The highlights of Warsaw and a selfie with Frederic Chopin

The absolute must see in the historic area of Warsaw: the Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage site), glimpses on Wisła (our river), the elegant Krakowskie Przedmieście, the modern University of Warsaw Library, the Chopin’s heart and… a personal selfie photo session with the composer. What should you expect?

First of all – don’t worry about the Chopin’s heart. Actually, you can’t see it as it is hidden in a niche and covered with a proper stone plaque. Then, be prepared for the story of the afterwar reconstruction. Historically speaking, the Old Town heritage covers almost 7 centuries of architecture, but most of it was recreated after WWII.

Next, visiting the St. John the Baptist Cathedral (Roman Catholic) or the Market Sq. provides you with a unique opportunity to feel the inner strength of the Polish nation. The people’s will brought about the reconstruction of the entire district on a unique scale in the history of the world. It’s not an exaggeration: the reconstruction was the reason why the Old Town in Warsaw was listed as the part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

Then, the Warsaw University Campus with its duality: the grand and noble buildings of the old section in Krakowskie Przedmieście and quite unique modern architecture in the Powiśle area, such as one of the Warsaw icons: the New University Library Building with its remarkable roof garden and a panoramic view on the Wisła river and the city centre.

In November 2016 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the University as it was established in 1816. The Krakowskie Przedmieście Campus is worth visiting also as a place closely associated with biographies of its alumni, such as Frederic Chopin. This is where you will find one of the playing musical benches. And you can take a selfie with the composer right at the entrance to his home – all you have to do is download the free app called selfie with Chopin from the official tourist site of the city or ask your guide!

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

Our service:

This is our most popular 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. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction – then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town.

We provide guiding services. There are entrance fees to both museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums ticket office. 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.

Praga and its Jewish heritage

The original hideout where a Righteous Among the Nations family was hiding Jews during WWII, two prayer halls and a glimpse of a pre-war city. The stories and architecture of the eastern part of Warsaw inspired Hollywood directors and local street art artists.

For years Praga in Warsaw (the district on the eastern bank of the Wisła river and not the capital city of the Czech Republic) has been considered an area off the beaten track and a place known only to the locals. And yet, there is a lot to discover. What should you expect?

First of all, if you know the Warsaw city centre – be prepared for a total change in urbanscape. Even a short walk in the Praga district will give you an opportunity to enjoy Warsaw from the pre-war times. This part of the city wasn’t as destroyed as the western bank of the river. Some areas are truly neglected, some has been given a total makeover, but it is a district almost without the communist imprint.

Secondly, the Jewish heritage sites are mostly linked with every day life of the pre-war Jewish Community in Warsaw. There are two small Jewish prayer halls you can visit (today a part of the Praga Museum) and the oldest market place in Warsaw called Bazar Różyckiego. We will show you the Auxilium Academicum Judaicum student house where Menachem Begin, and other Jewish students, lived while studying at Warsaw University. There is a majestic complex of the Michał Bergson Jewish orphanage and dormitory. Both buildings were designed by Henryk Stifelman, an eminent Polish Jewish architect active in Warsaw in 1920s.

Last but not least, visiting the Warsaw Zoo can be an absolute highlight of your stay in Warsaw. You will find there the original, pre-war villa and home of Antonina and Jan Żabinski, the director of the Zoo. Their biographies have inspired writers and film-makers. During WWII, the whole family, the young son Ryś included, was involved in the resistance. They decided to use empty cages and enclosures for hiding people, arms and ammunition. This is how they helped many Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. In the villa you will see the original hideouts prepared by Mr and Mrs Żabiński and you will be able to learn more about this amazing gentile family of the Righteous Among the Nations. 

What happened in the Warsaw’s zoo is the actual true story behind The Zookeeper’s wife: a novel by Diane Ackerman and a movie by Niki Caro. By the way, the film’s location was Praha, the capital city of the Czech Republic, not Warsaw… But some streets of the central Praga were used as a location in other films. For example, Roman Polański shot there some scenes of The Pianist –  another real WWII story about Władysław Szpilman, an extremely talented Jewish musician, who stayed and survived in Warsaw during the German occupation.

Our service:

We prepared 3 hours walking itinerary in the central part of Praga. There is an entrance fee to the Praga Museum – a local historical museum of the district, and the prayer house entrance is included in the Praga Museum ticket.

There is an entrance fee to the Zoo and the Żabińskis villa. The visit may be arranged in the mornings and early afternoons. It takes approximately 1 hour.

