Next up in our Warsaw blog trilogy are the sights. There’s a bunch of them and we couldn’t tell you how long it will take to see them all as we were lucky enough to be able to spread them out over a six week period. In no particular order here are our highlights.
Palace of Culture and Science
plac Defilad 1
It’s impossible to miss this landmark in the centre of town. Built in the Stalinist style with a sprinkle of art deco it was a gift from Stalin himself to the then Soviet state. Housing cinemas, theaters, libraries and cafes it’s an impressive reference point. The tallest building in Poland and the eighth tallest in Europe you can visit it’s observation deck at the lofty height of 114 meters.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
This museum covers the history of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa in Polish) uprising in the Jewish ghettos of war time Warsaw. Housed in a former tram power station it gives a well pointed account of the history of the wars effects on Warsaw. Though it occasionally lacks some in-depth descriptions in English we enjoyed it all the same. An impressive replica bomber plane hangs from the ceiling as you wander through the different exhibitions and the 3D movie depicting the desolation the German bombing reigned on Warsaw during the war gives you a perspective on the the destruction caused and the efforts gone into rebuilding the city. A must see to give you an appreciation of the negative effects wars can bring to mankind.
Abandoned Railway Station
Off Towarowa Street
We don’t know the name of this particular station though if you walk down the street between the Railway Museum and the Post Office on Towarowa street you’ll soon come across it. Once the old postal station the area is now overgrown and splashed with graffiti mostly from the NS Crew. It’s a worthwhile visit if you have the time and are into tat sort of thing, after all it’s not every day you get to visit such a place right in the centre of a capital city.
ul. Agrykoli 1
Literally ‘Royal Baths Park‘ the largest park in Warsaw is great to wander around, even in the depths winter. From the strange Chinese Garden complete with the coolest looking Mandarin ducks to the Chopin Monument and the Palace on the Isle there are many statues and buildings you can visit. During the month of November it’s free to visit many of the buildings, as we discovered when we were searching for a bathroom and came upon the plush Myślewicki Palace with doors wide open.
Warsaw Old Town
Completely rebuilt after the Second World War the Old Town is a testament to the true tenacity of the Varsovians. Having visited previously in the summer this time around we were here during Christmas and with the festive lights, massive Christmas trees, ice rink and markets (gluhwein!) we fell in love with it. Again. Stroll along the fortified walls to the Barbican and return through the middle past the Jezuïetenkerk and Bazylika Archikatedralna to the large and impressive Royal Castle. The bars and restaurants are a bit of a tourist trap but Same Krafty (Nowomiejska 10) has rotating craft beers, great pizzas and a lively atmosphere.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
plac Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego
It just so happened that we were in Poland for their Independence Day on November 11th (known as Remembrance Day to us Aussies, Brits and Kiwis). This date marks a major moment in Poland history and commemorations centered on the Tomb. Matt went to watch the tributes and even got a wave from the President of Poland as he passed by in his car.
Walking through Old Praga
Across the river from Central Warsaw is its cousin Praga. A whole lot grittier it’s worth a look for its pre-war buildings in various stages of decline, the nightlife and the SOHO factory. There’s some interesting street art along Brzeska street, considered the most roughest part, and popping your head into some of the crumbling courtyards you’ll see some of the most immaculately kept shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary contrasting the decay.
The Neon Museum (Muzeum Neonów)
ul. Mińska 25, Soho Factory, Building 55
Located in the Soho Factory in Praga this was a highlight for us as we didn’t have a chance to visit the one in Vegas (the wedding kind of got in the way). You can see many working neon signs salvaged from Soviet times, which the Polish used as a bit of an ‘up yours’ to the regimes lack of colour and light (think Soviet think grey right?). They even created the word ‘neonification’ to describe the process. When a letter fell off the main train station sign leaving it reading ‘Warsaw Shit’ the jolly bus was created, where men would cruise the city at night looking for signs needing replacement. You can even purchase some of them, and yes we were tempted.
The rest of the Soho Factory has a few café, bars, restaurants and design stores.
The National Stadium
We liked this for the lighting show it puts on at night. You can capture the Poniatowski Bridge leading straight towards the stadium as it spans the Vistula River.
Walk along Nowy Swiat and Krakowskie Przedmiescie
The main shopping/tourist street. Along hear you find boutique stores, restaurants bars and the odd church as it leads to the old town. Nowy Swiat is a long street, if you get hungry grab a USD$1.50 slice of delicious blue cheese and sundried tomato pizza at Mommo Good Food where it intersects with Aleje Jerozolimskie.
There two worth checking out if you’re passing through. Nowy Świat – Uniwersytet in the centre of town has a modern fell with its white and purple interior and Plac Wilsona, named after the American President Woodrow Wilson, is an example of Polish capitalist architecture.
TIP: you can’t use a tripod. We tried at Plac Wilsona and just managed to take a few shots before we were politely told to move on.
Heavens of Copernicus (Planetarium)
This was also one of our favourites. Even though we didn’t tour the Planetarium proper they have a domed cinema screen that at the time of us being there was playing a Pink Floyd laser show to the Dark Side of the Moon album. We came out feeling like we’d just been a mushroom trip. (not that we’d know what that’s like!;)
Krakowskie Przedmieście 52/54
This church is worth a look if you’re passing by to check out the interior. Stained glass windows and mosaics are dominated by yellow, red and orange giving the vast space a warm glow with it’s slightly plain white and yellow walls. Check out the all seeing eye at the front altar, an alternative Madonna and Child made from beads buttons to the left of it and the cool mosaic around the main entrance as you leave.
There’s plenty of other sights to see depending on your taste, we’ve only given you the ones that we visited. So what are you waiting for, get out there and check out Warsaw!
Click on any of the images above to check out more Poland pics on our Flickr page.
* Special thanks go out to our amazing friends Ola and Robert for putting us up and giving us the chance to explore their wonderful home city!