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It is not hyperbole to say that Warsaw is a city that has risen from the rubble. In 1945 85% of the city was irretrievably destroyed. But you could now walk the streets of the Old Town without comprehending the carnage that took place during the German invasion of 1939, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and the general Warsaw Uprising a year later.
The human impact is harder to mend, and Warsaw has museums and monuments that give unflinching accounts of one of the darkest periods in European History. But there are also memories of the splendour of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the Early Modern Age, when Warsaw was the capital of Europe’s largest empire. To see it, take the Royal Route, which threads through royal properties like ?azienki Park, a little world of palaces and pavilions in the middle of the city.
When you tour a historic city centre you’re normally out for genuine, untouched architecture and monuments.
But after Warsaw’s experiences in the 20th century, the magic of this quarter is in the detailed and faithful reconstruction carried out up to 1962. After almost nine tenths of the city was wiped out, the Old Town’s rebirth was an incredible feat that has earned it Old Town UNESCO World Heritage Status.
As you pick your way along alleys and passageways, past guildhalls, churches and burgher houses you’d never imagine that this was all just a pile of debris 70 years ago.
A couple of sights that we haven’t included on the list below are Canon Square, a triangular plaza enclosed by tenements that once houses canons of the Warsaw Chapter, and St John’s Archcathedral, holding the tomb of Stanis?aw II Augustus, the last King of Poland.
Up to the creation of Stanis?aw II Augustus’ New Town at the end of the 18th century, this square was the epicentre of commercial life in Warsaw.
It is the most historic part of the Old Town and is enveloped by tall Renaissance and Baroque merchants’ houses in a spectrum of colours.
All of these buildings are post-war replicas of what came before, as the square was first bombed by the Luftwaffe and then blown up by the Germans at the end of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Immediately after the war the square was rebuilt as it had been, including the bizarre but charming vertical extensions that cap some of the houses.
The mermaid figure on the fountain in the centre holds special meaning for Warsaw, while in summer you can park up at a restaurant table and watch the city going about its day.
Zapiekanka is the most Polish of the fast food. It’s an open-faced toasted sandwich made of half baguette or other long kind of bread. In the 70s, during the austerity of the communist regime, it was usually topped with just mushroom, cheese, and ketchup. Today, besides the traditional kind, there are many more varieties.
The best place to eat it in Warsaw is Zapiexy Luxusowe, in Widok 19 street (“Centrum” metro station, really close to the Palace of Culture). They get fresh bread from the bakery every day and the portions are huge. My favorite is the “Firmowa Zapiekanka” which is toasted bread with Polish sheep cheese, crispy bacon, and onion (11.5PLN or about 2.5 EUR).
Due to its increasing selection of vibrant clubs and bars, each with their own unique style, Warsaw has officially established itself as one of Europe’s top nightlife destinations. For the ultimate after-dark experience, alternate between the city’s hotspots and some of its finest cultural experiences, and you will have it all. The country’s capital city is also its largest, affording visitors a vast array of activities from music and theatre to trendy venues for a cocktail. Explore the city’s rich history by day and its chic locales by night. These are our picks of the best things to do at night in Warsaw, Poland.
The explosion of bars and clubs in Warsaw over the last few years means that you are never far from a fresh beer or decent nightspot. On the other hand, it's still easy to find yourself stranded outside the bolted doors of a supposedly popular club on a Wednesday night, or staring into the bottom of a pint glass in a deserted bar. Local knowledge, trends and the Superman-like ability to scoot across town in a flash (“Taxi!”) are prerequisites to achieving a successful night out. But that’s why you have us. The new money crowd have certainly found a home amongst the posh eateries and glamorous nightclubs around Pl.
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