Łazienki: Royal Baths of Warsaw

Łazienki – the Royal Baths of Warsaw – Park Łazienkowski: all these names are given to one place that is considered the most magical in Warsaw. This is a common belief shared by the local people and visitors. So, what is all the fuss about?

The Royal Baths of Warsaw is a complex of gardens and villas created originally in the second half of the 18th century for the Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Today it is 76 hectares of greenery in the city centre and (at least) three different gardens, so even a short walk is like a live lecture on the history of landscape architecture.

The oldest part is called the Royal Garden and it was created in the 18th century, then there is the Romantic Garden (the 19th century). The 20th century Modernist Garden is the most famous and photographed part due to the Fryderyk (this is the Polish spelling!) Chopin Monument and summer piano recitals. There is also a Chinese garden – the newest addition to the Łazienki complex designed following the Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing.

Mind you, we are talking about the major attraction in Warsaw with a very busy cultural calendar full of concerts and events: the Chinese lanterns festival or Chopin recitals are just the most famous ones. The Polish Tourist Organisation recorded that in 2013 Łazienki were visited by a little over than 2 000 000 people and the survey showed the constant increase in number of visiters in 2011-2013. Sometimes, especially on spring or autumn weekends, finding a secluded spot can be really challenging.  Monday to Friday are much less busy. Alternatively,  you can decide to visit the royal villas as most visitors focus on the gardens.

All the greenery is just a part of Łazienki as there are several royal villas to visit. The main one is called the Palace on the Isle (in Polish: Pałac na Wyspie). Then, there is the White Pavilion and the Myślewicki Palace.What is more, the king was renowned for his vast cultural interests and this is why you can find two theatres in his park: the open-air Amphitheatre and the elegant, wooden hall that was arranged in the building of the Old Orangery. All in all, you can stay here all day or come for a short walk, but it is an absolute must see in our city.

Our service:

The guided sightseeing includes a walk in the gardens and visits to the king’s villas such as the Palace on the Isle or the Old Orangery with an original 18th. century theatre. We provide guides who are licensed for both gardens and villas.

The entrance to the park and summer Chopin recitals is free but there is an entrance fee to villas. The ticket price depends on the number of villas you decide to visit.

Beijing in Warsaw

There is a piece of Beijing in Warsaw. Perhaps, it is a bit controversial – some people simply adore it, but some just ask why we decided to have a Chinese garden in the middle of our capital city.

This is a Chinese garden designed following the Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing, and you can find it in the Łazienki park. It was created in Warsaw in 2014, but there was a Chinese Avenue in our park 200 years ago, at the times of king Stanisław August Poniatowski, who created the residence.

Every summer, the Chinese section of the park expands: the red lanterns and other lighting features are built along the main alley. It is a part of the Garden of Light festival that has been organised by different historic residences all over the world since 2012: the common denominator being the fact that all the gardens/members were created in the 18th or the 19th century.

To sum up, the Chinese Lantern Festival and the Chinese garden in Warsaw are an elaborate reference to the 18th century European fashion for all things Chinese or, at least, from Far East. The king who founded Łazienki was no different. He was educated and open minded enough to follow the European interests. And since 1764, when he was elected king, he had enough money to act on this cultural pursuit. There are old plans and views of his park with pagodas and water features in “Oriental style”. What is more, in 2012 the traces of the old Chinese Bridge were discovered during the excavations – actually, the old Chinese garden was located not very far from where you can see two new pagodas today.

For more of our park and city walks suggestions go to sections: Warsaw  and Łazienki: Royal Baths of Warsaw.

Praga: eastern bazaar, bears at the tram stop and more…

The eastern bazaar is called in Polish Bazar Różyckiego and it is the oldest in Warsaw; bears are for real as they live in a zoological garden enclosure. What more can you find in Praga?

Praga in Warsaw, the eastern part of the city, is a district where you can explore multicultural traditions. Jews, Roman Catholics and  Orthodox Christians have lived together for many centuries and that is why churches and synagogues were built in a very close proximity. Secondly, it was almost not destroyed during WWII and you can still recognise some views from the 100 years old postcards and photos. Even a short walk offers a complete change of urbanscape for people who are familiar with the Warsaw’s city centre with its reconstructions and communist architecture.

Truth be told, some of the houses are in need of a complete makeover and some must be properly restored. Unsurprisingly, the most neglected streets were used as WWII film sets – the most famous case being the Pianist on Władysław Szpilman’s war experiences. The eastern district seemed to be a perfect film substitute for the Warsaw ghetto scenery.

