Every city has a groove. It just takes a little time to figure it out once you arrive. San Diego, Honolulu, and Tokyo wake up early. In the two U.S. cities, everyone wants to get the workday over sooner, so they can spend lots of time outside. People in Reykjavík, Athens, and all of Spain would rather sleep late, so they can party all night. But others, like Wrocław, fall somewhere in between.
Wrocław, Poland’s fourth-largest city, sits in the Silesian Lowlands near the borders of Germany and the Czech Republic. The Oder winds through the center. The older sections of the city sit on islands in the river. They were largely destroyed when the Red Army overtook the then-German fortress. Wrocław was later annexed to Poland after World War II. The 2016 European Capital of Culture is now known as a liberal city where you can still find cheap prices.
Your tour—which starts neither too early nor too late—begins in Rynek. The medieval Market Square is one of the largest town squares in Europe. The pedestrian-only area is lined with colorful buildings. The 14th-century Old Town Hall now houses the Museum of City Art in its Gothic interior. St. Elizabeth’s Church has a perfect view over Old Town from its tower. While the Salt Market is now home to a huge flower market.
After exploring the buildings in the square, stop at Spiż, the city’s most-popular brewery, for a honey beer. Follow the dwarfs—more than 300 brass statues litter the city—toward Park Juliusza Słowackiego and the Museum of Architecture, which has a large collection of stained glass. Cross the Peace Bridge to Ostrów Tumski, the oldest part of the city. It’s home to brick streets, the botanical gardens, and old churches, including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. But you’re here for another reason: the oil lamps. Each night, as dusk falls, the lamps are hand lit, creating one of the most-romantic atmospheres in Europe. Your pace slows, and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
From Ostrów Tumski, cross the Mill Bridge to Wyspa Młyńska (Mill Island) and stop at Tumski Barge for drinks and live music on the summer terrace’s upper deck. You have a view of the cathedral and the lights sparkling on the water from this riverfront spot. And, eventually, make your way to Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) to return to your hotel. The Granary was first built in the 16th century and later became a brewery. A huge fire destroyed much of the building in 1970, but the remains were turned into a boutique hotel about a decade ago. Your large room has brick walls and a glass ceiling. It, like the rest of the city, is just right.