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Warsaw ( ; see also other names) is the capital and largest city of Polandmarker. It is located on the Vistula River roughly from both the Baltic Seamarker coast and the Carpathian Mountainsmarker. Its population as of 2009 was estimated at 1,709,781, and the Warsaw metropolitan area at approximately 2,785,000. The city area is , with an agglomeration of (Warsaw Metro Area Obszar Metropolitalny Warszawy). Warsaw is the 9th largest city in the European Union by population.

Warszawianka ( ) is widely considered the unofficial anthem of Warsaw. On 9 November 1940 the City of Warsaw was awarded with the highest military decoration for courage in the face of the enemy - Order Virtuti Militari for the heroic defence in 1939.

Warsaw is also known as the "phoenix city", as it received extensive damage during World War II, and rebuilt with the effort of Polish citizens. Warsaw has given its name to the Warsaw Confederation, Warsaw Pact, Warsaw Convention, Treaty of Warsaw and the Warsaw Uprising.

Etymology and names

An older spelling of Warsaw in Polish is Warszewa or Warszowa, meaning "owned by Warsz". Folk etymology attributes the city name to a fisherman Wars and his wife Sawa. Actually, Warsz was a 12th/13th century nobleman who owned a village located at the site of today's Mariensztat neighbourhood.

The official city name in full is ( ). A native or resident of Warsaw is called Varsovian.

Other names for Warsaw include (German), /Varshava (Russian), (Spanish), (French), /Varšava (Serbian), /Varshe (Yiddish), (Italian), Varsovia (Latin).


Location and topography

Warsaw lies in east-central Poland about from Carpathian Mountainsmarker and Baltic Seamarker, east of Berlin, Germany. The city straddles the Vistula River. It is located in the heartland of the Masovian Plain, and its average elevation is above sea level, although there are some hills (mostly artificial) located within the confines of the city.

Warsaw is located on two main geomorphologic forms: the plain moraine plateau and the Vistula Valley with its asymmetrical pattern of different terraces. The Vistula River is the specific axis of Warsaw, which divides the city into two parts, left and right. The left one is situated both on the moraine plateau (10 to 25 m. above Vistula level) and on the Vistula terraces (max. 6,5 m above Vistula level). The significant element of the relief, in this part of Warsaw, is the edge of moraine plateau called Warsaw Escarpment. It is 20–25 m high in the Old Town and Central district and about 10 m in the north and south of Warsaw. It goes through the city and plays an important role as a landmark.

The plain moraine plateau has only few natural and artificial ponds and also groups of clay pits. The pattern of the Vistula terraces is unsymmetrical. The left side consist mainly of two levels: the highest one former flooded terraces and the lowest one the flood plain terrace. The contemporary flooded terrace has still visible valleys and ground depressions with water systems coming from Vistula old - riverbed. They consist of still quite natural streams and lakes as well as the pattern of drainage ditches. The right side of Warsaw has different pattern of geomorfological forms. There are several levels of the plain Vistula terraces (flooded as well as former flooded once) and only small part and not so visible moraine escarpment. Aeolian sand with number of dunes parted by peat swamps or small ponds cover the highest terrace. These are mainly forested areas (pine forest).


Warsaw's climate is humid continental with cold winters and fairly hot summers. Winters are relatively mild and summers are cool. The average temperature is in January and 19.1 °C (64 °F) in July. Temperatures may often reach 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer. Yearly rainfall averages , the most rainy month being July. Spring and fall are usually beautiful seasons, the former crisp and sunny and full of blooms and the latter alternately sunny and misty, and cool but not cold.


District Population Area
Mokotówmarker 226,911
Praga Południe 185,077
Ursynów 143,935
Wola 142,025
Bielanymarker 135,307
Śródmieściemarker 134,306
Targówekmarker 122,872
Bemowomarker 107,197
Ochota 91,643
Białołękamarker 76,999
Praga Północmarker 73,207
Wawermarker 66,094
Żoliborzmarker 49,275
Ursusmarker 47,285
Włochymarker 39,778
Rembertówmarker 22,688
Wesoła 20,749
Wilanówmarker 15,188
Total 1,700,536

Warsaw is a powiat (county), and is further divided into 18 boroughs, each one known as a dzielnica ( map), each one with its own administrative body. Each of the boroughs includes several neighbourhoods which have no legal or administrative status. Warsaw has two historic districts, called Old Townmarker (Stare Miasto) and New Town (Nowe Miasto) in the borough of Śródmieściemarker.



Warsaw's mixture of architectural styles reflects the turbulent history of the city and country. During WWII, Warsaw was razed to the ground by bombing raids and planned destruction. After liberation, rebuilding began as in other cities of the communist-ruled PRL. Most of the historical buildings were thoroughly reconstructed. However, some of the buildings from the 19th century that had been preserved in reasonably reconstructible form were nonetheless eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s (e.g. Leopold Kronenberg Palace). Mass residential blocks were erected, with basic design typical of Eastern bloc countries.

Public spaces attract heavy investment, so that the city has gained entirely new squares, parks and monuments. Warsaw's current urban landscape is one of modern and contemporary architecture.


