The beginning of the Warsaw University is related to the Law School which opened in 1808 and the School of Medicine created one year later. Both schools later were included as faculties of the University. This was a time when Poland was not on the map after partitions between Russia, Prussia and Austro-Hungarian Empires. This part of Poland belonged to Russian Empire till the end of World War I.
In 1816 Tsar Alexander I gave his permission to the Polish authorities to create the university and named it the Royal University of Warsaw. Its symbol was an eagle with laurel and palm branches in its talons surrounded by five stars representing the five faculties: Law and Administration, Medicine, Philosophy, Theology and Sciences, and Fine Arts.
The university was closed for many years after the November Uprising of 1830. Many students and professors were persecuted after taking part in it. After the January Uprising of 1863 it was transformed into the Imperial University of Warsaw, with Russian being the official language for the next 46 years. The Tsar believed that it would be a good way to “Russify” Polish society.
After Poland gained independence in 1918 the University of Warsaw experienced a revival. Many new departments were opened and in the 1930s it was the largest university in Poland. Unfortunately the most terrifying war was soon to come, the World War II. The university was closed during the Nazis occupation. Many students joined the Polish army. After the war everything started from the beginning.
Some buildings of this historical campus on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street actually survived the war. Enter its beautiful gate constructed in the beginning of the 20th century, designed by a great Polish architect Stefan Szyller. On the left of the gate there is the Neo-Renaissance Uruski Palace – the Department of Geography and Regional Studies. After you enter the university gate you will see the Old Library building in front (today a lecture hall). Behind it there is the Kazimierzowski Palace (Villa Regia) which was the summer royal residence in the 17th century. It was heavily damaged during World War II. After its reconstruction it became the university rector`s office.
You should definitely visit the Column Hall, one of the greatest Neoclassical interiors in Poland. It`s based in the Faculty of History building but unfortunately it`s open to the public only on Wednesdays from 10 am to 5 pm (free entry). An identical looking building, but on the left, facing the Old Library there is the Auditorium. The building has been recently restored. It`s one of the most important buildings in the history of Polish education. It has held the lectures of famous Polish scientists of Physics, Music and Medicine. Also, Frederick Chopin used to study here.
Another place here connected with Frederic Chopin is the Faculty of History of Arts building. Young Chopin used to live here with his parents when his father was a teacher at the Warsaw Lyceum based in the Kazimierzowski Palace.