Surprisingly pronounced “vrots-woff”—and, believe me, I only know this because I googled it before we came and it still doesn’t totally make sense to me where some of those sounds are coming from, but I’ve just accepted it—this adorable Polish town is definitely a trip highlight.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a booming Christmas market in the main square, nor does it hurt that the weather is considerably better than it was while we were in Kraków. But it’s a lot more picturesque than our other stops in Poland (Kraków, Zakopane, obviously Oświęcim) and it looks like a town straight out of a fairytale.

So far in Europe, we’ve visited Christmas markets in Vienna and Budapest, and now we spend several days milling about a particularly large and festive one in Wrocław. There’s the usual kürtőskalács (spiral donuts) and lots of meat on kebabs and soup in bread bowls, plus some polish favourites like zapiekanka and pierogi and some sort of thin crust dough covered with French cream and pizza toppings that I didn’t catch the name of, but certainly ate a lot of.

Like the market in Vienna, all the hot drinks are served in themed market mugs that you pay a 10zł deposit for, so we keep one for our collection and enjoy multiple mulled wines (me) and hot chocolates (Callum) every day.

In between chocolate waffles and Christmas shopping, we climb the incredibly narrow spiral staircase up St. Elizabeth church for views of this colourful city. At 5zł (<$2) per person, it doesn’t get much cheaper than this. Poland is delightfully inexpensive, so we enjoy lots of market treats and filling traditional dinners out for around $10 each.

To add to the fairytale magic of Wrocław, Poland, the town has 200 miniature gnome statues scattered around, all unique and themed. We see the Wrocław philharmonic as gnomes, a gnome sleeping in a small bed, a gnome riding a pigeon, a gnome photographing an even smaller gnome… We have a great time hunting around for all these gnomes, successfully finding 42 in our 3 days there. Apparently the tourist information office sells a map with all the gnome locations, but that’s definitely cheating.

Both Kraków and Wrocław are small cities where walking is the best way to get around and even 2 hour buses don’t cost more than a few dollars, so we also save in that regard—nothing like the ridiculous price of train tickets in London, 25€ to go 1hr to Brighton!

We’ve spent more time in Poland now than in any other country on this trip (until we go to Iceland) and I can really say it’s a delightful, underrated destination! The people are so friendly, the cities are so compact that you can get lost without really getting lost, the prices are so low, and the food is so good! It’s a wonder more people don’t come here on their travels, but I think that also contributes to my positive impression. I hate tourist crowds; it’s always preferable to be surrounded by locals. And, of course, gnomes.

Read more about our Poland adventures:

HISTORY LESSONS IN KRAKÓW: VISITING AUSCHWITZ AND KAZIMIERZ

COUNTING DOWN TO CHRISTMAS IN WROCŁAW, POLAND

PLANNING A TRIP TO POLAND

12 TIPS FOR BACKPACKING EUROPE