Warsaw's palaces, church and mansions display a richness of color and architectural details. Buildings are representatives of nearly every European architectural style and historical period. The city has wonderful examples of architecture from the gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical periods, all of which are located within easy walking distance of the town centre.

Gothic architecture is represented in the majestic churches but also at the burgher houses and fortifications. The most significant buildings are St. John's Cathedralmarker (14th century), the temple is a typical example of the so-called Masovian gothic style, St. Mary's Churchmarker (1411), a town house of Burbach family (14th century), Gunpowder Tower (after 1379) and the Royal Castlemarker Curia Maior (1407-1410). The most notable examples of Renaissance architecture in the city are the Barczyko house (1562), building called "The Negro" (early 17th century) and Salwator tenement (1632). The most interesting examples of mannerist architecture are the Royal Castlemarker (1596-1619) and the Jesuit Churchmarker (1609-1626) at Old Town. Among the first structures of the early baroque the most important are St. Hyacinth's Churchmarker (1603-1639) and Zygmunt's Columnmarker (1644).

Building activity occurred in numerous noble palaces and churches during the later decades of the 17th century. One of the best examples of this architecture are Krasiński Palacemarker (1677- 1683), Wilanów Palacemarker (1677-1696) and St. Kazimierz Churchmarker (1688-1692). The most impressive examples of rococo architecture are Czapski Palace (1712-1721), Palace of the Four Windsmarker (1730s) and Visitationist Churchmarker (façade 1728-1761). The neoclassical architecture in Warsaw can be described by the simplicity of the geometrical forms teamed with a great inspiration from the Roman period. Some of the best examples of the neoclassical style are the Palace on the Watermarker (rebuilt 1775-1795), Królikarniamarker (1782-1786), Carmelite Churchmarker (façade 1761-1783) and Evangelical Holy Trinity Churchmarker (1777-1782). The economic growth during the first years of Congress Polandmarker caused a rapid rise architecture. The Neoclassical revival affected all aspects of architecture, the most notable are the Great Theatermarker (1825-1833) and buildings located at Bank Squaremarker (1825-1828).

Exceptional examples of the bourgeois architecture of the later periods were not restored by the communist authorities after the war (like mentioned Kronenberg Palace and Insurance Company Rosja building) or they were rebuilt in socialist realism style (like Warsaw Philharmony edifice originally inspired by Palais Garniermarker in Parismarker). Despite that the Warsaw University of Technologymarker building (1899-1902) is the most interesting of the late 19th century architecture. Warsaw’s municipal government authorities have decided to rebuild the Saxon Palacemarker and the Brühl Palacemarker, the most distinctive buildings in prewar Warsaw.

Notable examples of contemporary architecture include the Palace of Culture and Sciencemarker (1952-1955), a Soc-realist skyscraper located in the city centre, and the Constitution Square with its monumental Socialist realism architecture. The central part of the right-bank (east) Pragamarker borough it is a place where very run-down houses stand right next to modern apartment buildings and shopping malls.

Modern architecture in Warsaw is represented by the Metropolitan Office Building at Pilsudski Squaremarker by Lord Foster, Warsaw University Library (BUW) by Marek Budzyński and Zbigniew Badowski, featuring a garden on its roof and view of the Vistula River, Rondo 1 office building by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Golden Terracesmarker, consisting of seven overlapping domes retail and business centre.

Flora and fauna

Greenspace covers a quarter of the surface area of Warsaw, including a broad range of greenstructures, from small neighborhood parks, green spaces along streets and in courtyards, trees and avenues to large historic parks, nature conservation areas and the urban forests at the fringe of the city.

There are as many as 82 parks in the city which cover 8 % of its area. The oldest ones, once parts of representative palaces, are Saxon Gardenmarker, the Krasiński Palacemarker Garden, the Royal Baths Parkmarker, the Wilanów Palacemarker Park and the Królikarniamarker Palace Park (See also: Greenery in the city).

The Saxon Garden, covering the area of 15.5 ha, was formally a royal garden. The are over 100 different species of trees and the avenues are a place to sit and relax. In the 19th century the Krasiński Palace Garden was remodelled by Franciszek Szanior. Within the central area of the park one can still find old trees dating from that period: maidenhair tree, black walnut, Turkish hazel and Caucasian wingnut trees. With its benches, flower carpets, a pond with ducks on and a playground for kids, the Krasiński Palace Garden is a popular strolling destination for the Varsovians. The Royal Baths Park covers the area of 76 ha. The unique character and history of the park is reflected in its landscape architecture (pavilion, sculptures, bridges, cascades, ponds) and vegetation (domestic and foreign species of trees and bushes). What makes this park different from other green spaces in Warsaw is the presence of peacocks and pheasants, which can be seen here walking around freely, and royal carps in the pond. The Wilanów Palace Park, dates back to the second half of the 17th century. It covers the area of 43 ha. Its central French-styled area corresponds to the ancient, baroque forms of the palace. The eastern section of the park, closest to the Palace, is the two-level garden with a terrace facing the pond. The park around the Królikarnia Palace is situated on the old escarpment of the Vistula. The park has lanes running on a few levels deep into the ravines on both sides of the palace.

