Things to see in Warsaw

Tourist information

Tourist information:
Centrum Informacji Turystycznej (Tourist Information Centre)
Central Railway Station, Aleje Jerozolimskie 54
Tel: 022 19 431 or (022) 474 1142.
www.warsawtour.pl
Opening hours: Daily 0800-2000 (May-Sep); daily 0800-1800 (Oct-Apr).

There are three other tourist information points in Warsaw: at the airport arrivals hall (Terminal 2), the Old Town market square and near the Old Town at Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście 15/17.

Passes

The Warsaw Tourist Card (www.warsawcard.com) is temporarily unavailable.

Getto Żydowskie (Jewish Ghetto)

What is markedly absent from Warsaw contributes as much to its history as anything that has been preserved or reconstructed. Pre-war Warsaw had a Jewish population second only to New York. After the Nazi invasion, some 450,000 Jews were rounded up and forced into the city's so-called ghetto. A 3m (10ft) wall encircled the area, from the Palace of Culture and Science to the Umschlagplatz monument, at the corner of Ulica Stawki and Ulica Dzika. This stark monument marks the place from where Jews were despatched by train to the Treblinka concentration camp, following the Ghetto Uprising of 19 April 1943. Only three sections of the actual wall remain.

Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Jewish Ghetto, Warsaw, Poland
Pałac Kultury I Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science)

Varsovians are divided over this prime example of Socialist Realism. For decades , it was, at 231m (758ft), the tallest building in Poland and a reminder of Stalin's bravura - it was a gift from him to the city, built between 1952 and 1955. Detractors still reckon that the best views of the city are from the top of the structure since it is the only place in Warsaw where you cannot see the Palace of Culture and Science. The viewing platform on the 30th floor at 115m (377ft) does indeed give a terrific view over Warsaw. Besides offices, the building houses a concert hall, a multiscreen cinema, three theatres and two museums.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-2000.
Admission Fees: No (charge for the observation deck)
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Plac Defilad 1, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 656 7136.
Zamek Królewski (Royal Castle)

Walking through the Royal Castle, you have to remind yourself constantly that most of it was reconstructed between 1971 and 1984, although the darker elements of the décor were salvaged from the ruins. The castle, located on a plateau overlooking the Vistula River, was built for the Dukes of Mazovia and expanded when King Zygmunt III Vasa (Waza) moved the capital to Warsaw. From the early 17th until the late 18th century, this was the seat of the Polish kings. It subsequently housed the parliament and is now a museum displaying tapestries, period furniture, funerary portraits and collections of porcelain and other decorative arts.

Opening Times: Tues-Sat 1000-1600, Sun 1100-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes (free on Sun)
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Plac Zamkovy 4, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 355 5170 or 5338.
Muzeum Pawilon-X (Block 10 Museum)

Housed in the Citadel, a solid 19th-century fortress northwest of the Old Town and overlooking the Vistula, this Warsaw museum was once used as a prison for political enemies of the Russian czars. The lucky inmates were shipped to labour camps in Siberia; the less fortunate were executed at Brama Straceń (Gate of Execution) on the prison grounds. The original cells are still standing and labelled with some of the prison's more famous residents, and paintings by Alexander Sochaczewski, a former inmate transported to Siberia with 20,000 other anti-Russian insurgents in the mid-19th century, adorn the walls.

Opening Times: Wed-Sun 0900-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Skazańców 25, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 839 2383.
Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (Warsaw Rising Museum)

The Warsaw Rising Museum is a must-see for those with any interest in history and tales of bravery and self-sacrifice. In order to get a taste of what life in Warsaw must have been like for Varsovians during WWII, this thoroughly comprehensive museum shows examples of how residents resisted the German forces through film footage, photographs, recorded interviews, life-size dioramas, soundscapes and informative plaques, written in both Polish and English. Cityscape pictures pinpointing the handful of buildings that survived WWII are located on the museum's elevated viewing platform; they are a grim reminder of the destruction wrought by the Nazis on Warsaw.

Opening Times: Mon, Wed and Fri 0800-1800, Thurs 0800-2000, Sat-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Przyokopowej 28, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 539 7905.
Muzeum Więzienia Pawiak (Pawiak Prison Museum)

This eerie old prison symbolises the oppression that has dogged Warsaw over the last two centuries. Originally built in 1839 at the order of the czar, the prison counted among its inmates many victims of the Nazi reign of terror from 1939 to1944, when it served as the largest political prison in Poland. A third of the estimated 100,000 detainees never made it out alive. The Nazis tried to dynamite the evidence of their crimes as they fled but Pawiak and its exhibits stand as a testament to Warsaw's seemingly endless ability to suffer and survive.

