Explore Warsaw

Warsaw Travel Guide

As the capital of Poland, Warsaw was one of the most beautiful
and sophisticated cities in central Europe until it was almost
totally destroyed during the Nazi occupation of World War II. The
end of the war saw most of the city reduced to rubble and ruins,
and large swathes of the population killed or interred in Nazi
concentration camps. The city underwent a major rejuvenation
project following this havoc, and the buildings in the heart of the
old city were meticulously restored.<br /><br />
Warsaw is divided into two distinct halves by the Vistula River,
with the Old Town, the modern city centre and most of the tourist
attractions on the western side. The eastern side of the river is
comprised mostly of uninteresting residential suburbs and business
districts. Today Warsaw presents a modern urban landscape of
high-rise buildings, and the years of communist rule have left an
uninspiring architectural legacy of drab concrete structures and
uniform prefab-style housing.<br /><br />
Although many people give scant regard to Warsaw as an appealing
tourist destination, it is still Poland's largest city and the
political, economic, scientific and cultural hub of the country. It
has many museums and historical monuments, galleries and historic
attractions, a variety of restaurants and open-air cafes, and an
energetic nightlife. With green open spaces and classical music
concerts, this modern, bustling city is a far cry from the severe
communist-era images of post-war Warsaw, which still dominate the
global imagination. Visitors to Warsaw will find a resilient and
captivating city with lots to offer.<br /><br />

Old Town (Starego Miasta)

Address: Warsaw

The busy Old Town of Warsaw provides the historic focal point of the city, having been rebuilt in the original 17th and 18th-century style following the almost total destruction of the city during the war. The picturesque Old Market Square (Rynek) is at the centre, surrounded by restored buildings and colourful three-storey merchant houses with Baroque and Renaissance facades, lively open-air restaurants, art stalls and the Historical Museum of Warsaw.<br /><br /> Around the two old central water pumps the atmosphere is a constant buzz of activity with buskers, painters and musicians providing entertainment for the milling crowds, while around the fringes the clattering of hooves signals the arrival of another traditional horse-drawn carriage. Fanning out from the square is a network of cobbled streets and alleyways that contain beautiful Gothic churches and the former palaces of the aristocracy. The impressive Royal Castle was once the home of the Polish Kings and is now a museum displaying tapestries, period furniture, portraits and other decorative items.<br /><br /> The narrow streets also lead to the ramparts and watchtowers of the medieval walls surrounding the old city, providing unforgettable views of the heart of Warsaw. The Old Town is generally, and deservedly, the starting point for sightseeing in Warsaw.<br /><br />

Museum of Warsaw

Address: Rynek Starego Miasta 28-42, 00-272 Warszawa, Poland. Warsaw

Admission: 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

Telephone: +48 22 596 67 00

The History Museum is one of the best of Warsaw's impressive array of museums. Its three storeys are crammed with fascinating exhibitions, covering every aspect of Warsaw's history and life from the city's establishment to the present day. The museum was founded in 1936 and reopened in 1948 after closing during the war. It now occupies almost an entire side of a square in Old Town, housed in quaint historical buildings and boasting 52 rooms with permanent exhibitions, four with temporary exhibitions, a cinema, a library and a reading room.<br /><br /> One of the highlights is the collection of old photographs, clippings and articles on display from everyday pre-war city life. Another special feature is a documentary film showing the destruction and reconstruction of the city, with footage shot by the Nazis during their calculated and systematic annihilation of Warsaw, and footage of the careful rebuilding after the war. The film is shown in English at 10am and 12pm from Tuesday to Friday, and at 12pm and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.<br /><br />

