Places to visit in ורשה

Warsaw: First Encounter


A Brief Journey Through Warsaw's Old and New Towns: Explore the heart of Poland's capital, where history and nobility intertwine. This tour reveals the Old Town's grandeur and the New Town's elegance, flourishing since Warsaw became the capital. Uncover tales of majestic churches, sacred temples, and the lives of Polish kings. Delve into the poignant history of Warsaw's WWII tragedy and discover intimate stories of human lives and passions that shaped this resilient city.

Languages: RU, EN
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Polo Polotsky (author)
CTO Pinsteps
2.33 km
2h 1 m
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Uploaded by Polo Polotsky

Due to its central location between Krakow and Vilnius, the historical capitals of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and its proximity to Gdansk, often threatened by Swedes, Warsaw emerged as the capital in 1596. This strategic move by Sigismund III, who brought his court from Krakow, marked a significant shift in the region's political landscape.

At the heart of Warsaw stands Zygmunt's Column, the city's oldest secular monument, which has been gracing Castle Square since 1644. Commissioned by Wladyslaw IV, Sigismund III's son, this 22-meter-high structure exemplifies Baroque artistry. It features a Corinthian granite column atop a lofty plinth, crowned by a bronze statue of Sigismund III. In this striking depiction by Clemente Molli, the ruler is shown holding a cross in his left hand and a sword in his right, symbolizing both faith and power.

Designed by Italian architects Augustin Loschi the Elder and Constantino Tencalla, the monument was an innovative approach to secular commemoration at the time, diverging from traditional practices of installing statues in palace niches. Despite enduring damage and numerous restorations, the statue has maintained its original form. However, the Column has been replaced twice, a testament to its enduring significance in Polish history and culture.

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The Royal Castle in Warsaw, once the residence of Polish kings, stands as a symbol of Polish statehood, meticulously reconstructed in the 1970s. This decision to rebuild followed the original establishment of the castle, marking Warsaw's rise as the capital after Zygmunt III Wasa shifted the seat of power from Krakow in 1596.

Constructed initially in the early Baroque style by Italian architects Giovanni Trevano, Giacomo Rodondo, and Matteo Castelli between 1598 and 1619, the castle integrated the earlier structure of the Mazovian princes. Over time, it saw numerous modifications under various rulers. The late Baroque facade facing the Vistula River was developed during Augustus III's reign, and the lavish interiors from Augustus Stanislaus's era are particularly notable.

Tragically razed by the Germans in World War II, the castle's reconstruction from 1971 to 1988 was a monumental effort, symbolizing the resilience and restoration of Polish heritage and identity.

Photo: Author: Marcin Białek - own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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St. John's Cathedral: Resilience and Regality in Warsaw - this title encapsulates the cathedral's historic significance and journey through time. Starting as a 15th-century parish church and gaining cathedral status in 1798, St. John's witnessed pivotal events like the coronation of Poland's last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, in 1764, and the swearing-in to the Polish Constitution in 1791.

Throughout its existence, the monarchy enriched St. John's with new chapels and elements. It became a resting place for notable Poles, including Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. Severely damaged in World War II, the cathedral underwent a significant restoration, with Jan Zahwatowicz redesigning its façade in the Masovian Gothic style, reflecting its historical roots and resilience.

The site's history traces back to a wooden church built by Prince Konrad II Czerski, which was later replaced by a brick church dedicated to St. John the Baptist. This location is integral to Warsaw's history, mentioned in the first document confirming the city's existence in 1313 and a significant 1339 court case against the Teutonic Order. As Warsaw evolved into a Mazovian princes' residence and later the Mazovia capital in 1413, St. John's Cathedral transformed the city into a critical historical and cultural hub.

Photo: By Jorge Láscar from Australia - St. John's Archcathedral, CC BY 2.0

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Jesuit Church: Baroque Beacon in Warsaw - this title captures the church's architectural significance and role in the city's history. Built between 1609 and 1629 for the Jesuit order, this sanctuary endured centuries, mirroring Warsaw's turbulent past.

Despite its resilience, the church faced near destruction in 1944 during the German occupation of World War II. Post-war restoration efforts were anchored in the church's original Baroque-Mannerist style, preserving its unique architectural identity. The church's distinct layout is adapted to fit a narrow space, and its elliptical dome, ingeniously designed to bathe the central altar in natural light, highlights this historic structure. This church is a place of worship and a testament to Warsaw's enduring spirit and architectural ingenuity.

