21 Best Sights in Stare Miasto, Warsaw

Archikatedra św. Jana

Stare Miasto

Ulica Świętojańska, leading from the Rynek Starego Miasta to the Zamek Królewski, takes its name from this cathedral, which was built at the turn of the 14th century; coronations of the Polish kings took place here from the 16th to 18th centuries. The crypts contain the tombs of the last two princes of Mazovia, the archbishops of Warsaw, and such famous Poles as the 19th-century novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Nobel Prize–winning author of Quo Vadis?

Świętojańska 8, Warsaw, Poland


Stare Miasto

The pinnacled Barbakan, the mid-16th-century stronghold in the old city wall on the intersection of ulica Freta and ulica Nowomiejska, now marks the boundary between the Old Town and the New Town. From here you can see the partially restored wall that was built to enclose the Old Town. Inside, you can see an exhibition developed by the Museum of Warsaw.

Warsaw, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: zł 5, Oct.–Apr., closed Mon., May–Sept., Tues.–Sun. 10–7

Galeria Zachęta

Stare Miasto

Built at the end of the 19th century by the Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts, this gallery has no permanent collection but organizes thought-provoking special exhibitions (primarily modern and contemporary art) in high-ceilinged, well-lit halls. It was in this building in 1922 that the first president of the post–World War I Polish Republic, Gabriel Narutowicz, was assassinated by a right-wing fanatic.

pl. Małachowskiego 3, Warsaw, 00-916, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: zł 15; free Thurs., Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. noon–8

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Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza

Stare Miasto

Built as a memorial after World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier contains the body of a Polish soldier brought from the eastern battlefields of the Polish–Soviet war of 1919–20—a war not much mentioned in the 45 years of Communist rule after World War II. Ceremonial changes of the guard take place at noon each Sunday; visitors may be surprised to see the Polish Army still using the goose step on such occasions. The memorial is a surviving fragment of the early 18th-century Saxon Palace, which used to stand here on the west side of plac Piłsudskiego. Behind the tomb are the delightful Ogród Saski (Saxon Gardens), which once belonged to the palace and were designed by French and Saxon landscape gardeners. Scattered around the gardens, 21 baroque-era statues personify the muses and the virtues.

pl. Piłsudskiego, Warsaw, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Kościół Jezuitów

Stare Miasto

On the left-hand side of the entrance to the Cathedral of St. John you'll find the early 17th-century Jesuit Church, founded by King Jan III Sobieski. Highlights include the crypt and the tower, which offers a lovely view of the Warsaw's Old Town. Throughout the postwar years, a visit to this church at Eastertime was considered a must by Varsovians and its Gethsemane decorations always contained a hidden political message. (In 1985 the risen Christ had the face of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, the Warsaw priest murdered the previous year by the Polish secret police.)

Świętojańska 10, Warsaw, 00-288, Poland

Kościół Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Marii Panny

Stare Miasto

A picturesqure redbrick Gothic church—the oldest in the New Town—St. Mary's was built as a parish church by the princes of Mazovia in the early 15th century. It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout its history. In 1944, it was burned by the Germans; it was reconstructed after the war, between 1947 and 1966. In 2011 it celebrated its 600th anniversary.

Przyrynek 2, Warsaw, Poland

Kościół Sakramentek

Stare Miasto

Built as a thanksgiving offering by King Jan III Sobieski's queen, Marysieńka, after his victory against the Turks at Vienna in 1683, this cool, white church stands on the east side of Rynek Nowego Miasta (New Town Square). During the war, it initially escaped bombardment but became a target of enemy fire when it started serving as a hospital in 1944. It was destroyed in September that year, and 1,000 people were buried under the rubble. Today, a memorial plaque commemorates the victims.

Rynek Nowego Miasta 2, Warsaw, 00-229, Poland

Kościół św. Jacka

Stare Miasto

This baroque Dominican church in the New Town was badly damaged in the aftermath of the 1943 uprising, when the adjoining monastery served as a field hospital for wounded insurrectionists. It was reconstructed in the 1950s.

