Our morning began with a 20 minute tram ride from outside the main railway station (Wrocław Glówny) to the National Museum, (Trams 5 and 11). The museum is home to one of the largest art collections in the country. It’s better value to purchase a combined ticket with the Radowice Panorama, 25zl (£4.74) which is valid for 7 days, details here.
The museum is housed in an absolutely beautiful neo-Gothic building dating from 1866. There are three permanent exhibitions containing paintings, stone sculptures from 17th-19th century, religious art pieces, stained glass and decorative arts. The galleries are well designed with helpful guides on each floor indicating recommended routes through the vast exhibition space.
A more recent addition is a rooftop gallery which we found particularly interesting as it contains household items, furniture and clothes grouped in comparison pieces through the ages. The majority of the museum signage is in English which helped us to understand the significance of what we were looking at.
After popping into a cosy cafe for mugs of hot chocolate we were ready to set off again, this time to the exhibition grounds on the edge of the city which are home to several of the city’s main tourist attractions.
The Centennial Hall was constructed during 1911-1913 when the city formed part of the German empire. Wrocław had developed rapidly and it was decided to construct an exhibition hall to mark the 100th anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat of the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.
At the time of its construction the Centennial Hall had the biggest reinforced concrete rooftop in the world. The vast circular space can seat up to 6,000 people and is now a popular sporting, concert and function venue. Its 23m high dome is topped with a lantern in steel with its glass cupola 67m in diameter. The building has been UNESCO listed since 2006 as an outstanding example of early Modernism and for its innovative use of reinforced concrete.
The exhibition grounds to the west side of the Centennial Hall comprise a monumental square modelled on the ancient Roman forum which is surrounded by a colonnade.
To the north of the square stands the Four Domes Pavilion which is surrounded by a concrete pergola and pond. The pavilion’s name come from its architectural design featuring the four domes on its roof.
It was here that we were heading next as it is home to a branch of the National Museum dedicated to Contemporary Art. Combined entrance tickets with its other three associated museums cost 50zl (£9.67) and are valid for 7 days. Constructed in 1913 to serve as part of the exhibition space surrounding the Centennial Hall, it is now home to works by prominent artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Included in the items on display is an art installation of an unusual sculpture known as the ‘Monument of the Anonymous Passer-by’ consisting of bronze figures disappearing in and out of the pavement. The life size monument is to be found on a street corner near the central railway station whilst a replica is on display in the gallery.
On leaving the gallery we enjoyed a walk through the extensive exhibition grounds which took us beneath the colonnade, beside the pond and along to the gates of the Japanese Garden. This site was established as an exotic garden for the Centennial Exhibition. The garden is only open during the summer months and I can only imagine how beautiful it is in May when the azaleas are in full bloom.
Located just across the road from the exhibition park stands Wroclaw Zoo so we decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon there. Standard admission 70zl (£13.27). This is the largest and oldest of Poland’s zoos and home to more than 500 animals. Being wintertime, many of the enclosures were unoccupied as the animals had been taken indoors to keep warm.
We decided that we preferred to keep warm too so headed into the vast Afrykarium. This is the only themed oceanarium solely devoted to the fauna of Africa. Here we found penguins, fish, hippopotamus, African fur seals and various other animals related to Africa. The oceanarium is arranged on different levels with rainforest walks through lush foliage. It’s definitely an interesting part of the zoo to visit, especially so in winter as it felt snug and warm whilst observing the wildlife.
On leaving there we went in search of Odra Centrum which is a floating cafe moored next to the Grunwaldzki Bridge in the city centre. We’d read some excellent reviews of it so decided to take a look for ourselves. One end of the boat serves as a cosy cafe with workshop areas and co-working spaces elsewhere.
One of the cafe walls is decorated with barometers in various shapes and sizes that came from a private collection. There are also displays of sailing knots with a sign indicating that you can join a class to learn how to tie some of them. Counter service was very friendly and our mugs of hot chocolate lovely and thick and topped with swirls of cream, not great on the waistline but perfect for a winter’s day.
The cafe is the sort of place where I could settle down and work awhile as the atmosphere is so relaxing and the cakes really nice too. Definitely a cafe to think of calling in if you are spending time in Wrocław.
It was then back to our hotel for a short rest before heading towards the centre where we enjoyed a meal at Browar Stu Mostow. This well established local craft brewery started out with a tap room and dining area on a balcony overlooking its brewery on the edge of town. Due to its popularity they have since opened a second bar/ restaurant on Świdnicka Street very close to the market square (Rynek). It was just as well that we had booked a table as the place was absolutely buzzing when we arrived at 8.30 p.m.
With a good choice of beer and food on offer it was difficult to decide what to select but with friendly and helpful staff on hand, they put together a tasting menu for us. During the next two hours the dining experience was a feast for our senses as we each worked our way through five different courses from a beer and onion jam pretzel to steak tartar, goose cooked in beer, malt dumplings with crayfish and ending with a melt in the mouth chocolate soufflé served with a beer infused ice cream.
Beer pairings ranged from IPAs, stout and porters. The cherry stout and chocolate porter were my favourites but as they were all good, the decision wasn’t easy. After all that food and drink we needed a walk before returning to the hotel for the night.
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