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Fun Things to Do in Wroclaw in Winter

Things to do in Wroclaw in winter: visit the Wroclaw Christmas Market
Whether for business or pleasure, I love visiting new places. When I had the opportunity to visit Wrocław in December, I jumped at the chance. Read on to learn more about what it’s like to take a city break to Poland in the winter.

Old Town Wroclaw Decorated for Christmas

I took a stroll through Wroclaw Old Town on the evening of my arrival. I was impressed with the ambience of Stary Rynek (the main market square) and the Wroclaw Christmas Market that had sprung up around the town hall to celebrate the season. A giant Christmas tree anchored one corner of the square. Charming elves greeted those attending the market. I stopped for a mug of grzaniec (hot mulled wine) and a kielbasa and steeped in the atmosphere. Santa's reindeer were also stationed on the square. I met a happy Polish snowman on my walk. I did a full loop around Stary Rynek and discovered a large mural penetrating through the center of the square. A police and military vehicle were on display. The exhibit notes were all in Polish so I wasn't able to read more about what they symbolized. Wrocław's Stary Rynek is one of the largest market squares in Europe.

Winter Drinks in Wroclaw

I met with colleagues at Bernard on the square for drinks. Here I was introduced to hot beer. It seemed like a really strange concept to me but turned out to be really tasty. The beer comes with copious amounts of fruit at the bottom of the glass (in this case plums). I also tried a glass of hot wine with melon. If you visit Poland and go out with locals, be prepared to sample vodka. I tried one shot of Mad Dog (vodka with hot sauce). After that, I strategically bowed out and went back to the hotel. I'm glad I did because I learned the next day that my colleagues had been out all night. I don't know where they get the energy! I prefer to pace myself :-)

A Morning Walk in Wroclaw

I followed my usual business trip routine and got up an hour early in order to take a long walk and explore Wroclaw on my way to work. I stepped out of The Granary Hotel and into the Wrocław morning commute. I spied church-like spires in the distance and stopped to admire them. I encountered a small matronly figurine around the corner from the Granary. I spotted a robust (and naked!) statue at the entrance to the Old Town. It turns out this was Papa Dwarf and he would play a prominent role later in my visit to Wrocław.

I stopped for coffee at the Varesina Caffe, a kiosk at the Christmas Market that happened to be open early.  The outside of the market kiosks were painted with whimsical scenes. I spotted what I thought were elves placed there for the holiday season. Again, they would play a prominent role later in my trip... Stary Rynek was even more lovely by day. The buildings along the square were brightly painted. Wroclaw’s Old Town Hall was adorned with statues. I spotted a bear with an extra long tongue and a rather well-endowed bar matron. Hmm...more elves? This seemed to be something more than just an installation for the holidays. More on that later... I took one last look back at the square and continued on toward the river and work. I spotted other random statues on various facades.

Basilica of St. Elizabeth

I passed the Basilica of St. Elizabeth and couldn't resist popping in through the partially open door. The inside was quite beautiful and reminded me of the Doms we'd recently seen in Cologne and Bonn. This wasn't too surprising as Wrocław (formerly Breslau) was part of Germany for much of the town's history. I walked past the university toward the river. Crossing over, I spotted a ton of ducks and swans including at least one species I hadn't seen before. I definitely covered a lot of ground on my winter walk in Wroclaw!

A December Walk in Wroclaw Take Two

I spent two business days in Wrocław and thus had a second morning to explore before work. I arose early and hit the streets. I liked the equestrian statue that I saw near Stary Rynek. I'm always intrigued by open gates and stuck my head in at the Ossolineum. The library sits on a beautifully coiffed courtyard. I walked further along the Odra River and admired the views. I could see Ostrów Tumski (Wroclaw’s Cathedral Island) in the distance. I crossed over the Bridge of Love past countless locks. I also passed a picture of Wrocław in 1945 when much of the city had been destroyed. It's a shame to see that so much beauty and history was turned to rubble but I certainly saw an exciting and positive future for Wrocław. It truly is a charming city.

Wroclaw’s Christmas Markets

My hotel was close enough (about a mile from work) to commute there and back on foot. I stopped at the Christmas Market again in the evening and sampled an enormous portion of sausage and sauerkraut on bread. I was looking for something sweet for dessert and discovered an amazing homemade treat. Dough was wrapped around a wooden dowel and placed in a hot oven. The end product was rubbed in dark chocolate and dipped in nuts to yield a piping hot hollow cone. They packaged it up in plastic and handed it over. I couldn't wait to dig in. The pastry pulls apart easily and looks a bit like a spring when it does. I enjoyed my pastry with a glass of hot wine at the Wrocław Christmas Market. It didn't last long. Yum! With sweets this good, Wrocław was quickly securing a spot on my list of favorite places to visit in the winter not to mention one of my favorite Christmas Markets in Europe.
Things to do in Wroclaw in Winter: watch ice sculpting at the Wroclaw Christmas Market

Dwarf Hunting in Wroclaw

Things to do in Wroclaw in December - go dwarf hunting
As you can see, Wroclaw Poland is an incredibly charming city. My absolute favorite part about my trip was the opportunity to go dwarf hunting. I learned from a colleague that there are over 100 dwarves/gnomes spread throughout Wroclaw. Originally, the dwarves were a symbol of resistance in the age of communism but have been revived in recent years to become a tourist attraction complete with new additions each year and an app to track them all. The little statues that I'd noticed in earlier walks around town soon took on bigger significance. I spent a few hours on Saturday morning exploring Old Town Wroclaw and hunting for dwarves. I spotted more than 25 gnomes during my short trip. The Wroclaw dwarfs are quite small and not so easy to find. In some cases, I walked by a dwarf more than once without even noticing. Then, like magic, a little gnome would appear. Love it!

