IN.blog : From Edinburgh to Wroclaw
In this blog I’m going to focus on my recent mini-break with friends to Wroclaw – the fourth largest city in Poland. After lots of holidays away with Nicola, Jo, Shelley, Paul and my fiancé Matthew, this was our first holiday together since Ibiza in 2014.
Since I moved to Edinburgh in late 2015, after living in Manchester for seven years, I haven’t seen too much of my close group of friends I made whilst living there. If you asked me what my weakness was, staying in touch with people would rank pretty close to the top. In a world where we see the ins and outs of people’s lives via the multitude of social media platforms, the time between real conversations and face to face catch ups can go far too quickly. It often feels like no time at all has passed as you see friends lives flash before you on your mobile phone screen. But there really is no substitute for getting a group of friends together in one place and spending quality time together.
Wroclaw isn’t a place I ever really thought about visiting. In fact I’d never had any desire to visit Poland. At the end of last year, the doer of our group of friends Nicola sent a few links via Facebook putting the feelers out there for a mini-break to Wroclaw. I’d never heard of the place but a quick search on Google and the images that appeared were pretty surprising. It looked very picturesque with its old market square, stunning architecture and colourful buildings (I do love a rainbow). And then there was the price…it’s so cheap. I was sold. The rest of our group, minus a few, quickly confirmed too and the hotel and flights were booked in a flash.
The next five months flew by and it was soon time to pack our cases. Me and Matthew thought we’d make the most of our break and we decided to get the train from Edinburgh to Manchester to fly out from Manchester Airport with the rest of the group. It was also an opportunity to get a few extra days with friends and some time to explore our old home city – something I miss.
“In a world where we see the ins and outs of people’s lives via the multitude of social media platforms, the time between real conversations and face to face catch ups can go far too quickly.”
We flew with RyanAir and the flight took about two hours, with a 30 minute transfer by taxi to our hotel on the other side. With flights costing about £40 per person each way you really can’t complain – and thankfully we had no issues with our flights. A word of warning, we got stung with our taxi fare from Wroclaw Airport to our hotel. We were charged 80 Zloty (about £18) per taxi (we needed two) which we were told was quite expensive (it’s all relative). To put it in perspective, our return taxi was only 40 Zloty (about £9) per taxi. Anyway, it was cheap either way when you consider what we pay back in the UK. Try and pre-book a taxi if you can as you’ll get the best prices.
We stayed at the 5* DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and on arrival we were welcomed with their signature warm chocolate cookies. Just what we all needed after our journey (we’d been up since 5am) and a nice touch. The modern hotel has it all, central location, spacious and well equipped rooms (huge comfy bed, very clean, wet room, mini-bar, big TV…and well insulated windows so no outside noise), a well stocked bar, highly recommended restaurant, swimming pool, sauna, gym and much more. The staff were very friendly but not over the top – we knew where they were if we needed anything. We stayed there for three nights and we enjoyed every moment.
A highlight was our breakfast at the hotel, something I managed for two of the mornings, failing on the final morning as my steak from the night before really filled me up. The buffet style breakfast included a large selection of fruit, cold meats and cheeses, moorish pastries and cakes, a good mix of cereals and flavoursome breads and a nice selection of hot choices, such as bacon, local sausages (don’t expect Richmond style), hash browns, scrambled eggs, baked beans and more. It was a real tasty feast and set us all up for the day. To top it all off there was a constant flow of complimentary, and good quality, prosecco – if that’s your thing. I made the most of this and it’s never too early for prosecco!
I won’t go into all the details of our little break, but I’ll share some things I enjoyed.
1 : A hidden gem. We crammed quite a bit in to our three days. It’s a city for exploring and I’d recommend hiring a sightseeing buggy (with driver) to show you the sights first. They’ll whizz you around the city in just over an hour (you can opt for longer tours) and you’ll soon get your bearings and those places that jump out for you will be worthy of another visit. Hiring a buggy with a driver cost us 210 Zloty (about £47) for just over an hour and this was for six people. It was interesting getting an insight of the place from a local. Definitely worth doing! Places to visit include the large indoor market, the stunning University Church, The Royal Palace and Museum and the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. There are plenty of things to see and do to fill a long weekend.
