When I first announced that I was spending my birthday in Warsaw this year, the reaction from a lot of people (including Polish friends) was that Warsaw is an ugly city. And in some sense, it is. The buildings definitely have a very overbearing and somewhat depressing Eastern Bloc feeling to them, and there’s not a lot of bright color in the city, with browns and grays being the standard tones. Even so, I loved it there.
But if you’re looking for something bright and cheery and, well, pretty, the Old Town (Stare Miasto) is something special. Dating back to the 13th century, it has definitely earned its name. The Old Town was the center of the city for most of Warsaw’s existence, but unfortunately, between 1939 and 1944, the majority was demolished by the Germans. However, when World War II was over, the entire area was rebuilt to look as it did before it was destroyed, which gives the Old Town a UNESCO distinction of being a top example of a historical reconstruction.
Today, the Old Town is very charming, if not a bit kitsch-y. There is a lot of open space, like Canon Square (plac Kanonia), Castle Square (plac Zamkowy), and the Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta). It’s also home to the Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) and Sigismund’s Column (Kolumna Zygmunta), and as you stroll south on Krakowskie Przedmieście, you’ll encounter the Presidential Palace (Pałac Prezydencki), a handful of other palaces and churches, and the University of Warsaw (Uniwersytet Warszawski). The architecture along this walk is astounding, with each facade boasting intricate details and unique color schemes that almost seem to transport you back in time to when the area was the bustling city center.