The highlights of Warsaw and a selfie with Frederic Chopin

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

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.

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.

Spring in Warsaw: flowers and their secrets 

There are more than 67 city parks and gardens in Warsaw. However, they are not the only place to look for signs of spring. There are spring flowers and vegetables on the markets while the city gardeners are busy with new plants on the streets. And some of the flower beds have a special meaning!

Magnolias are the first ones: in the yard of the University of Warsaw or at the old entrance to the Wilanów Palace. You can find them blossoming in March and April. In May, all the horse-chestnut trees are in bloom! They are not edible, but fun in autumn when you can make a toy figurine out of their nut-like seeds and a few matches. In spring the trees are a nice view for adults and visitors, but an omen of uncertain future for high school students – the final exams are scheduled for the first weeks of May.

During a city walk, you can find Irena Sendler red tulips named after a nurse and a social worker, who saved 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. That variety was created by Jan Ligthart, a bulbgrower from Breezand in the Netherlands. He has been growing and creating new flower bulbs all his life since he was 13 years old. There are other Jan Ligthart tulips bearing Polish names, such as violet the Chopin’s Prelude, which can be found in the Royal Łazienki.

In April, you are going to see a lot of yellow daffodils. They are very popular spring flowers, but some of them are planted in memory of the Warsaw ghetto fighters and their commander – Marek Edelman. He used to leave a bunch of the spring flowers on the Rapaport Memorial to the Heroes of the Ghetto every April, on the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Ghetto Rising.

Last but not least, there are some more flowers named after Frederic Chopin. There are at least two kinds of tulips: the violet one created by Jan Ligthart and the another lemon-yellow, lily-shaped variety called simply the Chopin tulip. What is more, there is a rose named after the pianist as well. The nicest flower bed with the Chopin roses is located at the back entrance to the composer’s birth place in Żelazowa Wola. The rose was created in 1980 by an important Polish breeder Stanisław Żyła and it is quite a tall bush. Actually, the mature Chopin rose is taller than the composer himself, as he was 170 cm while the flower can grow up to 2 meters. It starts blossoming in June.

Our service:

The city’s parks and gardens like the Royal Łazienki, squares with the Warsaw Ghetto monuments or Frederic Chopin and his Warsaw – these are some of our city walks itineraries where you can find spring flowers. Go to Warsaw section for more sightseeing ideas.

Winter activities

Every December the historic city centre (the Old Town and Krakowskie Przedmiescie St.) turns into a Christmas amusement park, full of light decorations and seasonal markets. The festive atmosphere lasts until the end of January.

The winter lights display switched on in December 2016 covered approximately 20 km of streets and cost 6. 5 million PLN (divide by 4 to get the amount in EURO or USD). What is more, every year there are ice rinks built in different parts of the city. Traditionally there is one prepared in the middle of the Old Town Market Sq. The 2016/2017 winter season it is open every day, from 10.30 -to 21.30 and you can enjoy the winter recreation until February 28, 2017.

The winter city activities provide us all with a unique opportunity to see Warsaw in a festive mood. But let’s not forget that the area of the ice rink is, what we may call, the new Old Town of Warsaw. During the WWII, more than 85% of the city historic centre was destroyed, but a reconstruction campaign started by the Polish citizens resulted in a comprehensive rebuilding of the historic centre after 1945. So, when you get tired of romantic walks and chilly weather – visit one of the Old Town museums; to warm up and to learn more on the district’s past. My favourites are: the Royal Castle and the Warsaw Museum, both of them with a very informative documentary films on the history of the city.

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

Warszawa in winter

Wisła, the longest and the largest river in Poland. In summer, there are cruises and sandy beaches full of people enjoying the season. In winter, you can walk along the river banks or admire the frosty panorama from the Old Town hill. Snow turns Warsaw into a real photographers’ paradise. You can find equally interesting winter locations in one of the city’s parks, like the Chinese garden in the Łazienki Park .

To find more about our city walks go to the sections: our programmes and Warsaw.