Warsaw

It is very difficult to pinpoint where the Warsaw city center is. Varsovians differ in its definition. Some would say it is the area around the Palace of Culture and Science (and the Central Railway Station), which bustles with fashionable shops and hotels. Others would argue that plac Trzech Krzyży is the center—or plac Zbawiciela. For many, it would be the area around the Royal Castle and the Old Town square; after all, it was at this location that a fishing hamlet was founded and eventually grew into Warsaw town.

For the visitor, the question is, happily, not so important because all these places are not at all far from one another, and Warsaw is an easy city to navigate. The Palace of Culture and Science will certainly provide you with a useful orientation point: to its north lies the Old Town, which encompasses most of the Royal Route; to its south, the Diplomatic Quarter and the Łazienki Park. West of the Old Town lie Muranów, Mirów, and Wola, neighborhoods in the former Jewish district. All these sights are on the left bank of the Vistula River.

On the right bank is the Praga District, a poorer quarter of workers and artisans that emerged from the war fairly intact. Today, Praga is becoming increasingly fashionable, and many visitors find its galleries, bars, and unique "provincial" flavor well worth the trip across the Vistula.

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  • 1. Biblioteka Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego

    Powisle

    A 10-minute walk toward the river from the main campus of Warsaw University is the relatively new (1999) Warsaw University Library, a sight not to...

    A 10-minute walk toward the river from the main campus of Warsaw University is the relatively new (1999) Warsaw University Library, a sight not to be missed, even if you're not on a research trip. You'll find some shops and cafés on the ground floor, but it's the building's roof and its rooftop garden that are truly special and definitely worth the trip. The garden, open to the general public, is both vast and intimate, not to mention one of the most beautiful rooftop spaces in all of Europe. With its nooks, crannies, brooks, paths, lawns, and benches where you can hide with or without a book, the garden provides a perfect space for thought and inspiration. It is also full of surprises: look for various "reinterpretations" of Einstein's theory of relativity. In addition, you'll find a kaleidoscope of vistas of both the city and the library's interior. If you dare, cross the footbridge over the glass library roof—with the sky reflected under your feet, you literally walk in the clouds.

    Dobra 56/66, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-312, Poland
    22-552–51–78

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Garden free, Library Mon.–Sat. 9–9, Sun. 3–9; garden daily 9–8
  • 2. Muzeum Chopina

    Centrum

    The Chopin Museum occupies the 17th-century Pałac Ostrogskich, which towers above Tamka. The best approach is via the steps from Tamka. In the 19th century...

    The Chopin Museum occupies the 17th-century Pałac Ostrogskich, which towers above Tamka. The best approach is via the steps from Tamka. In the 19th century the Warsaw Conservatory was housed here (Ignacy Paderewski was one of its students). In 2010, on the occasion of Chopin's Year celebrations, a modest collection of mementos, including the last piano played by the composer, was turned into an exciting, interactive, state-of-the-art display across four floors of the Palace. Many programs and events are running here throughout the year, including piano recitals and museum lessons for children. The museum's motto is for the visitor to "Experience Chopin." The works of Chopin (1810–49) took their roots from folk rhythms and melodies of exclusively Polish invention. Thanks to this composer, Poland can fairly claim to have been the fountainhead of popular music in Europe in the mid-19th century, when the Chopin's polonaises and mazurkas whirled their way around the continent.

    Okólnik 1, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-368, Poland
    022-441–62–51

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 22; free Sun., Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. 11–8
  • 3. Park Łazienkowski

    Lazienki | Garden

    The 180 acres of this park, commissioned during the late 18th century by King Słanisław August Poniatowski, run along the Vistula escarpment...

    The 180 acres of this park, commissioned during the late 18th century by King Słanisław August Poniatowski, run along the Vistula escarpment, parallel to the Royal Route. It's focus is the magificent neoclassical Pałac Łazienki, but there are many other attractions. Look for the peacocks that wander through the park and the delicate red squirrels that in Poland answer to the name "Basia," a diminutive of Barbara. Of course, the best way to entice a squirrel to come near is to have some nuts in your hand. One of the most beloved sights in Łazienki Park is the Pomnik Fryderyka Chopina (Chopin Memorial), a sculpture under a streaming willow tree that shows the composer in a typical romantic pose. In summer, outdoor concerts of Chopin's piano music are held here every Sunday afternoon.

    al. Ujazdowskie, Warsaw, Mazovia, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 15 Pałac Łazienki; zł 40 day-ticket to all associated buildings/exhibitions in Łazienki Park
  • 4. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

    Muranów

    The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is housed in a building—by Finnish architekt Rainer Mahlamäki—charged with symbolism, drawing attention, even from a distance,...

