Wroclaw, an old Silesian city, known in German as Breslau, with great history and a lively historic center, placed on 12 islands. It has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

Wroclaw in the Silesia region of southwestern Poland was a hotbed of 1980s anti-Soviet resistance. It retains a proper rebellious streak. But that melds with a chill vibe befitting an ancient university town (the city has a population of approximately 635,000—135,000 of them students).

The city was, in turns, under Bohemian, Austrian, and Prussian rule. Though it has one eye on its rich history, charm, and beauty (colored Renaissance buildings, cobblestone streets, and gas lamps that at night are lit by hand), the other is focused on a strong avant-garde streak with a vibrant and creative cultural scene thrust into the spotlight this year as a European Capital of Culture. Fabulous exhibitions, installations, and events are going on everywhere.

Spend a weekend basking in Wroclaw’s warm, and appealing atmosphere. Witness firsthand why it is becoming known as the mellow but cool cousin of Krakow. One tip before your arrival? Don’t wait to master the pronunciation of the city—that’ll take a big chunk of your time. Instead practice at home: Vrotz-wahv.