Most people may think that the most colorful towns in Europe sit along the Mediterranean coast, but that isn’t necessarily the case. On the South Western border of Poland, one of Europe’s best destinations sits quietly, drenched in colorful pastels. Always a good place to visit any time of the year, Wrocław shines brightest during the holiday season.
Krakow is typically seen as the most popular Christmas Market in Poland, but in my opinion and experience, the fairy tale atmosphere of Wrocław is even better. Maybe it’s the seemingly never ending Christmas stalls and vendors serving delicious Polish and holiday foods, or perhaps its the colorful buildings covered in decorations that illuminate the town and create an overall scene of positivity. This is not only the best market in Poland, but one of the best in Europe.
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Nov 20 2020 – Dec 31 2020
(CANCELLED DUE TO COVID)
10:00 am – 9:00 pm
The market itself is huge and stretches across both sides of the Market Square, one of the largest in Europe. There are so many vendors and stalls lined up this time of year that the market itself extends down two more streets, Oławska and Świdnicka.
A smaller market takes place a few steps away in The Salt Square (Plac Solny), yet again another extremely colorful square. Here you will mostly find food and a gigantic bar, serving some of the best hot wine around.
Wrocław has a great selection of food, mostly of the Polish variety. You can find Polish sausages, soups, meats, specialty dishes and of course, Pierogi. It is all delicious, but I highly suggest the Gołabki and Bigos.
Gołabki is one of my favorite specialties in Poland, and the Christmas Markets do it best. The recipe is quite simple as it is nothing more than stuffed cabbage, but the Polish do it right.
Bigos, also known as “Hunters Stew”, is a very popular dish served through out Poland consisting of cabbage, sauerkraut, kielbasa, pork, tomato paste, garlic, onion and sometimes more. All of these ingredients are thrown into a large pot and cook slowly until all the flavors merge together into a delicious dish. It is the perfect accompaniment, along with your hot wine, for a cold day exploring a Polish Market.
Pierogi. Do I really need to get into detail? Isn’t the word alone enough to explain what these are? These boiled, fried or sautéed dumplings are filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables, sauces, sweets and just about anything else you can think of. Pierogi SCREAMS Polish as they are not only the most famous food from Poland, but one of the more popular on the entire continent. You’re going to find them in any Polish restaurant, but there is something special about eating them in the cold streets of Poland during the holiday season.
One of the biggest Polish delicacies, especially this time of year, is Smalec. Not the prettiest or most appealing of dishes, but I promise you, it’s worth trying. The bread alone probably makes the quirky snack as it comes fresh and homemade out of the oven, fluffy on the inside with a crunchy crust. The next ingredient is what typically scares people away: Lard. That’s right, this delicious country bread is SMOTHERED in lard, otherwise known as 100% pig fat. The spread that is made for smalec contains a lot of lard, spices and I guess, love…? After the lard covers up that once beautiful piece of bread, it is then covered in some meat and pickles. Does this sound appetizing? No, probably not, but it is EXCELLENT! There is something about that salty and creamy fat flavor, accompanied by the crunch of bread, that really helps that hot wine go down.
Speaking of meat and fat, if you know anything about the Polish then you know that they adore their meats. Walk into any market and you’re guaranteed to see a pig hanging somewhere. If there is any specific meat Poland is known for, it’s Kielbasa. There are many different kinds of these massive sausages such as white, red, garlic and even cheese. They might leave your breath smelling like garbage, but hey, they go well with beer. Cheers to anyone sleeping in bed with you that night 😉
Just like every other Polish market, you will find a lot of Oscypek, a smoked cheese from the Polish mountains. The cheese is served straight from the grill, topped with some cranberry jam. It melts in your mouth and has a very smokey taste. It is more of an acquired taste, but the Poles absolutely love it.
For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to try a Rogal świętomarciński Poznan. This pastry is traditionally from Poznan, but you will find them at just about any market in Poland. A Rogal shaped as a croissant and filled with nuts, raisins, poppyseeds, heavy cream and a lot of sugar. The overwhelming treat feels as if it weighs a few pounds in your hands and will quickly add a few pounds to your butt if you’re not careful. It comes fresh out of the oven weighing in at about 1300 calories per pastry. It may be delicious, but you have been warned
There isn’t really one specific Christmas tree like that of other markets, but a more unique design that really lights up the night. The most spectacular tree in Wrocław isn’t even a real tree, rather a white, glowing LED display that sits at the foot of the Old Town Hall. I personally prefer those gigantic trees that some lumberjack ripped out of the forests of Siberia or Scandinavia, but this tree surprisingly doesn’t disappoint. The way it illuminates the night and reflects upon the colorful buildings of the square is something to truly behold.
It is not difficult to find something special from this market. When I say this market is huge and never ending, I mean it. It is very easy to lose track of time checking out each individual vendor while searching for that perfect gift or souvenir to take home. Among every Polish market, you can find traditional tree decorations or some extremely warm winter essentials like scarves and hats. Santas, nutcrackers, reindeer, Polish pottery, gingerbread, ornaments, you name it! Market Square serves as the perfect outdoor mall every December.
There is an abundance of toys for children, while the adults have access to the hot wine mugs. One of the coolest things one can do while visiting a European holiday market is to collect a hot wine mug from each destination. After drinking from and collecting 18 different mugs in 2019, Wrocław’s was easily one of the best. I’m a big fan of that sant boot design.
As I already stated multiple times above, Wrocław has some of the best atmosphere throughout Europe this time of the year. The colorful and unique buildings only add to an already incredible winter fairytale scene. There are positive vibes in the air amongst the delicious smells of popular Polish cuisine and mulled wine. The countless decorations illuminate the pastel town day and night, creating one of the best winter market scenes across all of Europe.
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