The Warsaw Old Town (Stare Miasto) is on of the most historic and fascinating parts of Warsaw. Established at the end of the 13th century, around what is now the Royal Castle, it was originally the seat of the Mazovian dukes.
The Old Town has the design of something of a geometric “chessboard” of streets, and the area has maintained its medieval town-planning scheme. The Nazi’s destroyed the Old Town during World War II.
The area was later rebuilt from rubble with a fastidious eye for historical detail, and is now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The heart of the area is Old Town market Square (Rynek Starego Miasta), with its distinguished architecture, restaurants, cafe’s, shops and museums. The surrounding streets also house museums and feature historic architecture, such as the City walls, the Barbican and St John’s Cathedral.
St John’s Cathedral Warsaw
Katedra sw. Jana
Completed in the early 15th century, St John’s Cathedral (katedra sw Jana) was originally a parish church. Gaining Collegiate status in 1406, it was not until 1798 that St John’s became a cathedral.
Among the important events held here was Stanislaw August Poniatowski his coronation in 1764, and the swearing of an oath by the deputies of the Sjem (Parliament) to uphold the 1791 Constitution.
After World War II, 19th-century additions were removed from the façade, and the cathedral was restored to its original Mazovian Gothic style. The interiors feature ornate tombs and religious art.
|Address||Świętojańska 8, Warsaw, Poland|
|Telephone||+48 22 831 02 89|
Pelican House Warsaw
Kamienica Pod Pelikanem
The large Pelican House that fills the corner where Piwna Street meets Castle Square is from 1705. In the mid-18th century this was the home of the royal architect, Karl Friedrich Pöppelmann. It is one of seven houses that originally stood on the north site of what was then Bernardynska Street, one of the historic streets of Warsaw Old Town.
The south side of Bernardynska Street was demolished when Castle Square opened up in the early years of the 19th century. Since then, this and the other houses on the former north side of the street have faced onto the square.
The “Pelican House” takes its name from the sculpture of a pelican on one corner of the building. The house also has a wooden porch, running the length of the ground floor windows, that is a typical feature of Warsaw houses of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The house, as with others on this side of Castle Square, was destroyed in 1944 during World War II. It was reconstructed in 1957, with new sgraffito by Edmund Burke. It now houses a tourist information center.
|Address||Plac Zamkowy 1/13, Warsaw, Poland|
Adam Mickiewicz Literature Museum
Muzeum Literatury im. A. Mickiewicza
This museum in Warsaw Old Town occupies two burgher’s houses, Orlemus’ and Balcer’s, which date from the 15th century. Both houses have undergone changes over the centuries. After World War II, they were reconstructed in a late Baroque style.
But the original Gothic arch and frescoes are still in the entrance hall of number 20. Ten of the museum’s galleries relate to Poland’s renowned Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz.
On display are his original manuscripts, first editions and various memorabilia. The lives and works of other Polish writers and poets, including Julian Tuwim, Leopold Staff, Melchior Wankowicz and Kazimierz Wierzynski, have a place in separate galleries.
In addition, the museum collects works of art related to the periods in which these writers worked. The museum’s fast collection can also been seen in frequent temporary exhibitions. The Literature Museum has a separate exhibition venue at 40 Polna Street (not far from Lazienki Park). This branch celebrates the life and works of the Polish novelist Maria Dabrowska.
|Address||Rynek Starego Miasta 18/20, Warsaw, Poland|
|Telephone||+48 22 831 40 61|
Warsaw History Museum
Muzeum Historyczne m. st. Warszawy
The Warsaw History Museum occupies all the houses on the Dekert side of the Old Town Market Square, as well as three in the adjacent Nowomiejska Street. Houses on the Dekert side were less damaged in World War II, some retaining their facades and one or two keeping their interiors, which can be viewed via the museum.