2 : These converses were made for walking! Over the three days in Wroclaw I walked 40,676 steps. Not bad going…and much needed to burn off some of those extra calories consumed. With so many narrow lanes, alleyways leading to hidden courts filled with independent bars and restaurants and impressive buildings, you’d miss most of this if you didn’t get out and about with your map. The city is small, but things are spread out. Flat smooth surfaces are pretty scarce so if you use a wheelchair it will be more difficult. Sadly accessibility to many of the older buildings isn’t great either.
“With so many narrow lanes, alleyways leading to hidden courts filled with independent bars and restaurants and impressive buildings, you’d miss most of this if you didn’t get out and about with your map.”
3 : So much choice – Food & drink. They really know how to give you value for money, the portion sizes are very generous. Some of my food highlights include the beef with cranberry pierogi at Pierogarnia Stary Młyn in the Old Town, the steak and potatoes with pickled veg at Spiż and the out of this world chicken, pork belly and black lentils at a more up market restaurant located on Pawła Włodkowica. I had my eyes on the famous doughnuts, but each time we passed the store our bellies were too full. Always next time!
In the UK you might expect some humous and dips to be placed on your table as you wait for your food to arrive…not in Wroclaw. A bowl of flavoured lard, yes that lard, and pickles was a regular addition to our table – we gave it a miss.
If chain restaurants appeal to you, like Hard Rock Cafe, KFC and McDonalds – then there are plenty to choose from. It seemed like there was a Pizza Hut around every corner. A Big Mac meal costs about £2.70 and a meal deal from KFC around £6. With so many local restaurants and bars to choose from, it would be a shame not to give these a go. You can visit the chain places anytime!
We were really spoilt for drinks too. I don’t drink beer so I didn’t really get the full advantage of paying around £2 for a pint of quality beer. I’m a cocktail drinker and there was plenty of choice in most bars, and not your run of the mill cocktails either. A large cocktail cost around £4.80 (their standard alcohol measure is 40ml as opposed to the UK’s 25ml). Wine and champagne is pricier as this is imported and is pretty much on a par with the price you’d expect to pay in a Manchester or Edinburgh bar. My favourite bar was Incognito Cocktail Bar. The bar is a bit of a secret and you have to go through an ice cream parlour to access it. There are no menus and the staff help you choose a cocktail from your personal tastes. We weren’t disappointed. The staff really knew their stuff and the cocktails were delicious.
A drink highlight for me was the sumptuous hot chocolate I enjoyed on our first night at a little bar called Mleczarnia which is located next to the White Stork Synagogue. It was so thick you could almost stand your spoon up in the cup. So good!
4 : Gotta find them all! You can’t escape the little metal dwarfs that are dotted around the city. There are about 400 of the things, each one different and very quirky. I managed to capture about twenty of them until the appeal of the bars took precedent.
Something that took me by surprise was walking in to the first bar we stumbled across, Papa Bar, and there were people smoking cigarettes in the bar – something that was banned in Scotland in 2006 and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007. None of our group smoke and none of us really fancied the aroma and smoke whilst we were eating and drinking so we were happy when our waitress escorted us to a smoke-free partitioned area. We were the only people in there. This was a bit of a culture shock and something we experienced in a few other bars too – some bars are thankfully non-smoking.
We didn’t stumble across any gay bars in the city but I did spot the pride flag sticker proudly displayed in the windows of a few bars – indicating they were LGBT+ friendly. Being in a same-sex couple I never felt uncomfortable and the welcome in all the bars and venues we spent time in was always warm and friendly. Did you know Poland is one of few countries where sexually active gay and bisexual men are not legally restricted from donating blood?
Wroclaw is the ideal place for a long weekend away with friends or family and I’d highly recommend it. All six people in our group had a fantastic time and we agreed we’d go back without hesitation – although there are plenty of places on our list still to visit before then. It’s a city that’s been through lots of changes over the last century and from speaking to locals, it’s quickly adapting to becoming a holiday destination as visitor numbers grow. I hope it doesn’t change too much as it has a real charm to the place and doesn’t feel too commercial – a big appeal to me. Go and explore the city for yourself!
Founder, Inclusive Networks
Photo credit : All photos by Thomas Anderson