Warsaw Old Town Attractions
Warsaw is a city on the rise. A bit like Berlin, the capital of Poland seems to be moving at a fast pace, constantly evolving and thriving. Devastated by the horrors witnessed by mankind in World War II, Warsaw was damaged more than any other city during the global conflict, as 85% of the buildings were destroyed or burned down. As a result, the city has a very modern feeling to it, with many skyscrapers and modern buildings giving it a true 21st century look. As cosmopolitan as Warsaw might feel, the city never really forgot its pre-war roots, which brings us to this post’s subject.
Once one of the most enchanting Old Towns in Europe, there was nothing left of Warsaw’s magical city centre after the end of the war. Savaged and ruined, the Poles now only had pictures and paintings to remind them of their capital’s heart, but as it turns out, they would later put those memories and images to good use. When plans were approved for the recovery of the city’s infrastructures, local authorities decided Warsaw’s Old Town would be rebuilt exactly like it used to be. Every tiny street, every square and every house was rebuilt using those pre-1939 pictures we mentioned as a model. More than a beautiful area for visitors to enjoy, the Old Town is a living testament to the sacrifice and will of a nation.
If you’re visiting Warsaw, just enjoy the wonders of its Old Town:
OLD TOWN MARKET PLACE
This is the place everyone wants to visit when in Warsaw and undoubtedly one of the loveliest squares in the world. Just like the rest of the city, there was nothing left of this square by the end of WWII but in just 5 years the area was brought back to life. Completely surrounded by guildhouses rebuilt according to the original 17th century buildings which were standing before the war, the Old Town Market Place is also home to the iconic Warsaw Mermaid Statue, the same legendary sea creature that features in the city’s official crest. It’s the kind of place that will make you travel back in time and an absolute must if you’re visiting the Phoenix City.
Well this is deceiving! Despite being called New Town, this district was in fact established in the 15th century as a separate quarter from the Old Town. Nevertheless, it retains all the beauty and charm from the latter and even met the same unfortunate fate at the hands of Nazi Germany, only to be rebuilt afterwards. The fact that many visitors overlook it in favour of the Old Town is actually an advantage! You’ll be able to walk around, explore the cobblestoned streets and visit the historical churches, all of this while having the whole place to yourself (at least we did!)
THE BARBICAN AND CITY WALLS
Separating the Old from the New Town, the Barbican is the most popular feature in the Warsaw City Walls. Encircling the entire Old Town, these walls were once state-of-the-art when it came to warfare, with several turrets and towers granting an efficient defensive system. Although most of those elements are long gone, the Polish government chose to rebuild and keep the Barbican as they believed it would become a valuable tourist attraction in the future. With its imposing and impenetrable look, 60 years later we can only nod our heads in agreement.
Nothing is more Polish than going to church and celebrate Catholicism. In a time where people are distancing themselves further and further away from religion, Poland holds on tight to its Christian roots, and the countless number of churches you can find in most Polish cities are a clear sign of their strong faith. Although not quite at Krakow’s level (where it feels like you can bump into a church every 5 steps), Warsaw is also home to multiple churches, and the Old Town is no exception! We recommend visiting – at least – the following:
- St. John the Baptist Cathedral
- Shrine of Our Lady of Grace
- St. Martin’s Church
- Cathedral Church of the Polish Army
If the Market Place is Old Town’s most prominent attraction, the Castle Square has to be a close second. After all, it encompasses a little bit of all the things that makes the historic quarter so amazing. The colourful houses, a piece of the city wall and the same nostalgic feeling - plus a fantastic city castle and the Sigismund's Column. Not only is the Castle Square absolutely enchanting, it also connects to the Krakowskie Przedmiescie, marking the start of the Warsaw Royal Route.
In the end, it all comes down to this. It’s a pleasure to simply wander aimlessly and take in all the beauty around you. After all, Warsaw’s Old Town was never famous for pompous constructions or over-the-top palaces. The city’s character lies on its streets, in every beautiful façade, every mysterious alley and every hidden detail, and that is why we love it!
Stepping into the Old Town of Warsaw really feels like stepping into a different world. The unique atmosphere, heartbreaking past and beautiful architecture all play their roles into making this a place you won’t soon forget. Have you ever wandered through Warsaw’s Old Town? What is your favourite feature in the area? Let us know on the comments below!