The city of Warsaw needed to be completely rebuilt after World War II and the resulting architecture is magnificent. Warsaw is a dynamic city full of fascinating historical sites, theatre and art and the best music and clubbing scene in Poland. This is our suggestion for seven things visitors that should not miss;
The Old Town
The Old Town of Warsaw was completely destroyed during World War II and it has since been painstakingly rebuilt to its former glory. In essence it’s not old, but it sure feels like it is and it takes visitors back in history visually. The Old Town is a good place for a leisurely stroll and a casual meal at one of the many quaint cafes.
Gestapo Headquarters Museum
Understandably memories of World War II are present throughout Warsaw and the Gestapo Headquarters Museum is one place where visitors can learn a lot about those years. Yes it is a sad and sobering experience, but a must-see for history aficionados as well as people who want to learn more about that period in history.
Copernicus Science Centre
The Copernicus Science Centre is a trip out that children will enjoy and adults will have a good time too. All the exhibits are in English and Polish with a lot of interactive presentations. There is a planetarium and many science experiments that teenagers can get involved with. Being a science center, this is a great blend of educational, fun and genuinely interesting too. The center is closed on Mondays.
St John’s Cathedral
One of the oldest churches in Warsaw, St John’s Catholic Cathedral was built in the 14th century in Brick Gothic style and is listed as a site of cultural significance by UNESCO. There are many crypts beneath the cathedral that contain the remains of Polish royalty as well as famous composers, musicians, statesmen and other notable figures. Very little of the original walls remained after World War II, but it was meticulously rebuilt according to the 14th century appearance.
Lazienki Park is the destination to hang out in when the weather is fine. The Palace on Water and garden complex was built in the late 1700s. There are 76 hectares of magnificent landscaped gardens, canals and ponds with pea fowl and other birds present. The park itself is a quiet, green space in the middle of the city and ideal for leisurely walks, a picnic or a spot of people watching. The birds will eat bread crumbs from your hand and it is a beautiful spot to take a few photos. There is also an outdoor café on site for fresh coffee and pastries.
The University of Warsaw Library Rooftop Garden
The library of Warsaw is very modern with giant slabs that represent humanity’s knowledge and scholarship. The inside of the library is very modern and usually occupied by students, but the rooftop garden is the real highlight for tourists. A visual harmony of metal, glass and vines on lattices, with improbable glades and arbours that are framed by views of Warsaw and the Vistula, it is a gardeners dream.
Wilanow Poster Museum and Palace
One of the world’s largest collections of poster art is in the Wilanow Museum with works by Picasso, Dali and Warhol all featured. This is an amazing exhibition of colour, design, artistry and craft with posters from over two centuries as well as regularly changing contemporary exhibits. It is located in the Wilanow Palace complex where you can also explore the Baroque architecture. Built in the 17th century (at about the same time as the Palace of Versailles) it was home to King Jan Sobieski. Neither the palace nor its outstanding collection of art was much damaged during World War II, and it has beautiful gardens which are great for a romantic stroll.
This post is part of our Euro 2012 series, along with our guide to 7 Things to do in Krakow, we will also publish ideas and things to see and do in Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw… coming soon! And if you’ve already been knocked out of the Euro 2012 office sweepstake (me included) there’s always Wimbledon sweepstake or maybe Tour de France sweepstake to look forward to!
By Julie Bowman