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A city with a history
Welcome to Warsaw – the capital of Poland and its biggest city. Over 1.7 million people live here permanently, and hundreds of thousands commute every day to work. No wonder then that it is the economic leader in the country and the entire region. Its modern image, however, is not the only source of the city’s pride – it also has an impressive history.
Panorama of Warsaw City Center, Photo: F.Kwiatkowski
The first traces of human settlement in the area date back to the turn of the 11th century, and so-called Old Warsaw was founded in the 13th century in the area of what is now the Old Town. As people continued to flock to the city, the so-called New Town was established the following century. Over the centuries, the city by the Vistula has undergone an incredible transformation. In 1596, Warsaw was made capital of Poland, and became not only the site of international politics, but also the home of many great artists, scientists and social activists. It was in Warsaw that the careers of the world-renowned figures Fryderyk Chopin and Maria Skłodowska-Curie first took off.
Independence insurgencies, wars and the Warsaw Rising with its tragic consequences have forever cast a shadow on the city’s history. Yet Warsaw was still able to rise from the ashes, for which it has been recognised by UNESCO, who have included the Old Town on the World Heritage List.
Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, Photo: City of Warsaw
Warsaw in a nutshell
One needs to spend a few months here to get to know the city inside out. If you don’t have that much time, however, you should see at least some of the most interesting attractions. The Old Town is a good place to start your sightseeing. The charming narrow streets, the historic market squares of the Old and New Towns, the majestic Royal Castle, and the dozens of cosy cafes all create a very unique atmosphere. Though it is hard to believe, this Old Town is the youngest in the world – almost completely destroyed during the war, it was later meticulously rebuilt. The unprecedented effort was recognised by UNESCO, who included it on the World Heritage List. Moving on, we enter the old Royal Route which leads to two residencies surrounded by fabulous gardens: the Łazienki Royal Park and the palace in Wilanów.
In the very centre of the city stands the monumental edifice of the Palace of Culture and Science. A breath-taking view of the city stretches from the viewing deck on the 30th floor of this flagship example of socialist realist architecture.
Other absolute must-sees in Warsaw are its biggest museums: the Warsaw Rising Museum, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and the National Museum. Those who love scientific experiments cannot miss the interactive Copernicus Science Centre. The white and red National Stadium, the site of the biggest sport and cultural events in Poland, is also very impressive.
Chopin Concert in the Royal Łazienki, Photo: City of Warsaw
The Warsaw of Chopin
Fryderyk Chopin – a name known to almost everybody. Not everybody knows, however, that this world-famous composer was Polish – and a Varsovian! Born in 1810 in Żelazowa Wola, his parents moved to the capital city when the young Fryderyk was just a few months old. It was here that he spent half of his life and enjoyed his first spectacular successes.
Today, Warsaw is full of places related to Chopin. Multimedia benches scattered all over the city serve as signposts, giving a tour of the traces of this great composer. One can enjoy the music they play, scan the QR code and get a special app to learn more about Chopin’s Warsaw, or even take a selfie with Fryderyk!
Chopin’s music continues to inspire, hence the many festivals and cultural events. The free summer concerts of Chopin’s music in the Łazienki Royal Park are among the most popular. From May to September, every Sunday at noon, and again at 4 pm, one can relax to this magnificent classical music in a real picnic atmosphere. To learn more about the composer, visit his website.
And after work…
After a long day, it’s time to chill out. Warsaw is full of places where one can relax and have fun.
If you like nature, you will definitely enjoy the river banks of the Vistula – Europe’s last wild river. Included in the network of Natura 2000 sites, the whole area by the river enchants with its unique ecosystems of rare species of flora and fauna. The Vistula Embankments are an ideal place for a stroll, a bicycle ride, or just a moment of relaxation in one of the open-air bars. And if it’s daytime, then Poniatówka – the biggest river beach in Europe – is the place to go. On weekend nights, on the other hand, the spectacular light show in the Multimedia Fountain Park is a great attraction.
Quiet parks and gardens can also easily be found in other parts of the city – as much as a quarter of Warsaw’s territory is green areas.
If, however, you are more a party person than a lover of peace and quiet, you will have more than enough to choose from. Hipsters’ favourite hang-out Plac Zbawiciela, the atmospheric restaurants in Saska Kępa in the vicinity of the National Stadium, the swanky night clubs on Mazowiecka and Foksal streets, or Praga Północ, where the artistic bohemian circles like to party – these are just a few examples of what Warsaw’s nightlife has to offer.
Those who love shopping will also have places to go in Warsaw – either the elegant shopping malls with the best brands or unique boutiques offering top-quality Polish products.
Evening on the Vistula, Photo: City of Warsaw
A bite to eat
Varsovians love trying out new exotic tastes, hence the many different restaurants offering cuisine from all corners of the world. If it is your first visit to Warsaw, however, you need to try out traditional Polish specialities, such as marinated herring, potato dumplings with meat, tripe or pork loin Warsaw style. But there is no doubt that it is its sweets that are the city’s symbols – the W-Z or Zygmuntówka cakes, Blikle’s doughnuts, Wedel chocolate and Grycan ice-cream.
Regardless of how much money you have, you will definitely find something delicious to eat: from the upscale places serving Polish cuisine in an innovative way (as in the restaurants Atelier Amaro or Senses, both awarded with Michelin stars), to traditional inns offering filling soups and affordable pierogi (Pierogi na Bednarskiej, Zapiecek). And if you wish to see a typical kitchen and try the tastes of days gone by, you need to check out one of the “milk bars”, such as Bar Prasowy.
Zbawiciela Square, Photo: City of Warsaw
The city of the future
Warsaw is one of Europe’s most dynamically developing metropolitan cities, attractive not only to tourists and residents, but also to entrepreneurs, as proven by various international ranking lists. In the 2016/2017 European Cities and Regions of the Future ranking, Warsaw came 4th in the “Business-friendly” category and 8th in the “Human capital and life style” category. Thanks to the modern architecture, excellent office infrastructure and numerous incentive programmes targeted at small and medium-size enterprises, more and more companies are deciding to establish their HQs here and develop innovative ideas – as is the case with the Google Warsaw Campus, one of five in the world. This all makes Warsaw also unique in the region in terms of the highly skilled human resources and a high level of satisfaction among residents. A survey conducted by the European Commission in 2015 has shown that over 90% of Varsovians are happy with their life in this city.
Rondo ONZ, Photo: City of Warsaw
How to find your way in the city, how to find tourist information points, and where to look for medical help or wireless Internet? All essential practical information can be found on the Official Tourist Portal of Warsaw. The best city mobile applications are also recommended.
Source: Official Tourist Portal of Warsaw