Warsaw, now capital of Poland, has a steadfast spirit as it was rebuilt from the ashes of WW II. See the iconic and unexpected highlights of the city which has been the capital of Poland since the late 16th century.
First, you may take a stroll through the city on an in-depth guided sightseeing tour with a local specialist who will reveal how the city has reemerged from the devastation of World War II.
The Old Town was carefully reconstructed after World War II according to original plans, and today is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The center of the Old Town is the Market Square – formed at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries at the time of the city’s foundation. Until the 18th century it was the most important square in Warsaw and the focal point of city life.
Walking along the Royal Way you will see the most beautiful sites in the Old Town, including St. John’s Cathedral and the Royal Castle – once home to the Polish royal family and seat of the Polish parliament today it houses the Castle Museum. The castle was completely destroyed by German troops in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising but reconstructed in 1974. The castle was at one time the official residence of Polish kings, and also housed the Polish parliament from the early 17th until the late 18th century. Although the building is a replica, many of its furnishings are originals worth seeing.
This tour will help you get a deep understanding of how Warsaw was rebuilt after the devastation of the Second World War.
In the evening, you may also treat yourself to a Chopin recital.
Take a drive along the Path of Remembrance marked by 16 granite blocks commemorating the Jews who were murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Ghetto Heroes Monument commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, marking the spot where the first armed clash of the uprising took place. The monument was built partly of Nazi German materials originally brought to Warsaw in 1942 by Albert Speer for his planned works.
Stop by the Bunker Monument, a small mound, topped with a boulder, commemorating the location of the bunker from which Mordechaj Anielewicz led the Ghetto Uprising. The next stop in Umschlagplatz where you see the monument composed of black and white marble blocks. Umschlagplatz Memorial mourns the loss of 300,000 Warsaw Jews who were deported to Treblinka concentration camp. The memorial structure is reminiscent of a freight car, with representative names of victims on the wall and a tree of hope planted inside one of the walls. This hope has come alive in today’s Jewish community of Warsaw, which is small but vibrant.
Visit the neo-Romanesque Nozyk Synagogue, the only surviving synagogue from the pre-war period. In the 1970s the offices of the Warsaw Jewish Community and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland were relocated here and presently it houses the offices of ‘Midrasz’, the Jewish monthly newspaper, as well as the Head Rabbi of Warsaw and Poland, making this the center of Jewish life in present day Warsaw.
POLIN – Museum of History of Polish Jews
The Museum of History of Polish Jews is a new museum on the site of the Warsaw ghetto. The cornerstone was laid in 2007 and the museum was finally opened on April 19, 2013. The museum features multimedia exhibits on vibrant Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years. The building, a post-modernic glass structure, covered by limestone, was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma.
The Jewish Cemetery
Warsaw Jewish Cemetery holds the graves of several important figures. There is also a memorial stone to those who fought in the 1943 ghetto uprising and a memorial to the children who were interned in the ghetto. At the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, it is time to remember the Warsaw ghetto uprising; pieces of the former ghetto walls serve as haunting memorials as well.
Next, make a stop by to see the former Orphanage of Dr. Janusz Korczak, who refused to be saved and accompanied his Jewish children to meet his death in Treblinka
Umschlagplatz is the place where you see the monument composed of black and white marble blocks. Umschlagplatz Memorial mourns the loss of 300,000 Warsaw Jews who were deported to Treblinka concentration camp. The memorial structure is reminiscent of a freight car, with representative names of victims on the wall and a tree of hope planted inside one of the walls. This hope has come alive in today’s Jewish community of Warsaw, which is small but vibrant
In the middle of an overgrown wooded area in this area, discover the world’s largest collection of piled up tombstones. This is all that remains of the small above-ground architecture of a burial ground around 250,000 individuals active in the years of 1743 to 1940. It was only in the mid-1980s that the efforts of the Nissenbaum Family Foundation led to erection of a surrounding fence and a monumental bas-relief decorated entry gate.
The ownership rights to the cemetery were restored to the Jewish Community of Warsaw in 2012. The Community has rebuilt the fence and completed construction of an exhibition pavilion. Exhibition “Beit Almin-Eternal Home” presents the history of the Bródno district Jewish necropolis and Jewish funeral tradition is open since February 2018.
Jewish Ghetto Walls
Following the Ghetto Uprising the whole area of the ghetto was levelled, so few traces remain. If you duck into the courtyard at ul. Sienna 55, you will see remaining parts of the ghetto wall complete with commemorative plaques.
The local government have decided to honor Warsaw’s Holocaust history by introducing a ‘Ghetto Trail.’ Developed with the help of the Jewish Historical Institute the route has seen the boundary of the former Warsaw Ghetto outlined on pavements, as well as the appearance of 21 dual language information boards positioned in places of particular interest. Keep an eye out for them as you explore Muranów.
Time permitting, we also suggest a visit to the Warsaw ZOO, and Zookeeper’s wife’s villa. At the villa and in the zoo’s structures, Zookeepers secretly sheltered Jews, escaping from the doomed Warsaw ghetto. As many as 300 such „guests” passed through the zoo, and many did survive the war with the assistance of the Żabiński couple, and other members of the resistance. The other escapees were sheltered in cages for the animals in the underground parts, in underground bunkers. They were also in the back of lions’ area, in the inner rooms with no no access. In the villa were the children and the sick. They lived in the basement of the villa. In 2007 Diane Ackerman wrote a story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. The book is New York Times bestseller!
Praga – right bank of Wisla river
We suggest a journey to the much less known of districts of Warsaw – Praga. Warsaw’s Praga was voted among the “10 coolest neighbourhoods” in Europe by the Independent. Experience a tantalizing journey through the history of one of the world’s foremost famous and noted tipples. Continue your exploration of Warsaw today with your guide. Visit the right bank of Vistula River, the old district called Praga. Praga was not destroyed during the war, and a somewhat neglected after WW II. For years it was a secondary part of the city that survived the devastation of war, with three different religions (Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Judaism) peacefully co-existing. Praga is a fascinating district now overflowing with artistic studios, galleries, alternative theaters and underground clubs. Thanks to this infusion of cool culture, many of the surviving post-industrial buildings have been turned into cultural centers, cinemas, galleries and pubs, such as the Fabryka Trzciny. Your senses may also be stimulated by a sample of local and national delicacies.
Visit the park and palace complex at Łazienki, one of the most beautiful of this type in Europe. Established in the 17th century, the landscape gardens feature many interesting architectural monuments, the most important of which include the Palace on the Island built for King Stanislaw August Poniatowski – Poland’s last monarch. It served as his summer residence and was famous for the Thursday dinners. Łazienki Królewskie, or “Royal Baths Park”, one of the most beautiful parks in the city center. Formerly a hunting ground, in the 18th century it was turned into an English-style park with formal gardens, and the neoclassical Łazienki Palace was built on the park’s lake. The park includes numerous palaces, pavilions, statues and works of sculpture. The best known and most characteristic of Łazienki’s monuments is the Frederic Chopin statue, which in the summer season serves as the venue for open-air concerts every Sunday. Other sites include the Orangery, Myślewicki Palace, the Observatory, Belvedere Palace and a Greek-style amphitheater where Chopin concerts are held every summer.
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