Attractions in Warsaw
Be assured that there are plenty of attractions and sights for you as a tourist in Warsaw. Admittedly, all buildings are replicas of the originals, but the Old Town is still a delight to the eye. And the monuments and museums about the atrocities of the world wars are so thought-provoking and beautiful that everyone has to bring it.
The Royal Castle (Zamek Krolewski)
The Old Town Castle was founded in the 1300s, and had its heyday 300 years later, when it was home to the Polish kings and was considered one of the finest palaces in Europe. In 1945 it was destroyed following Hitler’s orders, but painstakingly reconstructed in the period 1971-84, and now has the baroque appearance it had before the war.
You can see the courtrooms, the royal residences and the Parliament Hall, and visit the art galleries and exhibitions. Open all days except Mondays from 0900. The entrance fee depends on which parts you want to visit, but expect a little over 20 kroner.
Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego)
This museum, [see picture first in article] opened in 2004, takes you through the whole story of the heroic and desperate rebellion against the Nazis in 1944, a story that is sure to shake you.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is located in an old power station and has three floors of interactive exhibits, photos, videos and objects, while machine guns crackle and bombers lurk in the background.
You can rent an audio guide in English or other languages, but the exhibits are signposted in several languages and explain well. The rebel museum is located in ul. Grzybowska 79, and is open from 0800 every day except Tuesdays. 10 to 18 on weekends. The entrance fee costs a lick and nothing. Also, it is free on Sundays.
Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta)
The Old Town Square is the masterpiece in an area that in 1945 was a smoking brick mound where it was hardly possible to glimpse where the streets had been. (That many historic buildings in Szczecin were picked apart to contribute 25 million bricks to the restoration of the capital’s Old Town, no one speaks highly.) The square is undoubtedly the most idyllic in the entire city, and has been since the 1300s. used for everything from witchcraft and knight tournaments to festivals and markets. The houses that flank the square look like they did in the 1600s, but the town hall which was in the middle is demolished and replaced with a fountain from 1855.
This majestic city gate and red stone fortress located on the north end of ul Nowomiejska was built by Venetian architect Giovanni Battista in 1548. The fortifications stretched from the Vistula River and around the Old Town, forming the boundaries of Nybyen, where the working classes lived unprotected.
The Barbican was partially demolished in the 19th century, but reconstructed in 1953-54. Today, it is a natural transitory year for pedestrians, where local artists showcase their products and the city’s youth gather.
Church of the Holy Cross (Kosciol sw. Krzyza)
This church is a stopover for anyone who likes Frederic Chopin. Here, Chopin’s heart is kept in an urn, according to his own will. The church has its roots back to the 15th century. The church was destroyed in the 1650s. It was rebuilt, and once again destroyed, this time by the Nazis in 1945. Now it has been rebuilt and is a delight to watch.
The church is located in the middle of the main street Krakowskie Przedmiescie south of the Castle. Open daily from 1000 (Sundays 1400) to 1600.
Just by the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie, a pensive Nicolaus Copernicus sits on his podium. This nearly 3-foot-tall statue of the famous astronomer who determined that the earth goes around the sun (and not vice versa) was unveiled in 1830. There are two identical statues, cast in the same form, in Chicago and Montreal.
Marie Sklodowska-Curie Museum
Scientist Marie Curie, who discovered both radium and polonium (which she named after her homeland) was born and raised in this house in ul Freta 16 in Nybyen, just north of the Barbican fortress. Here is now a museum about her life and work. Open all days except Mondays from 0930 to 1600. Entrance approx. NOK 15.
Palace of Culture and Science (Palac Kultury in Nauki)
Poland’s tallest and Warsaw’s most recognizable building, and tourists’ foremost landmark, is the 232-meter-high Culture and Science Palace located in the city’s new center. It was built on Stalin’s order as “a gift from the Russian people” and was long hated by the Poles who saw it as a symbol of the Communists’ suppression of Polish culture. The building has had nicknames such as Stalin’s Palace, Elephant in lingerie and Vertical bracket, but now houses congress halls, offices, concert halls, a cinema complex and several museums.
From the 30th-floor viewing platform, you have the city’s best views of Warsaw. Entrance is about NOK 50, and it is open from 0900 to 1800. The address is Plac Defilad 1.
Frederic Chopin Museum
Poland and Warsaw’s greatest cultural celebrity of all time, Frederic Chopin, lived in Warsaw parts of his life. In this museum dedicated to his life and music you can see pictures and objects related to the great composer. The museum is located in ul. Okolnic 1 and is open daily from 1000 to 1800. Entrance about 40 kroner, children half price.
National Gallery (Zacheta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki)
The city’s oldest art gallery is located in a beautiful historic building by the Saski Park in the city center. It now houses both Polish and international exhibitions of contemporary contemporary art. The address is Pl. Malachowskiego, open every day except Mondays from 1200 to 2000.
