We present walking routes prepared by Warsaw locals for the “Warsaw Gems” competition (in Polish “Perełki Warszawy, which literally means “Pearls of Warsaw”). Get off the beaten track and see what treasures hide various districts of Warsaw. You will visit, among others, the industrial area of Wola district, side streets of Śródmieście district and the wild bank of the Vistula.
Did you know you can take part in this year’s edition of the contest? Share your Warsaw Gems with us! https://warsawtour.pl/en/warsaw-gems-2022/
Route proposal and photos by: Tomasz Obiński
We invite you to take a tour around the quieter, local part Śródmieście district. We start at Bank Square (Plac Bankowy) with a view of the Blue Skyscraper (Błękitny Wieżowiec). This is where the Great Synagogue stood. It was blown up by the Germans on May 16, 1943, which was the last act of destroying the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. From the bustling square we head south and turn into a slightly sleepy Elektoralna Street, next to which we will find a historic 19th-century building of the former Holy Spirit Hospital (Szpital Świętego Ducha). Currently, it is the seat of the Mazowieckie Institute of Culture. We go to Mirów Market Halls (Hale Mirowskie) and discover one of the most popular markets in both pre- and post-war Warsaw. It is here that people from all over the city come to buy their favorite products, the place is teeming with life all the time. Through the Mirowski Park, we reach Grzybowska Street and turn into Próżna Street, where nineteenth-century tenement houses survived the war. Before the war, Próżna was largely inhabited by Jews (the area was called the Jewish district), and during the occupation it was located on the border of the ghetto. It is no coincidence that there is a mural by Tytus Brzozowski depicting Jewish Warsaw. You will find his work at the back of the tenement house at 12 Próżna Street.
The route of industrial Wola from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries
Route proposal and photos by: Aleksander Figielski
The Warsaw Gas Works (Gazownia Warszawska) is one of the best-preserved industrial architecture complexes of the 19th and 20th centuries, consisting of: production buildings, two gas tanks, a water tower, a fire station, a coach house, as well as office and residential buildings. The former gas shelter and compressor station is the seat of the Gas Museum, but at present, visitors are not allowed to enter it – renovation works are underway in this part of the complex. It promises to be a completely new tourist attraction in the district. Through Alojzy Pawełek park we reach two gas tanks at Prądzyńskiego Street. The higher rotunda was built in 1888, the lower one in 1900. The tanks are unique on a European scale – similar ones can only be found in Vienna. Then we go along Prądzyńskiego Street to the footbridge over the railway tracks and reach the former factory of Lilpop, Rau and Loewenstein from 1904. This factory was famous, among others, for the production of steam locomotives, trams and cars. Before the war, the plant occupied over 22 hectares and employed 3,500 people. During the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans deported to the Reich all machines, devices, company and employee documents. After the war, only a few buildings remained, which now house service premises, offices and a music club. Going further along the footbridge over Prymasa Tysiąclecia Avenue, after turning left, we reach Armatnia Street. The unique atmosphere here is created by the brick houses of the Warsaw-Kalisz Railway workers from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Until recently, the place looked as if time had stopped here, now a modern housing estate is being expanded in the area. Just behind the last house you will find the brick viaduct of the Warsaw-Kalisz railway from 1902. It is one of the oldest reinforced concrete structures in Warsaw.
Echoes of industrial Kamionek
Route proposal and photos by: Karolina Dąbek
Warsaw Kamionek, the part of Praga-South district, will surprise many. A few tram stops from the center full of skyscrapers, in the vicinity of the impressive PGE Narodowy (the national stadium) and the captivating Skaryszewski Park, we can find a place that differs from those recommended in the guides. Post-industrial buildings located in Kamionek intrigue and at the same time delight with the atmosphere of old Warsaw.
Walking down Mińska Street, we can see traces of artistic creativity left on the facades of factories and tenement houses, e.g. at 23 Bliska Street, you will see an unusual mural depicting a bird and a snake. It was created as part of the Street Art Doping festival by the Chinese artist DALeast.