Other green spaces in the city include the Botanic Garden and the University Library garden. They have extensive botanical collection of rare domestic and foreign plants, while a palm house in the New Orangery displays plants of subtropics from all over the world.

The flora of the city can be considered very rich in species. The species richness is mainly due to the location of Warsaw within the border region of several big floral regions comprising substantial proportions of close-to-wilderness areas (natural forests, wetlands along the Vistula) as well as arable land, meadows and forests. Bielany Forest, located within the borders of Warsaw, is the remaining part of the Masovian Primeval Forest. Bielany Forest nature reserve is connected with Kampinos Forest. It is home to rich fauna and flora. Within the forest there are three cycling and walking trails.

About 15 km from Warsaw, the Vistula river's environment changes strikingly and features a perfectly preserved ecosystem, with a habitat of animals that includes the otter, beaver and hundreds of bird species.

The Warsaw Zoomarker covers an area of 40 hectares (100 acres). There are about 5,000 animals representing nearly 500 species. Although officially created in 1928, it traces back its roots to 17th century private menageries, often open to the public.


Early history

The first fortified settlements on the site of today's Warsaw were Bródnomarker (9th/10th century) and Jazdówmarker (12th/13th century). After Jazdów was raided, a new similar settlement was established on the site of a small fishing village called Warszowa. The Płockmarker prince Bolesław II of Masovia, established this settlement, the modern Warsaw, about 1300. In the beginning of the 14th century it became one of the seats of the Dukes of Masovia, becoming the capital of Masovia in 1413. Fourteenth-century Warsaw's economy rested on crafts and trade. Upon the extinction of the local ducal line, the duchy was reincorporated into the Polish Crown in 1526.

16th to 18th century

In 1529 Warsaw for the first time became the seat of the General Sejm, permanent from 1569. In 1573 the city gave its name to the Warsaw Confederation, formally establishing religious freedom in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Due to its central location between the Commonwealth's capitals of Krakówmarker and Vilniusmarker, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth, and of the Polish Crown, in 1596, when King Sigismund III Vasa moved the court from Krakówmarker to Warsaw.

In the following years the town expanded towards the suburbs. Several private independent districts were established, the property of aristocrats and the gentry, which were ruled by their own laws. Three times between 1655-1658 the city was under siege and three times it was taken and pillaged by the Swedishmarker, Brandenburgianmarker and Transylvanian forces.

In 1700, the Great Northern War broke out. The city was besieged several times and was obliged to pay heavy contributions. Warsaw turned into an early-capitalistic principal city.

19th to 20th century

Warsaw remained the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1795, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussiamarker to become the capital of the province of South Prussia. Liberated by Napoleon's army in 1806, Warsaw was made the capital of the newly created Duchy of Warsawmarker. Following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Warsaw became the center of the Congress Polandmarker, a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with Imperial Russiamarker. The Royal University of Warsaw was established in 1816.

Following the repeated violations of the Polish constitution by the Russians, the 1830 November Uprising broke out. However, the Polish-Russian war of 1831 ended in the uprising's defeat and in the curtailment of the Kingdom's autonomy. On 27 February 1861 a Warsaw crowd protesting the Russian rule over Poland was fired upon by the Russian troops. Five people were killed. The Underground Polish National Government resided in Warsaw during January Uprising in 1863–4.

Warsaw flourished in the late nineteenth century under Mayor Sokrates Starynkiewicz (1875–92), a Russian-born general appointed by Tsar Alexander III. Under Starynkiewicz Warsaw saw its first water and sewer systems designed and built by the English engineer William Lindley and his son, William Heerlein Lindley, as well as the expansion and modernization of trams, street lighting and gas works.

Warsaw became the capital of the newly-independent Polandmarker in 1918. In the course of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, the huge Battle of Warsaw was fought on the Eastern outskirts of the city in which the capital was successfully defended and the Red Army defeated. Poland stopped on itself the full brunt of the Red Army and defeated an idea of the "export of the revolution."

World War II

During the World War II, central Poland, including Warsaw, came under the rule of the General Government, a Nazi colonial administration. All higher education institutions were immediately closed and Warsaw's entire Jewish population several hundred thousand, some 30% of the city herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. When the order came to annihilate the Ghetto as part of Hitler's "Final Solution" on April 19, 1943, Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered, the Ghetto held out for almost a month. When the fighting ended, almost all survivors were massacred, only few managed to escape or hide.

By July 1944, the Red Army was deep into Polish territory and pursuing the Germans toward Warsaw. Knowing that Stalin was hostile to the idea of an independent Poland, the Polish government-in-exile in London gave orders to the underground Home Army to try to seize the control of Warsaw from the Germans before the Red Army arrived. Thus, on 1 August 1944, as the Red Army was nearing the city, the Warsaw Uprising began. The armed struggle, planned to last 48 hours, went on for 63 days. Eventually the Home Army fighters and civilians assisting them were forced to capitulate. They were transported to the PoW camps in Germany, while the entire civilian population was expelled. Polish civilian deaths are estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000.

