Royal Castle Square and Zygmunt's Column
This square, from which the streets Krakowskie Przedmieście, Senatorska, Podwale, Piwna, Świętojańska and Kanonia all start, is the heart of Warsaw's Old Town and one of the most characteristic places in the capital. The oldest monument in the city stands right in the middle of the square and presents King Zygmunt III Waza. The monument, commonly known as Zygmunt's Column, was created in 1644 by the Italian sculptor Clemenete Molli. Today it's a favourite meeting place for Varsovians.
In the past, Royal Castle Square was the stage for many historical events. On 27th February 1861 5 people were shot during demonstrations against the Russian authorities, which stirred up further social unrest. A few months later, on 8th April 1861, the Russian Army massacred over 100 Warsaw citizens, which was a moment of great significance in the build up to the January Uprising. On 15th November 1920, Joseph Piłsudski was presented with the Marshal's Baton and 62 years later, on 3rd May 1982, during Martial Law, the ZOMO (paramilitary Police formation) pacified a patriotic demonstration. Today, New Year parties, concerts and festivals are organised on the square.
The museum, founded in 1936, first took up 3 townhouses on the Old Town Square - Baryczkowska, Kleinpolowska and Pod Murzynkiem. It now takes up 11 buildings - the whole northern side of the square. In recent years it has been transformed from being rather old-fashioned into quite a modern museum with much to offer both younger and older guests. The museum takes part in large cultural events - science picnics, museum nights or the Science Festival, organises University of the 3rd age lectures and museum lectures which have no relation to boring history lessons. The collection is split into 13 departments, presenting archaeological findings, medals and coins and works of art. There is a separate department involved in documenting and presenting the history of Warsaw in the war and the history of Solidarity. Among the exhibits are mostly objects related to Warsaw in the broadest sense. Apart from paintings and photographs showing the fortunes of the capitaląs buildings, streets and squares, we can also find titbits, like branded boxes from 19th century Warsaw shops, bits and bobs from people's homes, pre-war ladies' bags, dresses and fans, old banknotes, stamps and all sorts of other interesting stuff. A cinema was installed in May 2011, where you can watch documentaries about the history of the capital as well as 19th century advertisements or the history of Warsaw postcards.
The Warsaw History Museum has many branches and the most famous is the Warsaw Uprising Museum. A little less popular among tourists are the following; The Warsaw Museum of Printing, The Antonina Leśniewska Pharmacological Museum, the Wola Museum, the Palmira National memorial museum, the museum of the Military Ordinariate and the Korczakianum Centre for Documentation and Research. At present the Museum of Warsaw Praga is under construction.
In the past it's been called Przeczna Street, Miodownicza Street and Kapuczyńska Street and it is one of the main roads in the old part of Warsaw. It's almost 600m long and the whole street is on the heritage list. Miodowa starts from the end of Krakowskie Przedmieście and picturesquely curves around the Old Town and connects with Długa Street at the other end by Krasińskich Square. The street then continues as Bonifraterska Street. Since the 17 century Miodowa Street has been the most presentable artery in the capital. In the times of Stanisław August Poniatowski, 13 of the most impressive palaces in Warsaw stood along this street. Palaces belonging to Warsaw's aristocracy, magnates and priesthood of which only 7 remain. During the period of the Duchy of Warsaw (Napoleonic period), Miodowa was called Napoleon Street. The Teppera Palace used to stand where the Trasa A-Z tunnel goes below Miodowa today, and this is the place where Napoleon met Maria Walewska at a ball. At number 14, the confectioner, Edward Wedel, started his famous chocolate production in 1851. From just after World War II until 1973 trolley buses coursed along Miodowa Street.
