Photo Tour: Warsaw Old Town

Photo Tour: Warsaw Old Town

War almost completely destroyed Warsaw Old Town, one of Europe’s most beautiful corners.  It was hard to believe that the charming old world city before me was rebuilt from the ground up, a successful reconstruction that brought historic beauty back to its buildings, squares, historic forts and thick defensive walls.

Explore Warsaw's Old Town

Warsaw Old Town is New

As I walked through Warsaw Old Town, known in Polish as Stare Miasto, it was hard to imagine that it had all crumbled down decades ago. The city was a casualty during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. That year, Nazi troops destroyed more than 90 percent of the historic area. What stood before me was a near total reconstruction, an excellent and meticulous restoration  that brought its churches, palaces, walls and squares back to life.

In 1980, UNESCO placed Warsaw old town on its list of World Heritage Sites as “an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.”

Even on those freezing cold grey days I visited, I loved walking among the town’s lanes, lined with structures reflecting a grand blend of Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic and neoclassical elements. It was fascinating to think it was all built again after the immense destruction of World War II.

You don’t need a map, you just need to get “lost.” Here is what you’ll find:

Warsaw Old Town Highlights

Castle Square

Plac Zamkowy

We walked up to the town from the tram stop on a main road. The square was impressive at face level but we got the great views of Plac Zamkowy and the royal castle from a viewing deck right next to the square called Taras Widowkowy. It cost two euro per person or so to gain access.

Castle Square was appropriately named since it was located in front of the royal castle, the former home of Polish royalty.

Nice cold cloudy day view of Old Town Warsaw.

Nice cold cloudy day view of Warsaw.

Old Town looking to the new city center of Warsaw, Poland.

Old town looking to the new city center of Warsaw, Poland.

View from an old tower in Warsaw.

View from an old tower in Warsaw.

From the tower, I snapped a chilly view of the frozen Vistula River.

Looking out from the tower to the Vistula River.

Looking out from the tower to the Vistula River.

Royal Castle

Zamek Królewski / www.zamek-krolewski.pl

Built in the 15th century, the castle served as residence of Mazovian princes. In the centuries that followed it was considered one of the finest royal residences in Europe. Sadly, it was blown up by the Germans in World War II, another historic old town structure that was completely restored.

Zamek Królewski and tree.

Zamek Krolewski and tree.

King Zygmunt III Waza Column

Kolumna króla Zygmunta III Wazy

The huge statue in Zamakowy Square happens to be the oldest and tallest non-church monument in Warsaw. King Wladyslaw IV built it in 1644 to honor his father Zygmunt III Waza, the Polish king responsible for moving the capital from Krakow to Warsaw.

Plac Zamkowy in Old Town Warsaw.

Plac Zamkowy in old town.

Old Town Market Square

Rynek Starego Miasta

At the core of Warsaw Old Town is the Old Town Market Square, one of the most picturesque areas of the city. Built in the late 13th century, it was the place to go for everything: to celebrate holidays, go to the market and attend public condemnations.

Old Town Square in Warsaw.

Old Town Market Square in Warsaw.

Monument of the Warsaw Mermaid

Pomnik Warszawskiej Syrenki

The Syrenka Mermaid Statue stands in the heart of  the Old Town Square. Due to vandalism, the original was moved to the Historical Museum of Warsaw. While I was there, the famous replica was surrounded by a temporary ice skating rink.

The Syrenka Mermaid Statue in Warsaw Old Town Market Square.

The Syrenka Mermaid Statue in Warsaw Old Town Market Square.

Why a mermaid statue? You can find the whole story… about how once upon a time, a beautiful mermaid swum in from the Vistula river to become to be a symbol of the city…  Visit the site Polish 4 Kids.com for more.

Barbican and the City’s Defensive Walls

Barbakan i mury obronne

Warsaw’s red brick defensive walls came up in the 16th century, including a large semicircular defensive tower. The amazing protective walls were almost completely destroyed during World War II by the Nazis. The walls were restored after the war ended.

Barbican fortress dates back to the 16th century.

Barbican fortress dates back to the 16th century.

Barbican gates of Old Town Warsaw.

Barbican gates of Old Town Warsaw.

Crosses in the skyline of Old Town Warsaw.

Behind the walls. Crosses in the skyline of Old Town Warsaw.

Little Insurgent Monument

Pomnik Małego Powstańca 

This little sculpture reminds the world of Poland’s heroic children who fought against the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising. Located just outside the walls, the statue depicts a boy with a helmet much too large for him, a touching monument to those unfortunate children of war.

Statue of the Little Insurgent.

Touching monument. The statue of the Little Insurgent.

Cathedral Basilica of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Bazylika Archikatedralna pw. Męczeństwa św. Jana Chrzciciela

ulica Swietojanska 8 / www.katedra.mkw.pl

The cathedral, which back to the 14th century, was the scene of many historic events, weddings, coronations and funerals.

Warsaw Old Town at Night

Exploring Warsaw in winter time means you pretty much freeze walking around. However, you also get to see how the capital decorates its most picturesque streets for the season. A big plus! I was really impressed with the lovely winter holiday decorations.

In the Old Town Market Square, all kinds of folks and children skated in the temporary ice skating rink while other lined up for mulled hot wine at little kiosks nearby.

Here’s a little video clip of the festive night time ambiance in Warsaw Old Town from my YouTube channel.

The medieval city walls at night in Warsaw.

The medieval city walls at night in Warsaw.

Getting There:

From Athens, there are several direct flights starting at 100 Euro (including return and taxes, fees). I flew Aegean Air.

Where to Stay in Warsaw

Hotel Rialto

Read my review on this Art Deco luxury boutique hotel here.  A 15-minute tram ride away in the new town.

Where to Eat in Warsaw

La Rotisserie

A gourmet experience of European and Polish flavors —  not to be missed — in the old town. Here’s the link to my review of La Rotisserie called Gourmet Dining in Warsaw.

What to Do in Warsaw

Future posts on the following experiences soon…

Adventure Warsaw Tours – Tour around in a vintage Communist era van and see the city from a local’s perspective.

Warsaw Uprising Museum – A fantastic history museum that thoroughly delves into the Warsaw Uprising, the heroic but doomed resistance against German occupation in 1944.

Have you ever been to Old Town Warsaw? What were your special highlights?



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I'm a travel writer and journalist from New York. Join me on my travels as I explore Greece, Europe and beyond.

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  1. […] Be sure to check out my earlier photo tour post about Old Town Warsaw. […]

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