The Germans then razed Warsaw to the ground. Hitler, ignoring the agreed terms of the capitulation, ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground and the library and museum collections taken to Germany or burned. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by special German troops known as Verbrennungs- und Vernichtungskommando ("Burning and Destruction Detachments"). About 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle.

On January 17, 1945 - after the beginning of the Vistula–Oder Offensive of the Red Army - Soviet troops entered the ruins of the city of Warsaw, and liberated Warsaw's suburbs from German occupation. The city was swiftly taken by the Soviet Army, which rapidly advanced towards Łódźmarker, as German forces regrouped at a more westward position.

Modern times

In 1945, after the bombing, the revolts, the fighting, and the demolition had ended, most of Warsaw lay in ruins.

After the war, under a Communist regime set up by the conquering Soviets, large prefabricated housing project were erected in Warsaw to address the housing shortage, along with other typical buildings of an Eastern Bloc city, such as the Palace of Culture and Sciencemarker. The city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of political and economic life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches were restored to their original form. In 1980, Warsaw's historic Old Town was inscribed onto UNESCOmarker's World Heritage list.

John Paul II's visits to his native country in 1979 and 1983 brought support to the budding solidarity movement and encouraged the growing anti-communist fervor there. In 1979, less than a year after becoming pope, John Paul celebrated Mass in Victory Squaremarker in Warsaw and ended his sermon with a call to "renew the face" of Poland: Let Thy Spirit descend! Let Thy Spirit descend and renew the face of the land! This land! These words were very meaningful for the Polish citizens who understood them as the incentive for the democratic changes.

In 1995, the Warsaw Metro opened. With the entry of Poland into the European Union in 2004, Warsaw is currently experiencing the biggest economic boom of its history. The opening match of UEFA Euro 2012 is scheduled to take place in Warsaw.



Historically, Warsaw has been a destination for internal and foreign immigration, especially from Central and Eastern Europe. For nearly 300 years it was known as the "Old Parismarker" or "Second Paris". It was always a centre of European culture, existed as a major European city, and was a destination for many Europeans. Demographic it was the most diverse city in Poland, with a significant numbers of foreign-born inhabitants. In addition to Polish majority, there was a significant Jewish minority in Warsaw. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 638,000, Jews constituted 219,000 (so around 34% percent). Warsaw's prewar Jewish population of more than 350,000 constituted about 30 percent of the city's total population. World War II changed all of this, and to this day there is much less ethnic diversity than in the previous 300 years of the city's history. Most of the modern day population growth is based on internal migration and urbanization.

Comparison of Warsaw's city boundaries today and in 1939

  • 1700: 30,000 (est.)
  • 1792: 120,000
  • 1800: 63,400
  • 1830: 139,700
  • 1850: 163,600
  • 1882: 383,000
  • 1900: 686,000
  • 1925: 1,003,000
  • 1939: 1,300,000
  • 1945: 422,000 (September)
  • 1950: 803,800
  • 1960: 1,136,000
  • 1970: 1,315,600
  • 1980: 1,596,100
  • 1990: 1,655,700
  • 2000: 1,672,400
  • 2002: 1,688,200
  • 2006: 1,702,100

Municipal government

The Warsaw Act abolished all the former counties around Warsaw and formed one city powiat with a unified municipal government.

Legislative power in Warsaw is vested in a unicameral Warsaw City Council (Rada Miasta), which comprises 60 members. Council members are elected directly every four years. Like most legislative bodies, the City Council divides itself into committees which have the oversight of various functions of the city government. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor (the President of Warsaw), who. may sign them into law. If the mayor vetoes a bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.

Each of the 18 separate city districts has its own council (Rada dzielnicy). Their duties are focused on aiding the President and the City Council, as well as supervising various municipal companies, city-owned property and schools. The head of each of the District Councils is named the Mayor (Burmistrz) and is elected by the local council from the candidates proposed by the President of Warsaw.

The current President of Warsaw is Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.


As the capital of Poland, Warsaw is the political centre of the country. All state agencies are located there, including the Polish Parliament, the Presidential Office and the Supreme Court. In the Polish parliament the city and the area are represented by 31 MP (out of 460). Additionally, Warsaw elects two MEP.


Warsaw has seen major infrastructural changes over the past few years amidst increased foreign investment and economic growth. The city has a much improved infrastructure with new roads, flyovers, bridges, healthcare facilities, sanitation, etc.

Warsaw lacks a good circular road system and most traffic goes directly through the city centre. Currently two circular roads are under consideration. It is to be completed between 2010 and 2012. The city has one international airport, Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airportmarker, located just from the city centre. With around 100 international and domestic flights a day and with over 9,268,551 passengers served in 2007, it is by far the biggest airport in Poland.

Public transport in Warsaw includes, buses, trams (streetcars), metro, light rail Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa line and regional rail. Regional rail is operated by Szybka Kolej Miejska (Fast Urban Rail) and Koleje Mazowieckie (Mazovian Railoads). There are also some suburban bus lines run by private operators. Bus service covers the entire city, with approximately 170 routes totalling about in length, and with some 1,600 vehicles.