Opening Times: Wed and Fri 0900-1700, Thurs and Sat 0900-1600, Sun 1000-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Dzielna 24/26, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 831 1317.
Pałac w Wilanowie (Wilanów Palace)

In the mid-1600s, King Jan III Sobieski commissioned Augustyn Locci to build the baroque palace and garden of Wilanów for his summer residence. Construction continued from 1677 until the king's death in 1696. Called Vila Nova in Italian (from which the Polish name is derived), it remained popular with subsequent monarchs. Visitors can tour the interior and the gallery, which features portraits of famous Poles. Artistic handicrafts are on display in the Orangerie. Also here is the Muzeum Plakatu (Poster Museum), the first of its kind in the world. Poles have excelled in the poster arts since at least the end of WWII.

Opening Times: Mon, Wed and Sat 0930-1830, Tues, Thurs and Fri 0930-1630, Sun 1030-1830 (May-mid-Sep); Mon and Wed-Sat 0930-1630, Sun 1030-1630 (mid-Sep-May).
Admission Fees: Yes (free admission to the park on Thurs and the palace on Sun)
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Wiertnicza 1, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 842 0795.
Salonik Chopinów (Chopin Family Drawing Room)

Frédéric Chopin only lived in Warsaw until he was 20 years old, but he is the city’s most respected local boy. This drawing room or parlour, in his family's former home, is open to the public; the great composer’s heart is interred in a pillar at the Parish Church of the Holy Cross (Kościół Parafialny Znalezienia Świętego Krzyża) next door. His body, however, lies in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. There is also the new and very high-tech Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, located in Ostrogski Castle, with exhibits on the different phases of his life and career.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 1000-1400.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address:  Ulica Krakowskie Przedmieście 5, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 320 0275.
Synagoga Nożyków (Nożyk Synagogue)

This synagogue dating from 1902 is the only Jewish house of worship in Warsaw to have survived the war as it was used as a Nazi warehouse. Other places of interest that connect Warsaw to Jewish history include the Jewish Historical Institute, the Jewish Cemetery and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In a shady park just opposite the museum is the rather stern Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which is on Ulica Ludwika Zamenhofa, in the centre of the ghetto. It was erected on a heap of wartime ruins in 1948.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sun 1100-1800 (May-Sep); Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sun 1100-1600 (Oct-Apr).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Twarda 6, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 620 4324 or 0502 400 849.
Katedra Św Jana (St John's Cathedral)

St John's is thought to be the oldest church in Warsaw. Originally built in the Mazovian gothic style in the 15th century, St John's has been remodelled many times over the century. It was only upgraded from a parish church to a cathedral in 1798. Destroyed during WWII, the cathedral has been reconstructed in its original style and features major gothic art works by Wit Stwosz. The cathedral was used in 1764 for the coronation of the last Polish king (Stanislaw II) and for the swearing in of the Sejm (Polish parliament) after the constitution of 1791.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 1000-130 and 1500-1800, Sun 1500-1800.
Admission Fees: No (charge for the crypt)
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Świętojańska 8, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 831 0289.
Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (National Museum in Warsaw)

The National Museum's impressive collection of artworks and other items dates from ancient times to the present day and total some 800,000 pieces. Highlights include Jan Matejko's monumental Battle of Grunwald (1878), which celebrates the Polish victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410, and the Faras Collection of early Christian and Egyptian art, which is unique in Europe. The collection of medieval art is also remarkable – if somewhat gruesome in parts. Unusually, there are also galleries of Polish and European decorative arts. Frequent temporary exhibitions bring prized international works (from Andy Warhol to Caravaggio) to Warsaw.

Opening Times: Tues-Thurs, Sat-Sun 1200-1800, Fri 1200-2000.
Admission Fees: Yes (free on Tuesdays)
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Aleje Jerozolimskie 3, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 621 1031 or 629 3093 (information line).
Park Łazienkowski (Łazienki Park)

This splendid park contains a number of palaces as well as the Chopin Monument, where the annual Chopin Festival is held each summer, with free concert recitals in the park twice on Sunday afternoon from mid-May to September) set within extensive 18th-century gardens. Pałac na Wyspie (Palace on the Water) is best viewed from near the monument to Jan Sobiewski, on the bridge where Ulica Agrykola crosses the water. Dating from 1624, Zamek Ujazdowski (Ujazdowski Castle) now houses the Centre for Contemporary Art. The 1764 Pałac Belweder (Belvedere Palace) was of the residence of Poland's presidents until 1994.

Opening Times: Most museums are open Tues-Sun 0900-1600; park open daily from 0800 until sunset.
Admission Fees: No (charge for Palace on the Water and Centre for Contemporary Art).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Ulica Agrykola 1, Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: 022 506 0101.
Edited by Tina Banerjee
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