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Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.8 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 7th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 517.24 square kilometres (199.71 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha-global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city rose to prominence in the late 16th century, when Sigismund III decided to move the Polish capital and his royal court from Kraków. The elegant architecture, grandeur and extensive boulevards earned Warsaw the nickname Paris of the North prior to the Second World War. Bombed at the start of the German invasion in 1939, the city withstood a siege, but was largely destroyed by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, the general Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and the systematic razing by the Germans in advance of the Vistula-Oder Offensive. Warsaw gained the new title of Phoenix City because of its complete reconstruction after the war, which had left over 85% of its buildings in ruins.
In 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Warsaw as the 32nd most liveable city in the world. In 2017, the city came 4th in the "Business-friendly", 8th in "Human capital and life style" and topped the quality of life rankings in the region. The city is a significant centre of research and development, business process outsourcing and information technology outsourcing. The Warsaw Stock Exchange is the largest and most important in Central and Eastern Europe. Frontex, the European Union agency for external border security as well as ODIHR, one of the principal institutions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have their headquarters in Warsaw. Jointly with Frankfurt and Paris, Warsaw features one of the highest number of skyscrapers in the European Union.
The city is the seat of the Polish Academy of Sciences, National Philharmonic Orchestra, University of Warsaw, the Warsaw University of Technology, the National Museum, Zacheta Art Gallery and the Warsaw Grand Theatre, the largest of its kind in the world. The picturesque Old Town, which represents examples of nearly every European architectural style and historical period, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. Other main architectural attractions include the Royal Castle and the iconic King Sigismund's Column, the Wilanów Palace, the Palace on the Isle, St. John's Cathedral, Main Market Square as well as numerous churches and mansions along the Royal Route. Warsaw is positioning itself as Central and Eastern Europe's chic cultural capital with thriving art or club scenes and restaurants, with around a quarter of the city's area occupied by parks.
- Although contemporary Warsaw is a fairly young city compared to other European capitals, it has numerous tourist attractions and architectural monuments dating back centuries. Apart from the Warsaw Old Town quarter, reconstructed after World War II, each borough has something to offer. Among the most notable landmarks of the Old Town are the Royal Castle, Sigismund's Column, Market Square, and the Barbican.
- Further south is the so-called Royal Route, with many historical churches, Baroque and Classicist palaces, most notably the Presidential Palace, and the University of Warsaw campus. The former royal residence of King John III Sobieski at Wilanów is notable for its Baroque architecture and eloquent palatial garden.
- Powazki Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, featuring of sculptures, some of them by the most renowned Polish artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Since it serves the religious communities of Warsaw such as Catholics, Jews, Orthodox Christians, Muslims or Protestants, it is often called a necropolis. Nearby is the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
- In many places in the city the Jewish culture and history resonates down through time. Among them the most notable are the Jewish theater, the Nozyk Synagogue, Janusz Korczak's Orphanage and the picturesque Prózna Street. The tragic pages of Warsaw's history are commemorated in places such as the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, the Umschlagplatz, fragments of the Ghetto wall on Sienna Street and a mound in memory of the Jewish Combat Organization.
- Many places commemorate the heroic history of Warsaw such as Pawiak, a German Gestapo prison now occupied by a Mausoleum of Memory of Martyrdom and a museum. The Warsaw Citadel, a 19th-century fortification built after the defeat of the November uprising, was a place of martyrdom for the Poles. Another important monument, the statue of Little Insurrectionist located at the ramparts of the Old Town, commemorates the children who served as messengers and frontline troops in the Warsaw Uprising, while the Warsaw Uprising Monument by Wincenty Kucma was erected in memory of the largest insurrection of World War II.
- In Warsaw there are many places connected with the life and work of Frédéric Chopin who was born near the city in Zelazowa Wola. The heart of the Polish composer is sealed inside Warsaw's Holy Cross Church. During the summer time the Chopin Statue in Lazienki Park is a place where pianists give concerts to the park audience.
- Also many references to Marie Curie, her work and her family can be found in Warsaw; Curie's birthplace at the Warsaw New Town, the working places where she did her first scientific works and the Radium Institute at Wawelska Street for the research and the treatment of which she founded in 1925.
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