Warsaw Old Town: The UNESCO World Heritage Site

The oldest part of the capital city and one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Warsaw. It was established in the 13th century, but was completely destroyed by the Nazis through 1939 to 1944 and rebuilt after the war.

Warsaw Old Town in January 1945
Warsaw Old Town in January 1945

Warsaw’s Old Town is the only example of such reconstruction in the world. It was 90% destroyed during the Second World War with only few houses surviving. During the reconstruction as many original bricks and remaining architectural elements were used as possible. Sculptures, doorway portals, arches and other elements were taken from the ruins and put back in their original places. New houses were often rebuilt using surviving Gothic basements and parts of their walls. If you didn`t know all of this you would probably never realize these are new structures.

The Castle Square on Canaletto painting
The Castle Square on Canaletto painting

You should definitely visit the Royal Castle – the official residence of the Polish monarchs, St. John’s Archcathedral – a place of Polish kings’ coronations, Old Town Market Square – the oldest square of Warsaw surrounded with examples of Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism architecture, Barbican – the city`s defensive construction, Krasiński’s Palace – Warsaw’s greatest aristocratic residence, St. Anne`s Church – a Baroque temple with a breathtaking view from its bell tower.

In 1980 the area was placed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Now it`s probably the youngest medieval city in the world – it`s about 50 years old! UNESCO describes Warsaw’s Old Town as “an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century”.

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