A Brief Look at Warsaw’s Best-Kept Secrets

Explore how Poland’s capital secured its place in cultural history.

Poland’s capital city has developed into a lively and vibrant place with much to explore. Was with a collection of photos or postcards from a long vacation, we’re taking a visual journey through the city’s top attractions and cultural exports.

Warsaw’s “New” Old Town

When you’ve seen one medieval European city, you feel like you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong. Especially when it comes to Warsaw’s Old Town. It is a unique in that much of it was destroyed and rebuilt during and after the second World War, garnering the nickname “the Phoenix City.” Many of the buildings were rebuilt with architecture students’ drawings to guide them (and not without some artistic license).

Miodowa Street, Bernardo Bellotto, 1777 (From the collection of The Royal Castle in Warsaw – Museum)

In addition to subtle changes in historic building design, some of Warsaw’s oldest districts—Old Town and Praga—feature a thriving street art culture today. And while that may seem sacrilegious, Warsaw has a history of advertising painted on the sides of buildings. This makes the city’s street art culture retro-chic, often in conversation with staples of Polish design and culture.

Untitled, Massmix, 2010-05 (From the collection of Urban Forms Gallery)

Iconic Polish Advertisements

Polish advertisements throughout the 20th century were iconic, with the country contributing a great deal towards the discipline of graphic design. What made them so unique? Many posters were done by fine artists, not graphic designers. Who thought you could make ads actually cool and enjoyable to look at? Explore the National Museum in Warsaw yourself here to trace the visual history from frescoes to murals to posters and more.

1st Polish Graphic Art Showroom, Tadeusz Cieślewski, Jr., 1928 (From the collection of The National Museum in Warsaw)

Creative Evolution for All

One of the trendiest areas of the city is Plac Zbawiciela, or “Savior Square”, now known as “Hipster Square”. This square is a living testament to the 180-degree transformation Warsaw has experienced since WWII. It is now marked by its brilliant “Tęcza” sculpture—a large and controversial rainbow symbolizing LGBT pride. Here you’ll find up-and-coming as well as famous musical acts, and plenty of Poland’s biggest cultural export - black metal.

Plac Zbawiciela, Warsaw, Poland, Maria Chrząszczowa, 1946, A Photo of What The Trendiest Neighborhood in Warsaw looked like post war.  (From the collection of Archeology of Photography Foundation)
Streetview caption: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish jews, Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw’s Long History of Theater

There’s no better way to spend a night out in Warsaw than to catch a live show. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the city has more stage theaters than cinemas. Don’t expect summer blockbusters here; this city likes to keep with the tried and true classics. The Grand Theatre in Warsaw is a great place to start, offering the only theater museum in the country.

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