What to see in Wroclaw Old Town

Town Hall

The emergence of the first Town Hall was associated with the site of Wroclaw in 1261 on the Magdeburg Law. Arose in the late thirteenth century Town Hall was the one-story building with cellars. Held annual meetings townspeople here, where the chosen eleven jurors and eight councilors. Benches and limited powers of the Council made the building every day was used for commercial purposes.

In 1327 and 1329, the city purchased the powers of the mayor, however, and has been released from the obligation of the Prince vows. Increased powers led to the construction in the years 1328-1333 at one corner of the town hall meetings, a separate building for the Bench and the Council. Further expansion led to a significant increase City Hall, but about the final shape of the building decided to rebuild from the years around 1470-1510. The rich sculptural decoration of the external facade is a harbinger of representative design. In the basement are: huge Bourgeois Hall, Room Judicial Council and the Board Office and the Office and the Board of Mayor. A significant part of the story deals with three aisles Great Hall, whose ceiling is decorated. Its decoration was to illustrate the political power of the job of the city. Adjacent to the Great Hall of the bays and chapel space, and part of the floor space are also benches for the Chancellery and the House, Treasury and the Board of Senior Citizens. Former City Hall now houses the Historical Museum of the City of Wroclaw and all the rooms are open to visitors. East elevation of the town hall is entered in the city logo and is widely recognized city card.

Church of St Elizabeth in Wroclaw

The Church of St Elizabeth is one of two Gothic churches that are found near Market Square in the center of Wroclaw, the other being St. Mary Magdalenes Church. There has been a church on this same position since the 1100’s, however due to a number of unfortunate events, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt or renovated a number of times.

During it’s history, the church has seen damage from World Wars, from severe hail and most recently in the 1970’s from a serious fire. Unfortunately, during this fire the church’s famous organs burned. The current church, although extensively renovated is the same as the one that stood in the 14th century. Initially, St Elizabeth’s Cathedral was one of the tallest churches in Europe, with a height of almost 130 meters. However, due to the aforementioned damage, the church is now only 91 meters tall. The tower is able to be climbed by visitors for a small fee, and from here it is possible to get a good view over the city of Wroclaw. Inside the church there are over 100 tombs of famous Poles, as well as many hundred year old Renaissance and Gothic artworks. St Elizabeth’s Church is found just outside the north west corner of Wroclaw’s main square.

Main Market Square in Wroclaw

Wroclaw’s Main Market Square is the second-largest in Poland, after that in Krakow. It is a medieval market square, now the heart of a pedestrian zone. The square is rectangular with the dimensions 205 x 175m. In the centre stand the town hall and a group of buildings separated by alleys. The buildings around the square are built according to different styles: the middle part of the ring is occupied by a block of buildings consisting of the Town Hall, the New City Hall as well as numerous citizens’ houses.

The market square is an urban ensemble with the two diagonally contiguous areas – the Salt Market and the square in front of St. Elisabeth’s Church. Eleven streets lead to the market: two to each corner, two narrow lanes and an opened out side square, Kurzy Targ (“Chicken Market”). The most attractive side of the square is the west, with the late Baroque House of the Golden Sun, at No. 6 built in 1727 by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, as well as the House of the Seven Electors, its paintwork dating from 1672. There are now 60 numbered plots on the market square, with some buildings occupying several. The limits of the plots often follow lines different than those first laid out since estates were often merged and divided in the late Middle Ages. Each property has a traditional name, usually associated with the coat of arms visible on the facade or related to the history of the house itself, for instance Under the Griffins, Under the Blue Sun and Old Town Hall.

The Salt Square and Old Butchers’ Stalls in Wroclaw

The Salt Square (Plac Solny) dates back to the 13th century and its name comes from the salt stalls that used to to line the northern side of the square. Altogether there were 12 wooden sheds. Such formerly luxurious articles as honey, furs, caviar or tea were also traded there. The salt stalls ceased to operate altogether in 1815. Nowadays, the Salt Square is famous for its romantic atmosphere with flower girls trading till late night and lovers walking holding hands or sharing a long-embrace at the fountain.

The so-called “Old Exchange” is the most imposing building at the Salt Square. Beautiful balcony portico decorates its main entrance, while the first floor is bound by a line of floral garlands and eagles. This splendor is owed to Wroclaw merchants who decided to highlight their high status by a grand-scale investment. In the medieval times, Wroclaw’s Butchers’ Stalls (Stare Jatki) was a place where meat was sold. After 700 years, Butchers’ Stalls have been converted into galleries and high-end souvenir shops. Apart from the hatches leading to cool storage rooms, which were under the stalls, there is little evidence of the 13th century slaughterhouse.