Currently, the Tramwaje Warszawskie (Warsaw Trams) company runs 863 cars on over of tracks. Twenty-odd lines run across the city with additional lines opened on special occasions (such as All-Saints Day).

The first section of the Warsaw Metro was opened in 1995 with a total of 11 stations. It has 21 stations along a distance of approximately 23 kilometres. Initially, all of the trains were Russian built. In 1998, 108 new carriages were ordered from Alstom. The second line running east-west will be about 31 kilometres. The central section is now in the bidding stage and will be 6 km. long with seven stations. The main railway station is Warszawa Centralnamarker serving both domestic traffic to almost every major city in Poland, and international connections. There are also five other major railway stations and a number of smaller suburban stations.

Warsaw ranks among the best in medical facilities in Poland. The city is home to the Children's Memorial Health Institute (CMHI), the highest-reference hospital for all of Poland, as well as an active research and education center. While the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncologymarker it is one of the largest and most modern oncological institutions in Europe. The clinical section is located in a 10-floor building with 700 beds, 10 operating theaters, an intensive care unit, several diagnostic departments, and an outpatient clinic.



Several commemorative events take place every year. Gatherings of thousands of people on the banks of the Vistula on Midsummer’s Night for a festival called Wianki (Polish for Wreaths) have become a tradition and a yearly event in the programme of cultural events in Warsaw. The festival traces its roots to a peaceful pagan ritual where maidens would float their wreaths of herbs on the water to predict when they would be married, and to whom. By the 19th century this tradition had become a festive event, and it continues today. The city council organize concerts and other events. Each Midsummer’s Eve, apart from the official floating of wreaths, jumping over fires, looking for the fern flower, there are musical performances, dignitaries' speeches, fairs and fireworks by the river bank.

The prestigious Warsaw Film Festival, an annual festival that takes place every October. Films are usually screened in their original language with Polish subtitles and participating cinemas include Kinoteka (Palace of Science and Culture), Palladium and Luna. Over 100 films are shown throughout the festival, and awards are given to the best and most popular films.


On 9 April 2008 the President of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, obtained from the mayor of Stuttgartmarker Wolfgang Schuster a challenge award – a commemorative plaque awarded to Warsaw as the European capital of Sport in 2008.

The National Stadiummarker, a planned 50k seat football stadium, is currently under construction on the site of Warsaw's recently demolished 10th-Anniversary Stadiummarker. The national stadium is due to host the opening match (a group match), remaining 2 group matches, a quarterfinal, and a semifinal of the UEFA Euro 2012 hosted jointly by Polandmarker and Ukrainemarker.

The Olympic Center in Warsaw

There are many sports centers in the city as well. Most of these facilities are swimming pools and sports halls, many of them built by the municipality in the past several years. The main indoor venue is Hala Torwarmarker, used for all kinds of indoor sports.

The best of the city's swimming centres is at Wodny Park Warszawianka, 4 km south of the centre at Merliniego Street, where there's an Olympic-sized pool as well as water slides and children's areas. Legia Warszawa, the army club with a nationwide following, play at Polish Army Stadiummarker, just southeast of the centre at Łazienkowska Street. Their local rivals, Polonia Warsaw, have signifiantly less supporters, yet they managed to win Ekstraklasa Championship in 2000. Polonia's home venue is located at Konwiktorska Street, a ten-minute walk north from the Old Townmarker.

Warsaw is a city of active leisure as well. Near the city center there are sporting facilities such as golf courses, swimming pools and aqua-parks, artificial rivers, slides and paddling pools.

Club Sport Founded League Venue Head Coach
Legia Warszawa Football 1916 Ekstraklasa Polish Army Stadiummarker Jan Urban
Polonia Warszawa Football 1911 Ekstraklasa Stadion Poloniimarker José Mari Bakero
Legia Warszawa Basketball 1947 Second League OSiR Bemowo Robert Chabelski
Polonia Gaz Ziemny Warszawa Basketball 1911 Polska Liga Koszykówki Hala Sportowa "Koło" Wojciech Kamiński


Theatre in the past

From 1833 to the outbreak of World War II, Plac Teatralny (Theatre Square) was the country's cultural hub and home to the various theatres.

The main building housed the Great Theatermarker from 1833–4, the Rozmaitości Theatre from 1836 to 1924 and then the National Theatre, the Reduta Theatre from 1919 to 1924, and from 1928 to 1939 the Nowy Theatre, which staged productions of contemporary poetical drama, including those directed by Leon Schiller.

Nearby, in Ogród Saski (the Saxon Gardenmarker), the Summer Theatre was in operation from 1870 to 1939, and in the inter-war period, the theatre complex also included Momus, Warsaw's first literary cabaret, and Leon Schiller's musical theatre Melodram. The Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre (1922–6), was the best example of "Polish monumental theatre". From the mid-1930s, the Great Theater building housed the upati Institute of Dramatic Arts the first state-run academy of dramatic art, with an Acting Department and a Stage Directing Department.