    The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is housed in a building—by Finnish architekt Rainer Mahlamäki—charged with symbolism, drawing attention, even from a distance, by offering a literal bridge over a painful rift in Polish history. Inside, you find yourself in a soft, beautiful concrete canyon, which seems to fill with light even on a gray day. In the permanent exhibition, the historical display is meticulously researched and curated (its development involved as many as 130 scientists), focusing on the evidence from real people of different eras—from the Middle Ages to the present—who are given the voice to tell their own stories. The amount of material is impressive, though not overwhelming: you can easily spend a half-day at the museum with or without the navigation help of an audio-guide. In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum has a lovely play-education area for young children, a café, a bookshop, an information center (a great resource when searching for your family roots, for instance), and a large auditorium that is used for concerts, movie screenings, and other events.

    Mordechaja Anielewicza 6, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-157, Poland
    22-471–03–00

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 25, Closed Tues., Mon., Thurs., and Fri. 10–6; Wed., Sat., and Sun. 10–8
    View Tours and Activities
  • 5. 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...

    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, Mazovia, Poland
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  • 6. Barbakan

    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 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, Mazovia, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 5, Oct.–Apr., closed Mon., May–Sept., Tues.–Sun. 10–7
  • 7. Blikle

    Centrum

    Warsaw's oldest cake shop has a black-and-white-tile café that serves savory snacks as well as Blikle's famous doughnuts....

    Warsaw's oldest cake shop has a black-and-white-tile café that serves savory snacks as well as Blikle's famous doughnuts.

    Nowy Świat 35, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-029, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mon.–Sat. 9–7:30, Sun. 10–6
  • 8. Botanical Gardens

    Lazienki

    These gardens, covering an area of roughly 3 acres, were laid out in 1818, so they will celebrate their two-hundredth anniversary in 2018. At the...

    These gardens, covering an area of roughly 3 acres, were laid out in 1818, so they will celebrate their two-hundredth anniversary in 2018. At the entrance stands the neoclassical observatory, now part of Warsaw University.

    al. Ujazdowskie 4, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-478, Poland
    22-55–30–511

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 10, Mon.–Fri. 9–8, Sat. and Sun. 10–8, until 5 in winter
  • 9. Centrum Nauki Kopernik

    Powisle

    A recent addition to Warsaw's attractions, the Center is something between a museum, an amusement park, and an educational institution. It made news when Canadian...

    A recent addition to Warsaw's attractions, the Center is something between a museum, an amusement park, and an educational institution. It made news when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was visiting Warsaw on the occasion of NATO summit with his son—some say, specifically to see the Copernicus. Many parents do just the same, and they probably enjoy it at least as much as their children. The fun, interactive displays take you through different realms of science, from biology to optics to astrophysics to psychology. There are labs and shows for children of all ages, and there is even a planetarium. A word of warning: if you are sensitive to the sound that hundreds of excited children can make, bring earplugs.

    Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 20, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-390, Poland
    22-596–41–10

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 27; extra charge for planetarium shows and weekend labs, Closed Mon., Tues.–Fri. 9–6, Sat. and Sun. 10–7
    View Tours and Activities
  • 10. Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski

    Lazienki

    If you are interested in modern art, you will find it in the somewhat unlikely setting of the 18th-century Zamek Ujazdowski, reconstructed in the 1980s....

    If you are interested in modern art, you will find it in the somewhat unlikely setting of the 18th-century Zamek Ujazdowski, reconstructed in the 1980s. The castle hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions by artists from Poland and all over the world. It is home to the most comprehensive permanent collection of Polish contemporary art found anywhere in the country (still growing, by its very nature). You can easily spend a day there, catching a lecture, a movie (in the summer outdoor cinema), or lunch (at a cafeteria or a more fancy restaurant within the castle gates). The bookshop is well stocked with art publications and souvenirs.

    ul. Jazdów 2, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-467, Poland
    022-628–12–71

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 12; free Thurs., Closed Mon., Tues.–Thurs. and weekends noon–7, Fri. noon–9
  • 11. Former headquarters of the Polish Communist Party

    Centrum

    Anti-Communists love the irony of this once-despised symbol of oppression; for a decade after the Communist fall, until 2001, it was the seat of the...

