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Historical Warsaw: Old Town and Royal Route

Explore the beauty of Warsaw historical landmarks with me!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Have you considered Warsaw as your next destination? Let me introduce to you the most important historical landmarks around two main touristic areas of Warsaw: Old Town and Royal Route.

This trip was supported by the Polish tourism board. 

1. Old Town and Old Town market place

Old town of Warsaw dates back to the 13th century, and it’s an absolute must see: narrow streets, colourful merchant houses, lots of cafes and restaurants.

It was reconstructed and now is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Did you know that about 90% of Warsaw Old Town was destroyed during WWII?

There is a fountain with the Mermaid (or more correctly, melusina, a freshwater kind of mermaid) statue designed by sculptor Konstanty Hegel  in the centre of Old Town market place: it’s the symbol of Warsaw! 

You might also like the New Town: it’s not so new, dating back to the 18 century and was called so in opposition to the older Old Town. 

2. Warsaw Barbican

Warsaw barbican was erected in 1540 as a part of defensive city walls around the Old City (look at those massive four towers!) but wasn’t used much as fortification.

It was restored after WWII as well and now it’s not only a historical landmark but also a very impressive photo location.

3. Antonina Leśniewska Museum of Pharmacy 

We also visited Antonina Leśniewska Museum of Pharmacy named after the first woman in the country and one of the first in the world who fought their way through to get a higher education and officially graduated as pharmacist in 1884.

The interiors are true to the pharmacy of the 30s. And there’s also an exhibition dedicated to the Japanese traditional pharmaceuticals.

4. St John’s Archcathedral

St John’s Archcathedral is one of the most important churches in Poland as it’s the mother church of the archdiocese of Warsaw.

The tomb of the last King of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski is located here as well as the burials of Dukes of Masovia, two Polish presidents, writer Henryk Sienkiewicz and some notable musicians and politicians. St John’s Archcathedral was massively damaged during WWI and was rebuilt later.

Archcathedral is adjacent to the Jesuit church and right behind it is the Canon Square (plac Kanonia) with the 17th-century wishing bell of Warsaw. For more views continue walking towards the river, and you’ll see a terrace overlooking the banks of Vistula.

5. Royal Castle

Royal castle is an unmissable landmark of Warsaw: its red 90-metres tall tower is on all the postcards! This is the main palace of the Polish monarchy since the capital was moved to Warsaw from Krakow’ Wawel Castle in the 16th century while the first fortifications on this site were erected in the 13th-14th century.

The Royal castle was sadly partly damaged first in the 17th century by Swedes, occupied by Russians in the 19th century and then suffered under Nazi occupation during WWII. Sadly we didn’t have time to enter (it is closed on Mondays, check the opening hours in advance and don’t be like us!) as it operates as a museum with the state apartments and the art collection open to the public. The Royal Gardens can be seen from the Vistula river side.

6. Castle Square

The castle square in front of the Royal Castle is a beautiful square framed by pretty houses and the castle facade itself that witnessed many historical events: riots, demolitions, massacres. speeches etc. 

The 8.5 metres tall column on the square is topped with the figure of Sigismund III from the Vasa dynasty who is responsible for the capital switch. There are stalls with obwarzanki, round type of pastry, balloons and soft toys for tourists as well.

7. Royal route 

Royal route, or Trakt królewski, should be in the list for sure as following this easy itinerary you’ll be able to see many historical landmarks and monuments – and amazing restaurants and cafes by the way too! – stretched for 15 km! 

The Royal route starts at the Castle Square from where the royal procession would begin and ends at the Wilanów Palace, a rare sight that wasn’t damaged during WWII. 

It passes Krakowskie Przedmieście, a nice area right after the Castle Square with the current Presidential Palace and St Anne’s church founded in 1454 and rebuilt in neoclassical style in the 18th century, Nowy Świat street, Łazienki Palace and many other amazing landmarks – I talk about some of them below!

