Day 1 in Warsaw
Warsaw is sitting on both banks of Vistula river. In comparison with Budapest, where both sides – Buda and Pest – are full of tourist attractions, in Warsaw there is much more to visit on the left side of the Vistula. Visit the Old Town of Warsaw, which is the oldest part of the capital, and thus represents the best the history of this destination. Moreover, the beauty of this side of Warsaw is part of UNESCO Heritage. It is believed that the reconstruction of the capital of Poland after the World War II was performed after the images from the very detailed paintings of Canaletto.
Feel the heartbeat of the Old Town of Warsaw on the Warsaw Old Town Market Place. Sprawling over a surface of 90×73 meters, the Market Place is surrounded by buildings reconstructed in the period 1948-1953, but in the style characteristic to the 17th century, when the majority of them were inhabited by families of rich merchants. Right in the center of it, you can admire the bronze Warsaw Mermaid statue, which is symbol of the city since 1855. The Market Place is dimmed with cafes, souvenir shops, stands of cheap-jacks, and art galleries.
In close vicinity of the Market Place is another building that will help you understand why Warsaw is called by historians “a phoenix that revived from the ash of war” – the Museum of Warsaw. It is located in a range of three Renaissance houses. The museum exhibitions showcase elements that speak about Warsaw’s origins, about how the city was born every time after being destroyed, the majority of information being delivered in Polish and English languages. The museum also disposes of a cinema, which runs a film of about 20 minutes and presents the city, the way it was before the World War II, but also its destruction, in proportion of 85%, in the period 1939-1945.
St. John’s Archcathedral represents one of the most important historical symbols of the capital and the only archiepiscopate in Warsaw, being, at the same time, one of the oldest saint places in Poland. Besides the fact that this was the place where very many historical events unfolded, such as the coronation of the last Polish king, the Cathedral also hosts the red-marble tombs of some Mazovian dukes, in its crypt resting in peace famous Polish like the author Henryk Sienklewicz, Nobel Prize laureate.
Then, head to the Castle Square, that represents one of the most popular meeting places among tourists, as well as among locals. Probably the most significant monument of the square is Sigismund’s Column. The 22-meters high landmark is the oldest monument in Warsaw. If you are lucky, you can assist here at break dance contests, or participate at an open-air concert, or watch a play of street animators.
On the Castle Square, you can see the Royal Castle – the former residence of Polish monarchs. After numerous completions and reconstructions, today, the facade made out of brick extends 90 meters long, and at each corner there are square towers whose tops have the form of a bulb. The watch tower, part of the same construction, is a symbol of the Polish capital, but also a source of inspiration for the architects of other buildings from Warsaw. The Royal Castle is now a museum which displays the tumultuous history of Poland.