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Top Attractions in Warsaw

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Warsaw abounds in historical sights dating from various periods and erected in different architectural styles. Seeing them all would be quite a demanding task, thus, the top sights listed below are often referred to as the musts on the tour of Warsaw.

The Old Town Market Square is the central attraction of the Old Town which is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Till the end of the 18th century, it used to be the most important of all public squares of the city. It is here that municipal festivities and fairs took place. Nowadays the Old Town Market Square is still a bustling city centre attracting both Varsovians and tourists with a wide array of cafes, restaurants, shops, galleries, traders' stalls and street artists' performances. The Old Town Market Square (90 x 73 m) consists of four sides, each of which is named after a famous 18th-century parlamentarian. Its burgher's houses, once homes to well-off merchant families, are worth of note as they exemplify a wide variety of architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque. The best idea is either to stroll along the market square or sit in one of the cafes and look round. It is also possible to take a horse-drawn carriage to tour the picturesque narrow streets of the Old Town.

The Royal Castle, once the seat of the Mazovian dukes, is regarded as an excellent example of Baroque architecture with the Saxon Wing added in the 1740's-1750's as its most famous part. Though, it was totally demolished by the Nazis during the World War II, its beauty has been restored due to the painstaking renovation works taking place between 1971 and 1988. Nowadays, the Royal Castle houses a museum whose fascinating interiors like the Senate Chamber, the royal apartments, the Marble Room, Canaletto Room with original furnishings of great artistic merit are definitely worth a visit.

The Lazienki Park is one of the most beautiful park and palace complexes in Europe. Its name is connected with the bathing pavilion called ''lazienki'' (baths) in Polish erected in the park in the 17th century. A century later, upon King Stanislaw August Poniatowski becoming the owner of the site – the Lazienki Park was turned into a formal garden It was his idea to erect the following buildings, ranked among the pearls of Polish architecture, in the park: Palace on the Water (once King Stanislaw August Poniatowski's summer residence), Theatre on the Island, the Myslewicki Palace, the Old Orangerie, the Belweder, the Astronomical Observatory. The Lazienki Park covers the area of 76 ha.. The unique character and history of the park is reflected in its landscape architecture (pavilions, 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 Lazienki Park also attracts music lovers who attend summer concerts which take place at the foot of Fryderyk Chopin's monument.

Wilanow Palace, King Jan III Sobieski's residence, is one of the few sites which remained intact during World War II. Thus, its original beauty can be admired nowadays. The origins of the building date back to the 1670s when the Wilanow village, then known as Milanow, became the King's property. Originally designed by Augustyn Locci, royal designer, as a ground floor residence. However, over the centuries, the mansion was expanded and it was modelled on an Italian garden villa, a nobility house and Louis XIV palace. As the Palace changed hands, its interior changed. Since 1945 the Palace has been a museum. Of note are the royal apartments, with the 17th-century features, situated on the ground floor of the main building. It is here that Jan III Sobieski and Queen Marysienka resided. The late Baroque Great Dining Room, designed for King August II Mocny, and Princess Izabela Lubomirska's apartments in the south wing are also worth seeing. On the first floor there is also the Gallery of Polish Portrait where the effigies of noble magnate families, monarchs, famous artists and historical figures, painted by famous Polish and foreign artists, can be seen. Behind the Palace there is a huge park – a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Grand Theatre, dating back to 1825 – 1833, used to be one of the largest buildings of Warsaw before World War II. However, only a few of its rooms and the building facade managed to escape the war damage. In the course of the post-war reconstruction works the backstage facilities and the foyer, modelled on the ballroom of the Royal Castle, were added. Nowadays it houses the National Opera and Ballet. In front of the building one can see two monuments. One is dedicated to Stanislaw Moniuszko, the founder of the Polish National Opera, whereas the other one is dedicated to Wojciech Boguslawski, the father of the Polish National Theatre. Part of the Grand Theatre is occupied by the Theatre Museums, where costumes worn during historical performances can be seen. It is a good idea to visit the sight to admire its architectural details and to attend one of its magnificent performances.

