14 May 2023Trip to Oslo
Warsaw is the bustling capital of Poland with its stunning architecture and rich history. The old city center, meticulously restored to preserve its traditions, stands in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers that dot the city skyline. It was an unforgettable weekend that I would recommend to anyone looking for a unique cultural adventure.
First things first, kick off your day with a delicious breakfast at SAM Powisle, where you can indulge in a great variety of choices from sweet to savory dishes. Trust me, this will fuel you up for an exciting day ahead.
Next up, head to the stunning Royal Castle, one of the most impressive historical buildings in Warsaw which is better to visit as early as its possible before the crowds of tourists descend upon it. Originally built in the 14th century, the castle was destroyed during World War II but was reconstructed again in 1971-1984 to its former glory. The royal apartments inside will transport you back in time to the height of the Polish kingdom. The guided audio tour that was included in the ticket price provided an in-depth experience that transported me back in time to the height of a very Polish kingdom. The castle has a distinctive character and symbolizes the national identity of the Polish people. I was amazed to learn that the castle had been completely restored through donations and not from the government budget.
Inside, the castle was even more impressive than its exterior. The castle boasts an impressive collection of lavishly decorated royal apartments, including the Great Assembly Hall, which is the largest room in the castle. The Throne Room, with its embroidered silver eagles, was particularly noteworthy as they had been recreated from just one remaining original that had survived World War I, and the Marble Room, which has the oldest interior in the castle and features portraits of Polish kings. But the cherry on top is the Senators’ Chamber, where Europe’s first and the World’s second constitution of 1791 was signed.
The castle also has an impressive collection of paintings, including 22 different detailed views of Warsaw by Canaletto, as well as art pieces by famous artists such as Lukas Kranach the Elder, Rembrandt, and Paulo Uccello, and paintings by the Polish painter Jan Matejko that represent historical events of Poland, including The Constitution of May 3, 1791. It’s impressive how the museum continues to collect art pieces that disappeared after World War II.
After the castle, wander around the Old Town, where you’ll find the Old Town Market Square with its gorgeous merchant houses that look like a box of crayons spilled onto the street. The Syrenka, a statue of a warrior mermaid, the symbol of the city, stands proudly in the square. If you’re interested in the city’s history, don’t miss the Museum of Warsaw, which presents the city’s life from the 14th century to modern times. For those interested in science, the Maria Sklodowska Curie Museum, the house where she was born and lived until 24 years old before moving to Paris, is also worth a visit. She received the Nobel Prize twice in two different fields – physics and chemistry. Continue the way and see the Warsaw Barbican, the 16th-century castle that defined the wall and stood in the center of the city. It had been destroyed during WWII, but the mid-20th century saw its meticulous reconstruction.
Stroll down the Royal Route and stop at atmospheric Café Bristol for a piece of cake and a cappuccino, where you can soak up the history and events that have taken place since its opening in 1901. Passing by the Presidential Palace, visit the Chopin Museum representing all stages of the composer’s life, with plenty of documents and interactive facilities.
For lunch, head to Restaurant Zrodlo, where you can indulge in traditional Polish dishes with a contemporary twist. The changing seasonal menu and natural wines were a perfect complement to the delicious food.
In the afternoon, make your way to Łazienki Park, a beautiful and spacious park with various classicist buildings and the main palace surrounded by water.
The Royal Łazienki Museum, the Old Orangery, numerous statues, and the statue of Frederic Chopin, are all worth exploring. And don’t miss the Amphitheatre, where you can enjoy the view or attend Chopin concerts from mid-May to the end of September.
In the evening, enjoy a Chopin concert at Dean’s Palace Warsaw Archdiocese Museum, by a professional and experienced pianist touring around the world.
Finish the night off at Hala Koszyki, a bustling market hall that is a foodie’s paradise, with an array of restaurants and street food vendors offering mouth-watering delicacies from around the world. And as the night falls, the hall transforms into a lively party scene, with bars and DJs creating an electrifying ambiance. Or head to Nocni Market, located on an old train station platform. This gem of a market aims to recreate the bustling atmosphere of Beijing street markets and the vibrant vibe of Berlin clubs. As the largest street food market in Poland, it offers a mesmerizing variety of culinary delights, the DJ sets the mood, and you can mingle with locals and visitors alike as you savor the flavors and soak up the lively ambiance. This market is only open in the evening and mostly during the summer, remember to check if it’s open before heading there.
