In September, I went to Poland for a business trip, to Łódź which by the way, is pronounce that way. I thought about sharing my experience with you, I can’t believe we’re almost in December!
Łódź is the third largest city in Poland and it is one of the most multicultural and industrial centers in Europe.I didn’t have so much time to go around but I managed to go to Warsaw before going to the airport. I was lucky to find on TripAdvisor a review about Free Walking Tour in the Old town in Warsaw at the perfect time! So, I packed all my stuff and hit the road to Warsaw! It takes almost two hours to go by car from Lodz to Warsaw.
I reached the meeting point on Sigismund´s Column on the Castle Square at 10:30 am, and it was so easy to spot the very kind and friendly guide (Peter) carrying the Free Walking Tour flag. After a short introduction, the tour started.
The tour lasted for almost two hours, and the visited sites were: The Royal Castle, the Main Market Square, city walls and Barbican, the Monument of Warsaw Uprising, Krakowskie, Przedmieście street and the Presidential Palace.
The Old Town
Warsaw’s old town is so pretty. I was surprised when the guide told us that this city was completely destroyed by the Nazis and that everything that we were seeing was recent, and was rebuilt after World War II. I was really astonished to know that! As a first glance, you don’t feel it but then you realize that buildings have old brick or stone in the walls and everything else was recent.
Warsaw’s Old Town is UNESCO World Heritage listed. Once I got home, I made research on Google earth and found those unbelievable satellite pictures. It is so sad to see this yet so good to see how it turns out and how beautiful it is today. I hope that one day, the same would happen in Syria with all the destruction. There is always hope…
The tour started from Sigismund’s Column. It is located in Castle Square and commemorate the King Sigismund III. He moved Poland’s capital from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596.
The Royal Castle
The Royal Castle used to be home to the Polish Monarchy until the Partitions of Poland (Russia, Prussia and Austria) in the 16th century. It turned to the seat of the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth, then an administrative centre by the Tsar in the 19th century.
During the WWI, it was the residence of the German Governor-General. After WWI, the Castle was the seat of the Polish Head of State. Just before the WWII, it was the residence of the Polish president. It was almost completely destroyed in 1945.
The clock tower of 60 m height is a symbol of the Polish capital. Nowadays, there is a Museum in the Castle.
St. John’s Archcathedral
St John Archcathedral in Warsaw is one of the oldest churches in the city. It served originally as a coronation and burial site for many Dukes. It was connected with the Royal Castle by a 80 m corridor built in the late 16th century after a fail attempt to assassinate King of Poland Sigismund III in front of the cathedral.
In 1944, The Germans managed to induct a tank loaded with explosives into the Cathedral, a huge explosion destroyed large part of the building. The church was rebuilt several times in the 19th century and after WWII.
Walking behind the cathedral, we found our selves on top of a hill (that used to be the city dumpster) with a very nice panoramic view over the city.
The Main Market Square
The Market square is the center of the Old Town of Warsaw.
Merchants used to meet in the town Hall. Fairs and occasional execution were held too. Houses weren’t always like in the pictures. They were first built in the Gothic style but a fire in the 17th century has destroyed everything. The houses were rebuilt in the Renaissance style and Baroque in the 18th century. During the WWII, all the district was damaged by the bombs. All the building around this square were reconstructed after.
A bronze sculpture in the middle of the Market square, represents the Warsaw Mermaid which is the symbol of the city. The legend says that the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, so she is always ready to help protect the city and its residents.
The market place is surrounded by restaurants and cafes, and it worth mentioning, that a roasted duck is one of the most popular dishes that all Polish restaurants serve in autumn season. In addition to Pierogi which are the Polish Ravioli, filled with cheese only or with mixed meat and vegetables added to it. Sometimes it is served with white sauce and cinnamon.
The little train in the below picture is also used to transport the people around the old city.
Chopin and Marie Curie museums
Both Frédéric Chopin and Marie Sklodowski Curie were originally Polish.
Marie Sklodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist who made many research on radioactivity and discovered two elements polonium and radium. Marie Curie was born in Warsaw. She first studied in Warsaw and then in Paris where she conducted her scientific work. Marie Curie was the first women who win a Nobel Prize in 1903 and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. The Marie Sklodowska-Curie museum is devoted to her life and work.
Frederic Chopin was born near Warsaw too. His father was french who emigrated to Poland. He was a composer and pianist. He grew up in Warsaw then moved to Paris. A museum in Warsaw is dedicated to the composer.
City walls and Barbican
The Old Town of Warsaw was surrounded by a double-line city walls with many gates around the city. The city walls was built in the XIII century and part of it was rebuilt after the WWII. The Barbican, a fortified tower for outer defense to the city, divides the New and old part of Warsaw.
Passing by the Supreme Court of Poland
While walking at the backside of the Supreme Court Building in Warsaw. we noticed a sculpture of three women in the middle of a modern building (I’m sorry I took a picture of only two of them, as we were walking by only). Our guide highlited that these women represent the three virtues: Faith, Hope and Love. They also symbolize the basis/columns that supports the court building.
The Monument of Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising Monument is located in front of the Supreme Court of Poland, represents the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The Warsaw Uprising is the operation of the Polish resistance to liberate Warsaw from the Nazis. The guide told us a story about how the soldiers had to escape through the sewage system after a very long fight with the Nazi army, as the city was surrounded from all sides.
The tour was very informative about each place you pass by. Some people will say that these information are available on the web, or in touristic books. However, what made this guided tour special is the guide showing us all the hidden secrets of the old city while telling us about the local stories. This is only possible with a local guide.
The duration of the walking tour was about 2 hours of interesting information. The free walking tour takes place from march to October. Please check the website here to learn more about the different walking tours, the schedule, meeting points and other information about paid tours in Warsaw and other cities.
P.S. If you are taking this tour, you can leave a tip at the end, but it’s completely optional.