. At the beginning of the 19th century the university had five Faculties. Philosophy, catholic theology, evangelical theology, law and medicine. Later it expanded by many sections, laboratories and a natural museum. The latter exists until today.
After the Second World War a group of Polish professors, formerly from Lvov, started teaching and research activities at the University of Wroclaw. Initially they created the Faculties of law and administration, arts, natural sciences, agriculture, veterinary, medicine, mathematics, physics and chemistry. Some of these Faculties were soon transformed into other universities.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the University of Wroclaw produced 9 Nobel Prize winners. Among them are Theodor Mommsen, Philipp Lenard, Eduard Buchner, Paul Ehrlich, Fritz Haber, Friedrich Bergius, Erwin Schrödinger, Otto Stern and Max Born.
Today, the first focus of the university is scientific research. The scholars have many links with their fellow researchers from other higher education institutions in Poland and throughout the world. The success of the researchers has been recently recognized by Polish authorities, who increased funding for both equipment and research at the university by 80% compared to earlier years.
Like in most countries, in Poland the national quality assessment system is part of a national strategy for improving quality of education. Every four years the Ministry of Education evaluates faculties of all Polish universities. In 2016 9 out of 10 of the Faculties qualified in the highest group and one was the second highest.
The Academic Incubator of Entrepreneurship is a new unit of the University of Wroclaw designed to aid students in starting their own businesses by providing free entrepreneurial advice, organizing conferences, seminars, subsidizing selected investments and offering office space. The Academic Incubator of Entrepreneurship cooperates with the Wroclaw Technology Park, a technological center with laboratories, office space, conference center and modern multimedia equipment. The aim of the Technology Park is to create conditions for the use of scientific and industrial potential of Wroclaw and the region and to stimulate the advanced technologies industry. The University of Wroclaw is one of its shareholders.
Today the University of Wroclaw is the largest university in the region and teaches over 40,000 students and around 1300 doctoral students at 10 Faculties. 9000 students graduate from the University every year.