Plac Teatralny and its environs was the venue for numerous parades, celebrations of state holidays, carnival balls, and concerts.


Warsaw is home to over 30 major theatres spread throughout the city, including the National Theatre (founded in 1765) and the Grand Theatre in Warsawmarker (established 1778).

Warsaw also attracts many young and off-stream directors and performers who add to the city's theatre culture. Their productions may be viewed mostly in smaller theatres and Houses of Culture (Domy Kultury), mostly outside Śródmieściemarker (downtown Warsaw). Warsaw hosts the International Theatrical Meetings.


Thanks to numerous musical venues, including the Teatr Wielki, the Polish National Operamarker, the Chamber Opera, the National Philharmonic Hall and the National Theatre, as well as the Roma and Buffo music theatres and the Congress Hall in the Palace of Culture and Sciencemarker, Warsaw hosts many events and festivals. Among the events worth particular attention are: the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition, the International Contemporary Music Festival Warsaw Autumn, the Jazz Jamboree, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days, the International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition, the Mozart Festival, and the Festival of Old Music.

Museums and art galleries

The levelling of Warsaw during the war has left gaping holes in the city's historic collections.
And although a considerable amount of treasures were spirited away to safety as the storm clouds gathered in 1939, it is also true that a great number of collections from palaces and museums in the countryside were brought to Warsaw at that time as the capital was considered a safer place than some remote castle in the borderlands. Thus losses were heavy.

Yet in spite of this, Warsaw still boasts some wonderful museums. As interesting examples of expositions the most notable are: the world’s first Museum of Posters boasting one of the largest collections of art posters in the world, Museum of Hunting and Riding and the Railway Museum. From among Warsaw’s 60 museums, the most prestigious ones are National Museummarker with a wide collection of works whose origin ranges in time from antiquity till the present epoch as well as one of the best collections of paintings in the country and Museum of the Polish Armymarker whose set portrays the history of arms.

The collections of Łazienkimarker and Wilanówmarker palaces (both buildings came through the war in good shape) are a delight, as are those of the Royal Castle. The Palace in Natolinmarker – a former rural residence of Duke Czartoryski. Its interiors and park are accessible to tourists.

Holding Poland's largest private collection of art, the Carroll Porczyński Collection Museum displays works from such varied artists as Rubens, Goya, Constable, Renoir, van Gogh and Dalí, and countless others.

A fine tribute to the fall of Warsaw and history of Poland can be found in the Warsaw Uprising Museummarker and in the Katyńmarker Museum which preserves the memory of the crime. Museum of Independence host of sentimental and patriotic paraphernalia connected with these fateful epochs, as well as some invaluable art collections. Dating back to 1936 Warsaw Historical Museum contains 60 rooms which host a permanent exhibition of the history of Warsaw from its origins until today.

The 17th century Royal Ujazdów Castlemarker houses Centre of Contemporary Art, with some permanent and temporary exhibitions, concerts, shows and creative workshops. Zachęta National Gallery of Artmarker is the oldest exhibition site in Warsaw, with a tradition stretching back to the mid 19th century. The gallery organises exhibitions of modern art by Polish and international artists and promotes art in many other ways.

The city also possesses some marvellous oddities such as the Museum of Caricature (the only one of its kind in the world) and a magnificent Motorisation Museum, which has everything from 1930's classics to cars that were owned by Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Media and film

Warsaw is the media centre of Poland, and the location of the main headquarters of TVP and other numerous local and national TV and radio stations, such as TVN, Polsat, TV4, TV Puls, Canal+ Poland, Cyfra+ and MTV Poland.

Since May 1661 the first Polish newspaper, Polish Ordinary Mercury, was printed in Warsaw. The city is also the printing capital of Poland with a wide variety of domestic and foreign periodicals expressing diverse views, and domestic newspapers are extremely competitive. Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza, Dziennik Polska-Europa-Świat Poland's large nationwide daily newspapers have their headquarters in Warsaw.

Warsaw also has a sizable movie and television industry. The city houses several movie companies and studios. Among the movie campanies are TOR, Czołówka, Zebra and Kadr who is behind several international movie productions.

Over the next few years the new Film City in Nowe Miastomarker, located a mere 80 km from Warsaw, will become the centre of Polish film production and international co-production. It is to be the largest high-tech film studio in Europe. The first projects filmed in the new Film City will be two films about the Warsaw Uprising. Two backlots will be constructed for these projects - a lot of pre-WWII Warsaw and city ruins.

Since World War II, Warsaw has been the most important centre of film production in Poland. It has also been featured in numerous movies, both Polish and foreign, for example: Kanał and Korczak by Andrzej Wajda, The Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieślowski, also including Oscar winner The Pianist by Roman Polański.


Warsaw holds some of the finest institutions of higher education in Poland. It is home to four major universities and over 62 smaller schools of higher education. The overall number of students of all grades of education in Warsaw is almost 500,000 (29.2% of the city population; 2002). The number of university students is over 280,000. Most of the reputable universities are public, but in recent years there has also been an upsurge in the number of private universities.