Photo: By Guillaume Speurt from Vilnius, Lithuania - Jesuit church in Warsaw, CC BY-SA 2.0

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St Martin's Church: A Testament to Resilience and Rebirth - this title reflects the church's journey through turbulent times and its role in shaping Warsaw's history. Housing a modern crucifix with remnants of a figure from the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, the church stands as a symbol of endurance and remembrance.

Initially a post-Augustinian church, St Martin's underwent significant Baroque transformations in the 17th and 18th centuries. Architect Karol Bay's direction led to the church's unique wave-shaped façade, a distinct feature in Warsaw's architectural landscape. Once rich in Baroque ornamentation, the interior suffered destruction in 1919, with only a partially burnt crucifix remaining.

Post-World War II restoration, under Sister Alma Skrzydlewska's vision, revived the church's interior, blending the historic crucifix into its modern design. Beyond its architectural and historical significance, St Martin's Church played a crucial role in the 1980s as a gathering place for political dissent against the communist regime, marking it as a beacon of hope and change in Poland's capital.

Photo: By Szczebrzeszynski - Self-photographed, Public Domain

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The Warsaw Siren Monuments: Echoes of the City's Past - This title encapsulates the historical and cultural significance of the Warsaw Siren statues. The older two, situated in the Old Town's market square, were crafted between 1854 and 1855 by sculptor Konstantin Hegel and cast in zinc at Karl Minter's factory. Originally part of a new water supply system, symbolized by its placement on artificial rock fragments with a fountain, the statue has undergone numerous changes and relocations.

After various alterations and the removal of the original fountain, the sculpture was frequently moved until its return to the Old Town Market Square in 1999. 2008, the statue was recast in bronze, and the original was transferred to the Warsaw City Museum.

The evolution of the siren's depiction in Warsaw's emblem reflects the city's dynamic history. Initially portrayed with bird legs and a dragon's body, it transformed in 1459 to include a fish tail and the upper body of a woman, along with bird legs with claws. Since 1622, the siren has been depicted as a woman with a fishtail, wielding a round shield in her left hand and a short sword in her right. This enduring symbol, set against a red background in the city's 1938 coat of arms, represents Warsaw's resilience, transformation, and rich heritage.

Photo: Author: Cezary p - own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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The 18th Century Warsaw Market Square: A Historic Epicenter - This title captures the essence of the square's role as a focal point in Warsaw's past. Measuring 90 by 73 meters, the square was central to Warsaw's life in the late 18th century, surrounded by houses owned by the city's wealthiest residents. These structures, many dating back to the 17th century, imbue the square with a distinctive historical character.

Initially, the square housed a town hall, a weighing house, and trade stalls, all demolished in 1817. The iconic Mermaid (Syrenka) statue stands in its place, adding a mythic dimension to the square's allure. The rows of houses around the square are named after notable figures in Warsaw's political history, like Jan Deckert, an 18th-century mayor, on the north side.

These interconnected houses, now part of the Historical Museum, offer visitors a glimpse into the lives of Warsaw's townspeople and artisans, showcasing typical interiors and workshops from that era. This square, rich in history and architectural beauty, is a testament to Warsaw's vibrant urban tapestry and enduring cultural legacy.

Photo: Author: Andrzej Otrębski - own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Warsaw's Barbican and City Walls: Timeless Defenses - This title reflects these structures' historical importance and enduring presence in Warsaw. The brick Barbican and City Walls, crucial for safeguarding the northern approach to the city, stand as a rare preservation in European capitals, with most of the original walls still intact.

Dating back to the 14th and mid-16th centuries, these fortifications originally comprised a double wall system with fortresses and towers encircling the city. The Barbican, a circular defensive outpost built around 1548 by Gianbattista of Venice, replaced an earlier fortress gate and was explicitly designed to protect the Novomejska Gate.

Remarkably restored after the devastation of the Second World War, these structures today serve as a testament to Warsaw's rich history and symbolize the city's resilience and ability to rebuild and preserve its heritage through the ages.

