Iconic sights that represent Poland’s varied history, religion and culture. SANDIP HOR
Rebuilt into its original 13th century design after being almost reduced to rubble during World War II, Warsaw comprises palaces, churches, monuments and street sculptures.
Old Town: Surrounded by 14th century walls, Stare Miasto or the Old Town is Warsaw’s oldest district. The centrepiece of this World Heritage site is a paved square neatly surrounded by multicoloured townhouses — many of which date back to the 16th century — with a statue of a mermaid in the middle. The adjoining streets are filled with historic buildings, churches and monuments like the Jesuit Church, Church of St Martin and Barbican Towers.
Royal Castle: Located at the entrance to the Old Town, this former residence of Polish monarchs since the early 17th century was rebuilt in the 1970s. Worth miss the ballroom decorated with 17 pairs of golden columns; Canaletto Room displaying scenes of Warsaw as portrayed by famous Venetian painter Canaletto; the Lanckoronski Gallery with two Rembrandt masterpieces; and Senators Hall, in which the famous painting “Constitution of May 3, 1791” is exhibited.
St. John’s Cathedral: This stunning Gothic cathedral in the heart of Warsaw’s Old Town was built in the 14th century but was completely destroyed during World War II. The cathedral houses the beautiful red marble tombs of many Mazowian dukes, and its crypt is the resting place of many celebrated Polish personalities, like Nobel Prize-winning writer Henryk Sienkiewicz.
Krakowskie Przedmiescie: Intermittently sprinkled with manicured greenery, the thoroughfare is flanked with former palaces now home to government offices, magnificently restored churches, country’s presidential residence, the Warsaw university complex, several statues and monuments and hordes of restaurants and cafes.
Church of the Holy Cross: The final resting place for the heart of legendary composer Fryderyk Chopin, this church with Baroque crowns adorning its twin towers also houses the remains of Nobel Prize-winning author Władysław Reymont, and tablets honouring various Polish icons including poet Juliusz Słowacki and WWII hero Władysław Sikorski.
Lazienki Park: Located almost in the centre of the city, this expansive complex of heritage gardens is Warsaw’s “green lung”. The parkland features many architectural marvels, the two most tourist-haunted are the Chopin Monument and grand Palace on the Water, the summer residence of Poland’s last king August Poniatowski.
Jewish Quarter: When Hitler chose to expand Germany territories to provide “living space” for German people, Warsaw’s 350,000-strong Jewish communities had to make room by moving to the Nazi-built ghetto from where they eventually perished. Traces of the Jewish livelihood still remain but the best memoir is the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, which was instituted in 1948 to mark their heroic defiance of the Nazis.
Warsaw Rising Museum: Opened in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Warsaw Rising, this museum is a tribute to those who fought for Poland’s independence. Housed in an old tram power station, it recreates the city during its 63 days of military struggle and draws gruesome pictures of life during Nazi occupation.
Palace of Culture and Science: This 30-storey-high building with a 230-metre spire dominates the city skyline. This symbol of Soviet domination, now housing several cultural outlets, provokes diverse reactions — from admiration to demands for its demolition to wipe off the decaying remains of the Soviets.
Hotel Bristol: Situated on Krakowskie Przedmiescie next to the Presidential Palace, Hotel Bristol is part of the city’s history. Established in 1901 and refurbished later, it has a majestic neo-renaissance facade. A coffee and cake at their Cafe Bristol is a great way of immersing oneselfin its romantic interiors and classy hospitality.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines (www.emirates.com) via Dubai to Warsaw
Best time to visit: July to October