Hey lovely people, it has been a while since I posted on this blog but I’m here and ready to get back to writing and sharing experiences with you guys.
At the end of 2018 I had the pleasure of a weekend visit to the Capital city of Poland, Warsaw also known as the ‘Phoenix City’ because of its ability to rebuild itself after the war and the destruction that came with it. Warsaw is a young and cosmopolitan city but it is the Old Town that is the epicenter and where we spent most of our time.
Interestingly the Old Town was completely destroyed during World War II and was then completely reconstructed afterwards; the buildings and squares rebuilt as exact replicas of what stood before. A phenomenal feat of architecture in itself. The Royal Route boasts of palaces, churches and ancient structures, and leads to the Castle Square, which is visible for miles. The cobbled streets and narrow pathways lead to little tucked away squares that are home to mythical sights such as the Wishing Bell and the Mermaid of Warsaw a.k.a the city’s protector.
Below are a few places I would recommend you don’t miss whilst in Warsaw…
Old Town Christmas Market
If you are already thinking of a 2019 Christmas getaway, be sure to have this on the itinerary. It is one of the most popular places in Warsaw and rightly so. Wooden stalls draped in twinkly fairy lights give an enchanting feel to the place – with merchants selling their wares, it’s lovely to walk around with your mulled wine and sample the delicious local food. Simply magical. The great news is the Christmas Market remains open till the first weekend of January (I know, too early to be thinking of Christmas ;-).
This is the first place we noticed when entering the Old Town from the newer parts. It is quite an impressive place built almost in a semicircle with Sigmund’s Column in the middle. The square is home to the Royal Castle, in which we easily spent over two hours walking the halls of the reconstructed Castle. The history of the place is quite captivating, room after room of grandiosity and beautiful artwork.
Built in 1644, it is considered to be among the most famous and oldest landmarks of this part of Europe. It was erected by King Wladyslaw IV Vasa to commemorate the feat of moving the Polish capital from Krakow to Warsaw by his father King Sigismund III Vasa. The column, 22 metres in height was originally made of red marble but was destroyed in the 1944 uprising. It has been replaced with a granite column, atop which sits a bronze sculpture of King Sigismund clad in armour, with a cross and a sword.
According to Google, a barbican is a fortified outpost or gateway, such as an outer defence to a city or castle, or any tower situated over a gate or bridge which was used for defensive purposes in the olden days. Warsaw’s Barbican was built in 1548 and is located where Old Town merges with New Town. It did suffer extensive damages during World War II and the Warsaw Uprising but large parts have been reconstructed and adds to the charm of the Old Town.
The Royal Route
The Royal Route is the most well known and prestigious street in Warsaw, connecting the northern part of the city to the Old Town. It is lined with some fancy buildings such as the Presidential Palace, churches and other imperial buildings. The road has wide pavements and is home to the impressive 5 star Bristol Hotel . The route also leads to some of the popular landmarks such as the castle, the fort walls and the imposing Sigmund’s Column.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
The tour of the this museum is such a humbling and heart wrenching experience, be sure to bring some tissues. There is over 40 exhibits over four floors dedicated to the uprising of 1944 which lasted 64 days. It was a revolt by the Polish to drive the Germans out of the city. Germany invaded Poland in 1939 at which time Warsaw was a thriving city with over 1.3 million people. By the time the uprising began, 600,000 citizens had either been killed, deported, or had fled. Do pay a visit to this museum when in Warsaw to truly appreciate and understand the history of the ‘Phoenix City’.
Frédéric Chopin Museum
Classical music is not a genre that you would find on my Spotify list but I can appreciate the genius and history of the composers behind this type of music. Frédéric Chopin, born in 1810 is the pride of Warsaw, I mean the man published his first composition at the age of 7 when most of us where still playing with dolls. There is a whole museum dedicated to his life and compositions. You may not be a dedicated fan of classical music but Chopin is one of the all time greatest and his story is truly a fascinating one. You can’t leave Warsaw without checking out Chopin and this worthy museum.
Palace of Culture And Science
Almost as impressive in stature as the Empire State Building, this is the tallest building in the city of Warsaw, situated in the heart of the city center. It was a “gift” to the city from Stalin and the sheer brutal scale of the building is breathtaking. The building is of mixed purposes; housing offices, a movie complex, a shopping mall, restaurants and several different theaters for special events (including live concerts), which unfortunately we did not get to experience as it was late in the evening when we got there. We managed however, to make it to the viewing terrace on the 30th floor to share a drink in one of the bars and take in the views of the city. The juxtaposition of the old and new town is dramatic – it is as unusual as it is impressive, I have not seen such stark contrast in any other city before. The new town looks more like Manhattan!
Would I go back to Warsaw? Absolutely! It is an interesting city full of contrasts; elegant and as architecturally rich as some of the great capital beauties of Europe. Plus I was extremely impressed with the various eateries, restaurants and bars scattered around the charming squares, a discussion for another day….
Till next time.