The Citadel was built after the November 1830 uprising by Tsar Nicholas 1 in order to aid his control over the city and as a place where the potential independence and revolutionary moods of Varsovians could be suppressed. Today, historians are sure that the Russians never had defence in mind when it was constructed. This is proven by the fact that there is no ammunition storage area and no long-range artillery. In times of peace 5000 soldiers were stationed here, but if necessary (like during the January uprising), this number could be tripled. In 1863, the Citadel was equipped with over 500 cannons capable of razing the Old and New Towns to the ground. There were also prison cells and places of execution of Polish nationalist activists. Around the fortifications there were 104 high security cells where almost 3000 prisoners could be kept. The architectural design, by Iwan Dehn, was based on the Antwerp citadel. Work started at the end of May 1832. The building site covered almost 36 hectares and was pentagon shaped with a longer side on the Vistula embankment. The citadel was built by workers from Russia. Russian peasants were also drafted in and, in all, about 2000 people were at work at any one time. To make place for the construction 75 buildings were demolished and 64 000 private plots were seized, displacing a total of 15 000 people. The fortifications were finally opened on 4th May 1834 but the finishing works took another 40 years. It cost 11 million roubles which at the time was equivalent to 8.5 tons of gold - giving a present-day cost of around 128 million Euro. The money came from the Polish treasury and was a further repression of Congress Poland (the Kingdom of Poland). After Poland gained independence the Citadel was taken over by the Polish Army which was stationed here until 1st September 1939. When World War II ended the Citadel was transformed into the headquarters of the Warsaw Military District.
Today the Citadel still belongs to the Polish Army, although some of the space is rented by civilian institutions like the European Academy of Arts. You can also find the Museum of Army Traditions. In the near future there is a plan to move the Army Historical Research Office, the Central Army Archives and the Polish Soldiers Centre here. The museum will gain about 40 000m2 and modernised infrastructure. The whole Citadel will be renovated in 2013.
Barbican and City Walls
Dating back to 1548, the defensive fortifications were built according to a design by the architect Jan Baptist the Venetian.
Unfortunately, though, right from the beginning, it didn't fulfil its defensive function due to the development of artillery. Only once did it take part in a battle - during the Swedish Deluge it was retaken by the Polish Army from the hands of the invaders. In the 19th century, what was left of the Barbican (which had been rebuilt) was adapted to the newly built townhouses.
Just before the outbreak of World War II a decision was taken to reconstruct some of the walls and part of the Barbican Bridge. The work was directed by Jan Zachwatowicz. Unfortunately, it wasn't finished due to the war. It was destroyed in 1939, but later rebuilt in 1952-54.
The Warsaw defensive walls date back to the 1st half of the 14th century and are about 1200 metres long and cover an area of about 8.5 hectares. The first fragment of about 300 metres is located between today's Wąski Dunai Street and Krakowska Brama. After 1379, work was started on walls from the side of the Vistula.
Warsaw Uprising Monument
This monument was unveiled on 1st August 1989 on the 45th anniversary of the start of the Uprising. It can be found on the east side of Krasińskich Square, near the place where the Warsaw resistance evacuated from the Old Town to the city centre using the sewers. There are 2 parts to the monument - bronze figures of the insurgents, running out from underneath a huge concrete block, symbolise the outbreak of the Uprising and the figures standing above the manhole covers symbolise its end. On the back wall of the 1st part there is a relief showing wartime posters and orders as well as information on the sculptors and history of the monument. The sculpture, designed by Wincenty Kućma i Jacek Budyn, raised mixed emotions among Varsovians. It was criticised as a return to social realism in style, for its shameful portrayal of a national disaster and for deepening national discord. Before its construction, discussions about its design and location went on for over a dozen years. From 1980 various competitions (including one won by the Kućma and Budyna design) were organised as well as a gathering of donations and materials for the monument.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
This is one of the most interesting places in Warsaw and one of the most modern museums in Poland. There are no boring display cases or traditional exhibits, the museum exploits a variety of media: light, sound and vision. Located in a 60s postindustrial building which once housed a tram power station, the museum was opened on the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising as a branch of Warsaw's History Museum. In 3000m2 of floor space there are 1000 exhibits, 1500 photographs and 200 biographies.
