Warsaw’s Old Town is the finest and most picturesque part of the city. It was built during the 12th to 13th century and is surrounded by 14th century fortification walls. It played a major role in Poland’s history and cultural life since the beginning of its existence, and continues to do so even today. Visit Old Town to see the most beautiful houses and palaces in the city, dine at the market square, or check out the most inspiring museums Warsaw has to offer.
Walk Around The Old Town Market Square
The Old Town Market Square dates back to the 13th century where it used to be the centre of Warsaw’s public life, hosting political speeches and executions. The buildings around it were wooden at the time, but what we can see nowadays dates back the 15th century. Today the market square offers a wide range of good restaurants and cocktail bars as well as street art and souvenirs. Once on the market square, you can also visit the Literature Museum and the Historical Museum of Warsaw.
This museum focuses on the culture, art, and history of Warsaw, collected for centuries by various cultural organizations and the University of Warsaw before a separate institution was dedicated to it in 1936. Since then, the Historical Museum of Warsaw has evolved from a modest branch of the National Museum into a distinct institution that spreads in to 11 tenement houses in Warsaw’s old town and beyond. The museum demonstrates Warsaw’s dynamic changes and houses rare items from World War II and the 1944 uprising. The main exhibition is located in the Old Town building, whilst temporary exhibitions can be found in various other places.
This museum has been named after Poland’s greatest writer and poet, Adam Mickiewicz, who is considered the pioneer and most important artist of the Polish Romanticism. It was opened in 1948 to commemorate Mickiewicz’s 150th birthday. The museum is located in two tenement houses on the Old Town market square and hosts a big collection of Mickiewicz’s private correspondence, portraits, manuscripts, and other valuable items. It is a must for every bibliophile and fan of Polish literature. The museum is closed every Saturday.
Sigismund’s Column, constructed in the middle of the 17th century, commemorates the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa who is known for having moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw. The Corinthian column holds a bronze sculpture of the king with his armor that dominates the skyline of the old town. Similarly with the Royal Castle, the column was severely damaged during the war and reconstructed after it ended.
Formerly the royal residence between the 16th and 18th centuries, the castle currently houses a museum and is open to the public. Restored and furnished with repossessed furniture and works of art, it transports visitors to the time of Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last kind of Poland.
If you walk down the Krakowskie Przedmiescie street toward the Royal Castle, on the right side you will encounter the Presidential Palace, used from the 17th century until now by various noblemen and then all the Polish presidents. Its current look was determined in the 19th century, and that is why the neoclassical building glows with whiteness. The bronze monument standing in front the palace depicts prince Józef Poniatowski, the commander-in-chief of the Polish army during the difficult times of the early 19th century. This monument has been modeled after the Roman statue of Marcus Aurelius located on the Capitoline Hill.
You can find the entrance to the university campus near the Presidential Palace. The first thing worth noticing is the neo-Baroque gate with two modern statues of the ancient goddesses, Urania and Athena, symbolizing peace and wisdom. The campus itself is full of charming palaces, such as the neoclassical Tyszkiewicz Palace, and gardens. Most of the buildings of the campus belong to the university administration and the humanities departments.
The historic Grand Theatre, the National Opera and Ballet, as well as the Theatre Square on which it is located have played a major role in the 1863 January Uprising. The Theatre Square has been the symbol of Polish performance culture for the last 200 years. The Grand Theatre was inaugurated in 1833 with a production of Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’. The most famous Polish opera composer, Stanisław Moniuszko, staged his iconic ‘Halka’ there in 1858, and was himself the opera’s director for 14 years.
This museum, located near the Castle Square, figures among very few cartoon art museums in the world. It contains an impressive collection of Polish and foreign caricatures, created by W. Hogarth, H. Daumier, J. Effel, R. Topor, S. Mrożek, and other artists, dating from the 18th century until contemporary times. The museum regularly organises temporary exhibitions in Poland and abroad.
U Fukiera is a place to dine at if you want to enjoy a fancy and very Polish meal in the heart of the old town. The restaurant is owned by Magdalena Gessler, a famous chef and journalist who led the Polish edition of the reality show Kitchen Nightmares and was a judge in MasterChef. The restaurant is located in a charming tenement house and attracts even world-famous personalities, such as Claudia Schiffer. The rich menu includes cold and warm starters, salads, and main courses of Polish fish (crab, trout, salmon, herring) and a variety of meats.