Wrocław is one of my favourite cities in Poland, and with good reason (I actually listed 10 reasons to visit Wrocław in this article if you’d like to read it!). Not only is it beautiful, but it has an amazing foodie scene and nightlife to boot.
However, perhaps the most unique thing about Wrocław is something else entirely – you see, Wrocław is home to over 350 little bronze dwarfs dotted around the city centre! This army of little people can be found lurking in alleyways, swinging from lampposts and swigging from bottles of vodka (yes, really), and nobody knows exactly how many of them exist!
Way back in 2015, 350 Wroclaw dwarfs were counted, but official estimates put their number at over 400! Robert Rasała, who manages the ‘Official Dwarf Information Centre’ in the Market Square (I’m not joking) says ‘we lost count of their population several years ago,’ confirming that the Wroclaw dwarfs are indeed running rampant around the city!
Wrocław’s dwarfs come in many different forms, and each one has its own character. From butchers to bankers, drunks to doctors and professors to postmen, each dwarf really is unique.
But why does Wrocław have so many dwarfs?!
Well, lighthearted as they may seem, Wroclaw dwarfs actually have a very important history.
Back in the Soviet era, when the shops were empty and people weren’t allowed to go out at night, an anti-communist resistance movement named the Orange Alternative was born in Wrocław. Using a dwarf as their symbol, the movement protested the government’s censorship of freedom of speech and public gatherings by defacing communist propaganda with paintings of mischievous little dwarfs, the idea being to show people that the situation was absurd and that they shouldn’t be afraid.
As popularity of the group grew, its leader Waldemar Fydrych began leading marches through the streets advocating for ‘dwarfs’ rights,’ and tiny dwarf drawings began popping up all over Poland! The Orange Alternative really succeeded in bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds to protest against an oppressive system that they had been suffering under for years.
In order to commemorate the Orange Alternative, the city placed a large statue of a dwarf (named Papa Dwarf) on Świdnicka Street, which is where the Orange Alternative used to gather.
This inspired local artist Tomasz Moczek decided to create dozens more tiny bronze sculptures, each representing a different part of Wrocław’s history or daily life. Today, he has created more than 100 Wroclaw dwarfs, prompting other local sculptors to design their own!
But what does all this have to do with tourism?
Well, quite a lot, actually.
Wrocław’s dwarfs have become so popular that people from all over the world are coming to Wrocław to go dwarf hunting, an activity that has prompted the city to launch its own website dedicated to the little people, where you can read about each dwarf’s name, back story and unique habits.
If that’s not enough then you can even go to the Official Dwarf Information Centre and pick up a map to help you find them (or download the app if you’d prefer), and you can even attend Wroclaw dwarf walking tours, where the local guide will take you to the most famous Wroclaw dwarfs and explain their history to you.
For those of you that find yourselves in Wrocław in September, make sure not to miss the International Dwarf Festival, a three-day event where stone carvers demonstrate just how the city’s dwarfs are made and jugglers, gymnasts and storytellers come together to entertain the entire city. There is even a ‘Great Wrocław Parade of Dwarfs’ through the city! There is singing, theatre, face painting and more at this fantastically bizarre celebration, and it’s certainly worth paying a visit if you want to see just how much the city of Wrocław cherishes its little people!
Have you been to Wrocław and seen the dwarfs? Which is your favourite? Perhaps your city has its own little quirk like this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!