A fundamental element are the photos of Warsaw during the uprising, both large-scale as well as on various kinds of screen. The visitors route takes you various themed rooms showing the fortunes of the uprising in chronological order. The central feature of the museum is the steel monument which connects all the floors of the museum on which the key dates of the uprising are engraved. There are also a few attractions for younger visitors. In the Young Insurgent room you can get to know the history of the uprising presented by the Uprising Theatre as well as play with replicas of 2nd world war toys.
Another interesting part of the exhibition is a hall in which there is a replica of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator aeroplane piloted by Zbigniew Szostak and shot down by the Luftwaffe. You can find also some periodic exhibitions, conferences, meetings and other events in this place. In the basement you can get an idea of what it was like in occupied Warsaw in the exhibition called "Germans".
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is surrounded by the Park of Freedom, in which the most interesting object is the Wall of Remembrance where the names of 11 000 people who died during the Uprising are carved out. The centrepiece of the wall is a quarter-ton bell, 'Monter', which was cast in honour of the leader of the Uprising, General Antoni Chruściel.
Copernicus Science Centre
Opened in 2010, it is compulsory that you visit the Copernicus Centre whether you are a science-lover, amateur scientist or not. It is for all who have any interest in how and why the world around us is built. The long queues, every day of the week, speak for themselves. You just can't miss it.
The Copernicus Science Centre aims to arouse curiosity, aid independent learning and study of the world and to instigate social dialogue on the subject of science. A wide range and variety of interactive exhibits have been created to transmit the largest amount of knowledge possible on all kinds of topics in the most effective way possible. It is possible, in fact compulsory, to touch, test and play with the exhibits which astonish not only the younger visitors.
There are over 450 exhibits at the Copernicus Centre - objects, installations and inventions - gathered in 6 themed galleries. The first is "On the move" and is dedicated to movement (the blood in your veins, particles in the air, water in space) as an essential of life. The next is "Humans and the environment" where we can see the human body from the inside out. "The Lightzone" presents us with the amazing light effects which can be observed in nature and the mechanisms of optical illusions. "Roots of civilisation" recounts the most interesting facts in the history of the earth and human civilisation, while the gallery "Buzzz!", dedicated to the younger visitors, develops the imagination and increases the appetite for knowledge. In the Copernicus Centre everyone can try to play a laser harp, or check out how comfortable it is to lie down on balls or on nails. You can also observe famous people in - bubbles, create your own animated film or watch a skeleton riding a bicycle. There is also a Robotic Theatre, where the lead roles are played robots - who (or what) else? Technologically advanced machines with voices of great actors like Wiktor Zborowski and Piotr Fronczewski.
The "Discovery Park" is the courtyard for the Science Centre and embraces the green terrain right by the Vistula river. It's a place to relax, listen to a concert or visit an outdoor gallery. The various stations with installations and artistic projects offer the chance to do a few experiments on your own.
The newest 'baby' of the Copernicus Science Centre is "The heavens of Copernicus" project, a planetarium covered by a 16m diameter dome. Inside you can go on a trip to the edge of the universe, a volcano crater or to the very beginnings of the world. The modern multimedia technology makes you feel more like a participant than an observer of the presented events.
The Copernicus Science Centre also organises interesting popular-scientific lectures, workshops for parents and children and many, many more fantastic events. Unfortunately, there is usually a crowd in front of the ticket offices, because there is a limit to the number of visitors at any one time. Be especially patient at the weekend - it's worth it!
New Town Square
The history of this part of old Warsaw starts at the turn of the 15th century with the location - New Town. At first, the square was actually square-shaped, a bit bigger than it is now and bigger than the Old Town Square. It was 140 by 120 metres but got smaller and smaller as new townhouses were built. On the east side of the square was the Warsaw escarpment and on the west side there was a road connecting 2 important towns - Czersk and Zakroczym. The heart of the square was the wooden town hall built in 1497, which was destroyed along with all the other wooden buildings in the great fire of 1544. The following wave of destruction hit this part of town when the Swedish army arrived in 1656-57, but its golden age was in the post Stanisław August Poniatowski period (turn of 18th Century), when most of the buildings around the square were brick built. In 1818 the Warsaw authorities decided to take the town hall down as Warsaw had become a single, uniformly organised city. The shape of today's square came about in 1868 when its western frontage became the extension of Freta Street and the northern side, Kościelny Street.