Krakowskie Przedmieście Street
Next to Nowy Swiat (New World St) and Ujazdowskich Avenue, this is one of Warsaw's most impressive streets. There are souvenir shops, galleries and government buildings on both sides of the street. The name comes from the settlement around the now non-existent Cracow Gate, which was just outside the very centre of Warsaw in the 14th century. In 1454 the Franciscan Church was built here and the whole area became known as Franciscan Suburbs or Franciscan Square. The main road leading to the church, known as Krakowskie Przedmieście, soon became the most fashionable street in town. The most distinguished Warsaw families built their palaces and residences here, including the Czapskis, Potockis or the Wessels. The street staged the triumphal entries to the capital of dignitaries like Hetman (Commander-in-chief) Stefan Czarnecki or King Jan III Sobieski on his return from his victory in Vienna. During the partitions the most significant patriotic demonstrations took place here, the most important of which was the tragic demonstration on 27th February 1861, when 5 Polish citizens were killed by Russian bullets. Their funeral turned into one of the greatest patriotic demonstrations the city ever saw.
In 1907, before Poland gained independence, Krakowskie Przedmieście gained electric lighting. The first electric trams in the city also made their debut here. Unfortunately, the 2nd World War put an end to the street's good times, leaving it in a sorry state. The communist leaders of Poland turned the elegant road into a normal transportation thoroughfare. Krakowskie Przedmieście regained its luxurious character at the beginning of the 21st century. The rebuilding of the street took 2 years and was finished in 2007 and involved the narrowing of the carriage-way to build wide pavements, re-surfacing and changing some details of the street architecture. The re-surfacing work involved paving which was supposed to resemble the cobblestones in paintings by Canaletto. The yellow granite on the new surface of Krakowskie Przedmieście was imported all the way from China. The atmosphere is enhanced by stylish benches, street lights in the shape of Crosiers (Priests' shepherd staffs) and tasteful flowerbeds. Unfortunately, the street hasn't yet been fully adapted for use by the disabled and cyclists.
The church is officially called ?Under the Care of Saint Joseph chosen by Mary Immaculate Mother of God?, but more normally is known as the Visitationist Church. This is one of the oldest buildings in the Old Town and was almost untouched in the devastation of the second world war.
The history of the church coincides with the Visitationist Order coming to Poland. The Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as the Visitationist Order, was founded in Annecy, France in 1610 and was invited to Poland by Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga. Their trip from Paris to Gdańsk was not without adventure. Firstly, their ship was seriously delayed due to the weather and during the voyage was attacked by English pirates and then, instead of continuing on to Gdańsk, they returned to France. Eventually a group from Aachen arrived and were ceremoniously brought to the wooden convent buildings between the Kazimierzowski Palace and Karowa Street. Unfortunately, their bad luck continued because the convent was utterly destroyed during the Swedish deluge. Marie Louise Gonzaga ordered a new building but it never got opened as it was burnt down in 1695. The next church was designed by Efraim Szreger and Jakub Fontana and was finally completed without further mishap in 1761. About 100 years later the church was totally renovated under the direction of Henryk Marconi, giving it its present form.
Frederic Chopin practised on the organ in the Visitationist Church in 1825-26 and for many years it was also the base of the Academic Pastoral Ministry. From 1960 until his retirement Jan Twardowski, one of Poland's most famous poets, was rector of he church. The most interesting relics which can be found here include the tabernacle, which was presented to the Visitationist Order by Marie Louise Gonzaga. There is also a beautiful pulpit from 1760 designed by Jan Jerzy Plersch and 18th century side altars where you can admire a portrait of St Aloysius Gonzagi by Daniel Schultz the younger and the painting of Joseph with the Child by Claude Callot. You can also visit the convent buildings. Unfortunately, the most interesting parts, including the 1677 Calvary are inaccessible to guests.
