10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Warsaw
If you love castles and medieval towns, Poland is a spectacular place to visit. Beautiful and historic Kraków is the best place to start your trip, with the Unesco-listed historic town of Częstochowa a worthy stopover on the way to the fairy-tale city of Wrocław. The former royal capital of Warsaw is an epicenter of European history, home to the stately National Museum, as well as the city's Modernista and Baroque buildings. Warsaw is also the perfect place to visit in the off-season, when temperatures are mild and there's less of a crowd.
In Poland you'll find dramatic castle ruins, fairy-tale towns, breathtaking views and more. Visit some of the places featured on our list of the top attractions in Poland and plan your trip with our suggested itinerary.
Palace of Culture and Science
This museum is housed in the former site of Warsaw's former Royal Castle, which was destroyed in WWII. Although it has very little historical significance, the museum features lots of educational, film, and exhibit spaces. Highlights include the Engineering Technology Hall, showcasing artifacts from when the palace was used as a hydroelectric power plant; and a multimedia presentation titled The People of Poland. The building is located in a busy part of Warsaw, but there is a pleasant park and other museum around the neighborhood to keep you out of the city's traffic. The city's huge St. John's Cathedral and the nearby former Royal Castle are also in the immediate area.
Old Town Square
The most impressive example of baroque in Poland is the Old Town Square, the most beautiful in Europe. Built in the 17th century, it contains most of the city's attractions, including the Warsaw Castle, which is the most popular stop for sightseers. Originally designed by the French architect François Mansart, Old Town Square was partially destroyed by fire in 1702 and was built on the same spot in 1706. Today the square houses the National Museum of Warsaw, an elegant building constructed to contain one of the most important art collections in Poland. Other museums are scattered throughout the city center, and some are contained within the Royal Castle. Among the city's top attractions are the Jewish Historical Museum and the Copernicus House. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also worth visiting.
Built from 1628 to 1647 by King Jan Sobieski, the Royal Castle (Królowa) was originally an ad-hoc residence for the king. After the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's first king Jan III Sobieski was made Holy Roman Emperor, the castle became his Warsaw residence. Visitors can take guided tours through its various levels, from the innermost Royal Chamber to the largest Royal Apartment. The sumptuous interiors still maintain their opulent charm; the largest and most lavishly furnished rooms are said to have been the home of Sobieski's widowed empress, when he was absent in the Austrian army. Although it was mostly destroyed during the German Invasion of Warsaw in 1939 and the subsequent Warsaw Uprising, the former Royal Castle has undergone extensive renovation and now stands as a monument to one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century.
St. Mary's Basilica
St. Mary's Basilica, built in the 15th century, stands on the place where the soldiers from the Second Polish Crusade, victorious over the pagan Prussians in 1018, had celebrated victory. They also built their cathedrals here and the building now belongs to the nation of Poland. A few picturesque streets of Renaissance churches and buildings are closed to the public for much of the year, but they can be seen from the patio of the adjacent Polish Royal Palace. On the square is the former Royal Palace, which was demolished in the late 1980s. Its last occupant, a Polish-Canadian woman, burned down the building and herself in a suicide that remained a mystery.
Lying on the eastern edge of Poland's second largest city, Warsaw is a great base for exploring the surrounding region. The Wawel Castle is the national museum and gallery, housed in one of the city's most imposing medieval castle sites. Wawel contains an extensive collection of archaeological finds, art, tapestries, furniture and weaponry. During the site's 800-year history, Wawel Castle has been used as the Polish royal residence, the city prison, and home to a series of religious foundations. Its Gothic Hall (Salone Gothic), adorned with magnificent Baroque and Rococo paintings and frescoes, has been the venue for stately ceremonies since the beginning of the Renaissance.
The Wawel Cathedral, named after King Władysław I, is a 12th-century Gothic church in the heart of old Warsaw. Built on the site of a 7th century church, the Wawel Cathedral was constructed between the years 1132 and 1216. Today it is a protected monument and it is the heart of the Wawel Royal Castle, founded in 1255. There is a rich collection of art, including a famous triptych by Jan Van Eyck, and baroque carvings.
The National Museum in Warsaw houses all sorts of valuable artistic and cultural objects, as well as more than 2.5 million objects from Polish art, history, and culture. Built in the late 19th century, it was constructed on the foundations of a previous building that was destroyed in the 18th century during the first partition of Poland, the one that created the territory of modern-day Russia. The first floor holds collections of art and antiques from Poland's early years, including those from pre-Christian times. Other collections cover the Vistula and Oder Rivers and a variety of domestic arts and decorative arts, from the mid-18th to the early 20th centuries.
Church of St. Anne
The name of the Church of St. Anne may not seem so familiar, but the contents of the various underground chambers will get your attention. Beginning in the 13th century, Polish kings ordered the construction of secret hiding places for Polish resistance fighters who aided the Lithuanians in their struggle against the Teutonic Knights, who controlled the region. Although the walls of the labyrinth of narrow passageways are not very high and the openings are not large, the atmosphere is charged with a strong sense of adventure. The nave of the church was built at the same time as the underground passages and was constructed to serve as a sepulcher for the Polish monarchs. It was only in 1958, after several centuries of construction, that the basement of the church became a public shrine. The lower-level crypt is packed with a large collection of armor and weapons of the knights. The Church of St. Anne is located on the walls of the city between the Royal Castle and the Main Square. In addition to its historical significance, the church offers a dramatic view of the skyline of Warsaw.
Located on the north bank of the Vistula River on the site of the former Royal Castle, Warsaw's Kazimierz Palace was built between 1815 and 1837, in the classicized style popular in Russia at the time, as the residence of Polish King Constantine and Princess Maria. These are believed to be its origins, as the king and the princess are remembered in the name of the palace. The interior of the palace is beautifully decorated, with elaborate frescoes in the halls and stucco inlays in the walls. For a lovely view of the palace and the river, visit the Bronze Gate, the only entrance to the Royal Castle's grounds. Inside, there are many treasures, including the king's collection of antique porcelain. It is on display at the Ethnographical Museum of the Palace. The building is now open to the public as a museum, filled with historic rooms, orvisits, and exhibitions. Among its highlights are a beautifully-restored kitchen and a collection of antique cooking equipment. Warsaw's most interesting attraction, the Royal Castle is also home to the Royal Castle Choral Society, whose concerts are performed throughout the year in the palace's grand salon.
Created from a portion of the former Kazimierz estate, the Kazimierz Museum now houses the permanent collection of the Department of Ancient Polish History and Archaeology and a variety of temporary exhibitions, all with an international focus. One of the oldest museums in Warsaw, it opened in 1893 and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of architectural design. Its colonial style is constructed of beech wood and is inspired by British architecture, particularly English Regency design. The museum's permanent collection contains a number of very important items including Polish and European art, but most notably a 5th century collection of antiquities, including religious icons from the Uraltasimov School.