Freta 8–10, Warsaw, 00-227, Poland

Kościół Świętego Stanisława Kostki

In October 1984 Polish secret police officers murdered the popular parish priest Jerzy Popiełuszko because of his sermons, which the Communist regime considered gravely threatening. Thereafter the martyred Popiełuszko's church became the site of huge and very moving Solidarity meetings. It is now a kind of pilgrimage site, and the church museum holds a collection of the priest's memorabilia. You can visit his grave on the grounds of this church north of the New Town. Take a taxi or Bus 116 or 122 from ulica Bonifraterska to plac Wilsona; then walk two blocks west along ulica Zygmunta Krasińskiego.

Stanisława Hozjusza 2, Zoliborz, 01-565, Poland

Kościół świętej Anny

Stare Miasto

Built in 1454 by Anne, princess of Mazovia, the church stands on the south corner of Castle Square. It was rebuilt in high-baroque style after being destroyed during the Swedish invasions of the 17th century, and thanks to 1990s redecoration and regilding, it glows once again. A plaque on the wall outside marks the spot where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 1980, during his first visit to Poland after his election to the papacy. St. Anne's is the church of Warsaw's academic community.

Krakowskie Przedmieście 68, Warsaw, 00-322, Poland

Kościół Wizytek

Stare Miasto

In front of this late-baroque church stands a statue of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, primate of Poland from 1948 to 1981. Wyszyński was imprisoned during the 1950s but lived to see a Polish pope and the birth of Solidarity. The fresh flowers always lying at the foot of the statue are evidence of the warmth with which he is remembered.

Krakowskie Przedmieście 30, Warsaw, 00-325, Poland

Muzeum Etnograficzne

Stare Miasto

On display here you'll find an interesting collection of Polish folk art, crafts, and costumes from all parts of the country as well as ethnographic collections from the world over. The museum organizes an impressive program of temporary, thematic exhibitions (for example, football culture or modern religious folklore) as well as events, concerts, movies, and educational programs for children.

Kredytowa 1, Warsaw, 00-056, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: zł 12; free Thurs., Closed Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri. 10–5, Wed. 11–7, Sat. 10–6, Sun. noon–5

Muzeum Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie

Stare Miasto

The house in which Marie Curie Skłodowska was born has a small museum inside dedicated to the great physicist, chemist, winner of two Nobel Prizes, and discoverer of radium.

Freta 16, Warsaw, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: zł 11, zł 16 including a documentary movie, Closed Mon., June–Aug., Tues.–Sun. 10–7; Sept.–May, Tues.–Sun. 9–4:30

Pałac Kazanowskich

Stare Miasto

This 17th-century palace was given a neoclassical front in the 19th century. The courtyard at the rear still contains massive late-Renaissance buttresses and is worth a visit because of its plaque commemorating Zagloba's fight with the monkeys, from Sienkiewicz's historical novel The Deluge. In a small garden in front of the palace stands a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, the great Polish romantic poet. It was here that Warsaw University students gathered in March 1968, after a performance of Mickiewicz's hitherto banned play Forefathers' Eve, which set in motion the events that led to the fall of Poland's Communist leader Władysław Gomułka, a wave of student protests, and a regime-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign.

Today, the palace is the home to the Catholic organization Caritas and is not open to visitors.

Pałac Namiestnikowski

Stare Miasto

This palace was built in the 17th century by the Radziwiłł family (into which Jackie Kennedy's sister Lee later married). In the 19th century it functioned as the administrative office of the czarist occupiers—hence its present name. In 1955 the Warsaw Pact was signed here; later the palace served as the headquarters for the Presidium of the Council of Ministers, and since 1995 it has been the official residence of Poland's president. In the forecourt is an equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski, a nephew of the last king of Poland and one of Napoléon's marshals. He was wounded and drowned in the Elster River during the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, following the disastrous retreat of Napoléon's Grande Armée from Russia.

The palace is not open to vistors.

Plac Zamkowy

Stare Miasto
Castle Square, Plac Zamkowy, Warsaw, Poland
In Green / Shutterstock

Many visitors enter the Old Town through this plaza area on the southern border of the district. You can't miss the Kolumna Zygmunta, which honors King Zygmunt III Waza, king of Poland and Sweden, who in the early 17th century moved the capital to Warsaw from Kraków.

