The largest city of Poland and one that also has the distinction of being its capital is the city of Warsaw. This city covers and area of two hundred miles and is situated on the Vistula River. This city is roughly two hundred and thirty miles from the Carpathian Mountains, as well as the Baltic Sea. The current population of Warsaw is approximately two and a half million people. This makes this city the eighth largest city in Europe.
Warsaw’s history is one that is closely tied with the history of Poland itself. The settlement on which Warsaw is founded has been occupied for at least fourteen thousand years. But, these peoples were mainly nomadic and permanent structures weren’t erected until around the ninth century. From this point on the city has endured many hardships and disasters. One of the most important ones include the Nazi invasion during World War II. This was the event that left the city in tatters, and one that the city is still recovering from.
The second world war saw Warsaw come under the military rule of the Nazi’s. Upon capturing the city, the Nazi’s began closing all of Warsaw’s secondary education institutions. They then enacted a policy where several hundred thousand jews were forced to reside in the Warsaw Ghetto. Following the invasion of Poland from Russia, the Nazi’s burned Warsaw to the ground. This nearly destroyed over eighty percent of the city. After the war, a communist regime was set up.
Warsaw’s tourist season stretches from April until October. It is during this time that the weather should be favorable enough to view the sights of the city. Visitors should try and visit the city during the middle of summer. This is the time when many different music festivals are usually being held. This city should be avoided during the winter months, because of the extremely harsh winters there.
Divided by the Vistula River, Warsaw is formed into two seperate sections. Most of the popular attractions are located on the western part of the city. This area is known as Old Town. The eastern portion of Warsaw consists of drab residential areas and business districts. Unfortunately for the city there is a lack of inspiration to be found in much of the architecture of the city. It’s mainly composed of a skyline that is dominated by high rise buildings. The skyline is not only generally perceived as boring but it is further marred by the addition of the Palace of Science and Culture. This structure is generally considered to be the eyesore of the city. Though Warsaw is not usually considered to be the ultimate tourist destination, it still must be regarded as the political and economic center of Poland. Besides, this city does have a rather substantial collection of historical monuments, galleries and museums.
Old Town, or Starego Miasta as it’s known by locals, is surrounded by buildings done in the classical Baroque and Renaissance styles. This gives this area not only a beautiful look but also one that makes visitors feel as if they have stepped through time. This area is also bustling with musicians, artists and poets who frequent the square on most days; Around the square is also a fair number of open air cafes and art stalls. Also in this square is the Historical Museum of Warsaw. Departing from Old Town Square is a vast network of cobbled streets that are surrounded by traditional Gothic churches and previous royal palaces. Following the streets will eventually take visitors to the watchtowers of the medieval walls surrounding the old city.
The Historical Museum of Warsaw is a three story building that contains many exhibits chronicling the history of the city. Visitors can find photos, old newspaper clippings, pictures and even documentary films. As a matter of fact, the main feature of this museum includes a 12mm film that was shot by the Nazi’s as they began their systematic annihilation of the residents of Warsaw.
A four kilometer stretch of road that leads from Old Town to King’s palace at Wilanow is the historic Royal Way. This stretch of road is littered with museums and historic buildings. Some of the most prominent on route are St. Anne’s Church and Park Lazienki. This area also contains many lakes and open spaces to rest at. The King’s Palace is filled with some really great paintings and antique furniture. Behind the palace is an art gallery and a poster museum.
Warsaw is a city that has it’s fair share of nice hotels for visitors and tourist. The most prominent of these are located in Old Town. The most notable ones are the Castle Inn, Duval Apartments, Harenda, the Kanonia Hotel, Old Town Apartments and Royal Route Residence.