The University of Warsaw was established in 1816, when the partitions of Poland separated Warsaw from the oldest and most influential Polish academic center, in Krakówmarker. Warsaw University of Technologymarker is the second academic school of technology in the country, and one of the largest in Central Europe, employing 2,000 professors. Other institutions for higher education include the Medical University of Warsawmarker, the largest medical school in Poland and one of the most prestigious, the National Defence University, highest military academic institution in Poland, the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academymarker the oldest and largest music school in Poland, and one of the largest in Europe, the Warsaw School of Economics, the oldest and most renowned economic university in the country, and the University of Life Science the largest agricultural university founded in 1818.

Warsaw has numerous libraries, many of which contain vast collections of historic documents. The most important library in terms of historic document collections include the National Library of Polandmarker. Library holds 8.2 million volumes in its collection. Formed in 1928 sees itself as a successor to the Załuski Library, the biggest in Poland and one of the first and biggest libraries in the world.

Another important library - the University Library, founded in 1816, is home to over two million items. The building was designed by architects Marek Budzyński and Zbigniew Badowski and opened on the December 15, 1999. It is surrounded by green. The University Library garden, designed by Irena Bajerska, was opened on June 12, 2002. It is one of the largest and most beautiful roof gardens in Europe with an area of more than 10.000 m², and plants covering 5.111 m². As the university garden it is open to the public every day.


In 2008, Warsaw was ranked the world's 35th most expensive city to live in. It was classified as an "Alpha world city -" (also known as a "major world city") by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group and Network from Loughborough Universitymarker, placing it on a par with cities such as Amsterdammarker or Romemarker. The city also ranked 8th out of 65 cities on Mastercard's Emerging Markets Index (2008).

Business and commerce

Downtown Warsaw.

Warsaw, especially its city centre (Śródmieściemarker), is home not only to many national institutions and government agencies, but also to many domestic and international companies. In 2006, 304,016 companies were registered in the city. Foreign investors' financial participation in the city's development was estimated in 2002 at over 650 million euro. Warsaw produces 12% of Poland's national income which, per capita, is estimated at around 301,8% of the Polish average. The nominal GDP (PPP) per capita in Warsaw was about $38,000 in 2005 (€25,500). Warsaw leads the region of Central Europe in foreign investment and in 2006, GDP growth met expectations with a level of 6.1%. It also has one of the fastest growing economies, with GDP growth at 6.5 percent in 2007 and 6.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.

At the same time the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Poland, not exceeding 3%, according to the official figures. The city itself collects around 8,740,882,000 złoty in taxes and direct government grants.

It has been said that Warsaw, together with Frankfurtmarker, Londonmarker, Parismarker, Moscowmarker and Rotterdammarker is one of the tallest cities in Europe. Eleven of the tallest skyscrapers in Poland, of which nine are office buildings, are located in Warsaw. The tallest structure, the centrally-located Palace of Culture and Sciencemarker, is the European Union's seventh-tallest building. Warsaw hosts the headquarters of Frontex, the EU's border control agency.

Warsaw Stock Exchange

Warsaw's first stock exchange was established in 1817 and continued trading until World War II. It was re-established in April 1991, following the end of the post-war communist control of the country and the reintroduction of a free-market economy. Today, the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) is, according to many indicators, the largest market in the region, with 374 companies listed and total capitalization of 162 584 mln EUR as of 31 August 2009. From 1991 until 2000, the stock exchange was, ironically, located in the building previously used as the headquarters of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR).. The city is considered to be one of the most attractive business locations in Europe.


During Warsaw's reconstruction after World War II, the communist authorities decided that the city would become a major industrial centre. Numerous large factories were built in the city or just outside it. The largest were the Huta Warszawa Steel Works and two car factories.

As the communist economy deteriorated, these factories lost significance and most went bankrupt after 1989. Today, the Arcelor Warszawa Steel Mill (formerly Huta Warszawa) is the only major factory remaining. The FSO car factory produces cars mostly for export.

The number of state-owned enterprises continues to decrease while the number of companies operating with foreign capital grows. The largest foreign investors are Daewoo, Coca-Cola Amatil and Metro AG. Warsaw has the biggest concentration of electronics and high-tech industry in Poland and the growing consumer market perfectly fosters the development of the food-processing industry.

Tourist attractions


Although today's Warsaw is a fairly young city, it has many tourist attractions. Apart from the Warsaw Old Townmarker quarter, carefully reconstructed after World War II, each borough has something to offer. Among the most notable landmarks of the Old Town are the Royal Castlemarker, King Sigismund's Columnmarker, Market Square, and the Barbicanmarker.

Further south is the so-called Royal Route, with many classicist palaces, the Presidential Palacemarker and the Warsaw Universitymarker campus. Also the popular Nowy Świat Street is worth mentioning. Wilanów Palacemarker, the former royal residence of King John III Sobieski, is notable for its baroque architecture and beautiful parks.

Warsaw's oldest public park, the Saxon Gardenmarker, is located within 10 minutes' walk from the old town. Warsaw's biggest public park and said to be the most beautiful is the Royal Baths Parkmarker. It is also very old established in the 17th century and given its current classical shape in late 18th century is located further south, on the Royal Route, about from the Warsaw Old Townmarker.