The industrial character of the district is changing with the growing number of cultural attractions, creative studios and trendy restaurants. One of the flagship examples is SOHO at Mińska 25. Here you can visit the Neon Museum, which is beloved by instagrammers from all over the world. The Neon Museum is the first in Poland and one of the few neon museums in the world. The history of the museum began in 2005, when Ilona Karwińska saved the neon sign of the former “Berlin” store at ul. Marszałkowska in Warsaw. The museum’s collection includes about 100 neon lights from all over Poland. Most of them come from the 1960s and 1970s. In 2020, the facility was recognized by the readers of the British daily The Guardian as one of the 12 most interesting city museums in Europe.
Kamionek has a charm, even in the areas that look abandoned. You will find here tenement houses overgrown with ivy, such as the one at 22 Chodakowska Street or the buildings of the former “Perun” factory at 301/305 Grochowska Street, which are one of the best preserved and the oldest examples of industrial architecture in the city.
It is also worth entering the premises of the former Veterinary Institute of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW). The complex of buildings occupying about two hectares was erected in the years 1898-1900 according to the design of the Russian architect Vladimir Pokrovski. The university chose this place because next door, in the nearby park, was a horse and cattle market providing students with research material. The site was bought by the Capital City of Warsaw and handed over to the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra.
In the footsteps of Warsaw ghosts
Route proposal and photos by: Jacek Śmigielski
Do you like to be scared? We will show you places which are (supposedly) haunted. The best place to start your adventure will be the Old Powązki Cemetery, established on November 4, 1790. It is there, at the end of the catacombs, that you will find a beautiful monument to the artist Maria Wisnowska, murdered in 1890 in a tenement house at 14 Nowogrodzka Street by a jealous lover – tsarist officer Aleksander Bartniew.
Another figure with his tombstone in Powązki is the king of Warsaw furriers, Arpad Chowańczak. During the Warsaw Uprising, in his villa from 1928, located in the Morskie Oko Park, a personal tragedy of a nurse, Hanka, took place during the Warsaw Uprising. The girl was picking flowers for her lover at night when she was hit by a German bullet. The girl’s ghost is said to still wander around the area at night.
Our route must also include a tenement house at 2/4 Wilcza Street, which was established in 1882. More than one ghost haunts here. According to the stories, the murder of Aleksandra Grobicka – a wealthy, elderly woman took place in the house. The torturer was to be a butler, who then plundered his employer’s expensive belongings. Apparently, you can sometimes see the ghost of a woman in lace. Another version says that at Wilcza 2, the body of a student who took his own life was found. His ghost is allegedly wandering around the living room on the first floor of the building with a white dog, reading something under a lamp. It is said that in the interwar period people bet who would spend the whole night in the haunted house. You could win big money or a few boxes of champagne. Apparently, due to the jaws of chains, unidentified groans, crackles, rustles, the sounds of footsteps and crying, each of the daredevils left the house before midnight. After 1939, the ghosts stopped harassing the tenants, nor did they return during the occupation, all reports of ghosts and fears in Wilcza ceased.
Traces of the Warsaw Ghetto
Route proposal and photos by: Yevhenii Bosiuk
There are things we wish we could forget. And there are things we have no right to forget.
In 55 Sienna Street, in contrast to the splendor of the Intercontinental Hotel, there is a silent witness to history – the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto, which separated the Aryan world from hell.
At 14 Waliców Street there is a tenement house which was located within the ghetto borders and was home to Władysław Szlengel, the poet of the Warsaw ghetto, who had “a window to the other side”. Opposite the tenement house there is a ghetto wall – which still remembers the touch of those who no longer exist.
On Chłodna Street, there is no longer a bridge of sighs connecting the big and small ghettos – there is only memory. The bridge, a symbol of connection, was a symbol of the city’s division during the occupation.
Passing POLIN (Museum of the History of Polish Jews), we come to Umschlagplatz – the place from which, from July 22, 1942, transports of Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp departed.
In the footsteps of Stefan Kisielewski
Route proposal and photos by: Małgorzata Sopyło
A walk in the footsteps of Stefan Kisielewski, a famous journalist and composer. This year marks the 110th anniversary of his birth. We start with a tenement house at 16 Szucha Avenue. It was here that he lived from 1961 until his death. The nearby “Rozdroże” bar was his favorite cafe (behind it is now his name square). Point 2: the 41 Hoża Street tenement house. During the war there was a fitness club (dance school and gymnasium), and Kisiel accompanied the exercises. Then we go to 16 Foksal Street – during the war there was a Literati Kitchen, a canteen for writers, where he met his future wife. Near (Okólnik 1) there was the Conservatory where he studied. Then we go along the royal route to the corner of Krakowskie Przedmieście and Królewska Street. This was where Kisiel played the piano during the war. A few steps away he was wounded during the Warsaw Uprising. We end our walk in Kanonia, where in March ’68 Kisiel was beaten by security officers after he gave a speech on the “dictatorship of the ignorant” on February 29.
