My husband and I will be taking the train from Berlin to Wroclaw in early October 2016. We plan to rent a car there and drive about an hour away to the town that his ancestors emigrated to German from. We thought we would just spend one night in Wroclaw and continue on to Krakow by train. Is there anything to see in Wroclaw worth spending an extra day? Also, can anyone comment on whether there are sensible alternatives to taking the train from Berlin to Wroclaw, and then from Wroclaw to Krakow.
Yes, I think it's worth spending at least a day, if not more. Wrocław has been voted the 2016 European Capital of Culture. I doubt you'd be disappointed and it would be a shame just to overnight there without seeing anything.
You won't be bored having a day for Wroclaw. The city was spared the war damage which devastated so much in Poland. The Rynek (market square) is a beauty, the area around the University is unique with its baroque buildings, and it has a good collection of - for those days - revolutionary modern buildings, such as the Jahrhunderthalle, which made it on the Unesco World Heritage list.
I don't think you can get it more sensible than by taking the train. There is an easy connection from Berlin to Wroclaw taking some 5 hours from city centre to city centre with one change (in Poznan), without all the hassle which makes flying so horrible these days. And there is a direct connection from Wroclaw to Krakow, only taking 3 to 3,5 hours. Can you have it more relaxed than that?
Concerning Wroclaw having escaped war time damage, as it was the German city of Breslau, I'm wondering how badly it was hit by allied bombers. I wonder if its location protected it from the main routes of Allied bombers. Being on the Oder river, it was still planned to be part of Germany after World War Two, as the Oder river was planned as the new German border with Poland, but then the Allies decided that the Neisse river as well should delineate the border and all of Silesia west of the Oder was lost to Poland as well.
"The city was spared the war damage which devastated so much in Poland."
The city was destroyed, not spared (I think the prior poster mistook Kraków for Wrocław). Refer to the Siege of Breslau:
Agnes, very interesting link and the city was certainly not spared damage, it was practically destroyed because of Nazi fanaticism. War for Germans was already lost anyway.
More Wrocław history here for anyone interested: