Wroclaw Gnomes: A unique attraction with a dark past!

by LouDoesTravel
Wroclaw Gnomes

Wroclaw is one of Poland’s most beautiful cities. The city in recent years has started to grow its international profile drawing in thousands of visitors each day that flock to see the cities beautiful architecture, picturesque squares, historic cathedrals and warm hospitality.

However the city has another attraction not like any other I’ve ever seen. It’s the hundreds of tiny gnomes or dwarfs that you can find dotted all over the city! These Wroclaw Gnomes or Krasnales as they are called locally have become a tourist attraction themselves with more and more popping up around the city each year!

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To be honest I didn’t really know much about them before I visited Wroclaw and if you didn’t know they were there you may not even notice them at all. That is until you wonder why people are crouching down in random places such as corners and alleyways taking pictures of the floor! In fact probably the best way of finding these little creatures is looking for people crouching down taking pictures than trying to find them yourself, although that’s not really as much fun as trying to find them yourself.

History behind the Wroclaw gnomes:

Although these gnomes have become a cute tourist attraction, they represent a dark time in Polish history when Poland was under communist rule. The ‘Orange Movement’ was an underground protest movement based in Wroclaw in the 1980’s that used absurdity and nonsense to stage peaceful yet subversive protest. The organisation initially painted dwarfs on walls that had been freshly painted to cover up anti-government slogans. This dwarf graffiti soon became the organisations trademark and appeared across all major cities of Poland.

Between 1985 and 1990 the ‘Orange Movement’ staged a number of ‘happenings’ across various polish cities that encouraged people from all walks of life to join in and protest against the government. One such gathering on 1 June 1988 in Wroclaw became known as the Revolution of the Dwarfs after over ten thousand people marched through the city wearing an orange dwarf hat and carrying and shouting the slogan ‘there is no freedom without dwarfs’

It was after this, that free elections took place and in 2001 to commemorate the part in which the Orange Movement played bringing about political change a single ‘Papa’ gnome was installed. ‘Papa’ is now known as the first of the Wroclaw Gnomes and is situated on the corner of Swidnicka Street near the subway where many Orange demonstrations took place.

Today more than 300 gnomes or dwarfs are thought to be installed across the city with more appearing all the time, in fact nobody knows the exact figure. Most of the early gnomes were commissioned by the Mayor of Wroclaw in an attempt to create a new tradition in the city, however most of the newer Wroclaw Gnomes are sponsored by local businesses.

Finding the gnomes:

The best way of finding the gnomes is to just go out and explore this beautiful city. it won’t be long before you notice your first one, after that you’ll be finding them all over the place. Keep a close eye around the tourist sites, popular restaurants and businesses.

If you really want to find as many as possible you can always pick up a map from one of the many tourist shops but I think searching for them without a map is a lot more fun! Don’t forget to look upwards, not all of them are on the floor!

Here’s a few of my favourite gnomes:

What else to do in Wroclaw besides gnome hunting?

Wroclaw is my favourite city in Poland and would return again and again if I could. The city not only has a great history, it has some of the most beautiful buildings in Poland as well as a laid back cosmopolitan atmosphere. You can spend days walking around exploring the city as well as checking out further afield.

One bonus for me was how it was lacking in the typical stag and hen parties found in Krakow, the city is bustling with visitors but it retains its authentic atmosphere.

For more information on what to do in Wroclaw, check out my post on the 11 best things to do in Wroclaw here.

Have you been to Wroclaw? Did you go hunting for the Wroclaw gnomes? If so how many did you find? Let me know in the comments below, plus if you like this post then please share on your favourite social media or subscribe to be the first to hear about my new adventures.

Happy travels,

Louise X

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The Travel Bunny August 26, 2019 - 20:07

I’d love to explore Wroclaw while discovering these little guys. I had no idea about their past, it’s very interesting.

bye:myself August 26, 2019 - 20:03

I haven’t heard of these gnomes before but totally love the idea. Although I don’t like each of them esthetically, I like the subversive idea behind. If I go to Wroclaw, I’d like to find all of them – on a little friendly gnome hunt.

Bernadette Jackson August 26, 2019 - 16:10

I had no idea that gnome numbers grew each year. And what a great idea! The story behind them is powerful too. I think I would be grateful for their paparazzi moments, if only to stop me falling over one I hadn’t spotted and hurting a poor gnome.

Vanessa Ball August 26, 2019 - 16:06

I’d never heard of the Wroclaw Gnomes, this is so cool. Your blog was so interesting finding out about the Orange Movement and the history of how the dwarves began. Papa looks like a prolific character, I loved his expression. The others you discovered on your gnome hunt are great little sculptures.

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