Warsaw, a crossroads of worlds and culturesIts geographic location at the crossroads between the east and the west gives Warsaw a unique position in European history. Besieged, argued over and destroyed, then rebuilt and glorified, the Warsaw of today shows no evidence of its tumultuous past.
The city’s most popular site is the Stalin Tower. This monument, a gift from Stalin in 1955 to mark the friendship between the two countries, is still controversial today, even though it has become completely integrated into the city’s landscape. Renamed the Palace of Culture and Science (PKiN), the 231-metre tall building offers an unobstructed view of the city.Discover Warsaw along the Royal RouteFor an overview of Warsaw, walk along the 4 kilometres of the Royal Route. Many of the capital’s most famous monuments are found along this main thoroughfare, which links the royal palace to the Wilanów summer palace. Built in the 17th century for King of Poland John III Sobieski, then later transformed into a museum, the summer residence is a prime example of Warsaw’s baroque architecture. In addition to the University of Warsaw and the presidential palace, the avenue is also home to magnificent churches such as the Holy Cross Church, where you can find the heart of the national hero: Frédéric Chopin. An ingenious composer who was deeply attached to his Polish identity, he wished for this relic to reside in his home country.
The Royal Route ends at Plac Zamkowy, at the entrance to the royal palace, with its pink facade that stands out against the blue sky on sunny days.Marvel at the old townThis is the gateway to the Stare Miasto, the heart of historic Warsaw. Its brightly-coloured facades and baroque ornaments reflect the city’s ostentatious past. Built in the 13th century, then destroyed in the 20th century, this area’s reconstruction was funded by UNESCO, as Warsaw is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The high point of your walk is the Market Place. Restaurant terraces are found on every side of the square. Have a seat and sample the Polish dumplings, pierogis as you gaze upon the Mermaid Fountain. The symbolic protector of the city, the mermaid holds a sword and shield. You cannot leave the historic centre without climbing the ramparts, which offer a lovely view of the banks of the Vistule, the river that crosses the city.A different ambiance in every neighbourhoodThe ramparts and the Barbican will lead you to the new city. This area built in the 15th century, much less popular with tourists, was built to accommodate the overflow from the old town. Over the course of your walk you can honour Marie Curie, a Warsaw native, by visiting the museum dedicated to the winner of the Nobel prize in both physics and chemistry.
For a glimpse into alternative Warsaw, head to the streets of Praga. This area, which is being restored and renovated, is among the few neighbourhoods that wasn’t destroyed during the Second World War. It is home to galleries where numerous artists from the new modern art scene display their work. This is also where the younger generation comes to celebrate on the weekend, gathering in the city’s numerous bars or cafes with live music.
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