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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.

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