Warsaw was almost leveled during World War II. After the war, the Poles quickly rebuilt their beloved city with careful attention to the faithful restoration of its historical structures and streets. Today it is one of Poland’s many lovely cities. Here are five must see sites.
1. Lazienki Park is the home of the beautiful Chopin Monument that depicts the composer seated under a willow that resembles an artist’s hand. It’s 17th century classic gardens are a cool respite for tired tourists. King Poniatowski’s “Palace on the Water” situated by the Lazienki Lake, the Temple of Diana, the Old and New Orangeries and the Roman theater are a few of the historical buildings in the park.
2. Stare Miasto or Old Town is the oldest district in Warsaw. Its cobblestone streets are lined with colorful buildings and a unique market square. The reconstructed Royal Castle houses a museum in which you will find throne rooms, ballrooms and the Royal Apartments. The entire area features medieval architecture and abounds in memorial statues of famous Polish kings and warriors. In the middle of the square sits the symbol of Warsaw Syrenka (Little Mermaid), the mythical protectress of the city.
3. The Wilanów Palace built in the 17th century was originally home to the dashing King Jan III Sobieski. The palace resembles France’s Versaille Palace and is surrounded by lovely gardens. It houses an excellent art museum in attractive period rooms.
4. The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Warsaw. Its viewing platform provides the best view of Warsaw in the city. A gift from the Soviet Union to Poland it was built by Soviet workers and christened the Joseph Stalin Palace. It looks more like a building you’d find in Moscow than in Warsaw. When I visited Warsaw, my friend Josef told me that for years Poles would not enter the building because it symbolized Soviet domination. The name has now changed and younger Poles enjoy its many exhibits.
5. St John’s Cathedral was originally built in the 14th century. At the end of the war, with half Warsaw’s population killed and 85% of its buildings destroyed the church fell as well. It was rebuilt with a vivid reminder of the German destruction of the city. On the external wall by the main entrance are fragments of a Goliath – the remote-controlled tank used by the German army in 1944 to crush the Warsaw Uprising.
There’s much more to explore in Warsaw. Don’t stop with these five.