The Royal Way

Address: Warsaw

Known as the Royal Way, this two-and-a-half mile (4km) route stretches from the Royal Castle in the Old Town to the stately King's Palace at Wilanów on the outskirts of the city. It is the most important thoroughfare, bisecting the central city from north to south, and is lined with galleries, museums and historical buildings (including St Anne's Church, where the Polish princes used to swear homage to the King).<br /><br /> Along the way are the royal gardens of Park Lazienki, one of the city's most beautiful green spaces with its lakes, peacocks and charming 18th-century Palace Upon the Water, which was the royal summer residence. There is a monument in the garden to the famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin, and outdoor concerts of his classical music are held on the lawns in summer. The Royal Way ends at the splendid Wilanów Palace, the former residence of King Jan III Sobieski, that was modelled on Versailles. It is now a museum containing a marvellous collection of old paintings and furniture.<br /><br /> In the well-kept park behind the palace is the Orangery, housing an art gallery. Guided tours of the lovely gardens and palace museum are available, but it is also possible to explore independently.<br /><br />

Polish Poster Gallery

Address: Hoża 40, 00-001 Warszawa, Poland Warsaw

Admission: 11am to 6pm (Monday to Friday); 10am to 3pm on Saturdays.

The Galeria Grafiki i Plakatu (Polish Poster Gallery), located in the splendid Old Town area of Warsaw, houses what is undoubtedly the finest collection of graphic art and posters in the country - and perhaps even in Eastern Europe. The Polish Poster Gallery was established in 1975, and now proudly exhibits over 5,000 posters and pieces of graphic art, many of which display some facet of Polish culture.<br /><br /> Visitors will see theatre, music and cinema posters as well as the pick of the lot, fantastic Polish Solidarity political posters, designed by greats such as Cieslewicz, Stasys, Gorowski and Sadowski. Although most of the art is Polish, the gallery also displays some iconic American, British, French, and German posters, among other nationalities, and tourists may be excited to see classics like West Side Story, Moby Dick or the original Polish poster for Dirty Dancing among the collection.<br /><br /> The posters have an iconic style and will delight graphic art fiends; the collection is also an interesting way to get to grips with Polish culture. Thankfully, as visitors tend to fall in love with some of the art, the museum has a great selection of prints for sale (about 2,000 different designs), and these make for fantastic souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home.<br /><br />

Bialowieza National Park

Address: Warsaw

Bialowieza National Park, located on the border between Poland and Belarus, is a heavily protected area that guards the last remnants of the primaeval forest that used to cover most of Europe at the time of the last ice age. This ancient woodland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an absolutely enthralling place to visit. Visitors can take a guided tour of the forest, and experience the ancient mysticism of this part of the world.<br /><br /> An additional bonus is that the Bialowieza National Park is also the last place on earth that tourists can see European bison, huge beasts that once roamed across the continent, living undisturbed in their natural habitats. An ecotourism destination of international repute, the nearby town of Bialowieza has begun to cash in on the popularity of the National Park, with numerous luxury spa resorts offering high-class treatments and supremely comfortable lodgings. Bialowieza National Park is a short train ride from Warsaw (two and a half hours) making it possible to visit the park on a daytrip, but it is best to spend at least one night in the area if possible.<br /><br />

Mozart Festival

Where: Warsaw Chamber Opera,Warsaw

When: 23 June to 31 July 2017

Every summer, music lovers from around the world flock to Warsaw to attend the highlight of the city's music season, the Warsaw Chamber Opera's Mozart Festival. Presentations of the stage works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart include some of his most popular operas, including and among many others.<br /><br /> The programme is typically comprised of about 40 shows and concerts: in fact, at its inception the festival was the only one in Europe to showcase Mozart's entire output for the stage, and the programme still includes all the composer's operas as well as selected oratorial works, symphonies, instrumental concertos and chamber works. The performances take place in the most prestigious and beautiful venues the city has to offer, including the Royal Castle, Royal Theatre, Wilanow Palace Museum, Warsaw Chamber Opera Theatre, Church of the Holy Cross, and the Seminary Church.<br /><br /> The Mozart Festival has been held for more than 20 years and is one of the most popular and famous events in Warsaw, conveniently scheduled for the summer, which is the peak tourist season in Poland. There are a variety of ticket options and fanatics can buy special passes which come with a range of benefits. For more information check out the official website listed below.<br /><br />

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