Warsaw is a major international tourist destination. It is a vibrant cosmopolitan city bursting with culture, top class entertainment and exciting shopping options. Rapidly becoming one of Europe's hotspots, the capital city of Poland has much to offer from a heady mix of architecture including Renaissance, Gothic, Neoclassical, Contemporary and Baroque to its lush royal parks, beautiful gardens and world-class museums and galleries. The city is one of the greenest European metropolises and has Poland's longest and largest river, the Vistula, flowing majestically through the centre on its way to the Baltic Sea. Vibrant and friendly, Warsaw welcomes travellers from around the globe and celebrates its resurgence since the Second World War with dignity and dynamism.
Once known as the "Paris of the East", the city was reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the world until it was reduced to rumble during WWII. Almost 85% of its buildings were left in ruins. What is referred as the Old Town is actually only fifty years old and was painstakingly rebuilt to its present form after which it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. There are magnificent palaces, mansions and churches scattered throughout the city -- a veritable cornucopia of architectural styles rarely seen in such close proximity. Fine examples are the Presidential Palace, Mokrowsky Palace, Royal Castle, Castle Square, Krasiński Palace and Krakowskie Przedmieście.
Warsaw is a city full of contrasts that will amaze and delight visitors. From Chopin to Jazz and Hip-hop, you'll find concerts and festivals to cover all tastes. Explore the lively squares full of art cafes, boutiques, chic bars and restaurants. Join a walking tour of the Old Town and discover amazing things you might otherwise have missed in these history-filled streets. Allow plenty of time to visit the incredible National Museum containing over 800,000 artefacts and the poignant Polish Jews museum POLIN with its restored interior of a 17th century wooden synagogue. From a thriving nightclub scene to a wealth of cultural pursuits, Warsaw has a fantastic diversity of things to do and see all year round.
Things to Do
Warsaw has a heady mix of history, culture, music and much more besides to tempt the visitor. The renowned Polish National Opera and Warsaw Philharmonic perform regularly in the city, and the choice of theatre companies and productions is first class. Or simply enjoy leisurely walks along the Vistula waterside promenade and through one of the many spectacular leafy city parks.
Stunning Palaces and Castles
Top of the list is the Italian Baroque style Wilanów Palace that dates back to King Jan III Sobieski in 1677. It miraculously survived WWII virtually intact and its grand rooms and 16th to 19th-century paintings are a pleasure to behold. In contrast, the Royal Castle was completely destroyed in the war and has been completely reconstructed. Filled with works of art and period furniture, the guided tours of this royal residence are quite breath taking.
Museums and Galleries
A trip to the Warsaw Rising Museum is a moving experience, tracing the history of the doomed uprising through interactive displays, personal accounts and film archives. The largest exhibit is a Liberator bomber plane. The Centre for Modern Art and Museum of Modern Art are full of inspiring works from both Polish and international artists.
Manicured Gardens and Wild Parks
Lazienki Park is a great place for all the family to relax amid the peacocks, follies and immaculately kept lawns. There is an 18th-century amphitheatre and on Sundays, Chopin open-air concerts are performed. Praga Park also has a well-used amphitheatre as well being the location for the city Zoo. One of its most famous features is the impressively large giraffe sculpture!
Also known as the Old Town, it has some parts dating back to the 13th century. The picturesque market square is the perfect spot for a cappuccino and to soak in the atmosphere. Castle Square and the 16th-century Barbican are landmarks not to be missed, as well as St John's Cathedral and St Martins Church. While observing the diverse architectural styles, visitors will be hard pressed to know which buildings are original and which ones have been rebuilt.
The Palace of Culture and Science is not only the highest building in Warsaw but also in the whole country. It contains over 3,000 rooms and houses four theatres, two museums, two bars and a large swimming pool and multiplex cinema. It has the world's highest Tower Clock with six-metre-long clock hands. The main attraction is the incredible viewing terrace on the 30th floor which is open daily. Watching the sun set from the terrace is an unforgettable experience.
Calendar of Events
Traditional and modern music are equally appreciated in Warsaw, annual musical events range from Old Polish Music Festival to the Orange Warsaw Festival featuring international rock and pop artists. There are film festivals, motor shows and the famous Noc Muzeow -- The Long Night of the Museums.
Noc Muzeów. This is a great night held in each year in May, when thousands of people spend the night wandering around the city's museums and galleries. Most of the museums and galleries stay open till past midnight and are all free of charge. Local cafés also stay open late into the night, which all adds to the atmosphere.
The Summers Jaz Festival. A musical highlight of the year is the Summer Jazz Festival in July when world-famous jazz stars play alongside local up-and-coming artists. The main concerts are performed at the Praga Soho Factory in the Congress Hall where the crowds are always enthusiastic.
The Warsaw Annual Film Festival. This is an international event that has been held annually since 1985. The festival also hosts the International Federation of Film Critics awards ceremony, with prizes going to enterprising film-makers from Europe. There is a family cinema weekend and other special screenings.
Singer's Warsaw. A popular annual event is the Singer's Warsaw, a festival of Jewish Culture. The festival features Jewish films, theatre, exhibitions and music, as well as kosher food, songs, arts and crafts and dancing. In essence, it tries to recreate atmosphere and Jewish culture, both Hebrew and Yiddish, from Poland's interwar years.