    Anti-Communists love the irony of this once-despised symbol of oppression; for a decade after the Communist fall, until 2001, it was the seat of the Warsaw Stock Exchange (today, it's the Centrum Bankowo-Finansowe). This is not a tourist sight in a strict sense, but it is worth a peek for its monumental—even oppressive—architecture, a remainder of what the fallen system was like. It was declared a historic monument in 2010.

    al. Jerozolimskie and Nowy Świat 6/12, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-400, Poland
  • 12. Fragment of ghetto wall

    In the courtyard of this building on Sienna Street, through the archway on the left, and just a little farther east, on Złota Street, are...

    In the courtyard of this building on Sienna Street, through the archway on the left, and just a little farther east, on Złota Street, are the only two surviving fragments of the infamous wall built by the Nazis to close off the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940. Warsaw's was the largest Jewish ghetto established by the Germans during World War II. Between 300,000 and 400,000 people perished during the three years of its existence, from starvation, diseases (mostly typhoid), and deportation to Nazi death caps. It was the scene of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, who died there at the age of 24. Among the hostages of history in the Warsaw Ghetto we find such memorable figures as Władysław Szpilman, "The Pianist" from Polański's movie, and Doctor Janusz Korczak, a pediatrician, teacher, and writer who ran an orphanage for Jewish children—who decided to accompany them all the way to the gas chambers of Treblinka. A tourist and cultural information kiosk can be found in the courtyard between Złota 60 and Sienna 55; it's open only on weekdays.

    Sienna 55, Wola, Mazovia, 00-820, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Information kiosk weekdays 9–5
  • 13. Galeria Klimy Bocheńskiej

    Praga

    In a 19th-century liquor factory in the right-bank Praga district, the gallery exhibits, promotes, and even sells works by well-known contemporary Polish photographers. Sometimes the...

    In a 19th-century liquor factory in the right-bank Praga district, the gallery exhibits, promotes, and even sells works by well-known contemporary Polish photographers. Sometimes the curators organize music and theater events. It's open by appointment only in August.

    Ząbkowska 27/34, Warsaw, Mazovia, 03-736, Poland
    048-601–511–713

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon., Tues.–Sat. noon–6
  • 14. 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...

    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, Mazovia, 00-916, Poland
    022-556–96–00

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 15; free Thurs., Closed Mon., Tues.–Sun. noon–8
  • 15. 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...

    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, Mazovia, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 16. Jewish Cemetery

    Behind a high brick wall on ulica Okopowa you will find Warsaw's Jewish Cemetery, an island of continuity amid so much destruction of the city's...

    Behind a high brick wall on ulica Okopowa you will find Warsaw's Jewish Cemetery, an island of continuity amid so much destruction of the city's Jewish heritage. The cemetery, which is still in use, survived the war, and although it was neglected and became badly overgrown during the postwar period, it is gradually being restored. Here you will find 19th-century headstones and much that testifies to the Jewish community's role in Polish history and culture. Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of the artificial language Esperanto, is buried here, as are Henryk Wohl, minister of the treasury in the national government during the 1864 uprising against Russian rule; Szymon Askenazy, the historian and diplomat; Hipolit Wawelberg, the cofounder of Warsaw Polytechnic; and poet Bolesław Leśmian. To reach the cemetery, you can take a bus (nos. 107, 111, 180) or a tram (nos. 1, 22, 27).

    Okopowa 49–51, Wola, Mazovia, 01-043, Poland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 8, Closed Sat., Apr.–Oct., Mon.–Thurs. 10–5, Fri. 9–1, Sun. 11–4; Nov.–Mar., Mon.–Fri. and Sun. 10–sunset
  • 17. Jewish Historical Institute

    Muranów

    You'll find the institute behind a glittering new office block on the southeast corner of plac Bankowy—the site of what had been the largest temple...

    You'll find the institute behind a glittering new office block on the southeast corner of plac Bankowy—the site of what had been the largest temple in Warsaw, the Tłomackie Synagogue. For those seeking to investigate their family history, the institute houses the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project, which acts as a clearinghouse of information on available archival resources and on the history of towns and villages in which Polish Jews resided. English-speaking staff members are available. The institute also houses a museum that displays a permanent collection of mementos and artifacts and periodically organizes special exhibitions.

    Tłomackie 3/5, Warsaw, Mazovia, 00-090, Poland
    022-827–92–21

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: zł 10 (museum), Closed Sat.–Mon., Tues.–Fri. 10–6
  • 18. 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...

    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, Mazovia, 00-288, Poland
  • 19. 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...

    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, Mazovia, Poland
  • 20. 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...

    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, Mazovia, 00-229, Poland

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