Warsaw, located on both sides of the middle Vistula River, is the capital of Poland. It has more than 2 million inhabitants and is the largest city in Poland. The contrast could not be starker: on one side modern skyscrapers, office buildings and elegant restaurants, on the other the charming old town, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1945, the city was almost largely destroyed and there were thoughts of making Lodz the capital. Then it was decided to rebuild the city after all – with success! With a lot of effort and attention to detail, many things were rebuilt according to old specifications. Walking through the old town, one can hardly believe it. In recent years, Warsaw has developed into a vibrant European metropolis. More than 30 theaters and about 50 museums round out the cultural offerings in the city. Diverse and breathtaking impressions are guaranteed during a visit to Warsaw!
Tip 1: Royal Castle
In the place where the Royal Castle was built at the end of the 16th century, before that time there was only a watchtower, which was built in the 14th century.
After the recognition of Warsaw as the new capital of Poland, King Sigismund III ordered the construction of the castle. His successors, such as King Wladyslaw IV and King August III, made further additions to the castle. The king Sigismund III extended, the tower called today as Wladyslawowska. King, August III, ultimately commissioned the expansion with the facade on the Vistula side with the rococo wing and the north wing. Furthermore, other changes in the interior, as well as the construction of the south wing, were made by the last Polish king Stanislaw August Poniatowski. It was this king who made the most changes in the royal castle. Like any royal palace, this one was supposed to shine in a breathtaking splendor.
However, during the Second World War, in 1939, the castle was largely destroyed by bombardments and the remains of the building were finally blown up in 1944.
The Royal Castle was rebuilt after a recovery from the Second World War in the same place where it used to be. Even though the Royal Castle was completely destroyed during and after the Second World War, many important parts of the interior were preserved. At that time, the original objects were kept in safe places, so during the reconstruction of the building, the original parts could be reused and installed. The construction of the new castle took about 40 years.
Especially worth seeing are the Ballroom, the Throne Room, the beautiful ceiling painting in the Marble Room and the Knights’ Hall.
Tip 2: Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science, as it is correctly called, was considered an unpopular symbol of almost 45 years of oppression by the Russians. In the meantime, tourists as well as locals enjoy the sight of the 230 meter high building and its facilities, such as cinema, theater, congress hall and museums. Artists such as the Rolling Stones and Marlene Dietrich have stood on the stage in the magnificent congress hall.
Still the tallest building in Poland, with 42 floors, it was the second tallest building in Europe when it was built. In April 1952 it was decided to build it, and in July 1955 the 3288-room building with its total area of 817000 square meters was completed. Officially, the building, whose concept bore Stalin’s signature, was called a gift from the Soviet Union to the Polish people. However, the Poles see it more as a symbol of power of the Russians. Some streets also had to make way for the building.
On New Year’s Day 2000, one of the world’s tallest tower clocks was unveiled at the palace. The hands are 6 meters long and can be seen even from a medium distance.
The tourist highlight of the Warsaw Palace of Culture is the observation deck on the 30th floor. Here you have the best view over the city. It is especially beautiful to experience the sunset over Warsaw in the summer in the evening.
Tip 3: Old Town Market Place
The Old Town (Stare Miasto), as the oldest part of the city (13th century), is the historical center of Warsaw and is considered the most important sight.
Immediately you feel like you are transported back to an earlier time and can experience the special atmosphere in the small streets.
Most of the old town (about 90%) was destroyed during the Second World War, but afterwards it was rebuilt in such a way that one does not notice that most of the buildings here were reconstructed. The reconstruction lasted for many decades. During the reconstruction, art historians relied on pictures and sketches of the individual objects. Attention was paid to even the smallest details. This led to the fact that the Old Town of Warsaw was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
In the center of the Old Town is the Old Town Square. It was built in the 13th century on an area measuring 90 x 73 meters.
Nowadays you can find mainly restaurants and cafes at the market square, which offer mainly Polish specialties. Especially in the summer you should take some time for a break there and enjoy the beautiful view of the market square.
You can also see organ grinders and portrait painters here. In the center of the square once stood the town hall, but it was demolished in 1817. Since 1855, a bronze sculpture depicting Warsaw’s coat of arms (Syrenka) can be found in the same place.
The four sides of the houses on the Market Square still bear the names of their former inhabitants:
Zakrzewski (former mayor), Barss (lawyer), Kollataj (priest) and Dekert (former mayor).
Tip 4: Multimedia Fountain Park
One of the most spectacular sights in Warsaw is located in “Podzamcze” Park, not far from the historic center of the city.
The multimedia fountain park was opened in 2011. It includes two water complexes: one is the main fountain, a bit like an elongated drop, and the other is a line of rectangular fountains 125 meters long.
Every year from May to September there are multimedia shows. Famous classical compositions and popular hits are played, and to this music hundreds of water jets fly up into the air. Every second more than 500 liters of water are poured out of 370 nozzles. And each jet is illuminated from below by a special spotlight, making the impression as if the water is constantly being colored in blue, red or green.
All this water extravaganza lasts 30 minutes. But it is better to come here in advance, because the most favorable seats are taken half an hour before the show starts. When the sky begins to darken, already sound the first chords of famous musical compositions, and turn on the laser animation. On a huge water screen you can see pictures of life and sights of Warsaw. The city legends and historical fragments pass before the eyes of hundreds of viewers.
Tip 5: Lazienki Park
With about 80 hectares, Łazienki Park is the largest park in Warsaw and translates as “Baths Park”. It is located at the southern end of the Warsaw Royal Road.
There, on the Łazienki Lake, you will also find the Łazienki Palace, also called Palace on the Water. The palace is the former residence of King Stanisław II. August and it is worth visiting it.
In Łazienki Park you will pass by various historical buildings as well as monuments. The most famous is the Chopin Monument. Continuing your walk to the north, you will reach the picturesque Ujazdowski Park.