While visiting the city of Wroclaw one of the most fun things to do is trying to find the cast iron figures of gnomes (or dwarfs) that can be found all around the historic city center (and sometimes a little further afield as well). The first dwarf appeared in 2001 to commemorate the Orange Alternative Movement, a local art group that played an important role in the anti-communist protest in the 1980s.
Over 300 gnomes
In the years that followed many more gnomes popped up in the streets of Wroclaw. Now there are over 300 of them. It’s great fun for both children and adults alike (even if they are a little older like ourselves) to go hunting for the little fellows (yes they’re all male). To make it a little bit easier to spot them you can pick up a map with 79 of the most important figures at the tourist office for a few zloty.
Even then it can be a challenge to find them, as the figures are small and most are on the ground – if you don’t look out you’ll trip over them. For some you have to look up though as they can be anywhere, in lampposts, shop windows or even on roofs. Most of the gnomes portray a profession, but there’s also a cool biker gnome and a there are a few disabled ones, like a deaf-mute gnome, a blind gnome and a gnome in a wheelchair.
Wroclaw is also a good place to visit of you like street art. After being more of an underground art form for a long time, graffiti became more accepted after Poland’s first street art exhibition was held in Wroclaw in 2008, featuring 20 street artists from all over the world. Bi-annual follow-ups of this ‘Out of Sth’ festival added more pieces of street art.
To see the graffiti you’ll have to put in a little bit more effort as most of the urban canvases are located in neighborhoods just to the north and west of the old city and are quite spread out. A few can be found in the city center as well. To make them more easy to find festival organizers Galeria Awangarda has a map of the murals on their website http://www.bwa.wroc.pl that you can download.
With the aid of this map it took us about 2,5 hours to see many of the more interesting murals. We didn’t go to the most faraway pieces and admired some of the nearby ones while walking to other sights in the city, as most of the city’s sights are in walking distance. The murals were great, but not as grand as the ones that can be found in the neighborhood of Zaspa in another polish city, Gdansk.