The demolitions from the Second World War did not stop the popular Old Town of Warsaw from being rebuilt and placed on UNESCOS World Heritage list.

The Old town of Warsaw is not just like any other old part of a city. The history undoubtedly goes way back, but it has also an interesting and brutal newer history. It is almost hard to imagine, while walking along the quaint brick streets among restaurants, cafés and diverse shops. But, once you unleash you imagination, you can maybe get a feeling on how it must have been here, in the beginning of the 13th century. Take a look at the city walls, the fortified outpost Barbican, or the catholic St. John’s Arch cathedral in Warsaw. Who were the people who built this? Who used it? Who walked past it every day?

Big changes

Let’s look back to the establishment of the town. It originally grew around the castle of the Dukes of Mazovia, which later became the Royal Castle and the official residence of the Polish monarchs. The Market Square was created sometime between the 13th and 14th century.

The square and surrounding streets both changed a lot over the years. In the early 1910s Warsaw Old Town gave house to a writer Alter Kacynze, who wrote about his life here in his novel The Strong and the Weak. It described the area at the time as a slum neighbourhood, with poor Jewish and Christian families living in crowded old aristocratic buildings. The lifestyle here was partly bohemian where you could find creative studios of artists and painters, beside streets filled with brothels.  

Struck down

The times changed, and in 1918 the Royal Castle could reclaim its position as the seat of rulers and more precisely, the President of Poland and his staff. It took some time, but in the late 1930s the authorities began to renovate and refurbish the area to its former glory.  Their efforts were damaged when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. A big part of this historic place was ruined by the Luftwaffe who aimed for both civilian houses as well as historical landmarks. Under the occupation some of it was rebuilt, but the Old Town suffered yet again big losses after the Warsaw Uprising. Everything left standing was systematically blown to pieces by the German Army.

After the war, Poland started the meticulously rebuilding of their beloved Old Town. You can see the results for yourself when visiting. This is a great example of an almost complete reconstruction of this historical area and you can see the results for yourself. It is such a good example that in 1980 it was given the prestigious recognition of being included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Currently this is a pulsating lively place, full of tourists and locals alike, filling the many galleries, cafés and restaurants.

Fairy tale story

There are several unique parts of the Old Town that you should take time to explore. The reconstructed Market Square is one of them, with its perfect match to its original look in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s the ideal place to relax with a cup of coffee and some pastries whilst taking in the beautiful surroundings. Take a close look at the buildings along one side of Dekert. According to legend there lived a Basilisk in the basements, protecting the treasures once stored there. Every man who tried to reach it was killed by the mere gaze at the Basilisk, and turned to stone. Sounds familiar? No doubt that the famous story of Harry Potter took some inspiration from this tale. Word has it that the big creature was defeated by a wandering tailor who shown a mirror on the monster. Terrified of its own appearance he hid away from that moment on. Today, the symbol of the Basilisk is placed on the façade of the building, reminding us of legends, history and that there is still some magic left in the world.

Whether in Warsaw for business or leisure, make sure to pay your visit to Europe’s most fascinating old town on the banks of the River Vistula. The central Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel, Warsaw is a perfect base for exploring this historic city, with exciting and beautiful attractions just a short ride by public transport away.

What would you like to see in Warsaw’s Old Town?