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The rebellious side of Wrocław

Narrow cobblestone streets with baroque houses leading to grand squares illuminated with hand-lit gas lanterns: a visit to the historic city centre is like a trip back in time. But outside the old city centre lies modern Wrocław. A lively student town with cultural festivals, creative hotbeds and alternative art. Explore the rebellious sister of Krakow.

Wrocław has always been rebellious. Although the prosperous Hanseatic city maintained its independence for a long time, during the Cold War it became a hotbed for anti-communist resistance. The hundreds of bronze gnome statues are silent witnesses to this period. In the 1980s the city became a lively punk scene and many of the music stages and cafés from those days are still popular. Thanks to its history and a young population of 120,000 students, Wrocław is one of the most progressive and cosmopolitan cities in Poland.

Bronze gnome sculptures
Bronze gnome sculptures

Wroclaw

An abundance of street art, especially in Nadodrze

Cultural resuscitation and street art

Set amidst dreary army barracks, the Centre for Cultural Resuscitation has become the beating heart of the squatter movement. Here you will find concerts, theatre, art installations and a variety of anarchist ‘happenings’. It is also a Valhalla for fans of street art like its adjacent neighbourhood, the up-and-coming Nadodrze. Begin by the several metres high ‘Gate to Nadodrze’ and walk along the many murals with the free In Your Pocket  guide of Wrocław. All street art is conveniently marked on the map with a spray can icon. Photo: Michał Węgrzyn - Wikimedia Commons

Bronze gnome sculptures

Inspired by the Amsterdam Provo and gnome movement in the 1960s and 1970s, Wrocław created the Orange Alternative in the 1980s. This anti-communist protest group painted cheeky slogans and gnomes on walls and organised events, such as the 1988 Gnome March that drew 15,000 participants. The gnome became the symbol of Wrocław and since 2001 bronze statues have been emerging all around the city. There are hundreds, and now they have become an attraction in themselves with their own website .
The gnome is the symbol of Wrocław
Special courtyard: Neon Side Gallery

Outdoor museum for neon signs

At one time these enormous, colourful blinking neon signs dominated the streetscape of large cities, but nowadays these bright displays of neon tubes are quite rare. A resident of Wrocław decided to rescue many of these neon signs, many of which dated back to the socialist era. He assembled them in a courtyard between Ruska and Antoniego street where the sign producer Reklama used to be located. The result is a unique outdoor museum. We recommend visiting at night when the neon is fully lit. Stop for a drink at club Surowiec. Photo: Maciek16180 - Wikimedia Common