What to see in Warsaw
Warsaw’s Old Town is the oldest historic district of the city. Founded by the Dukes of Mazovia in the late 13th century, it was encircled by the two lines of defensive walls that mark the boundary of the town. Fragments of the walls still survive. The Royal Castle, King Sigismund’s Column, St. John’s Cathedral and the Mermaid’s Statue are among the landmarks. The colourful, richly decorated houses lining the Old Town Market Square are strikingly beautiful. The 16th century defensive structure, called Barbakan, links the Old and the New Town. Old Warsaw was very badly destroyed in 1944. In the years following the war the town was reconstructed with the utmost care and in 1980 was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Royal Castle was the ancient residence of the Dukes of Mazovia and the Kings of Poland. It was also the site where over centuries Parliament sessions were held. In 1944, as a symbol of Polish culture, tradition and history, it was blown up and levelled to the ground by the Nazis. The Castle’s post-war reconstruction was funded by individual Poles at home and abroad. Many original pieces of paintings, furnishing, sculpture, stucco-work etc., saved with the tremendous effort in 1939, were put back into the walls of the Castle. Worth visiting is especially „Route II” which will take you through the Great Apartment and the King’s Apartment.
The Royal Way begins in the Old Town. It stretches south along Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Nowy Swiat, Aleje Ujazdowskie and Belwederska Streets. It runs parallel with the Vistula river and is lined by many prominent historical buildings and monuments, such as Warsaw University, Holy Cross Church, the Presidential Palace, the Polish Academy of Sciences, Copernicus Monument and St. Alexander Church. The most beautiful part of the Royal Way ends up with the Royal Lazienki Park and Belweder Palace.
ROYAL LAZIENKI PARK AND PALACE
The Royal Lazienki is a beautiful and charming park-and-palace complex laid out in the center of Warsaw. There are many historical buildings and pavilions scattered around the park, among them the Palace on the Isle (also called the Palace on the Water), Amphitheatre, Old Orangery, White House, Myslewice Palace and F. Chopin Monument, where open-air piano concerts are held. The Royal Lazienki is a perfect place for a stroll and that is where you can see red squirrels (nuts and fruit are necessary), peacocks, ducks and swans, and have a gondola ride around one of the ponds.
At present Wilanow is one of the most popular and desired residential areas in Warsaw. The district was named after the beautiful Palace and Park, where King Jan III Sobieski had his summer residence. Wilanow Palace and Park represent the height of the Polish Baroque and are often called „the Polish Versailles”. They also belong to those few places in Warsaw which survived the war in its intact form. The exhibition in the Palace consists of two sections: the Gallery of the Polish Portrait and the Royal Apartments. The Park comprises gardens in various styles: Baroque garden, English landscape park, English-Chinese park, neo-Renaissance rose garden.
PALACE OF CULTURE AND SCIENCE
The Palace of Culture and Science is the biggest and tallest structure in Poland. Built in 1955, it was oficially commissioned as a „gift from the Soviet people to the Polish people”.
The Palace of Culture and Science houses 3,288 rooms and measures over 230 metres in height. It can be seen from a distance of over 20 km, which makes it impossible to get lost in Warsaw. In 2001 the highest tower clock in the world, called the Millennium Clock, has been added to the building. There is also a viewing deck on the 30th floor of the Palace which is open daily 9:00-18:00. In in the summer season „Palace at Night” Programme makes the 30th floor available longer from 9:00 to 23:45 on Fridays and Saturdays.
WARSAW UNIVERSITY LIBRARY GARDEN
Warsaw University Library Garden is one of the largest and most beautiful roof gardens in Europe. It was laid out on the roof of a new Warsaw University Library edifice. The garden covers the area of more than 10,000 square metres and is divided into two main parts: an upper garden and a lower garden. The upper garden, consisting of golden, silver, purple and green gardens, is one of the best viewing points in Warsaw. The University Library Garden is also a perfect resting place.
WARSAW UPRISING MUSEUM
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is one of the best and most interesting museums in Poland. It was opened in 2004 when Poland celebrated the 6oth anniversary of the Uprising, which began on the 1st of August 1944. The interactive exhibition illustrates one of the most tragic episodes in the history of Warsaw, the 63 days long unequal battle in the heart of Poland’s capital. The exhibition divided into different sections presents the many aspects of the Uprising, such as allied airdrops, fights in different areas of the city and the final destruction of Warsaw. One of the most impressive pieces is a replica of B24 Liberator plane.
Before WWII Warsaw numbered over 350.000 Jewish people, being the second biggest (after New York) Jewish settlement in the world. In November 1940 the Warsaw ghetto was closed. Encircled by the wall, the ghetto was cut off from the rest of the city. People crowded within the ghetto walls were suffering from starvation and epidemic diseases. The first annihilation campaign began in July 1942. Since that time until September 1942 over 300,000 Jews were driven from the Warsaw ghetto to the camp in Treblinka and murdered there. On the 19th April 1943 the Uprising in the ghetto started. From the very first days of the Uprising Gen. Jurgen Stroop began a systematic destruction of the Jewish district. On the 16th May he orderd to blow up the Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street as a symbol of „the victory over the Jewish people”. In spite of the almost total annihilation there are some very interesting buildings and monuments surviving until today, recalling the Jewish culture and tradition. For more information on the Jewish traces in Warsaw refer to the chapter „Visit Warsaw – Warsaw guided tours”
Other places of interest:
WARSAW FOTOPLASTICON (3D PICTURE VIEWER)
Such 3D picture viewers were invented in Germany in the latter half of the 19th century. They soon became very popular all over the world. In Warsaw Photoplasticon was first mentioned in „Kurjer Warszawski” in 1901. In 1905 it was placed in Aleje Jerozolimskie (Jerusalem Avenue) 51 where it remains until today as the only installation of this kind on its original site. During WWII it was a contact point for the Polish underground.
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