Wilanow Castle (Muzeum Palac w Wilanowie)
This castle (or Wilanow Palace as it is also called) from the end of the 1600s was the second residence of the Polish kings, and is today a museum open to the public. The park, which surrounds the castle, covers over 43 hectares and has several beautiful gardens, in both Chinese, Neo-Renaissance and Baroque style. The address is ul Stanislawa Kostki Potockiego 10/16, and the castle is open to the public every day (except Tuesdays) from 0900 to 1600. Entrance approx. NOK 32, children half price. Free on Saturdays. For the park area it costs NOK 10 for adults, 6 for children. Free on Thursdays.
Tourist in Warsaw
If you are reasonably healthy and good on your feet, most of Warsaw’s attractions on foot are no big deal. However, for those who do not want to walk, there are other options. On weekends and all days in July and August there is an old-fashioned tram route, which starts and ends at Plac Starynkiewicza. Departure every 50 minutes from 1 p.m. 1100, price only a few bucks.
You also have a guided half-hour tour in open minibuses leaving from Slottsplassen, which focuses on the Old Town’s history and buildings. The price is about 50 kroner. Or you can take a river cruise on Vistula. From May to the end of September, boats run every 90 minutes from the jetty at the Slasko-Dabrowski Bridge, just below the Castle. First trip 0930. The price is NOK 35 for adults, half price for children up to 14 years.
If you want to walk, but can’t bear all the way, know that Warsaw has a well-developed public transport system. You buy a ticket in advance at a kiosk or booth where there is usually a sign with the inscription “Bilety”, which you stamp when you board, whether it is a bus, tram or subway. A single ticket costs five NOK, and a 24-hour pass around 15 NOK.
Day 1 in Warsaw
We start the day at the site where the city of Warsaw was founded, at the Royal Palace south of the Old Town. The castle dates from the 1300s, and had its heyday in the 1600s, when it was home to the kings of Poland and was considered one of the finest palaces in Europe. In 1945, dynamite was blown up and destroyed by Hitler’s orders.
The castle was painstakingly reconstructed in the period 1971-84, and now has the baroque appearance it had before the war. You can see the courtrooms, the royal residences and the Parliament Hall, and visit the art galleries and exhibitions. Depending on the route you choose, take an hour to complete the round.
In the castle grounds outside, a dark majestic figure hovers from the top of a 22-meter-high granite pillar. The statue of 1644 by King Zygmunt III Vasa, like everything else in Warsaw, was destroyed in 1945 and repaired a few years later. The original pillar is a few meters away, behind the castle. King Zygmunt, by the way, was actually Swedish and was called Sigmund. This is where the street starts, which is popularly called The Royal Road, which extends four kilometers between the two royal residences in Warsaw.
The first stretch is Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street, a wide and beautiful parade street where you will find several of the city’s most important buildings. On your left hand as you descend, you first see the Gothic St. Anna Church from 1454. The church was burnt down during the Swedes’ invasion (yes, doesn’t that sound absurd?), But rebuilt in 1664 with the baroque bell tower giving You have a great view of the Castle and the Old Town. Entrance can get NOK.
At the south end of a small park stands the monument to the 19th century Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. He is probably more important in Polish literary history than Ibsen is in Norwegian, and all Poles from kindergarten and up can tell you all about him. The original monument was destroyed by the Nazis in 1944, and today’s edition was unveiled in 1950.
Further down, and still on your left, you will find the Radziwill Palace from 1644, which since 1994 has served as the residence of the President of Poland. In this building, the Warsaw Pact was signed in 1955. The statue in front of the palace represents Prince Jozef Poniatowski on a horse. This statue was also destroyed during the war and has been rebuilt as a gift from the people of Copenhagen.
If you continue south you will reach a statue of a man with a large and pointed hat, Cardinal Wyszinski. Just behind the statue is the old St. Joseph’s Monastery. Below the monastery is the University of Warsaw, founded in 1816. On the other side of the street is the Czapski Palace, where the Faculty of Graphic and Painting Arts is located. Chopin’s family lived in one of the building’s wings.
Next stop is the Church of the Holy Cross (Kosciol sw. Krzyza) on the right. This church is a natural stop for anyone who likes Frederic Chopin. Here, at Chopin’s own wish, his heart is kept in an urn. The church dates back to the 15th century. During the invasion of Sweden in the 1650s, this church was also destroyed. It was rebuilt, but destroyed again by the Nazis in 1945. It is now rebuilt, and a delight to watch.
Just by the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie, a pensive Nicolaus Copernicus sits on his podium. This almost 3-meter-high statue of the famous astronomer who determined that the earth orbits the sun, and not vice versa, was unveiled in 1830. The Nazis, of course, attempted to destroy this statue, but it was strangely found on a landfill in western Poland after the war, and placed in its rightful place after some repairs. The building behind is the Staszic Palace which houses the library and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
You are now just off the street Nowy Swiat, which for centuries has been one of Warsaw’s liveliest and nicest with its many cafes and shops. Needless to say, it was completely demolished during World War II and rebuilt in the years that followed? If you take a left into Ordynacka, you will come to Frederic Chopin Music Academy, which educates musicians and where concerts are held on Wednesdays.
