POLAND : WARSAW - Sightseeing
Warsaw covers an area of 495 sq km (191 sq
mi). The city is subdivided into 11 local districts (gminy). The Wisla
bisects the city; major commercial and historic districts are
concentrated on the west bank, and residential neighborhoods occupy the
sprawling Praga districts on the east bank. Downtown Warsaw encompasses
the Sródmiescie district on the west bank. North of this is the famous
Old Town, which lies at the end of Warsaw's best-known thoroughfare,
known as the Royal Route(Trakt Królewski).
For many visitors, the very symbol of the city is the voluminous Palace
of Culture and Science, which was gifted to Warsaw by Stalin. The
viewing deck is now accessible via express lifts and this is the best
venue for visitors to get acquainted with the layout of the city.
Sightseeing in Warsaw is generally concentrated on the left bank of the
Vistula river. The UNESCO World Heritage Old Town is unmissable – quite
literally, seeing as many of the city’s attractions and a whole host of
cafés, bars and restaurants are located within its environs. The Old
Town is both a physical and symbolic expression of the city’s spirit and
determination to come back from the brink of annihilation at the end of
World War II.
Most visitors to Warsaw spend their first day strolling around the Old
Town, where one can find the opulent and impressive Royal Castle, once
home of the Polish kings. Outside the historic centre is Wilanow, a
charming palace on a grand scale, which was modelled on Versailles.
The tourist epicentre of Warsaw is the ‘Royal Route’, which runs
north–south from the New and Old Towns, past the fashionable shops of
Nowy Swiat, the palaces that survived the war and the royal gardens of
Lazienki Park, before reaching Wilanow Palace to the south of the city
centre. The city also boasts many green spaces, with leafy parks where
rowing boats cruise past outdoor cafés, during the summer, and free
classical concerts attract crowds in a scene far removed from the dull
Communist-era images of Warsaw.
Among Warsaw's most notable buildings are the Holy Cross Church, the
15th-century St. Carmelite Church, several fine palaces, and the
monuments to Copernicus and Adam Mickiewicz . The medieval Stare Miasto
[old town], with its marketplace and 14th-century cathedral, was rebuilt
according to the prewar pattern. Warsaw has many educational and
cultural institutions, including the Univ. of Warsaw (founded in 1818)
and the Polish Academy of Sciences.