Gems on the edge of Mokotów and Ursynów
Route proposal and photos by: Joanna Wiśniewska
In the vicinity of Nowoursynowska Street, there is an unusual building with grass on the roof – Fort 8, i.e. the barracks of Fort VIII Służew. It was established in 1890 as part of the outer ring of the Warsaw Fortress. It has recently been successfully revitalized by a private company. Behind it there is a surprise – a mysterious monument to the pagan Światowid. We head towards the Służewiecka Valley and a narrow river called Potok Służewiecki. It is the perfect place for a picnic on the grass or lounging in a hammock. Then we come to Bacha Street and the Służewski House of Culture. The buildings that comprise it have the style of a rural habitat, perfectly integrated into the surroundings. The complex is ecological, has a windmill, a vegetable garden, a goat enclosure, and a bird watching pulpit. Walking along the stream we will get to Służewiecki Pond, and returning to Ursynów we can climb Kopa Cwila and find the sculpture: “Rider on horse”.
Powiśle parks and palaces
Route proposal and photos by: Łukasz Błażejak
We invite you for a trip along the Vistula Escarpment and its palaces. As a rule, we focus our attention on the Royal Route. However, it is also worth taking a look at the nearby escarpment – a natural element of the area with landscape values, which determined the founding of the city. All together, it can convince people that Warsaw is beautiful with its diversity, also in terms of nature. At the beginning, we will see the Kazanowski Palace located on it from the side of the Vistula River. It was once one of the most magnificent and luxurious palaces in Warsaw, and its splendor surpassed even the Royal Castle. Then we go along Skarpa to the Kazimierzowski Palace, once called Villa Regia. After reaching Tamka Street, we come across the walls of the garden and the convent of Charity, which are the most important relics of Warsaw in the Jurisdiction era. It is worth seeing the monastery from above, standing in the Anka Kowalska square. Next, our trail leads through the Rydza-Śmigły Park to the Finnish cottages in Jazdów. Built as temporary accommodation for employees of the Capital Reconstruction Office in 1945, it has survived to this day and serves, among others, for cultural purposes.
Praga bank of the river Vistula
Route proposal and photos by: Paweł Zdanowicz
We invite you for a walk along the Praga bank of the Vistula from the Gdański Bridge to the Łazienkowski Bridge. It is a way to walk along the entire central part of the city along the right bank of the Vistula, which thanks to its “wild” nature has unique natural values among large European cities and is included in the “Natura 2000” program. In addition to such advantages as a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and communing with nature (you can meet, for example, beavers, cormorants and kingfishers!), on the way we can admire the beautiful panoramas of the capital (mainly the Old Town and skyscrapers in the center at sunset), 6 Warsaw bridges and several Warsaw beaches.
Less known parts of Żoliborz district
Route proposal and photos by: Natalia Marczak
We suggest starting a walk on Rydygiera Street, from where we head towards Stary Żoliborz. We pass the Monument to the Armed Action of the American Polish Diaspora at Grunwaldzki Square and turn into Wieniawskiego Street, where we pass a plaque commemorating the 19th-century poet Kazimierz Brodziński. At the end of the street is the Church of St. Stanisław Kostka, in which father Popiełuszko gave his sermons. The next point is the Komedia Theater. To get to it, we come to Krasińskiego Street, turning left. The theater is located in the beautiful Żołnierzy Żywiciela Park. In the park there is a monument to the Home Army Soldiers, “Żywiciel” Area and a sculpture of a Woman with a Child by Alina Szapocznikow. Next, we move towards Igor Newerle’s square, then turn into Potocka Street, where on the wall of the building at the intersection with Maria Kazimiera Street there is a mural commemorating David Bowie’s visit to Warsaw. Then, we go to the Harcerska Poczta Polowa Park, where we can see a beautiful Warsaw Uprising Mural.
Find more ideas for exploring Warsaw with our “Warsaw Quest” personality quiz!