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Warsaw (Warszawa in Polish) is the capital city of Poland and with a population of approximately 1¾ million people (approximately 2⅔ million in the greater metropolitan area), the country's largest. The city is in central-eastern Poland and stands on the Vistula river, approximately 160 miles from the Baltic Sea, as the crow flies. The city is about 325ft above sea level and has a humid continental climate.

Above: Warsaw's Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta), First Visit in 1998)

The first settlements where Warsaw now stands were formed in the 10th and 11th centuries. A stronghold was established towards the end of the 13th century, serving as the seat of the Mazowsze Dukes. A town soon followed which together with the stronghold was named Warszowa. In the 1430's the town had been established and had fortifications. In the 1500's, the role of the city as a political centre has increased and it now had become a regional capital. In 1526, after the Mazowsze Duke's dynasty ended, the region became incorporated into the Crown. Mainly due to it's central position within the country, Warsaw's political significance grew throughout the 16th century. In 1573, King Sigismund Vasa III made the decision to permanently move the royal residence to here from Kraków, along with the main state offices and as a result, Warsaw became the capital city in 1596. Consequently, the city expanded further with many large residences being built in the suburbs and it also became the country's main centre of science, art and culture. In the 17th century, Warsaw was attacked and destroyed, in a war with Sweden, but was rebuilt shortly afterwards. The development of the city continued throughout the  19th century despite the partitioning of Poland, and the territory now belonging to Prussia. After WW I, Warsaw became the capital of Poland once again. However, at the start of WWII, when Poland had been invaded by Germany, the German siege and bombing of Warsaw destructed the city partly and it's Jewish population were herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. Despite an uprising, the city was eventually left in ruins; the result of WWII was that 85% of Warsaw's buildings had been destroyed. A painstaking reconstruction of Warsaw began in 1945. Many of the historic areas were restored to their original form, alongside new post-war constructions. As a result of this turbulent history and surviving many wars, conflicts and invasions, Warsaw gained the nickname "Phoenix City".

The photos lower down on this webpage are from two trips to the city and during the earlier one in 1998, most of the visit was concerned with looking at the older parts of the city (remembering that much of the old town was reconstructed/recreated in the post-war years). Most of the photos in the first thumbnail gallery below  are from this trip. For the visitor, Warsaw's buildings show a wide range of architectural styles (e.g. gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical periods) and approximately one quarter of the city is filled with exquisite parks and royal gardens. As a major international tourist destination, there are plenty of attractions to see in the city, some of which are mentioned here, as follows:

The Łazienki Palace (Baths Palace), also called the Palace on the Water [Photos 1-4, below] is a Baroque palace in Warsaw's Royal Baths Park. The park here is the largest park in Warsaw and occupies over 76ha of the city centre; The Royal Castle [Photos 6-8] is a castle residency that formerly served throughout the centuries as the official residence of the Polish monarchs. It is located in Castle Square, at the entrance to the city's Old Town. The building contained the personal offices of the king and the administrative offices of the Royal Court of Poland from the 16th century until the Partitions of Poland; The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier [Photo 11] is a monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who have given their lives for Poland. The monument is located at Piłsudski Square. Since 1925, it has housed the tomb of an unidentified body of a young soldier who fell during the Defence of Lwów. The eternal flame is guarded by the Representative Battalion of the Polish Army; The Warsaw Barbican [Photo 14], is a semicircular fortification, and one of few remaining structures of the complex network of historic fortifications that once encircled the old town. Originally built in 1540, the current structure was largely destroyed in WWII and reconstructed in  1952–1954, with the help of 17th-century etchings; Photo 15 shows a bust of Pope Saint John Paul II, who is famously Polish; The Warsaw Uprising Monument [Photo 16] is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unveiled in 1989, it is located on the southern side of Krasiński Square; Views of the city from the observation deck of the Palace of Culture and Science [Photos 17-19] - see below for further information about this not-to-be-missed building; The Presidential Palace [Photo 22]. The palace we see today is a classicist latest version of a building that has stood here since 1643. It is located on Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of the best known and most prestigious streets in the city. The palace has been rebuilt and remodelled many times throughout its history; St. John's Archcathedral [Photo 23] is a Catholic church in Warsaw's Old Town. It is the mother church of the archdiocese of Warsaw; Saint Kazimierz Church [Photo 25] is a Roman Catholic church situated on the New Town Square; Warsaw's famous Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta) [Photos 29-32] sits in the centre and the oldest part of the Old Town. Immediately after the Warsaw Uprising, it was systematically blown up by the German Army. It was meticulously restored to its pre-war appearance after WWII. The Old Town Market Place originated in the late 13th century, at the same time that the city was founded. To wander around, or to simply sit outside one of the cafes today, soaking up the atmosphere in the heart of this wonderful city, it is difficult to imagine the buildings around you are not the original structures.

The most famous monument of Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science. I have included a separate page about this on this website, which includes some images, text and (available on most platforms) a 360° Panoramic view of this majestic building from street level. Click Here to view the page or on the picture below:

The second trip to Warsaw took place some years later and included a brief look at some of the more modern parts of the city. All of the photos in the thumbnail gallery below are from this visit and include several skyscrapers, hotels, the central station, a modern shopping centre and the new National Stadium which opened on January 29, 2012. With the collapse of communism in Poland and then the country subsequently becoming a member of the European Union in 2004, in recent times Warsaw has experienced  the biggest economic boom of its history; the city forms a significant cultural, political and economic hub. The Warsaw Metro opened in 1995. Industries in the city include manufacturing of consumer goods, steel and electronics, food processing and R&D. The city now has one of the most important stock exchanges of in Central and Eastern Europe and is also the main centre for the Polish media industry.

The Historic Centre of Warsaw is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some other sites in the city not mentioned on this web page include many other significant religious buildings, mansions and palaces, the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the city's four universities, two opera houses, an array of theatres, art galleries, museums, libraries and monuments. And so, there is plenty to do here whether it is your first time, or you are fortunate to be able to return again one day soon.

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