New World Street
There is no exaggeration in the statement that New World Street (ul. Nowy Świat) is Warsaw's most elegant road, full of the most expensive and luxurious shops, exclusive cafes, boutiques and galleries. Before Christmas there are beautiful illuminations as well as parades, fetes and street festivals. On a normal weekday you can hundreds of interestingly dressed students rushing to their lectures. New World Street, once lovingly called Nowik, is now 1km long and only buses and taxis can drive here.The street was formed in the middle of the 17th century as the first secular jurisdiction in the city. The name "New World? comes from this new "worldly? settlement. Its golden age came between the world wars, when the crossroads with Chmielna Street was informally recognised as the city centre. Horse trams and later electric trams and some of the first gas lamps could be found here. Unfortunately, after the 2nd World War only six of the 70 buildings survived in reasonable shape. The street came back to life on 1st October 1949, but having lost much of its pre-war glory. The next incarnation came after a general renovation for the 400th anniversary of Warsaw becoming the capital of Poland in the 1990s. The road was narrowed, and car access was limited and the widened pavements started to be taken over by the gardens of the luxurious cafes. At the weekend New World Street is a joy for some and a pain for others - it becomes a pedestrian precinct where no buses or cars are allowed.
This monument by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen was placed in front of Staszic Palace and ceremoniously unveiled on 11th May 1830 by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. During the German occupation, the nazis covered the Polish inscription with a German one, which was finally removed in an act of sabotage. The monument was totally destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising and it was removed to the heart of the Reich in order to melt it down for scrap and ultimately disposed of. It was found by Polish forces and returned to its pedestal and unveiled after renovation on 22nd July 1949. There was a well-known saying that as a guest in the capital Copernicus gets to sit on a pedestal, whilst in his home town of Toruń he has to stand.
Before Staszic Palace was built, this area at the end of Krakowskie Przedmieście was occupied by a mausoleum of Russian Tsars erected by King Zygmunt III Waza in which Wasyl Szujski (Vasili 4th) and his brother Dmitri were laid to rest in their Polish exile. Jan Kazimierz Waza left the mausoleum in the care of the Dominican Priests, who built a church in its place, which was later bought by Stanisław Staszic. On the foundations of the old building Antonio Corazzi designed a classical style building which was completed in 1823. A statue of Mikołaj Kopernik (Copernicus) by Bertel Thorvaldsenn was erected in the courtyard which had been created for the use of the Friends of Science Society. After the quashing of the November Uprising, the Friends of Science Society, like many other Polish organisations was dissolved and the building became the headquarters for the Directors of the Lottery. From 1862 onwards various organisations had their base here - the Medical-Surgical Academy, a Russian Men's school and, finally, the Russian Orthodox Church of St Tatiana of Rome. The last change meant the building had be re-designed in a Russian-Byzantine style. After Poland regained independence, the palace returned to its old appearance and housed the Science Society of Warsaw as well as the Joseph Mianowski Fund, the National Meteorological Institute, the French Institute and the Museum of Archaeology. Due to war damage, the palace was rebuilt from 1946-50 in its original form and again given to the Science Society of Warsaw and following that to the Polish Academy of Science which is still there today.
Warsaw University was founded in 1816 and is one of Poland's most prestigious schools of higher education. It can be found on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in historical buildings which are home to various faculties and University authorities. The main gate is a historical monument in itself and was designed by Stefan Szyller in neo-baroque style at the beginning of the 20th century. In the niches of the gate there are copies of ancient statues of Urania, who is an allegory of wisdom, and Athena, who traditionally symbolises peace.
Officially, Tsar Aleksander I called for the University to be founded, although the initiators were actually Poles - Stanisław Kostka Potocki and Stanisław Staszic. At first it was a unification of the Warsaw School of Law and Administrative Science and The Medical School and had just 5 faculties. Apart from medicine and law you could also study theology, philosophy and fine arts, which is what Frederic Chopin studied here for a few years. Due to the involvement of students in the November Uprising the school was closed in 1831 and only opened in 1857 as a medical school. Unfortunately, 10 years later, after the repressions of the January Uprising this time, the University was closed again. In 1915 the University was moved to near the Don river, where it was reactivated as the Tsar's Warsaw University in Rostov-on-Don and operated until 1918. After its return to Warsaw in 1935 it was named after Joseph Piłsudski, but with the German invasion in 1939 it changed in character once again and became a secret college, despite the death penalty imposed for running educational activities. The University was severely crippled in the 2nd World War - 63 professors were killed and 70% of the library collection, buildings and technical areas were destroyed. Despite the reluctance of the socialist powers the university was reopened thanks to the efforts of the teaching staff. After the war, 4000 students took up places at the university.