Toward Wroclaw’s Ostrów Tumski

Several colleagues told me that I must go to Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski) during my visit to Wrocław. I already knew that those living in Wrocław had a gracious and welcoming spirit but that became even more clear when one of my colleagues volunteered her Saturday to show me around town. We were scheduled to meet at 11 am at one of the churches near the bridge to Ostrów Tumski. I got up early to go dwarf hunting but saw so much more on that journey. I initially walked south toward the canal. I saw a variety of beautiful buildings that looked extra gorgeous against the bright blue sky. I couldn't have asked for better weather at this time of year. Walking along the canal, I saw grand statues. Turning back toward Wroclaw Old Town, I saw whimsical accents on a building that housed a spa. I could clearly see the mix of old and new everywhere I turned in Wrocław. The architecture was a combination of German embellishment and communist era concrete. I took the underpass beneath a busy street into the Old Town. I passed St. Mary Magdalene Church and made a mental note to come back later to check out the Bridge of Penance between the two towers at the top. I passed some old favorites including the Town Hall and the entrance to St. Elizabeth's Basilica. Across town to the Northwest, I chanced upon an artistic surprise -- a giant folding chair overlooking a random intersection.

I walked down the Old Shambles, a back alley now lined with colorful galleries. In the past, this alley was lined by butcher shops and the street is now marked by statues of the various animals that were once slaughtered on this strip of road.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other cool city break destinations in Poland? Why not consider:

After a productive morning of exploration, it was time to meet my colleague outside Kościół Najświętszej Marii Panny na Piasku (Church of St. Mary on the Sand). Inside, the church featured vaulted German-style ceilings. My colleague led me through a small side door into a room decked out in holiday flair. If I hadn't been there with a local, I never would have known it existed. A nun working in the building turned on the power when we walked in and the whole thing pulsed with light and motion.
Things to do in Wroclaw in winter: climb the tower at Wroclaw Cathedral

We continued on toward the Cathedral, Ostrów Tumski's main attraction. For just 5 złoty (about 2 euro), I bought a ticket to climb the tower. I assumed I'd have to walk the whole way up and was steeling myself for the climb. About 40 steps up, I arrived at the ticket office and then was guided into an elevator for a smooth ride to the top. The sweeping views of Wrocław were worth the trip. The whole observation deck was surrounded by fencing on all sides so it wasn't too scary even for those who don't like heights. Back at ground level, we continued our walk through Ostrów Tumski past an old convent with beautiful silver balls out front. We ducked down some of the side alleyways on the island. We emerged and were struck by how grand the yellow and brick buildings looked. Exiting the historic complex, we chanced upon a bit of graffiti on a brick wall. We passed the art museum and took a moment to peek inside at the grand hall. We passed the Panorama Racławicka, a building purpose-built to house a 360 degree battle scene painting. Unfortunately, we timed our visit poorly and would have had to wait 30+ minutes to get in. We satisfied ourselves with a brief look around the lobby and then moved on. I'll save this attraction for my next visit!
View from the cathedral in Wroclaw in winter

Wroclaw’s Hala Targowa for Lunch

Things to do in Wroclaw Poland in winter: eat pierogi for lunch at Hala Targowa
We stopped into Hala Targowa (the local market hall) for lunch. The place was abuzz with vendors and clients doing their weekly shopping. We stopped at the cafe on site for an inexpensive meal of ruskie pierogi, compote, and a 'bouquet' of salads (about 10 złoty).
Things to do in Wroclaw in December: Visit Hala Targowa

St. Mary Magdalene Church and The Bridge of Penance

My crowning acheivement of the day was my return to St. Mary Magdalene Church to climb the tower and cross the Bridge of Penance. I paid my admission fee (5 złoty) and made the ascent on foot with no helpful elevator this time. I emerged onto the bridge between the two towers and had the place to myself. The wind howled across the bridge as I enjoyed views of Wrocław Old Town below. I especially liked the whimsical red and green tiled roof of the church below. I took one last look across the town and then descended the stairs back into the church.
Things to do in Wroclaw in winter: cross the Bridge of Penance at St. Mary Magdalene Church

A Winter Trip to Wroclaw Comes to An End

Unfortunately, my time in Wrocław had come to a close. I grabbed a taxi back to the airport. I was relaxing in the backseat after my 8+ mile walk that day when I saw something typical of Wrocław; something that made me sit up and take notice. The town had my rapt attention all week. There was a locomotive engine in the distance seemingly pointing into the sky. Who knows what Wrocław will have in store for me next time. I can't wait to visit again soon!

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Things to do in Wroclaw in winterThings to do in Wroclaw Poland in December
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Fun Things to Do in Wroclaw in Winter
Fun Things to Do in Wroclaw in Winter
Learn about things to do in Wroclaw in winter. Discover Wroclaw Poland in the winter. Visit Wroclaw in December. Spend a weekend in Wroclaw Poland in the winter.
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