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Pomnik Bohaterów Warszawy 1939–1945

Stare Miasto

Unveiled in 1989, this monument constitutes a poignant reminder of what World War II meant for the citizens of Warsaw. Massive bronze figures raise defiant fists above the sewer openings used by Polish resistance fighters in Warsaw's Old Town to escape the Nazis in 1944.

pl. Krasińskich and Długa, Warsaw, Poland

Rynek Nowego Miasta

Nowe Miasto

Warsaw's so-called "New Town" was actually founded at the turn of the 15th century. This part of the city, however, was rebuilt after World War II following popular 18th- and 19th-century styles and has a more elegant and spacious feel about it than the Old Town. The centerpiece of the district is the leafy New Town Square, slightly more irregular and relaxed than its Old Town counterpart. The houses on the square—and in such nearby streets as ulica Kościelna—have curiously stark and formalized wall paintings.

Rynek Starego Miasta

Stare Miasto

This is the hub of life in Warsaw's Old Town. The earliest settlers arrived at this spot during the 10th and 11th centuries. Legend has it that a peasant named Wars was directed to the site by a mermaid named Sawa—hence the name of the city in Polish, Warszawa. (Sawa has been immortalized in Warsaw's official emblem.) In the 14th century Warsaw was already a walled city, and in 1413 its citizens obtained a borough charter from the princes of Mazovia. The present layout of the Old Town dates from that time, and traces of the original Gothic buildings still surround the Old Town Square. The appearance of today's square, however, largely dates from the 16th and early 17th centuries, when Warsaw's wealth and importance grew rapidly as a result of the 1569 Polish-Lithuanian union and Warsaw's new status as Poland's capital city.

The Old Town Square is usually very active, even though no traffic is allowed and there is no longer a formal market. Artists and craftspeople of all kinds still sell their wares here in the summer, but don't expect many bargains—tourists are their prime targets. Musical performances are often held here on weekends on a stage erected at the north end of the square. Horse-drawn cabs await visitors. To explore some of the square's beautiful and historic houses, visit the Muzeum Literatury im. Adama Mickiewicza on the east side of the square and the Muzeum Historyczne Warszawy on the north side. After being almost completely annihilated during World War II, these mansions were meticulously reconstructed using old prints, plans, and paintings. For some of the best Gothic details, look for No. 31, traditionally known as the House of the Mazovian Dukes. At night the square is lit up romantically. If you're after good food and atmosphere, this is one of Warsaw's best places to hang out after dark.

Krzywe Koło (Crooked Wheel Street) runs from the Old Town Square to the reconstructed ramparts of the city wall. From this corner you can see out over the Vistula and also over the New Town stretching to the north beyond the city walls. As you look out over the town walls and down the Vistula embankment, you will see the Stara Prochownia (Old Powder Tower), now a popular venue for poetry readings, music, and drama.

Warszawska Syrenka

Stare Miasto

The mermaid is the symbol on the crest of the city of Warsaw. Many legends claim to explain the presence of this misterious creature so far inland. One speaks of two sister-sirens, who swam from the Atlantic to the the Baltic Sea. One settled in Denmark, in Copenhagen, and the other travelled to Gdańsk, and then upstream the Vistula, all the way to Warsaw. There are in fact several statues of the mermaid that can be found all over town. This particular stone statue had been traveling around the city for more than 70 years before finding itself back home in 2000. It had originally been installed in 1855, in the center of a fountain in the Old Town Square.

12/14 Rynek Stare Miasto, Warsaw, Poland

Zamek Królewski

Stare Miasto

Warsaw's Royal Castle stands on the east side of Castle Square. The princes of Mazovia first built a residence on this spot overlooking the Vistula in the 14th century. Its present Renaissance form dates from the reign of King Zygmunt III Waza, who needed a magnificent palace for his new capital. Reconstructed in the 1970s, it now gleams as it did in its earliest years, with gilt, marble, and wall paintings. It also houses impressive collections of art—including the famous views of Warsaw that were painted by Canaletto's nephew Bernardo Bellotto (also known as Canaletto), which were used to rebuild the city after the war. Tours in English are available.

pl. Zamkowy 4, Warsaw, 00-277, Poland
Sight Details
Rate Includes: zł 30, Daily 10–4; summer hrs (May–Sept.) Mon–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–6; gardens open until 10