The Powązki Cemeterymarker is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, full 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, be it Catholics, Jews, Muslims or Protestants, it is often called a necropolis. Nearby is the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemeterymarker, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.

There are many places in Warsaw where Jewish culture resonates down through time. Nożyk Synagogue, the picturesque Próżna Street, the Jewish theater are only the beginning of a walk in the traces of Warsaw Judaica. There are also many places commemorating the tragic pages of Warsaw’s history such as the Umschlagplatzmarker, the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, and a section of the Ghetto wall on Sienna Street.

Examples of the heroic history of Warsaw can be found in all parts of the city. The Warsaw Citadelmarker, one of the architectural attractions of the city, is an impressive 19th century fortification and one of the best preserved examples of defensive architecture in Poland. The statue of Little Insurgentmarker located at the ramparts of the Old Town commemorates the children who served as messengers and frontline troops in the Warsaw Uprising. Pawiakmarker an infamous Germanmarker Gestapomarker prison is now occupied by a Mausoleum of Memory of Martyrdom and the museum.

In Warsaw there are many places connected with the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin. The heart of Polish-born composer is sealed inside Warsaw's Holy Cross Churchmarker. During the summer time the Chopin Monument in the Royal Baths Parkmarker is a place where pianists give a concerts to the park audience.

Also many references to Marie Curie, her work and her family can be found in Warsaw: Marie's birthplace at the Warsaw New Town, the working places where she did her first scientific works and the Radium Institutemarker at Wawelska Street for the research and the treatment of cancer which she founded in 1925.

Warsaw Mermaid

The mermaid (syrenka) is Warsaw's symbol and, among other places, can be found on statues throughout the city and on the city's coat of arms. This imagery has been in use since at least the mid-14th century. The oldest existing armed seal of Warsaw is from the year 1390, consisting of a round seal bordered with the Latin inscription Sigilium Civitatis Varsoviensis (Seal of the city of Warsaw). City records as far back as 1609 document the use of a crude form of a sea monster with a female upper body and holding a sword in its claws. In 1653 the poet Zygmunt Laukowski asks the question:

The origin of the legendary figure is not fully known. The best-known legend, by Artur Oppman, it that a long time ago two of Triton's daughters set out on a journey through the depths of the oceans and seas. One of them decided to stay on the coast of Denmarkmarker and ever since we can see her sitting at the entrance to the port of Copenhagenmarker. The second mer-maiden reached the mouth of the Vistula River and plunged into its waters. She stopped to rest on a sandy beach by the village of Warszowa. Local fishermen came to admire her beauty and listen to her beautiful voice. A greedy merchant also heard her songs; he followed the fishermen and captured the mermaid.

Another legend says that a mermaid once swam to Warsaw from the Baltic Seamarker for the love of the Griffin, the ancient defender of the city, who was killed in a struggle against the Swedish invasions of the 17th century. The Mermaid, wishing to avenge his death, took the position of defender of Warsaw, becoming the symbol of the city.

Every member of the Queen's Royal Hussars of the United Kingdommarker light cavalry wears the Maid of Warsaw, the crest of the City of Warsaw, on the left sleeve of his No. 2 (Service) Dress. Members of 651 Squadron Army Air Corps of the United Kingdom also wear the Maid of Warsaw on the left sleeve of their No. 2 (Service) Dress.

Famous people

One of the most famous people born in Warsaw is Maria Skłodowska-Curie, who achieved international recognition for her scientific discoveries. Famous musicians include Władysław Szpilman and Fryderyk Chopin. Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wolamarker, about sixty kilometers from Warsaw, but moved to the city with his family when he was seven months old.Famous artist born in Warsaw was Tamara de Lempicka. She was born Maria Górska in Warsaw to wealthy parents and in 1916 she married a Polish lawyer Tadeusz Łempicki. Better than anyone else she represents the Art Deco style in painting. Warsaw was beloved city of Isaac Bashevis Singer, which he described in many of his novels.


International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Warsaw is twinned with:

References - city's official site


See also

References and notes

  1. Warsaw Zoo opened March 11, 1928, on Ratuszowa Street. It was not the first zoological garden in Warsaw; King Jan Sobieski III kept a court menagerie in Wilanów. Several private zoos were also established in Warsaw in the 19th century.
  2. Joshua D. Zimmerman, Poles, Jews, and the politics of nationality, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2004, ISBN 0299194647, Google Print, p.16
  3. Official name: Museum of John Paul II Collection
  5. Sister city list (.DOC)
  6. The return of squads of Polish army from Wierzbna is showing the general view of Krakowskie Przedmieście with Tyszkiewicz Palace (left).
  7. The painting shows the Vistula embankment near the Kierbedź Bridge in Warsaw. The framework bridge was constructed by Stanisław Kierbedź in 1850-1864. It was recognized by once as modern structure and as "amazing heap of iron" by others. The bridge was destroyed by the Nazis in 1944.
  8. Full name: Nowy Świat Street in Warsaw on a Summer's Day.

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