Cathedral of St Mary Magdalene in Wroclaw

The great Gothic Cathedral of St Mary Magdalene (Katedra Sw. Marii Magdaleny) was erected between about 1330 and the mid-15th century, incorporating the walls of a 13th-century church that had previously stood in the site. Cathedral of St Mary Magdalene is located between Szewska and Laciarska street, close to the central market square.

During the Second World War the church was seriously damaged. In 1945 the legendary Sinner’s Bell, which was the biggest Silesian bell, was also damaged. St Mary Magdalene was rebuilt during the period 1947-1953.The most precious relic of the church is a Romanesque portal dating from the 12th century, coming from a Benedictine monastery on the river Elbing. The bridge connecting the two towers is called the “Mostek Czarownic” (Witches’ Bridge). A legend says that the shadows visible on the bridge are the souls of the girls who used to seduce men without wanting to be married, being scared of housekeeping. Indeed shadows represent women with brooms in their hands.

The Dwarfs of Wroclaw

Maria Konopnicka, Polish writer for children and youth, was right when she wrote: “Whether you wish it or not, there are dwarfs in the world.” Take a stroll down the old city and you will notice, here and there, these strange little inhabitants straight from the world of fairy tales. Wroclaw residents are proud that it is there city where human-shy dwarfs have finally decided to come out from underground and show themselves to our human reality.

It was in August 2005, when one-foot-high dwarfs first appeared on the streets of Wroclaw. The idea for a dwarf-friendly city was inspired in 1982 by the Orange Alternative, an underground protest movement that aimed to show alternative way of opposition against the communist regime by means of a peaceful protest involving the use of absurd and nonsensical elements. One of its part were smiling dwarfs wearing funny hats painted as graffiti covering anti-Communist slogans. In honor of the Orange Alternative, there are now more than 150 boot-sized dwarfs scattered throughout the city! Each Wroclaw’s dwarf has a name: Slupniki (dwarfs found near lampposts), Grajek and Meloman (found on Olawska Street, between a flower shop and a wedding dresses shop), Obiezysmak (entrance to Pizza Hut at the Main Market Square), Pieroznik (found on Kuznicza Street, at the entrance to STP restaurant), Kuznik (corner of Kuznicza and Wita Stwosza Streets, the wall of Kruk jeweller’s shop), Medrusia, Ossolinka, Kupczyk, Chrapek and more. Warning for Wroclaw’s tourists: Watch your step and avoid tripping against dwarfs. It may bring a bad luck.

Bernardine Church and Monastery – Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw

A 16th-century former Bernardine church and monastery contains the Museum of Architecture. The inherent problem with any museum of architecture is that you can’t really exhibit architecture. Anyway this is a decent enough place with a permanent collection of stained glass windows and stoves, and temporary exhibitions in both architecture and photography, which are more often than not worth popping in for.

The museum is housed under the impressive rafters of 16th Century Church of the Bernardine Monastery. Through many years the Museum of Architecture has become ‘the art venue’ hosting unusual cultural events. Apart from exhibitions, the Museum is well known for its theatrical performances, festivals and promotions of the latest technologies connected with architecture. Undoubtedly it is an extraordinary place for business meetings.

Wroclaw’s Opera House

The Opera in Wroclaw has a tradition dating back to the first half of 17th century. An impressive neoclassical portico adorns the front of Wroclaw’s Opera House, which is a testament to the city’s cultural importance both today and in its previous incarnation as the German town of Breslau. Indeed it was under German jurisdiction that Carl Ferdinand Langhans drew up the blueprints of this bastion of the arts, completed in 1841.

Like most buildings in this part of the world the Opera House has literally been through the wars, plus a fair number of fires but is once more in tip top shape. The Wroclaw Opera Company meanwhile enjoy an excellent reputation, and revel in shocking their audiences with unconventional productions. Once a year they move to the Hala Ludowa to perform in front of 4,000 monacled fans. There are Ballet Mornings organized for the youngest audience on holidays and for school children there is a special educational program called The Magic Kingdom – an opera for children. The Company of the Wroclaw Opera is a regular guest on many stages in Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Cyprus.