War/saw: Warsaw and WWII

Are you interested in the city’s complex and heroic past? Would you like to find some traces of the WWII in Warsaw? It is possible even if you have just 3-4 hours to spare for a city walk and you prefer to stay in the city centre.

 

 

You can start your walk in the historic and well-known areas such as the Old Town, but you will need to focus on curiosities and details that are hidden in plain sight. For instance, let’s take the Column in the Castle Sq., the one erected in the memory of Sigismund III Vasa and the main meeting point in that part of Warsaw. Originally it was built in 1644, but, after almost 220 years, the old marble column was replaced with a granite one. Then, the whole monument was destroyed during the Warsaw Rising 1944, the column was shattered into pieces and the bronze statue of the king was lying on the ground. That view was shown on one of the photos of the ruined city after the war.

Subsequently, it was rebuilt but the old columns are still on the square, next to the entrance to the Castle. You will be able to tell which is the oldest one and which was a war casualty even if you have no idea how to distinguish marble form granite. My advice: look for bullet holes.

As far as the Royal Castle is concerned, there is a special music event commemorating the WWII destruction of the building. Every day at 11.15 you will hear a trumpet player who appears on the Castles’s main tower (the one under the clock). It is a bugle call created especially for commemorating the damage done by German bombings from the beginning of the WWII. On the 17th of September 1939 the clock on the Castle Tower stopped precisely at 11.15 am and that is why we have the music played shortly before noon.

There are other memorials in the Old Town as well. As you walk in the vicinity of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral you will find small plaques commemorating barricades created by the Polish insurgents during the WWII. Last, but not least, the majestic 1944 Warsaw Rising Memorial will give a unique visual comment to the stories of bravery you may know from history books.

 


Warsaw is also one the most important Holocaust sites in Europe and some of the most significant memorials are located within a walking distance from the reconstructed walls of the Old Town. In 1940 the Jewish Ghetto was established in the Northern District of the city. Although the ghetto itself was razed to the ground after the Ghetto Rising in 1943, the traces of its existence are still to be found. For example, just outside of the Krasiński Garden you will see one of the Ghetto Wall Markers to show you the boundaries of the district.

Then, a few minutes away, you will be able to pay your respects to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto at the stairs of the famous memorial. If you decide to walk along the Ghetto Memory Trail, then you will get to the Umschlagplatz area, the very place from where the Jews were deported to the Treblinka II death camp during WWII. The urbanscape of that part of the city is modern, but even a short walk in a comunist-style housing estate will provide architectural and spatial context to the tragic history of the Warsaw Jews.

For more city walks in winter and in summer click our Warsaw section.

Our service:

This is a 3 -4-hour walking tour. However, there is a possibility to use very convenient public transport or a private car – if needed. There are daily or longer period tickets for the city’s trams and buses available in kiosks or ticket machines located at the major stops.

This itinerary offers you a very convenient start for further exploration. In the Old Town area you will find the Royal Castle with its art collection and a special exhibition on its WWII destruction and the subsequent reconstruction. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction of the Old Town district as a whole– then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town. As far as the history of the Warsaw’s Ghetto is concerned, we strongly recommend a visit to the Holocaust Gallery in the Polin Museum

We provide guiding services in the city and in the museums. There are entrance fees to museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums’ ticket offices. Group visits must be booked via the official website or the booking offices (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

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