Today Warsaw University has 19 faculties of which several (English Philology, Psychology and Biology) have buildings away from the campus on Krakowskie Przedmieście. Among the most interesting university buildings are the Kazimierzowski Palace (built for King Władysław IV in the 17th century), the Uruskich Palace and the 18th century Tyszkiewiczów-Potockich Palace. In the latter we can find the Museum of the University of Warsaw. The university doesn't only have beautiful, classical buildings and interiors to offer visitors. They also organise themed walks around the campus; about Frederic Chopin, for example or the mythological motifs found in the University architecture.
Ujazdowskie Avenue is one of Warsaw's most expensive and most beautiful streets. It got its beginnings from King August the Strong's idea of the Calvary Road which went from present-day Plac Trzech Krzyży (Three Cross Square) which then had 2 gold crosses which are still there today. Shrines were put up every dozen or so metres to line the side of the road which led as far as today's Na Rozdrożu Square where there was a Tomb of Our Lord. The shrines were soon brought down and the road's devotional character was lost as usage grew. In 1818 a botanical garden was planted nearby and 10 years later a recreational park, Dolina Szwajcarska (Swiss Valley), was built and quickly became a fashionable meeting place for Varsovians. At the end of the 19th century horse-drawn trams appeared here but were quickly superseded by electric trams and the houses with their large gardens were systematically replaced by villas and palaces of the capital's aristocracy. After the 1st World War many embassies and government buildings were erected along the route. On 26th May 1926 Aleje Ujazdowskie witnessed one of the most important political events from between the wars - riots connected to the May Coup.
During the 2nd World War Aleje Ujazdowski became a German area due its presentable character. This was one of the main reasons why many of the buildings were not destroyed in the same way as the rest of the city. At first the Germans changed its name to Aleja Lipowa (Lime Tree Avenue) and later Victory Avenue. In 1944 the butcher of Warsaw - Franz Kutschera - was assassinated here.
In 1945 Aleje Ujazdowskie was quickly renamed Stalin Avenue and only returned to its original name after the death of the dictator in 1956. The Chancellory of the Prime Minister and a few other government offices have their address on this street today, as well as many of the more important embassies and consuls.
The history of the manor house in Jazdów, the name of the historical settlement where the present castle stands, dates back to the middle ages. A wooden castle belonging to the Mazovian dukes stood here in the 13th century. When Mazovia joined the crown in 1526 Jazdów was passed on to King Zygmunt the Old. After his death Queen Bona made it her residence and after her, Anna Jagiellonka inherited Jazdów and significantly extended the palace. The wooden castle survived until the 17th century when King Zygmunt Waza III built a brick castle nearby according to a design by either Giovanniemu Battiście Trevano or Mateusz Castello - it is unknown which of the 2 most respected architects of the time drew up the plans. Prince Władysław (later King Władysław IV) personally oversaw the work. During the Swedish deluge, the Swedish King, Charles Gustav, had his headquarters here. The monarch loved the place so much that when he left he took everything with him, burnt down the castle and built an exact copy of the castle outside Stockholm. Just after the battles were over, a mint was set up in the hastily renovated castle. Later, the building was placed into the hands of the Lubomirski family by state decree and they lived here for about 80 years, changing the crude castle into a luxurious baroque residence. In 176 the castle changed hands again and became the property of King Stanisław August Poniatowski. The king planned further extensions that were not carried out and 20 years later gave the castle to the Lithuanian Infantry Guard. 2 new wings were added for military use. From 1809 to the 2nd World War a huge army hospital was located here. The castle was burnt but not demolished during the war, but was taken down in the 50s by order of Marshal Konstanty Rokossowski. The communist authorities intended to build here on the embankment a Theatre of the Home of the People's Army of Poland and an Evening Marxist-Leninist University. The plans were never realised and in the mid-70s work was started to return the castle to its prewar state. In the 1980s, Ujazdowski Castle became the home of the Centre for Contemporary Art and its collection include work by Mirosław Bałka, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Katarzyna Kozyra and Zdzisław Libera. There is also an inviting bookshop with a club here, a well-stocked library and a cinema which shows independent and experimental films from all over the world. The Centre for Contemporary Art is seen as one of the most active centres of its kind in central and eastern Europe.
