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The Warsaw Royal Castle

Warsaw, Poland's capital city 300 kilometers from Krakow. 

Poland’s capital is also its biggest city and principal business center. Since the Nazis razed it methodically in 1944, downtown Warsaw lacks historical monuments and its landmarks are of either postwar construction or postwar reconstruction, the Old Town and the Royal Castle in the first place. As the capital city, Warsaw boasts an array of National culture institutions – The National Opera, The National Theater, The National Library, etc – and vies with Krakow for cultural preeminence. There are also admirable restaurants and vigorous nightlife.

 

History of Warsaw

14th-century founded, Warsaw arrived rather late on Poland’s map. Yet, as the country expanded north and east in the 15th century, the once humble peripheral town gained central location and soon became commercial and political hub. In 1609, when the Krakow Royal Castle needed repair after a fire, King Sigismund III moved his residence temporarily to Warsaw, which proved permanent. In 1791 the city was at last officially sanctioned as the capital of Poland. When the heroic 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the overwhelming Nazi forces failed, they took their revenge and demolished the city block after block.

Warsaw features 

Vistula (Wisla) river, the same that flows through Krakow, divides the 1.8-milion Warsaw in two. The eastern right-bank part called Praga has no major tourist attractions. The city center lies on the left bank, with the rebuilt historical Old Town to the north and main government and embassy district to the south. While Stalin-era edifices mark downtown Warsaw, prefab-concrete blocks of flats mar the suburbs. Mushrooming corporate towers has made Warsaw the second construction site in the Central Europe after Berlin in the 21st century.

Main tourist sights of Warsaw

The Old Town’s reconstruction, from 1949 through 1963, tried to restore its architectural best from the 17th and 18th centuries, and most visitors find the result enchanting. The historical district surrounds atmospheric central square with open-air cafés and art stalls. The Warsaw Historical Museum occupies its northern side displaying collections from the city’s earlier history and documents of the World War 2 tragedy. Royal Castle on the rim of the Old Town was rebuilt from foundations up in the years 1971 through 1980. The massive edifice has taken the shape the former residence of both Poland’s elected monarchs and its powerful parliaments acquired in the late 18th-century refurbishment. The state halls and royal apartments have been meticulously redone and, filled with period furniture and art, opened to the public. Royal Route, running from the Royal Castle south to the Polish last monarch’s summer residence in Lazienki Palace, is lined with churches, palaces, museums, galleries, and government buildings. Turning left at the first traffic circle one finds the National Museum with an excellent accumulation of Polish art, medieval through contemporary, and a unique collection of early Christian frescos from the Polish-excavated cathedral in Sudan’s Pharos besides an amazing display of Coptic crosses. Farther south, on an island in vast Lazienki Park, is the 18th-century exquisite Classic Palace on the Water. Still farther south is another and older royal summer residence amid fine park–the 17th-century Versailles-like Baroque Wilanow Palace.

Warsaw’s most outstanding landmark, literally, is the 230-meter-tall Stalin-era Palace of Culture and Science in the city center, ugly and pretentious, yet specious enough to shelter innumerable offices as well as 3 theaters, Poland’s biggest Congress Hall, 2 museums, a playhouse, and trade-fair facilities. And there is a viewing gallery on top of it.

Food in Warsaw

An array of places all over the Old Town serves Polish and international food. Good restaurants are found in other parts of the city too. Notably ethnic cuisine outlets–from Vietnamese to Italian–have mushroomed in the recent years. And a downtown hotel restaurant is a safe bet.

Transport from Krakow

Krakow and Warsaw are linked by shuttle express trains that reach either destination in under three hours, no stops in between. Besides, as Poland's capital, Warsaw is a busy transport hub for airlines, trains and buses, domestic and international. The main railroad station – Warszawa Centralna – is placed in the very city center, next to the towering Palace of Culture and Science. Warsaw international and domestic Okecie airport is some 10 kilometers southwest from it.



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