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A Short Guide to Wroclaw's River Odra and Islands

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Ostrow Tumski, Wroclaw
Ostrów Tumski - the largest of Wroclaw's many islands

What? Why? Where?

Wroclaw's island area is the soul to the Market Square's heart in Wrocław. Home to a growing number of cafes, bars and restaurants as well as being an important centre of art and culture in the city, these twelve islands which sit in a wide section of the Odra River give the city its unique flavour and contribute to its 'Venice of Poland' moniker. From ancient Ostrow Tumski – Cathedral Island – and its stunning Gothic churches, to Wyspa Slodowa, where you can laze around and watch the world go by whilst sipping craft beer on a barge, this area has it all.

Wroclaw University buildings
Wroclaw University's handsome buildings overlooking the River Odra

Baroque 'n Roll - University Quarter

Just opposite the islands by the Odra, the University buildings contain some stunning examples of Baroque art and architecture, including the Aula Leopoldina hall (you won't have seen a university room like this) and the Mathematician's Tower, home to one of the finest views of Wrocław. Don't miss nearby Ossolinski Library - it's one of the finest buildings in Wrocław.

Aula Leopoldina Hall, Wroclaw University
Stunning decorations inside Aula Leopoldina Hall, Wroclaw University

Wroc-love – Tumski Bridge

The original bridge for lovers in Poland, it's a surprise this picturesque footbridge on the way from Wyspa Piasek to Ostrów Tumski doesn't collapse under the weight of the lovers' locks attached to it. Tradition dictates they throw their keys into the water. One of the city's famous dwarf sculptures hangs from a nearby lamp and buskers play, giving this bridge a special Wroc-love atmosphere.

Tumski Bridge, Wroclaw
Locked in: Tumski Bridge is famous for its lovers' padlocks and stunning romantic views

Gothic Splendour - Ostrów Tumski Churches

Probably the most important 'island' (though it isn't strictly one), the 'Cathedral Isle' contains no fewer than six churches, none more impressive than the twin towering gothic spires of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Superb views can be had from the top (there's a lift). Other notable (read:stunning) churches are those of St Peter & Paul and Church of the Holy Cross.

Ostrow Tumski cathedrals, Wroclaw
In-spire-ing views can be had of Wroclaw's churches from here

Chill out - Wyspa Słodowa Bars

The best reason to come to the pretty, quiet 'Malt Island' is to stroll by the river then relax and have a beer at one of its many boat-bars such as Raj Bar or Barbarka. Choose a deck-chair, relax and enjoy superb views back over the University buildings. Kill the munchies at one of the nearby food-trucks. Watch out for summer outdoor film screenings.

Wyspa Słodowa, Wroclaw
Chill out on Wyspa Słodowa (Malt Island)

Art for Art's Sake – Daliowa Island

The smallest of the Odra Islands, Daliowa boasts one of the finest and oddest sculptures in Wrocław. Oskar Zieta's shiny metallic structures emerge from the ground, attempting to achieve 'organic unity', symbolizing the regeneration of this part of the city. Photographers will rejoice in opportunities for snapping city monuments reflected on the sculptures for weird effects. Strangely satisfying.

Oskar Zieta's art installation, Wroclaw
Oskar Zieta's shiny constructions offer an artistic interlude

Dinner on the River – Statek Wratislava

Fine dining on Statek Wratislava, the largest inland passenger vessel in Poland combined with superb views over Ostrów Tumski make this a winning foodie experience in the city. Dine on oysters, squid, duck, goose or quail. Alternatively, enjoy a drink on the top deck where you can laze around and enjoy the views. Open from 6pm daily. Also does river cruises..

Statek Wratislava, Wroclaw
Statek Wratislava - a fine stop-off point for a meal with a view of Ostrow Tumski

Boat Trippin' – Cruising the Odra

Some touristy things ought to be done. One of those is taking a boat trip on the Odra. The reason for this is that you'll get perspectives of the many architectural sights, over 100 bridges and hidden crannies of the islands you wouldn't get on foot. There are many options, whether under your own steam or on a guided tour, but seeing Poland's Venice this way is essential.

River Odra boat trip, Wroclaw
Odra boat trip - de rigeur for all visitors to Wroclaw's islands

Flower Power – Botanical Gardens

What better on a hot summer's day after hours of sightseeing than relaxing in a nice shady garden surrounded by water, or finding a nice bench to nap on, with stunning buildings on every side? An incredible selection of native and exotic plants arranged around a pretty lily pond can while away an afternoon. The botanical gardens are truly an oasis of calm.

Botanical Gardens, Wroclaw
In bloom - relax in Wroclaw's botanical gardens


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