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Warsaw is the capital of Poland and its largest city. It is located on the Vistula River roughly 370 kilometers (230 mi) from both the Baltic Sea coast and the Carpathian Mountains. Its population as of 2006 was estimated at 1,700,536, with a metropolitan area of approximately 3,350,000.

The city area is 516.9 square kilometers (199.6 sq mi), with an agglomeration of 6,100.43 square kilometers (2,355.4 sq mi) (Warsaw Metro Area — Obszar Metropolitalny Warszawy). Warsaw is the 8th largest city in the European Union.

The first fortified settlements on the site of today's Warsaw were Bródno (9th/10th century) and Jazdów (12th/13th century). After Jazdów was raided, a new similar settlement was established on the site of a small fishing village called Warszowa. This settlement Warszowa (at present Warsaw) a Płock prince established (about 1300), Bolesław II Mazovian (from 1294 prince of entire Masovia). In the beginning of the 14th century it became one of the seats of the Dukes of Masovia, becoming the capital of Masovia in 1413.

Upon the extinction of the local ducal line, the duchy was reincorporated into the Polish Crown in 1526. In 1529 Warsaw for the first time became the seat of the General Sejm, permanent since 1569. In 1573 Warsaw gave its name to the Warsaw Confederation, formally establishing religious freedom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Due to its central location between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's capitals of Kraków and Vilnius, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth and at the same time of the Polish Crown in 1596, when King Sigismund III Vasa moved the court from Kraków. Warsaw remained the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1795, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia to become the capital of the province of South Prussia.

Liberated by Napoleon's army in 1807, Warsaw was made the capital of the newly created Duchy of Warsaw. Following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Warsaw became the centre of the Congress Poland, a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with Imperial Russia. The Royal University of Warsaw was established in 1816.

Following the repeated violations of the Polish constitution by the Russians, the 1830 November Uprising broke out. However, the Polish-Russian war of 1831 ended in the uprising's defeat and in the curtailment of the Kingdom's autonomy. On 27 February 1861 a Warsaw crowd protesting the Russian rule over Poland was fired upon by the Russian troops. Five people were killed. The Underground Polish National Government resided in Warsaw during January Uprising in 1863–4.

Warsaw flourished in the late nineteenth century under Mayor Sokrates Starynkiewicz (1875–92), a Russian-born general appointed by Tsar Alexander III. Under Starynkiewicz Warsaw saw its first water and sewer systems designed and built by the English engineer William Lindley and his son, William Heerlein Lindley, as well as the expansion and modernization of trams, street lighting and gas works.

Warsaw became the capital of the newly independent Poland in 1918. In the course of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, the huge Battle of Warsaw was fought on the Eastern outskirts of the city in which the capital was successfully defended and the Red Army defeated.

During the Second World War central Poland, including Warsaw, came under the rule of the General Government, a Nazi colonial administration. All higher education institutions were immediately closed and Warsaw's entire Jewish population — several hundred thousand, some 30% of the city — herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. When the order came to annihilate the Ghetto as part of Hitler's "final solution" on April 19, 1943, Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered, the Ghetto held out for almost a month. When the fighting ended, almost all survivors were massacred, only few managed to escape or hide.

By July 1944 the Red Army was deep into Polish territory pursuing the Germans toward Warsaw. Knowing that Stalin was hostile to the idea of an independent Poland, the Polish government-in-exile based in London gave orders to the underground Home Army (AK) to try to seize the control of Warsaw from the Nazis just before the Red Army's arrival. Thus, on 1 August 1944, as the Soviet army was nearing the city very fast, the Home Army and the civilian population started the Warsaw Uprising. The armed struggle, planned to last 48 hours, went on for 63 days, and eventually the Home Army fighters were forced to capitulate.

They were transported to the POW camps in Germany, while the entire civilian population was expelled. Hitler, ignoring the agreed terms of the capitulation, ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground, and the library and museum collections taken to Germany or burned. About 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle.

After the war, large prefabricated housing projects were erected in Warsaw to address the housing shortage. The city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of political and economic life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches were restored to their original form. In 1980 Warsaw's historic Old Town was inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage list.

In 1995 the Warsaw Metro opened, and with the entry of Poland into the European Union in 2004, Warsaw is currently experiencing the biggest economic boom of its history. The opening match of the UEFA Euro 2012 is scheduled to take place in Warsaw.


• Although today's Warsaw is a fairly young city, it has a lot of tourist attractions. Apart from the Warsaw Old Town quarter, carefully reconstructed after World War 2, each borough has something to offer. Among the most notable landmarks of the Old Town are the Royal Castle, King Sigismund's Column, Market Square, and the Barbican.

• Further south is the so-called Royal Route, with many classicist palaces, the Presidential Palace and the Warsaw University campus. Also the popular Nowy Świat Street is worth mentioning.
• Warsaw's oldest public park, the Ogród Saski, is located within 10 minutes' walk from the old town.

• Warsaw's biggest public park and said to be the most beautiful is the Łazienki Park. It is also very old — established in the 17th century and given its current classical shape in late 18th century — is located further south, on the Royal Route, about 3 km from the Warsaw Old Town
• The Powązki Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe,[7] full of sculptures, some of them by the most renowned Polish artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Since it serves the religious communities of Warsaw, be it Catholics, Jews, Muslims or Protestants, it is often called a necropolis. Nearby is the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.

• To the north of the city centre is the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.
• The borough of Żoliborz is famous for its architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. Between Żoliborz and the Vistula River is the Warsaw Citadel, a monument of 19th century military architecture.
• Former royal residence of king Jan III Sobieski — Wilanów Palace is notable for their baroque architecture and beautiful parks.
• Notable examples of contemporary architecture include the Palace of Culture and Science, a Soc-realist skyscraper located in the city centre, the Stadion Dziesięciolecia which used to be the biggest open-air market in Europe and the Plac Konstytucji with its monumental Social realism architecture. The central part of the right-bank (east) Praga borough it is a place where very run-down houses stand right next to modern apartment buildings and shopping malls.

• Ulica Kubusia Puchatka, probably the only street in the world named after Winnie-the-Pooh and located in the very centre of a metropolis.
• The modern architecture in Warsaw is represented by:
o Metropolitan Office Building at Plac Piłsudskiego (Pilsudski Square) by Sir Norman Foster
o Warsaw University Library (BUW) by Marek Budzyński and Zbigniew Badowski with a garden on the roof and beautiful view on the Vistula River
o Rondo 1 office building by SOM
o Zlote Tarasy retail and business centre

• Planned:
o Museum of the History of Polish Jews
o Museum of Modern Art
o "Kopernik" Science Centre (Copernicus)
o Złota 44 — Apartment tower of unique shape by Daniel Libeskind
o Lilium Tower - Apartment tower by Zaha Hadid
• Planned reconstructions:
o Saxon Palace
o Brühl Palace

November 2007

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