Let’s start with a brief, albeit important, history lesson as this city has had quite the tumultuous past. Founded in the 10th century, unfortunately Warsaw is no stranger to invasion and occupation, with the Russians and Germans perhaps the most notable.
Prior to the beginning of World War II, the capital relished in a brief moment of autonomy, although that rapidly changed when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. Devastatingly, this invasion saw Warsaw’s entire Jewish population forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, where around 300,000 to 400,000 local Jews were crammed into a 3 km² area.
In an attempt to shake off German occupation, August 1944 saw the Polish resistant fighters launch the Warsaw Uprising. The uprising lasted almost two months, despite the resistance’s lesser manpower and artillery. The Germans ultimately won the battle, and almost all of the fighters were subject to execution or deportation to concentration camps. Shortly after, Hitler systematically bombed the capital in retaliation.
Under Communist rule from 1945 to 1989, most of the city’s streets, buildings and churches were restored to their original form.
Fast forward to today, Warsaw is a thriving city. Despite their tumultuous past and Communism ruling, Warsaw has been flourishing since the late 80s. Joining the European Union in 2004, life came flooding back into Warsaw with families, business and tourists flocking back to the booming city.
Nothing encapsulates Warsaw’s old-world charm quite like the reconstructed Old Town. A lively hub lined with enchanting cobblestone alleys and medieval buildings rebuilt after the devastating attacks during WWII, Warsaw’s Old Town is quintessentially Polish. You’ll find an alluring square, Rynek Starego Miasta, in the town’s centre with authentic Polish restaurants and colourful stone houses surrounding it.
Image by Lasma Artmane.
Perhaps your mind wanders to fairytale-like castles and mesmerising palaces when you think of Poland. Well you’re spot on, especially if you’re thinking about Warsaw’s legendary Royal Route. Covering 11-kilometres in length, the famed route connects Warsaw’s three Royal residences: The Royal Castle, Palace on the Isle, and the Wilanów Palace. Leading you past a selection of gorgeous restaurants and shops, this main route will have you seeing grand and historic buildings, quaint parks, churches, and plethora of monuments. The Royal Route is a must-do!
Image by Alexey Topolyanskiy.
Eliciting emotions of heartache and immense respect from all who view it, visiting the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial is a truly moving experience. It symbolises the bravery and the fighting spirit of the ghetto fighters who sacrificed their lives for the benefit of others by standing up to the Nazis in what’s known as the Warsaw Uprising. The legacy of these heroic fighters lives on through this memorial and it's one that shouldn’t be missed.
Image by Adrian Grycuk.
One of Warsaw’s most iconic sculptures, the art nouveau style Chopin Monument is a sight to behold. Situated next to Łazienki Park’s Botanical Garden in a rose field, the sculpture depicts Chopin sitting beside a willow tree. Finished in 1926 by renowned artist, Wacław Szymanowski, the monument was sadly destroyed by Nazis in 1940. Fortunately, a plaster-cast of the original model enabled the statue to be rebuilt and was unveiled in 1958.
Image by Diego Delso.