But the museum’s collection was totally destroyed during the war. The existing collection occupies 60 rooms, with Warsaw’s history conveyed through paintings, drawings, illustrations, sculpture, arts and crafts, handicrafts and archaeological finds.
Fukier House Warsaw
Now housing one of the city’s most stylish restaurants, this building dates originally from the 15th century. Its present Neo-Classical style is from 1782, when architect Szymon Bogumil Zug thought to have made major alternations. The house retains the name of the Fukier family, who acquired it in 1810.
The Fukiers where the Polish branch of the Fuggers, a German family who for centuries were among the most powerful bankers in Germany. Even German emperors were often in debt to them.
The Fuggers were also merchants and dominated Europe’s spice trade. While the Polish branch of the family did not meet quit the same level of commercial success, the Fukiers nevertheless amassed a considerable fortune as wine merchants.
Up until World War II, the Fukiers were particularly renowned for their stocks of Hungarian wine and Polish mead. During World War II, only the ground floor and cellar of Fukier House escaped destruction.
Having been painstakingly restored, the ornate, gilded façade includes a frieze in the pattern of a gentleman’s traditional dress sash. Above the portal is the Fukier family crest, comprising two crossed lilies, together with the letter F. The Fukier restaurant now occupies the ground floor, the cellar and a charming cloistered courtyard. The Society of Art Historians occupies the top floors.
|Address||Rynek Starego Miasta 27, Warsaw, Poland|
The Guild of Leather Crafts Museum
The Guild of Leather Crafts Museum is within a building known locally the Schoemaker’s House. It is a 16th century building, reconstructed in an 18th century style after World War II.
The museum’s collection includes the reconstructed workshop of a shoemaker and that of a saddler. Both feature examples of their respective crafts. Exhibits also illustrate the life of Colonel Jan Kilinksi.
As well as a master of the Guild, he was also a hero of 1794’s Kosciuszko Insurrection.
|Address||10 Waski Dunaj, Warsaw|
|Telephone||+48 831 96 37|
Jesuit Church of Our Lady Mary the Merciful Warsaw
Built together with a monastery, in a style that mixes Mannerism and Baroque, this church dates from 1621. After the monastery’s dissolution in 1773, the church remained largely unchanged until 1944, when it was almost completely destroyed.
The original architecture records survived the war, which enabled this unique church to be accurately reconstructed. Occupying a narrow site, the church has several interesting features.
A lantern in the dome floods the presbytery with daylight. The building’s Gothic vaults origin from the cellars of houses demolished when the building of the church took place.
Among the tombstones in the vaults is the magnificent monument to Jan Tarlo, designed by Jan Jerzy Plersch. The entrance to the church features the figure of a bear, which formerly stood in the Piarist church in Dluga Street.
|Address||Świętojańska 10, Warsaw, Poland|
|Telephone||+48 22 831 16 75|
St Martin’s Church in Old Town of Warsaw
Dating from the 15th century, St Martin’s Church was built for the Augustinian Order, who came to Warsaw in 1352. Its present form is the result of two Baroque-style refurbishment: between 1631 and 1636, and in the mid-18th century. The renowned architect Karol Bay supervised the latter.
His designs included a “wave-like” facade. Unfortunately, this didn’t survive World War II. Nevertheless, a modern interpretation of the Baroque interiors was recreated under the direction of Sister Anna Skrzydlewska.
The only original artifact that remains is a partly burned crucifix, which has been hung on a pillar in the nave.
St Martin’s Church has long played an important role in the history of Warsaw. From the 16th century, the Mazovian gentry used it. In 1950 a Franciscan order of nuns, the Servants of the Holy Cross, took over the church.
Their mission is to care for the poor. During the 1980’s, members of Solidarity and other anti-Communist movements held clandestine meetings here. Adjoining St Martin’s Church, there is a delightful cloistered courtyard, which is part of the nunnery.
|Address||Piwna 9-11, Warsaw, Poland|
|Telephone||+48 22 831 02 22|