Starting the day with an awesome breakfast is always a great way to kick things off. I had planned to go to Bułkę przez Bibułkę, but unfortunately, there was already a huge line. So, I decided to explore other options and ended up at Reforma Urban. I was not disappointed with my decision, as the breakfast was both delicious and varied in terms of choices. The vibrant and stylish design of the place was also a pleasant surprise.
Following that, venture to the stunning Wilanow Palace, one of Poland’s earliest public museums. This palace and park complex, which spans a whopping 93 hectares, is home to various gardens such as Baroque, early English, neo-style 19th century, and a beautiful rose garden. There’s also the Morysin natural reserve to explore.
Built in the 17th century as the official royal residence of Jan Sobieski or Jan III at Willanov, which translates to “villa nuova,” the palace is a treasure trove of artwork and rich history. With painter Michelangelo Palloni, trained in Florence, creating numerous breathtaking ceiling paintings, intricate stucco decorations, and plafond details throughout the palace, the opulence is unparalleled. Notable rooms include the Kings Antechamber, faience cabinet adorned with tiles produced in the 17th century workshops of Amsterdam and Utrecht, and the Chinese cabinet with an impressive collection of goldwork, tapestries, and objects from the Far East. The King’s Library, famous for his love of books, included works, and has the oldest authentic floor in the palace, made of three-coloured marble tiles. The ceiling’s decorations feature representatives of different disciplines of science, such as Galileo, and literature both ancient, like Virgil, and modern, like Moliere. The entire library was moved to Zhovkva, now in Ukraine, and only the paintings on the ceiling remain.
The palace houses some of the world’s finest masterpieces, including the works of Lucas Cranach the Elder, Meissen porcelain dishes from the 18th century, Bottger red stoneware from the same period, and a platter from Hans Jakob Meier of the 17th century from Augsburg, one of Europe’s foremost centers of goldsmithery.
Among the palace’s prominent artworks is a statue of Jan III, the founder of the palace, which commemorates his triumph over the Turks during the Battle of Vienna, portraying him as a defender of Christianity. Additionally, there’s a cabinet of antiquities dedicated to ancient artworks with a collection of Greek and Egyptian art pieces that Potocki acquired through his travels and auctions.
One of the most valuable paintings in the Polish museum collection is a portrait of a 26-year-old Potocki by Jacques Louis David, an equestrian portrait of this epoch, subsequently becoming a court painter of Napoleon and depicting the famous Coronation in Notre Dame and Napoleon crossing St. Bernards.
The Wilanow Museum opened in 1805 and represents the collector’s passion of Stanislav Potocki and his wife Alexandra – Lubomirska in their youth. Potocki converted the original three-room apartment into a permanent museum gallery in the middle of the 19th century, mainly displaying foreign paintings.
For lunch, head to Green Bear, a casual Polish restaurant with a seasonal menu, especially traditional Polish dumplings. Afterward, explore the economic and business center of the city and witness the bustling city life and notable skyscrapers. There is the Palace of Culture and Science, built during the Soviet Union epoch, which houses offices, theaters, and a panoramic view of the city. Poland boasts six of the twenty tallest buildings in the EU.
For an enriching cultural experience, visit the National Museum of Warsaw, which displays Polish art from ancient to contemporary periods. You’ll find numerous awe-inspiring artworks, such as Jan Matejko’s “Battle of Grunewald,” which depicts the victory of the allied Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania over the Teutonic Order in 1410. Another masterpiece to look out for is Death of Barbara Radziwiłł by Józef Simmler, featuring a love drama between a noblewoman, Barbara Radziwiłł, and Sigismund II Augustus, the last king of Poland and a member of the Jagiellonian dynasty. Strange Gardens by Josef Mehoffer is also worth checking out for its extraordinary mix of reality and colorful fiction. Personally, I recommend Tamara Lempicka’s works, particularly Lassitude painting, as she is one of the most important artists of Art Deco.
If you have some spare time, you can also visit the zoo or take a boat trip along the Vistula River. And for dinner, I highly recommend Alevino. This restaurant serves Polish dishes with a twist and has a wine bar with more than 250 labels of wines to choose from.