Old Warsaw: Old Town streets

Warsaw Old Town is cut by many picturesque lines. Many of tenement houses built by the streets were destroyed to the ground during II World War. Nowadays the buildings are reconstructed and the old, narrow lines look nicly again. See some of them.

ul. Świętojańska - main line

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Świętojańska, main line

For various reasons, ul. Świętojańska can be regarded as the main street of old Warsaw. Laid out around the time when the town was established, it follows the ancient Czersk-Zakroczym road. During the Warsaw Uprising, the street was almost razed to the ground. Its reconstruction was completed by 1958.

The finest houses along ul. Świętojańska include the 15th-century Mansjonaria (no. 2), which retains almost its original shape; the 16th-century Royal Surveyor's House (no. 21), destroyed in 1944 (the top storey has never been reconstructed) and the 1642 Ship House (no. 31) whose 17th-century late Renaissance doorway was adorned with a ship emblem during alteration work in the 18th century. At no. 10, the Jesuit Church of St. Mary of Grace stands out - inside, the most important item is the miraculous image of St. Mary of Grace who is considered the patron saint of Warsaw.

Metropolitan Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (no. 8) The cathedral is the principal church of the Warsaw diocese. The first church standing here in 14th century was made of wooden and later repleaced with a huge Gothic brick construction. The Cathedral was destroyed during a hurricane in 1602 and II World War. Today it is a Gothic five-bay basilica with a three-bay presbytery closed on three sides. Almost all furnishings and chapels are reconstructions. Some of them imitate the original ones. The late baroque Chapel of the Miraculous Jesus, commonly referred to as the Baryczka Chapel, was built in the early 18th century for one of the most sacred items in Warsaw, the so-called Black Crucifix, widely attributed with miraculous powers. There are many crypts and tombs in the Cathedral belonged to Mazovian dukes, Gabriel Narutowicz (polish president) or Henryk Sienkiewicz (polish writer).

ul. Kamienne Schodki - non-standard line

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Kamienne Schodki, non-standard line

The quaint stepped passageway running from the Old Square to a small gate in the defensive walls and on to the Vistula was formed in the late 15th century. Its importance arose from the fact that water was carried up it from the river. The lane had had a number of names before the present-day one ("Stone Steps") eventually caught on in the late 18th century, most likely having something to do with the modernization of the old wooden steps. In the 19th century the lane declined considerably, as did the entire Old Town, but it became a favourite setting for artists: painters, draughtsmen and then the pioneer photographers. It was also notorious as a prostitutes' hang-out. Following the post-war restoration, the upper section between Krzywe Koło and ul. Brzozowa regained a pleasant historical character.

ul. Piwna - the longest street

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Piwna, the longest street

The Old Town's longest street, it runs parallel to ul. Świętojańska, linking plac Zamkowy with Wąski Dunaj. Laid out when the town was established, it gained importance thanks to the 1354 Church of St. Martin and the institutions associated with it. In August 1944 all buildings lining the street were literally flattened. Their reconstruction took almost three years (1952-1954).

The finest houses in ul. Piwna are no. 6 (the post-war sculpture of pigeons above its doorway commemorates a legendary figure from the destruction of Warsaw, an anonymous elderly woman who lived in the ruins of this house in 1945 and fed local pigeons) and the Magier House (no. 47) which belonged between 1797 and 1837 to Antoni Magier, a physicist, astronomer and eminent expert on Warsaw's history. Other interesting sights include the former Augustinian convent now occupied by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross (no. 9) and the former Augustinian Church of St. Martin built in 1354 and replaced in the 15th century by a stone Gothic church, its apse facing onto the street.

ul. Krzywe Koło - line with a different shape

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Krzywe Koło, line with a different shape

This ancient street was laid out around 1300. It owes its shape - reflected in its odd name ("Crooked Wheel") - to the outline of defensive walls as well as to the fact that it was used as a farm road that provided access to plots on the corner of the Old Town Square and ul. Dekerta. At the turn of the 19th century Krzywe Koło was a bustling and crowded street boasting a printing house and no fewer than six taverns. In 1944 most of the houses lining the crooked lane were destroyed. Their rebuilding by 1955 involved substantial changes. Today, despite its long and rich history, Krzywe Koło looks rather nondescript and empty. The best houses along it are the Rogoziński House (no. 2), retaining the original facade; the German Brotherhood House (or Benoński House) at no. 6, which is Warsaw's oldest stone residential building, erected in the 14th century and then altered sev­eral times; and the Montelupi House (no. 10), once a postal inn.

ul. Dziekania - the quietest line

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Dziekania, the quiestest line

A quiet lane in the heart of the Old Town, Dziekania ("Dean Street") is separated from the swarms of tourists in ul. świętojańska by the gate in the cathedral belfry. As it ran along the southern wall of the cathedral, between ul. Świętojańska and Kanonia, from the legal point of view it was a property of the Church rather than town. The finest piece of old architecture in this area is the covered porch linking the church with the Kitchen Courtyard of the Royal Castle, a genuine survival from the 1620s which somehow passed through the war unscathed. The Dean's Palace at no. 1 was built in 1610 and extended in the early 18th century. It was partly destroyed in 1944, but substantial fragments of walls in its oldest section survived.

ul. Jezuicka - the most colorful street

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Jezuicka, the most colorful street

One of the Old Town's three axes, it also connects the Old Town Square with the immediate vicinity of the Royal Castle (via Kanonia), but seems to attract fewer visitors and is markedly more quiet than the ramaining two. Ranked among Warsaw's oldest streets, it was home to a number of major ecclesiastical and educational institutions as well as state offices. Until the mid 17th century it was called ulica œw. Jana (St. John's Street), but as the houses lining it gradually became the property of Jesuits, it was renamed accordingly. Burnt in 1944, ul. Jezuicka was recreated between 1953 and 1956.

ul. Nowomiejska - the crowdest street

Warsaw Old Town street - ul. Nowomiejska, the crowdest street

Linking two major sights - the Old Square and Barbakan - it is inevitably the Old Town's most crowded street, trodden by hordes of visitors at any time of the year. The earliest records of its name are from the 15th century, when it was already one of the town's thoroughfares leading to the New Town Gate and the New Town itself.

In 1607 ul. Nowomiejska was ravaged by a great fire. After rebuilding, it looked even more splendid, lined with a plethora of taverns, eateries and cafés, and became a centre of trade, especially with merchants from Gdańsk. In the early 19th century the area between the two lines of walls was cleared and turned into a marketplace stretching between Podwale and Szeroki Dunaj. In 1944 almost all buildings in ul. Nowowiejska were destroyed save no. 10 and the ground floors of several other houses.

The most interesting houses along ul. Nowomiejska include: the Mayor's House (no. 1), where Jan Dekert, the famous mayor of old Warsaw, once lived; no. 5, which is a fine example of a patrician house; and the Pauline House (no. 10), which escaped the war almost undamaged. Particularly noteworthy is the Pauline Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Paul the Hermit (no. 23), which evolved from a wooden chapel of the Holy Spirit Hospital that was built under the Mazovian dukes and destroyed in 1656.

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