The oldest part of Wrocław cropped up on what used to be an island in the Oder. By the 19th century the arm of the river separating it from the bank was closed off to prevent flooding. When Ostrów Tumski was first developed in the 10th century the river created a natural defence, and the first brick buildings arrived in the middle of the 12th century.
The quarter is one of the prettiest for walks, with a church at almost every turn and the way lit by genuine gas lamps at night. If you come at dusk you can watch the old-time lamp lighter illuminating the streets. Give yourself an hour to see the medieval riches in the Archdiocese Museum at the episcopal palace.
Standing at an angle on the Market Square, the Old Town Hall is a group of Gothic buildings bundled together in one complex.
As Wrocław developed from the end of the 13th century, new wings were fixed on to account for the political and economic changes taking place in the city over the next 250 years.
On the Late Gothic east facade, look for the astronomical clock dating to 1580. Inside is a free museum detailing the history of the building and with exhibitions on aspects of life in Wrocław, like the city’s tram network.
This institution, taking over from a Jesuit college, was founded by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold in 1702. One of the must-sees is the extravagantly decorated Baroque hall, Aula Leopoldina, with a ceiling fresco, gilded stucco, sculpted cherubs and portraits of the university’s founding fathers.
Also extremely rich is the Oratorium Marianum, now the university’s music hall, while the Mathematical Tower is the old Astronomic Observatory, with a 42-metre tower and a meridian line on its floor.
Elsewhere in the exhibition rooms you can dip into the story of the university where Alois Alzheimer taught, and which has produced nine noble prize winners.
Frederick the Great chose this Baroque palace as his residence after Prussia took over Silesia in the 1740s.
Over the next century each Prussian king would make extensions and add his own touches, from Rococo to Neoclassical and Neo-Renaissance.
You can get up to speed on the complicated 1,000-year history of the city, ponder a wealth of artefacts and view the palace’s sublime interiors.
Constructed in the Brick Gothic style in the 13th century after the Mongol invasion had destroyed its predecessor, the cathedral is recognised by its sky-scraping towers soaring to almost 100 metres.
There are 21 chapels inside, the loveliest of which is the Italian Baroque Chapel of St Elizabeth, with a dome fresco portraying the saint’s death, burial and heavenly glory.
Some other highlights are the Dormition of Mary triptych from 1552, the oak carved choir stalls from the 1660s and the numerous ledger stones in styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque.
There’s also a lift to carry you to the top of one of the towers for the best vistas of Wroclaw.
In the Swiebodzki Station, an easy walk from the market square, is Poland’s largest model railway.
Kids will get the most out of Kolejkowo, but parents and enthusiasts will also be amazed by the level of detail and extent of this miniature world.
There are 2,850 hand-painted figures of people and animals, 224 landmarks from around Wroclaw and Lower Silesia and 188 cars on the roads beside the tracks.
And as for the railway, this 430 metres of tracks and 60 carriages pulled by 15 trains.
Kolejkowo has loads of clever touches too, like day and night effects, and an army of miniature characters, from construction workers to nuns, skiers, farmers and circus performers.
Poland’s most-visited zoo is also the largest and oldest in the country.
What’s more, Wrocław Zoo has the third most species of any attraction in the world, with 1,382 at the last count.
New exhibits arrive by the year, and one of the most recent is the Afrikarium aquarium complex, which opened in 2014. In four different environments – Red Sea Beach and reed, East Africa, Mozambique Canal and Congo Jungle – the Afikarium has freshwater and saltwater aquariums and pools for crocodiles, rays, brown sharks and hippos.
The Madagascar Pavilion is also special, planted with the island’s native flora and with several species of lemurs constantly in the branches overhead.