Photo: By Carlos Delgado - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

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The Church of the Holy Spirit: Pilgrimage and Resilience in Warsaw - This title captures the dual role of the church as both a historical site and a focal point for spiritual journeys. The Church of the Holy Spirit, dating back to the 14th century, has been a significant religious site, mainly known as the gathering point for pilgrims heading to Jasna Gora in Częstochowa.

Surviving numerous expansions and devastating destruction during the Swedish invasion in 1655, the church's restoration was a testament to faith and community effort. Unable to fund the rebuilding, the townspeople received aid from King John Kazimierz, who entrusted the site to the Pauline monks from Częstochowa, famed for their defence of the Jasna Gora monastery. The monks restored the church and erected a protective wall around it.

The current structure, completed between 1707 and 1725 under architects Józef Piola, Józef Szymon Bellotti, and Karol Ceroni, boasts an interior finished in 1725. An interesting facet of this site is the adjacent small house on Długa Street, built in the early 19th century on Warsaw's most minor plot of land, a few square meters, with its unique registration number. With its rich history of resilience and renewal, this church continues to be a beacon for pilgrims and a symbol of Warsaw's enduring spirit.

Photo: By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada - Poland-00900 - Church of the Holy Spirit, CC BY-SA 2.0

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The Raczyński Palace: Layers of History and Tragedy - This title encapsulates the multifaceted history of the Raczyński Palace in Warsaw. Reconstructed in 1786 by royal architect Jan Christian Kamsetzer, the palace now houses the city archive. Originally an early neoclassical ballroom, it was utterly destroyed during the war, and today, it is adorned with symbolic motifs themed around justice.

This theme contrasts sharply with the history of its last owner, Kazimierz Raczyński, a royal court official viewed by his contemporaries as traitor. Throughout the 19th century, the palace served as the seat of the government commission for justice and later, the Ministry of Justice in the interwar period.

The palace also bore witness to the horrors of World War II. Marks of bullets on its walls testify to the execution of 50 civilians in January 1944. During the Warsaw Uprising, it witnessed further atrocities: an exploding tank shell killed about 80 people, and in a separate incident, several hundred wounded individuals were killed when the palace, then used as a hospital, was attacked. The Raczyński Palace thus stands as a symbol of architectural and historical significance and a solemn reminder of the tragedies it has witnessed.

Photo: By Rado-NDM /, CC BY-SA 3.0

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1989 Warsaw Uprising Monument: A Tribute to Resilience - This title highlights the monument's significance as a remembrance of the Warsaw Uprising heroes. Opened in 1989, it features sculptures by Wincenty Kućma within an architectural ensemble by Jacek Budynia.

The monument vividly portrays the soldiers of the uprising in two groups: one defending barricades, the other depicted entering the sewers. These sewers played a crucial role during the rebellion, serving as a network for the rebels to navigate through Warsaw. The proximity of an actual sewer entrance near the monument adds a tangible connection to this historical event.

The monument also became a site of international reconciliation when, during the 50th anniversary of the uprising, the then President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard Herzog, delivered a significant apology to the Polish nation for the atrocities committed by the Third Reich, including the brutal suppression of the Warsaw Uprising. This monument is a tribute to the bravery and resilience of the Warsaw Uprising heroes and a landmark of historical reflection and reconciliation.

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17th Century St. Jacek Church and Monastery: Gothic and Baroque Splendor - This title reflects the historical and architectural richness of the Church of St. Jacek and its adjacent monastery in Warsaw. In the early 17th century, the Jesuits created a Gothic altar for this church, paralleling the Dominicans' construction of a Baroque church in the Old Town.

The construction faced a significant setback due to the plague outbreak in 1625, during which the few surviving monks continued their service, innovatively administering sacraments through holes in the doors. The church's completion in 1639 led to the establishment Warsaw's largest monastery beside it.

The post-World War II reconstruction of the church preserved its fascinating interior, featuring exquisite vaults over the aisles and a Gothic altar adorned with Lublin-type stucco. The church also houses the Baroque tomb of Adam and Małgorzata Kotowski, a testament to the social ascent of Adam Kotovsky from peasant to noble, designed by Dutch architect Tilman van Gameren. This blend of Gothic and Baroque elements and its rich historical narratives make St. Jacek Church a significant landmark in Warsaw's architectural and cultural landscape.