The beginnings of this most beautiful and loved park go back to the 13th century and the fortified settlement of the Mazovian Princes, built on the Vistula embankment. When Mazovia was annexed to the crown, the manor house, called Ujazdów, became the property of Queen Bona, who initiated the building of a palace where Belvedere Palace now stands. Łazienki Park looks the way it does mostly thanks to Stanisław Augustów Poniatowski, who bought the lands near Ujazdowski Castle. On this large wooded terrain, Poniatowski built a beautiful lake according to a design by Tylman Van Gameren, which then gave its name to the whole complex - Łazienki (bath). The best architects and artists of the time were involved in the project - Dominik Merlini, Jan Christian Kamsetzer, Marcello Bacciarelli and Giacomo Monaldi. The King kept his eye on the work and personally consulted on the designs brought before him, resulting in the Palace on the Isle. In this building Stanisław August Poniatowski gathered an impressive art collection of works by the greatest Italian, Dutch and Flemish artists. Under the direction of Poniatowski several other buildings were constructed, including the White House, built in 1774, which, at the end of the 19th century, was the home of the French King in exile - Louis the 18th. A short time later the Old Orangery was built, which housed the Stanisłowski Theatre and a glyptothek which gathered faithful copies of Greek and Roman sculptures for students of art schools. Unfortunately, after the reign of the last king of Poland, the park deteriorated. During Congress Poland many works of art were taken away to deepest Russia. The complex regained its earlier glory in between the wars, but was then destroyed in the 2nd World War. It took a long tome to rebuild Łazienki and it was finally opened as a museum in 1960.
The most well-known monument to Frederic Chopin by Wacław Szymanowski can be found in the park which is the site for the famous summer piano concerts. By the park gates on Agrykola you can visit the building of the officer cadet school where the November Uprising began. Near the south gates there is a mini-golf course and a riding club as well as the most elegant restaurant in the area - Belvedere.
This majestic palace stands in the middle of Łazienki Park. Its not only the classical architecture that is impressive but also its history. It was given its original name, Belvedere, due to the beautiful views from this place which take your breath away. In Italian 'belvedere' means 'beautiful view'. It was built in the mid-17th century for the wife of Krzysztof Zygmunt Paca, Izabella. In the 1830s the palace was reconstructed and enlarged according to a design by Józef Fontana. King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who became the owner in 1764, designated it a factory, where the famous Belvedere pottery was produced. The present shape of the building is due to a reconstruction from 1818-22 managed by Jakub Kubicki. After the death of Stanisław August Poniatowski it went to Prince Józef Poniatowski. In 1818 the Congress Poland government bought it and made it into the headquarters for the Commander-in-chief of the army, the great Prince Konstanty Pawłowicz. The palace witnessed the events of the November evening (29th Nov 1830) when insurgents, attempting an ultimately ill-fated storming of the headquarters of Prince Konstanty, actually managed to kick-start a national movement. After independence, Belvedere became the headquarters of Marshall Józef Piłsudski and later the presidents of Poland. At the moment, a museum dedicated to Józef Piłsudski is being prepared in Belvedere.