IS WARSAW REALLY A MUST-SEE CITY?
Many people are surprised by Warsaw diversity.
At the first glimpse you could be bored with all many blocks of flats, huge traffic, noise and a lot of people at streets. However, when you give Warsaw some time, you will feel a vibrant atmosphere here and you will also start to appreciate its various architecture.
In my opinion Warsaw strength lays in its complicated history. The city ups and downs gave power to be reborn.
That is why you may see here not only remnants of old times but also an absolutely modern European metropolis. Check my WARSAW GUIDED TOURS to admire Jewish Heritage or Reborn City.
All of this puts Warsaw high up on the list of tourist destinations. Tu sum up – this city is a place definitely worth visiting at least on.
Warsaw must-see top-7 places
1. The Old Town
The first Warsaw must-see place is the heart of the city, because Warsaw was located there in the 13th/14th century. The area was completely destroyed during the WWII, but thanks to many people it is completely reborn now. The whole place is listed at the World Heritage List of UNESCO, because of an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
There are many amazing colorful houses, small charming streets, beautiful architectonic details such as lanterns, frescoes, stone steps etc. The Old Town was walled by 1000 meter long brick wall (today only fragments are reconstructed) and had a square in the middle.
Today the Old Town Market Square is a picturesque, vibrant place with a Mermaid statue in the middle (the Mermaid is in Warsaw coat of arm). You find there also a huge amount of restaurants with outside tables and stands of local craftsmen (e.g. you may buy there Warsaw special candy – 'Pańska skórka’).
The other characteristic point of the Old Town is the Column of King Sigismund III Vasa. You can’t miss it, because it’s quite high and stands in the middle of Castle Square, in the beginning of the Royal Route. It is the best place for meeting your date or missing child. I am sure that everybody in Warsaw can point it.
2. The Royal Castle
It is one of the most amazing Warsaw must-see places. The Castle was a royal residence since 16th century. During WWII it was completely razed to the ground and reconstructed later in the 1970’s with incorporating original elements into new walls.
Every day at 11:15 am you can hear a special music based on popular Warsaw songs played from the highest tower called The Clock Tower. It is played on a trumpet from one of the tower’s window.
The Castle today is an art and interiors museum and an absolutely great place to visit. There are many artifacts remembering our last king from the 18th century.
Note also the castle courtyard, where every facade is rebuilt in a different style. Look for an original stone elements which are more grey than newer ones.
3. The Royal Park "Łazienki"
The picturesque place along the path of the Royal Route, was the summer residence of the last Polish king in 18th century Stanislaw August Poniatowski. The park is situated at the escarpment and has the area of 70 ha (around 0,3 square miles).
There is a famous Palace on the Isle in the middle of the park- 'abode of kings’, miraculously survived the destruction of Warsaw by Nazi’s. Now it is a witness to a bygone time.
There are many elegant and lovable buildings designed by famous 18th century architects, hidden between linden, chestnut and oak trees and lilac bushes. You may float in the pond in a swan-shaped boat imagining royal parties during the summer. Additionally you may see its colourful animal residents – peacocks and red squirrels.
In the upper part of the park there is a monument of Frederic Chopin. Every Sunday, during the summer season, near the monument, piano concerts are performed by great pianists from all over the world.
It is a majestic complex of a baroque palace and a beautiful garden. It was the seat of one of our kings from the 17th century – John III Sobieski. It was the king’s beloved residence and after king’s death it was sold to one of noble families.
Fortunately, the palace was not completely destroyed during the WWII, so today we can admire it’s rich interior and a beautiful art collection.
There is an amazing garden around the palace – one part in the French style (hedge trimmings in beautiful shapes, colorful flower patterns on lawns and charming benches) and a second one in the English style (high trees and wild herbs, mysterious gazebos and astonishing statues).
5. The Warsaw Uprising Museum
The fifth Warsaw must-see place is the museum showing a history of an extremely tragic days during WWII, called Warsaw Uprising.
This armed revolt lasted for 63 days from 1st of August 1944 till 2nd of October 1944. Poles were trying to take over the city from a very well armed and numerous Nazi’s Army. Despite an overwhelming superiority and brutality of the methods used against the insurgents, the German troops found a strong resistance everywhere. During the Uprising about 200,000 inhabitants died and almost half of them were murdered. After Uprising capitulation all survivors– about 500.000 people – were expelled from Warsaw. The city became forlorn and Nazi’s Army began to destroy the capital.
The Museum is very modern, you can see pictures and old films as well as hear the sounds of the battle and the rattle of rifles. Many recorded testimonies of Varsavians and artifacts make this place a real lesson of history. Being there don’t miss a replica of a sewer which was used by insurgents for communication. A reconstructed plane 'Liberator’, which supplied food and weapon to the insurgents, is also worth seeing. An interesting option to see is to watch a film 'City of ruins’ in 3D, made from aerial photographs, showing the destruction of Warsaw after the Uprising.
6. The Prague district
The Prague district is the common name for a right-bank part of Warsaw. To be exact this part has also other districts with different names. The most varied one is the Old Prague which is on the opposite bank of Vistula River to the Old Town. The Old Prague became the part of Warsaw in the end of the 18th century. It was a multicultural area where Catholics, Orthodoxies and Jews lived together. The district wasn’t destroyed during WWII so being there you may find traces of prewar Warsaw – brick buildings, shaped wells courtyards and small shrines with handmade Madonnas inside.
Today this place is described in many paper guides as the area rediscovered after years of darkness.
And because of its style, Prague is often used for photo shoots, commercials and music videos. In 2002 Roman Polanski chose the district for taking pictures to his world famous film 'The Pianist’.
7. The Palace of Culture and Science
The last Warsaw must-see pearl is the building which is loved or hated at the same time. It’s visible in the center, near the Central Railway Station, dominating the surroundings with its specific shape. It even looks a bit odd because of its completely different design.
It was a kind of a gift given to Polish nation by Józef Stalin the leader of the Soviet Union in the 1950’s. By saying 'given’ I mean that Russians designed and worked on the construction of it. It is built in a very popular architectonic style during communism called socialist realism – huge, majestic buildings, showing the power of communism.
Today it is one of the highest building in Warsaw which houses museums, theatres, cinemas, art galleries, exhibitions and a meeting hall for city councilors. The main attraction is the terrace on the 30th floor with a beautiful panoramic view of Warsaw, but you may also stroll around the building and admire sculptures of workers, beautiful details made of sand-stone, floral clock, fountains and a small park with nice benches welcoming for a rest.