After the Warsaw Uprising, the New Town was razed to the ground along with the old Town, but rebuilt after the war. The 19th century iron well near the centre of the square, crowned with the New Town coat of arms (a girl with a unicorn), finally appeared here in 1958. In 2008, a plaque commemorating the 600th anniversary of the square was ceremoniously unveiled.
Benedectine Sisters Church
It's official name is St Kazimierz Church and is found on the New Town Square, although originally it was the residence of the Kotowski family. In 1688 the building was bought by Queen Maria Kazimiera Sobieska, who decided to change it into a church.
At the end of the 17th century it became a church-cloister and the remodelling was designed by the Dutch architect Tylman Van Gemeran. The work was completed in 1692 and its crowning glory was its huge dome.
The altar, also designed by Tylman Van Gemeran, was consecrated in 1715. When the significance of the church dropped in 1794, it also lost a large part of its treasures, including 4 figures of angels which decorated the altar. A fire in 1855 caused serious damage to the church and the church was renovated in 1873. The second world war brought further bad fortune and the building was completely destroyed in 1944. After the war, the rebuilding work went on from 1948-1952.
Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw
The construction of the Temple of Divine Providence on the corner of Prymas Hlonda Street and Rzeczpospolita Avenue in Wilanów has as many supporters as opponents in Warsaw. The temple was supposed to be an element in the Divine Providence Centre, where a museum to Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński as well as a Pantheon to Great Poles are to be housed. The idea for the temple is over 200 years old. The monumental structure was supposed to be a gesture of thanks for the 3rd May 1791 Constitution and a foundation stone was laid in the present-day botanical gardens. The third partition of Poland frustrated those plans. The idea came to the forefront again after poland regained independence, but this time World War II got in the way. Cardinal Józef Glemp returned to the plans in 1989 and on 23rd November 2002 he symbolically took a spade to start the digging of the foundations.
The building work started on 25th February 2003 and the lowest storey was opened that September. In February 2011 a 5 metre cross, made of stainless steel, was placed on top of the dome. In the monumental cross there is a hole through which the light shines as a symbol of Christ. At present they are working on connecting the 4 vertical towers, which contain stairs and lifts, using 4 bridges 26 metres up in the air. The John Paul II and Stefan Wyszyński Museum will be based around the base of the dome and should be open this year, although the finishing touches will take a few years longer.
The Temple of Divine Providence is a place of rest for several great Poles; the poet Father Jan Twardowski, the first minister of Foreign Affairs of the 2nd Republic of Poland, Krzysztof Skubiszewski and Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last president of Poland in exile who died in the air catastrophe in Smoleńsk on 10th April 2010.
This monument can be found where Tamka Steet turns into Świętokrzyski Bridge and was the last Polish monument erected before the outbreak of World War II. It was untouched during the war and still still found in its original location. The figure, cast in bronze, is of a woman with a fish's tail holding a sword in her right hand and a shield in her left. It is about 4.5m high together with the plinth. The president of Warsaw, Stefan Starzyński, initiated the project. At first the idea was to build a 20m mermaid monument from green glass on top of a pillar placed on the Vistula riverbed. It was to be illuminated at night and it would have an extra function as a measurement of the height of the river. Unfortunately, due to financial limitations just before the war it had to be reduced in form. A design by Ludwika Nitschowa, which presented the mermaid and a small fountain with live fish, was chosen. The face of the mermaid was a 'portrait' of the poet, Krystyna Krahelska, who later died on the 2nd day of the uprising. She was author of the soldiers' song "Hey boys, fix your bayonet to your gun". According to the assurances of Ludwika Nitschowa the face was slightly changed so that it wouldn't be easy to recognise Krystyna Krahelska as she walked down the street, which might be embarrassing for her?. The monument was unveiled on 29th June 1939 in a simple ceremony by president of Warsaw, Stefan Starzyński.
