Historic Centre of Warsaw
Politics and administration.
Location and site
Warsaw is located in the heart of the North European plains on a well-drained terrace of the Vistula River. Downriver from Kraków, it represents an ideal crossing site.
The historic centre of Warsaw is located close to the river. It is organised around the market square, known as Rynek Starego Miasta, which is square in form. For the most part, the streets are laid out according to a rectilinear grid. As they extend outwards from the centre, they become wider. The regularity of the plan is gradually dismantled. Large squares open up long perspective views.
The facades of the dwellings, originally constructed between the 16th and the 18th centuries, provide the historic centre of Warsaw with decorative streetscapes. Embellished with frescoes and stone gates, they line the market place. In the vicinity of this square is another row of houses with facades decorated with vaults and stone porches. At the edge of the old city, near the castle, a series of small coloured houses is integrated into the urban fabric. Besides the royal castle (Zamek) overlooking the city, other monuments make up the reconstructed ensemble, bringing together Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. The city is bordered with green space near the castle and along the Vistula River.
Warsaw is “associated with events of considerable historic significance.” Annihilated and reconstructed “so that it is identical to the original,” it “symbolizes the will to insure the survival of one of the prime settings of Polish culture and illustrates, in an exemplary fashion, the efficiency of the restoration techniques of the second half of the 20th century. […]” (VI) “The reconstruction of the historic centre of Warsaw has exercised a considerable influence, in the majority of European countries, on the evolution of doctrines of urbanization and the preservation of old city quarters.” (II) “Its authenticity is associated with this unique realization of the years 1945 to 1966.” (IV)
- Warsaw was founded in 1280 by the dukes of Mazovia. They erected a castle so that they could control passage on the Vistula River; this marked the beginning of the development of Warsaw, which became the capital of the Duchy of Mazovia in 1344.
- In the 15th century, the Dukes established their residence in Warsaw. The city’s political role became more important as its functions multiplied. In 1596, the seat of the King of Poland was transferred from Kraków to Warsaw. A period of prosperity and intense architectural activity followed.
- The city was destroyed by the Swedes and reconstructed twice, in 1656 and in 1702. At the end of the 18th century, it was one of the largest cities in Europe.
- Following the Second World War, during which 85 per cent of Warsaw was destroyed by the Nazi troops, and the insurrection of August 1944, the reconstruction of the city was willfully undertaken. By 1966, all of the monuments of the old city were re-erected according to their appearance between the 14th and 18th centuries.
Mr. Rafal Trzaskowski
City of Warsaw
Pl. Bankowy 3/5
(+48 22) 443 10 00, 44310 01
Ms. Anna Zasadzinska
Head of Heritage Interpretation Center
Museum of Warsaw, Commissionner for UNESCO World Heritage
11/13 Brzozowa street
+48 695 645 095