A walk in Praga may be full of surprises. You can meet  – bronze musicians in the middle of the street. They used to be a local entertainment as they wandered around the city with their music. There is more: an original bunker from the times of WWII and “pyzy”: an emblematic street food from Bazar Różyckiego. The home made dumplings filled with meat and served with a lot of gravy were sold from glass jars. Today, you can have meat or vegetarian option in one of the bars around the bazaar.

Our service:

Our 3 hours walk will take you to the centre of the district in the vicinity of the Różycki Bazaar and the Zoo. There is a possibility to combine this itinerary with visiting the Praga Museum (a local historical museum of the district and the Jewish prayer house from the 1800’s) and the Żabińskis villa with the hideouts built to save Jews from the Ghetto; for more information go to the post on the Jewish heritage in Praga.

There is an entrance fee to Praga Museum – the Jewish prayer house entrance is included in the Praga Museum ticket.

There is an entrance fee to the Zoo and . The visit may be arranged in the mornings and early afternoons only and it will take approximately 1 hour.

Treblinka

Treblinka II was a Nazi German extermination camp established in summer of 1942. It existed for over a year – in late summer of 1943 the camp buildings were completely destroyed and the ground was turned into a farmland.  Planning your trip there? This is what you should expect.

Firstly, during WWII there were two camps located in close proximity, this is why the Treblinka Holocaust site is known as the camp number 2. Today in both sites you can see memorials and information boards with necessary explanation and photos from WWII.

As for the Treblinka II Memorial, it was designed by three artists: Adam Haupt, Franciszek Duszenko and Franciszek Strynkiewicz and was built in 1959 – 1963. The boundaries of the camp are marked by pillars of granite, and there is a symbolic “camp ramp” with “rail tracks”. The tall Memorial shows the location of the new gas chambers and behind it, there is a rectangular hole filled with black basalt to indicate the place where the corpses were cremated. The camp was built on an area of 17 hectares and, as far the size is concerned, it can be compared with the Auschwitz I (20 ha), while the Auschwitz II – Birkenu Museum grounds cover 171 hectares.

What is more, it seems impossible to estimate the exact number of people killed in the Treblinka II death camp. However, it is believed that probably between 700,000 and 925,000 Jews were deported there. Undoubtedly, regarding the number of victims, Treblinka II was the second largest extermination camp – after Auschwitz I and II. Today, around the big, matzevah-like Memorial, there are 17 000 granite stones with 221 names of different towns engraved, as the Jews murdered in Treblinka were deported from many ghettos, for example Warsaw, Radom or Białystok. The only exception was made for doctor Janusz Korczak.

The Memorial to the victims of Treblinka extermination camp is one of the most important sites for the history of Holocaust in Mazovia region. There is also a small museum where you can see a reconstruction of the Treblinka II camp, maps, photos and some artefacts found during excavations.

Wilanow

Warsaw became a capital city of Poland at the turn of the 17th c. Subsequently, the kings and the most influential aristocrats turned the new capital into a city of palaces and gardens – all in the Baroque style! The Wilanow Palace and Garden, located in the distant southern part of the city, and not destroyed during the WWII, is a perfect place to see how it was like to be the mighty king of Poland and Lithuania.

The Wilanow Palace is considered to be one of the oldest museums in Poland. The Baroque royal apartments, private rooms decorated in the 18th century style and halls created in the 19th c. – all that is opened for every visitor. The museum itinerary includes also the so-called Polish Portrait Gallery with a collection of paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, such as the Portrait of Count Stanisław Potocki by Jacques-Louis David and the coffin portraits characteristic for the Old Polish culture.

Then, the palace is surrounded by a mix of formal Baroque garden, a romantic English-Chinese park, and an English landscape park. And a landscape specialist will be able to find some more influences. There are many music concerts being held both in the halls and in the gardens. And in winter, the museum is renowned for its gardens of light installations.

Our service
We provide guiding services – we can guide you in the Museum permanent exhibition and the gardens. Tickets to Wilanow for individual visitors must be bought at the Wilanow Museum ticket office (no possibility of on-line booking). Group visits must be booked via the Wilanow official website (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.
A guided tour of the Wilanow Palace * takes approx.: 60 – 80 min.
A guided tour of the Gardens* takes min. 30-40 min.
* Please note that availability of exhibitions, the opening hours and the guiding restrictions are subject to the Wilanow Museum Regulations