Warsaw became the capital in 1596 and since then has flourished as one of Europe’s most prosperous cities. As a result, this city is a fascinating collection of neighbourhoods and landmarks. Excellent museums interpret its complex story, from the joys of Chopin’s music to the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto. Since 1980, its old town, one of the main attractions, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today Warsaw offers a dynamic and stable business environment, historic and modern facilities and a vibrant cultural life. The history of scientific achievements in the field of neurophysiology, as well as current research and clinical activity of university staff, make Warsaw a perfect place to gather experts in neurophysiology.
The Old Town (Stare Miasto) is, in some respects, a misnomer for the historic nucleus of Warsaw. After World War II the beautifully arranged Baroque streets were destroyed, only to be painstakingly reconstructed so accurately that the area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Town comes alive in the summer, as tourists, street performers and festivals take over the cobblestone streets.
On the east side of Castle Square is the thirteenth-century Royal Castle, now home to the Castle Museum. Though the structure is a replica, many of its furnishings are originals. After passing the lavish Royal Apartments of King Stanisław August, you visit the Lanckoranski Gallery, which contains a fascinating range of aristocratic portraits including two paintings – Girl in a Picture Frame and Scholar at His Desk – by Rembrandt
On ul. Świętojańska, north of the castle, stands St John’s Cathedral, the oldest church in Warsaw. A few yards away, the Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta) is one of the most remarkable bits of postwar reconstruction anywhere in Europe. Flattened during the Uprising, its three-storey merchants’ houses have been rebuilt in near-flawless imitation of the Baroque originals. It’s also home to the Warsaw Historical Museum.
Warsaw’s most lavish tribute to its favourite son is the achingly modern Chopin Museum, east of Krakowskie Przedmieście at ul. Okolnik 1. With interactive handsets to guide visitors through exhibits on the musician’s life, it’s a must for Chopin enthusiasts, but only 100 people are allowed into the museum at a time so tickets must be reserved in advance.
About 2km south of the commercial district, on the eastern side of al. Ujazdowskie, is the much-loved Łazienki Park (bus #116, # 180 or #195 from Nowy Świat). Once a hunting ground, the area was bought in the 1760s by King Stanisław August, who turned it into a park and built the Neoclassical (Tues–Sun 9am–6pm; 17zł) across the lake. But the park itself is the real attraction, with its oak-lined paths alive with peacocks and red squirrels.
West of the National Museum lies the commercial heart of the city, the Centrum crossroads from which ul. Marszałkowska, the main north-south road, cuts across al. Jerozolimskie running east-west. Towering over everything is the Palace of Culture and Science, a post-World War II gift from Stalin whose vast interior now contains theatres, a swimming pool and a nightclub. The platform on the thirtieth floor (daily 9am–8pm, Fri & Sat till 11 pm; 20zł; offers impressive views of the city.