St. Anna's Church, once part of the Bernardine Monastery, is most famous for its Gothic presbytery and cloisters with vaulting dating back to late Gothic. Due to its location close to the four major universities (Warsaw University, the Theatre Academy, The Academy of Music and the Academy of Fine Arts), St. Anna's Church is the meeting place for students. It is most renowned as the site where students get married as it is believed that those who did marry in St. Anna's Church have been happy couples.

St. John's Cathedral dates back to the 14th century. The original royal chapel, built of wood, served as the burial site for the dukes of Mazovia. Then, it was replaced by a brick construction. It is the oldest church of Warsaw and the major church of the Warsaw archdiocese which gained the status of a cathedral in 1798. The church has played crucial role in the history of Poland as it is here that such important events like royal coronations, famous notables' burials and the 3 May Constitution swearing took place here. Another reason for seeing the cathedral is the fact that most of its objects of art escaped the World War II damage. The cathedral is also popular with organ music lovers as since 1994
the '' Archcathedral Organ'' International Organ Music Festival has been held here.Though the cathedral was nearly levelled during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, its restoration was based on the architectural plans of the original 14th-century church.

The Palace of Culture and Science, situated in the centre of Warsaw, is the highest building in Poland. It dates back to the 1950s. The Palace of Culture and Science was originally named after Josef Stalin who was the author of the idea to erect it as a gift from the people of the Soviet Union to Poles. The Soviet architect, Lev Rudniev, designed it but first he toured a few Polish towns to familiarize with the architecture of Poland. Nowadays the building serves as a seat of a variety of companies. Moreover, it still plays a cultural function. There are cinemas, bookshops, theatres, the Museum of Technology, etc. in the Palace of Culture and Science. Various fairs and exhibitions are held here. It also boasts the largest concert and conference hall, called Congress Hall, able to seat as many as three thousand people. The building arouses controversies among the Varsovians. Some view it as a gloomy symbol of Communism and are for turning it into a Museum of Socialism. Others regard it as one of the city landmarks. Since February the Palace of Culture and Science has been registered as a national monument.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes was erected in 1948 on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of uprising in the Ghetto of Warsaw. It commemorates the struggle of the 1943 Ghetto Uprising heroes. It is part of the Path of Remembrance which leads from here to the Umschlagplatz Monument – the black and white marble monument at the site of a former railway siding (Umschlagplatz in German) from where the cattle cars, deporting the Jewish Ghetto inhabitants to the concentration camps, departed from. The whole Path consists of 16 granite blocks, each of which is dedicated to a hero or an event in the Jewish Ghetto. One of the people whose name is engraved on the Path is Janusz Korczak, who together with a group of orphanage children, chose to die at the Treblinka extermination camp.

National Museum, established in 1916, is the largest museum in Warsaw and one of the largest ones in Poland. It boasts a huge collection of ancient art, domestic and foreign painting, artisanship and numismatics. The Museum of Polish Military Forces is part of it. It is here that one can see the masterpieces of world famous painters like Jan Matejko (the Grunwald Battle, Stanczyk), Jozef Chelmonski (Indian Summer), Stanislaw Wyspianski (Self-portrait), Sandro Botticelli (Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist)

Powazki (Powazkowski Cemetery/Old Powazki) is the oldest preserved necropolis in Warsaw. It is also renowned as the most beautiful of all the cemeteries of Warsaw. It was established in 1790. The cemetery, covering the area of 43 ha, is divided into the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant sections.The cemetery is most renowned as the burial site of Polish celebrities. Along the Avenue of Merit (Aleja Zasluzonych) such prominent figures as Wladyslaw Reymont, the Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, Jan Kiepura, opera singer, Krzysztof Kieslowski, film director, Henryk Wieniawski, composer, Wojciech Boguslawski, playwright, Wojciech Zywny, Chopin's first music teacher, are buried here. Their tombs, usually designed by outstanding architects and carved by prominent sculptors, are excellent works of art. They are also examples of various artistic styles and architectural forms.

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