This cemetery is as big as the Vatican City - 44 hectares! It was one of the first necropoleis in Europe and was established in 1790. The land was offered by district leader, Melcior Szymanowski, as a "field" burial site - until then the dead had been buried in church catacombs or in small cemeteries in church grounds. Powązki Cemetery is located between Okopowa, Powąkowski and Tatarska Streets and is one of 6 objects belonging to the largest Warsaw necropolis - the Communal and Military Cemeteries in Powązki and the Evangelical, Jewish, Calvinist and Muslim Cemeteries. The graves of over 1 million people are here including those of well-known and distinguished Poles - politicians, actors, scientists, writers and social activists. The parents of Frederic Chopin were buried here as well as Stanisław Moniuszko, Władysław Reymont, Bolesław Leśmian, Kalina Jędrusik, Krzysztof Komeda and Hanka Bielicka among others. During the war Jews, on the run from the Gestapo, hid in the catacombs and the resistance gathered arms and kept them in the crypts and tombs. During the Uprising, battles took place among the gravestones. The whole terrain of the cemetery is under the protection of the Capital's Conservation of Monuments Office.
National Stadium in Warsaw
The idea to build a National Stadium in Warsaw came about in the 1990s and immediately arguments arose as to its location. There were various suggestions including Białołęka, Wawer and Wesoła. Finally, though, the winning location was the terrain of the decrepit old Stadion Dziesięciolecia (10th Anniversary Stadium) in the Praga-Południe district. The decision to hold the 2012 European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine served as a catalyst in the decision-making process.
In April 2007, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, President of Warsaw, made the final decision. The JSK Consortium of Architects presented their concept of the stadium in February 2008 and work started on-site 3 months later. To a large extent, the 10th Anniversary Stadium had been built on the post-war rubble from the east bank of the river, so the first job was to assess whether there were any unexploded bombs, human remains or other 'leftovers' of the Warsaw Uprising buried in the embankments. It was also necessary to check whether the terrain was strong enough to support the new, much larger, stadium. The results were deemed satisfactory and so building work began on 7th October 2008.
The pitch will be 8 metres higher than that of the old stadium and underneath there will be a car park for about 2000 cars. The outer facade, which you would associate with the Polish flag or maybe a kind of folk-style woven basket, is a matter of controversy among Varsovians.
The Stadium will have 2 rings of stands, seating 57 000 fans. There will be extra seating between the 2 rings as well as VIP and press boxes. Below the stands there will be conference halls, shops and an entertainment centre. The highest point is 41 metres above the level of the old 10th Anniversary pitch. The whole building is covered by a roof - the central part of which is mobile.
At the European Championships, 3 group phase matches will be played here, including the opening match, as well as 1 quarter-final and 1 semi-final. The opening ceremony will also be held here. The National Stadium will be the biggest stadium in Poland and the building work should be finished in November 2011.
This is one of the most characteristic monuments in the capital. It was built in 1988 according to a design by Hanna Szmalenberg and Władysław Klamerus. It is located near a now non-existent railway platform which was used to load prisoners onto trains headed for the extermination camps. The monument resembles an open freight car on a small square.
4-metre high, white walls surround the square and have sad black plaques which look down on visitors with their inscriptions in several languages - "Over 300,000 Jews followed this path of suffering and death between 1940?1943 from the Ghetto created in Warsaw to the Nazi death camps". A huge black stone crowns the monument, engraved with broken trees.
Because the builders used poor materials a renovation was called for in 2007 which lasted 1 year. Jan Beyga was in charge of the project which cost just over half a million zloties.
At just over 800m and totally devoid of cars, Agrykola is one of Warsaw's most beautiful streets. It was built in 1777-1779 and 1 year later the architect Dominik Merlini added a small stone bridge where a monument to Jan III Sobieski was placed in 1788. The first gas street lanterns in Warsaw appeared on Agrykola street in the middle of the 19th century, which, having been thoroughly renovated, can still be seen today. Despite the connotations of the name, the street has nothing to do with agriculture. It actually comes from the surname of the 18th century engineer, Karol Ludwik Agricola, who designed the street as a path following a dried out stream leading directly to Łazienki Park.