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Warsaw Old Town at sunset Old Town of Warsaw Warsaw Barbican in winter Statue of the Warsaw Mermaid in the Old Town

Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw Old Town was almost completely destroyed during World War 2 and later rebuilt with great attention to details. Colourful tenements and narrow streets create the unique atmosphere of this historic district. In the summer, the Old Town is full of café gardens and becomes a stage for cultural festivals. In wintertime, the Old Town and the Royal Route are decorated with beautiful Christmas illuminations. In the Old Town Market Square, the biggest Christmas Market in Warsaw takes place and the Castle Square is where the enormous Christmas Tree is lit up.


There are many historic sights that you need to visit in the Old Town. In the Castle Square you can see the Sigismund’s Column which was built to commemorate one of our kings Sigismund III Vasa, who in 1596 moved Poland’s capital from Krakow to Warsaw. The column was erected in 1644 on the request of Sigismund's son and the king at that time - Władysław IV Vasa. It is the oldest and the highest secular monument of the capital - it is 22 metres high. Looking down, the king holds a sword and a cross in his right hand, symbolizing bravery and willingness to fight the evil. During the Warsaw Uprising, the statue of the king fell to the ground, but amazingly, it was not seriously damaged, loosing only the sword. The monument was re-erected in 1949. Sigismund’s Column is a very characteristic landmark where locals in Warsaw often arrange to meet. Standing on the terrace of the castle square above the WZ route, you can admire the Castle Square in all its glory, but also the Copper-Roof Palace, Mariensztat (historic neighbourhood at the foothill of the Old Town), the Vistula river and the Praga district with the National Stadium. 

Walking from the castle square towards the Old Town Market Place along the Swietojanska street, you will see the gothic St. John’s Archcathedral. It was originally built in the 14th century. Historical events took place in these walls, for example ceremonies held before the opening of the parliament, the coronation of the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1764, and the swearing-in of the May 3rd Constitution. Important national celebrations still take place here nowadays. Also, many important figures are buried in the cathedral's crypt, for example: Henryk Sienkiewicz (great Polish writer), Gabriel Narutowicz (the first president of Poland) and the king Stanisław August Poniatowski. The cathedral was the scene of heavy fightings during the Warsaw Uprising. It was blown up by the Nazis and restored after the war in pseudo-gothic style.

In the Old Town Market Place - the oldest part of the Polish capital, the Warsaw Mermaid has been standing since 1855.

The Warsaw Barbican is another must-see in the Warsaw Old Town. This massive rotund dating back to the 16th century was a part of defensive walls that once encircles and protected the city. Nowadays it is considered a gate between the Old Town and the New Town. The street behind the city walls is Podwale. Here, you will see the moving Little Insurgent Monument. Unveiled in 1983, it commemorates the youngest insurgents of the Warsaw Uprising.


Reconstruction of the Warsaw Old Town after World War 2

After the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, Poland’s capital was razed to the ground by the Nazis as a repression of the Polish resistance - 90 percent of the Old Town was completely destroyed. The reconstruction of the historic district after the war was the result of the determination of the Varsovians and the support of the entire nation. It was made based on careful historical and conservation research. The spatial layout from the 12th century and architectural buildings from the 18th century were reconstructed based on the images of the city preserved in, among others, paintings from the 18th century by Bernardo Bellotto, also known as Canaletto. Nowadays, you can see these paintings in the chambers of the Royal Castle. The rebuilding of the Old Town continued until the mid-1960s. The entire process was completed with the reconstruction of the Royal Castle, opened to visitors in 1984. The Warsaw Old Town was inscribed into the UNESCO list in 1980, not only because of its historic value but as an example of almost complete restoration of the oldest part of the city. The plaque commemorating this milestone was placed on the pavement of Zapiecek Street. 


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