8. St Anne’s church and Observational Platform

Taras Widokowy na Stare Miasto, or the Observational Platform, is a part of St Anne’s church founded in 1454 and rebuilt in neoclassical style in the 18th century. This is just a must see for you if you want to enjoy Warsaw historical landmarks in their full glory!

This tower gives you the best views over the Castle square and Krakowskie Przedmieście as it gives you a glimpse of the Old Town, St. Florian’s Cathedral across the river and of course Palace of Culture and Science. Please note that there are no elevators – and you’ll have to go through 150 steps each way.

9. Presidential Palace 

The Presidential Palace has been an official seat of the President of Poland since 1994. Initially the building was constructed as a manor for a local nobleman and Polish military commander of the 17th century and rebuilt in 1818. Now you can pass it by strolling in the city centre.

10. Carmelite Church

Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph, or Carmelite Church, lies on your way through the Royal route and is located near the Presidential palace at Krakowskie Przedmieście.

It dates back to the 18th century and is known as the first place of Chopin’s employment. Pop inside too to admire its amazing interior featuring 12 altars!

11. Visitationist Church

Visitationist Church, or Kościół Opieki św. Józefa w Warszawie, is another landmark at the Royal route. It’s a gorgeous Rococo building commissioned by Marie Louise Gonzaga, one of the most influential queens of Poland.

The church’s construction started in 1664, lasted almost a century and it made it through the turbulent times almost without a scratch! 

12. Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church erected in the 18th century wasn’t as lucky as Visitationist Church: it had to be rebuilt after WWII and lost some of its precious decorations.

However make sure you pay it a visit: the heart of Chopin in an urn is located in one of its pillars here while his body’s final rest is in Paris.

13. Copernicus monument 

Nicolaus Copernicus is one of the famous scientific figures of Poland, and no surprise that you can encounter his name through Warsaw. You can visit the Copernicus Science Centre and while you’re following the Royal route, don’t miss Copernicus monument located in front of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

It was completed in 1830 however was vandalised by Nazis. The area around him represents the Solar system: the planets revolving around the sun showcase the most important discovery of the famous Renaissance astronomer. 

14. Saxon Garden

Saxon Garden is the oldest public park in Warsaw – we went there to admire amazing sculptures and the fountain whilst escaping the what of summer days.

The square nearby once was the courtyard of the Saxon Palace, king’s residence built in the 18th century and almost entirely destroyed during WWII (though it’s due for reconstruction!).

15. Ujazdowski Castle

Although Ujazdów Castle near the Łazienki Królewskie Park now is home to the Center for Contemporary Art, it is still a real castle! Some parts of it date back to the 13th century, however the building was rebuilt on numerous occasions.

I particularly admired the castle views from the Piaseczyński Canal, it looked like a real fairytale building!

16.Royal Łazienki Museum and park 

Royal Łazienki Museum and park was the summer residence of Stanislaus II Augustus, or Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last monarch of Poland (1732 – 1798). The word Łazienki itself means ‘Baths’: in the 17th century on this site stood a bathhouse for Polish nobleman Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski.

It became a public park in 1918. Palace on the Isle (1689) as well as the Myślewicki Palace (1775-1779) and Museum of Hunting and Horsemanship are the main attractions to see there.

Yes, and the nature is absolutely luxurious there, not to mention the peacocks and ducks. By the way, during the summer period there are also Chopin Concerts every Sunday at 12.00 and 16.00!

We had some pancakes with strawberries and cottage cheese there and probably one of the most unusual beverages I have ever had: Jasmine espresso (espresso + jasmine tea + orange syrup, yes it’s not a typo)

Where to stay in Warsaw?

We stayed in Hotel Verte (Autograph collection) in the very centre of Warsaw overlooking the Old town of Warsaw.

Once it was Branicki and Szaniawski Palace erected in the 18th century and now Hotel Verte is a modern hotel with stylish interiors.

I was particularly amazed by their breakfast area and the breakfast concept: for instance, there were options of Japanese high cuisine kaiseki – ryori consisting of several plates and Toddles breakfast designed specifically for kids.

You might also like:
Warsaw with kids
Jewish Krakow

Hope you liked my blog,
Anna xxx

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