A Guide to Wrocław’s Historical Attractions

The largest city in western Poland, Wrocław, is a bustling hub of creative and cultural life. Throughout its long and tumultuous history, Wrocław has fallen under the control of Poland, Germany, and the Kingdom of Hungary. Due to its then predominantly German population, the city was widely known by its German name Breslau until the end of the Second World War (you can read about the equally complex history of Gdańsk here).
Today, the city’s 1,000-year history can be discovered in the town’s beautiful and dynamic architecture and the city museums. Join us as we explore some of our favourite historical sites to be found in this fascinating city. And if we inspire you to begin planning your trip, why not consider joining Poland at War Tours for our 4-Day Tour of South Poland, which explores important WW2 sites in Wrocław and its surrounding areas.

Cathedral Island

Ostrów Tumski, Wrocław (Cathedral Island)

The Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk should be the starting point for anyone wishing to really learn

The oldest part of Wrocław, Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), has been inhabited since the 10th century. The first wooden structures were built on the island by the Piast Dynasty, the earliest ruling monarch of Poland. Christian buildings, including a monastery and cathedral, were being erected within a century. 

In 1315, the church officially took ownership of the island, and the site became known as a place of safe haven (even for fugitive criminals!). 

Curiously, two monumental figures have been associated with the tiny island. Copernicus was for a while a canon of the collegiate chapter of the Holy Cross at Ostrów Tumski, though he probably never visited the region. While Casanova lived in a house on the island in 1766. 

Today this serene area is a beautiful spot for taking a quiet stroll and admiring the medieval architecture. Look out for the city’s stunning Gothic Cathedral and the Church of St Giles, the oldest building in all of Wrocław. 

plac Katedralny 18, 50-329 Wrocław

The Royal Palace and History Museum (Pałac Królewski and Muzeum Historyczne)

This mysterious little site is tucked away in the sha

The Baroque Royal Palace is home to the city’s most significant museum. The stand-out exhibition is undoubtedly the site’s permanent collection charting 1,000 years of Wrocław’s history. 

The museum can boast of possessing an eclectic range of objects that really gives an idea of Wrocław’s character (and that of the whole Silesian region, in fact). The museum is large, so do reserve plenty of time for exploring.

Elsewhere, you can explore the Royal Chambers within the palace, a fascinating glimpse into the grand, ornate world of the aristocracy. There is even a room that once belonged to Frederick the Great, who stayed here during Germany’s battles with Napoleon. 

Kazimierza Wielkiego 35, 50-077 Wrocław

The White Stork Synagogue

The only synagogue in Wrocław to have survived WW2, this 19th-century building is worth visiting. Providing a glimpse into a bygone era, the White Stork Synagogue seems to carry a message of hope given the years of death and destruction it had to weather. 

But despite having sat abandoned for several decades, the synagogue was carefully restored in the 1990s. Today the temple houses temporary exhibitions and a small museum telling the story of Jews in Wrocław and Silesia. 
Pawła Włodkowica 7, 50-072 Wrocław

Museum of Architecture, Wrocław

The only museum in Poland dedicated to architecture, Wrocław’s Museum of Architecture houses the most extensive collection of stained glass in the country. Featuring exhibits on medieval building practices, Wrocław through the ages, and even late 20th-century art, this museum offers enough to keep even those not interested in architecture entertained. 

The museum is also located in a beautiful setting, the buildings of a 15th-century Cistercian monastery, which justifies the visit and cost of admission alone. 

Bernardyńska 5, 50-156 Wrocław

Battle of Racławice

Panorama of the Battle of Racławice

The Racławice Panorama (Polish: Panorama Racławicka) is a monumental cycloramic painting depicting the Battle of Racławice. Painted between 1893 and 1894, the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice is 15 metres high and stretches 114 metres in length around the walls of a purpose-built room. 

Depicted across the painting is the heroic 1794 victory of Tadeusz Kościuszko’s rebel forces against the Russian army during the Second Partition of Poland. The battle is hugely significant in Polish culture. The Polish pilots who flew in the No. 303 Squadron RAF during WWII even adopted the symbols of Kościuszko’s peasant soldiers for their own emblem. 

The panorama is undoubtedly worth visiting, given it’s one of the few cycloramic paintings of this size still in existence (the artform had been very popular for a time in the 19th century). The visit will be especially enjoyed by those who have seen legendary Polish painter Jan Matejko’s Battle of Racławice painting in Kraków just to see how different artists imagine the battlefield and to appreciate the battle’s lasting significance. 

Jana Ewangelisty Purkyniego 11, 50-155 Wrocław

The Centennial Hall

The Centennial Hall

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, Wrocław’s Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) was built by Max Berg between 1911 and 1913. At its completion (it was opened in 1913 on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, won by the anti-French coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte), it was the largest ferroconcrete building in the world, and it remains a masterpiece of engineering. 

Today the space is used for concerts, conferences, and exhibitions. 

Wystawowa 1, 51-618 Wrocław

Old Town

Wrocław Old Town Hall and Rynek

Dating back to the 13th century, Wrocław’s Old Town is one of the most picturesque places in Poland, rivalling the beauty of the country’s other historical treasures of Gdańsk and Kraków. Although the city of Wrocław (then Breslau) was severely damaged during WWII, the medieval Market Square was relatively unscathed and was later restored in all its Baroque and Classicist pomp. 

The Old Town makes for a delightful place to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat. Be sure to photograph the Old Town Hall, a genuinely brilliant piece of Gothic-style architecture completed between the 13th and 16th centuries. 

Sukiennice 14/15, 50-029 Wrocław

Explore the South of Poland with Poland at War Tours…

This brings a close to our guide for diving into Wrocław’s fascinating past. But if you’re a lover of history and want to take your travels in this region to the next level, why not consider joining us on our 4-Day Guided WW2 Tour of Southern Poland
Not only will you get to explore Wrocław in the company of expert guides, learning about the city’s past, but you’ll venture outside the city to WW2 sites of major significance and, ultimately, tragedy: the Projekt Riese Nazi Mega Structure and Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp.

If you have any questions about this blog or any of our tours, please get in touch.

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