Photo: By Pko - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Freta Street: New Town's Historic Artery - This title encapsulates the significance of Freta Street as a central and historical thoroughfare in Warsaw's New Town. Originating from an ancient route from Old Warsaw to Zakroczym, the street began to flourish with buildings by the end of the 14th century, becoming an integral part of New Warsaw in the 15th century.

Today, Freta Street is known for its charming antique shops and cafes, which blend historical ambience and modern leisure. A notable landmark on this street is house number 15, the birthplace of the renowned scientist Marie Curie, which has been transformed into a museum. This street, rich in history and cultural significance, serves as a living testament to the evolution and vibrancy of Warsaw's New Town. Author: Nihil novi - own work, CC BY 3.0

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Rynek Nowego Miasta: The Heart of Warsaw's New Town - This title captures the essence of the New Town's market square as a central and historically significant area in Warsaw. Originally a rectangle, the square transformed in 1818, resulting in its unique triangular shape.

The removal of the town hall during the 1818 reconstruction opened up a stunning view of the Baroque dome atop the Church of St. Casimir. Despite the square's destruction in 1944, its subsequent rebuilding embraced a style reminiscent of the 18th century, while the remaining 19th-century buildings around it provide a glimpse into its original appearance. Notably, the facades of many houses around the square are adorned with socialist-realist frescoes, adding an intriguing layer to the square's architectural and historical tapestry. This market square remains a vibrant and essential part of Warsaw's New Town, reflecting the area's rich history and cultural evolution.

Photo: By Adrian Grycuk - Praca własna, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

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Holy Order Church and Convent: Baroque Elegance in Warsaw - This title reflects the architectural splendour and historical depth of the Church and Convent of the Holy Order, designed by Tilman van Gameren and constructed between 1688 and 1692. The church is funded by King John III Sobieski and Queen Maria Casimira and showcases classical Baroque architecture with a striking domed structure.

The building's architectural magic lies in its well-balanced proportions. Despite being reconstructed post-war, the church retains much of its original charm, with the most beautifully restored feature being the tomb of Princess Marie Caroline of Bouillon, John III Sobieski's granddaughter. Her poignant love story with Mikhail Kazimierz Radziwill and her tragic end during the French Revolution adds a layer of romantic and historical intrigue.

The monastery's rear garden, a 17th-century haven cascading down towards the Vistula River, remains untouched by time. With its rich history and architectural beauty, this church and convent stands as a testament to Warsaw's enduring cultural legacy.

Photo: By Marcin Białek - Praca własna, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary: A Timeless Presence in the New Town - This title encapsulates the enduring significance of the Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, the oldest church in the New Town. Dating back to the early 15th century, it was commissioned by Masovian princess Anna, wife of Janusz I, and is believed to have been constructed on the site of an ancient pagan sacred temple.

The church has undergone various restorations throughout its history, including a notable 19th-century renovation that altered its appearance. Like many Polish buildings, it suffered damage during World War II but was meticulously reconstructed in the 15th-century Gothic style.

One remarkable feature of the church is the handcrafted vault above the altar, crafted without pre-made moulds. Adjacent to the church is a cemetery with a modern statue of Walerian Lukasinsky, the founder of a national patriotic society. The terrace nearby offers captivating vistas of the picturesque Vistula Valley. This church, steeped in history and architectural beauty, remains a timeless presence in Warsaw's New Town.

Photo: Author: Adrian Grycuk - own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl

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Marie Skłodowska-Curie Monument: A Tribute to Science and Love - This title pays homage to the monument dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie in Warsaw, which celebrates her remarkable scientific achievements and symbolizes her extraordinary personal journey. Marie Curie was a brilliant scientist and a woman with a rich and complex personal life.

Her marriage to Pierre Curie was a scientific partnership and a profound love story. Together, they made groundbreaking discoveries, including radium and polonium, which earned them the Nobel Prize. The couple had two daughters, Irene and Eva, and Irene followed in her parents' footsteps by also winning a Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Marie's life after Pierre's death was marked by rumours of romantic involvement with scientist Paul Langevin, causing a scandal in society at the time. Despite the challenges, Marie Curie continued her scientific pursuits, remaining dedicated to her passion for science until the end of her life.

The Warsaw monument is a powerful reminder of a woman who triumphed over numerous obstacles in her personal and professional life, inspiring countless individuals with her resilience, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to the world of science.

This marks the conclusion of our city walk.

photo: By Renardo la vulpo, CC BY-SA 4.0

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