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Last updated : Nov 2009
Warsaw Travel Guide
Warsaw Travel Guide and Warsaw Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
City Overview

The images of Warsaw as an uninteresting concrete jungle, a wasteland of Soviet-era housing with little appeal remain only with those who haven’t visited this lively city in the past 15 years. The city does wihout a doubt have its fair share of problems and whole swathes of its suburbs are indeed dominated by the less-than-imaginative creations of communist-era architects. But there is far more to this metropolis, with a string of things to see, a remarkable cultural scene and an increasingly dynamic nightlife. Warsaw is a real survivor – the city’s current day existence, especially as a new addition to the European Union’s list of capital cities, is inspiring in itself.

By the end of World War II, around 85% of the city lay in ruins and most of the population had fled, been killed, deported or sent to concentration camps. More than a third of Warsaw’s pre-war population was Jewish, even though there are hardly any traces of this heritage remaining, as the city’s prosperous Jewish community was destroyed by the end of the war. Much of Warsaw’s historic centre was painstakingly recreated in the years after World War II, in a move by the communist authorities, which astounded the citizens of the city as it much as it did the West. Some churlish critics have dismissed the ‘new’ Old Town as being nothing but an unconvincing fake, even though the loss of the original was hardly Warsaw’s fault and many of Europe’s old towns have undergone similar restoration and rebuilding. Somewhat paradoxically, many of today’s Old Town buildings are closer to the original architecture than they were before destruction, as the alterations of the intervening centuries were not incorporated in the reconstruction. The outstandingly successful rebuilding of Warsaw’s Old Town was finally rewarded in 1980, when the entire complex earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Located in the Mazowieckie province, in east-central Poland, the city spans the Wisla (Vistula River) and most of the main tourist sites are on the left bank, while the right bank contains the increasingly fashionable Praga district. The tourist epicentre of Warsaw is the ‘Royal Route’, which runs north–south from the New and Old Towns, past the stylish shops of Nowy Swiat, the palaces that survived the war and the royal gardens of Lazienki Park, before reaching Wilanow Palace to the south of the city centre. The city also boasts numerous green spaces, with leafy parks where rowing boats cruise past outdoor cafés, during the summer, and free classical concerts magnetize crowds in a scene far removed from the dull Communist-era images of Warsaw. The nightlife scene today is just as surprising, with clued-up and increasingly well dressed local youth flocking to the countless bars and clubs of a city that now buzzes after dark.

Even though some could argue that Poland’s cultural and educational seat of power is found, equally, in Krakow, Warsaw is still very much Poland’s largest city and the focal point of the nation’s economic growth. The peak tourist season is from May to October, when the weather is very pleasant, although there will be some odd days when the temperature rises above 30°C. January and February are the coldest months and temperatures can drop as low as -30°C.