After lunch we suggest you continue further south, to Three Cross Square (Plac Trzech Krzyzy) and Ujazdowskie Street, which is one of the most elegant in Warsaw. Here are several embassies, historic buildings, beautiful villas, government buildings and luxury hotels. In the square lies the Church of Alexandria from about 1820, with the statue of martyr John of Nepomuk, an important Catholic saint in Eastern Europe. A statue of John Fra Neponuk is also on the Charles Bridge in Prague, the bridge where he was killed in 1393.
End the day at the magnificent Lazienki complex, a large castle park of about 80 hectares that started as a hunting area for kings in the 1600s. Here you could easily spend the whole day looking at monuments, palaces and temples. Inside the castle itself you can see countless works of art and antiques. Here is Warsaw’s famous Chopin Monument, and the Palace of Belvedere from 1660, which was the presidential residence of Lech Walesa. It is now a museum for the national hero and country father Jozef Pilsudski.
Day 2 in Warsaw
Day 2 also starts in front of the Royal Palace, but takes in the historic area north of the Castle, Warsaw’s beautiful Old Town. It took many years to restore the area after the devastation of World War II. Today, the Old Town is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and a real delight to stroll around. It is almost impossible to believe that most buildings here are less than 50 years old, for everything looks like it did in the 18th century.
From the Castle you go northwest to the narrow street Swietojanska. On your right you have Warsaw’s oldest church, the nearly 700-year-old St. John’s Cathedral. In the crypt rests several of Mazovia’s dukes, Warsaw archbishops and cardinals and Polish Nobel laureates. At the end of Swietojanska you come out on the southern corner of what is undoubtedly Warsaw’s heart, Old Town Square.
Since the 1300s, the Old Town Square has been used for everything from witchcraft and knight tournaments to festivals and markets. The houses that flank the square look like they did in the 17th century, but the town hall which was in the middle is demolished and replaced with a fountain from 1855 with a statue of Warsaw’s symbol and protector, a mermaid with sword and shield. There are many restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating on the terraces in the summer, and this is a natural gathering place for all tourists and Warsaw street artists. Sit down with a coffee or beer and soak up the atmosphere.
On the north side of the square is the Warsaw Historical Museum, which is definitely recommended. East of the square is a view terrace with a great panoramic view of the river Vistula and the eastern districts of Warsaw. The terrace is located outside the English John Bull Pub, which may also tempt you for a break?
As you continue up ul Nowomiejska from the Old Town Square, you reach the Barbican [see image above]. This majestic city gate and red stone fortress was built by the Italian architect Giovanni Battista in 1548. The fortifications stretched from the Vistula River and around the Old Town, forming the boundaries of Nybyen, where the working classes lived unprotected. The Barbican was partially demolished in the 19th century, but reconstructed in 1953-54. Today, it is a natural passage for pedestrians, and a place where local artists exhibit their works and the city’s youth gather.
You can walk on top of the city walls in either direction. Go left, and after a few hundred meters you will come to a memorial to all the children who lost their lives during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Continue west in the small street Kilinskiego, and then down Dluga to the left. Here you will not be able to avoid noticing the great dramatic monument commemorating the Warsaw Uprising, which raged for two months in 1944. Around 200,000 Poles were killed in a recent desperate attack on the heavily armed Nazis, while Russian forces sat a few kilometers away on the other side of the Vistula and waited.
Further west lies Muranow, the Jewish ghetto during World War II. Muranow was, as you know, completely leveled with the earth, and there is not much to see here except for monuments and monuments. Go up Dluga again until you reach the main street Freta.
In Freta 16, science woman Marie Curie was home, now a biographical museum. Entrance fee, but it is cheap. Marie Curie was actually Polish, raised in Warsaw and named Maria Sklodowska. She discovered radium and polonium, which she named after her homeland. Just opposite the museum is the picturesque Nybytorget. The Baroque St. Kazimierz Church on the east side was converted into a hospital during the war, and over a thousand people died here when the church was bombed in 1944. But despite its bleak history, Nybyen is a pleasant and beautiful area to stroll around, with enough of lunch options.
After lunch we suggest you go down to Slottsplassen again and take bus 100 or 180 to Sadyba. This is where the Katyn Museum is located in Powsinska 13, which deals with the massacres of the Russians on over 20,000 Polish officers, intellectuals and leadership figures. Free admission. Very interesting, but it sounds too bleak, so you continue all the way to Wilanowski Palace, a 17th-century royal summer residence. Here you can take a guided tour of the castle, stroll in the 43-hectare gardens and parks, or take a relaxing stroll on the idyllic lake.