Warsaw is still very much Poland's largest city and the nation's economic, cultural and educational hub, a role that looks set to expand yet further when the country finally joins the European Union. The peak tourist season is from May to October, when the weather is most pleasant, although there will be some odd days when the temperature rises above 30°C (86°F). January and February are the coldest months and temperatures can drop as low as -30°C (-22°F).
Short walk showing you the most important architecture of the Old Town - including Royal Castle square with Sigismund's Column, Royal Castle (outside), narrow street of Old Town, St. John's Cathedral, St. Martin church, Market square, the Barbican and city walls, monuments of Old Town and others.
Warsaw major tourist attractions:
* OLD TOWN - The UNESCO World Heritage Old Town is unmissable - quite literally, seeing as many of the city's attractions and a whole host of cafés, bars and restaurants are located within its environs. The Old Town is both a physical and symbolic expression of the city's spirit and determination to come back from the brink of annihilation at the end of World War II. Most visitors to Warsaw spend their first day strolling around the Old Town.
* ROYAL CASTLE - Walking through the Royal Castle, one has to constantly remind oneself that most of it was reconstructed between 1971 and 1984, although the darker elements of the decor were actually salvaged from the ruins. The castle, located on a plateau overlooking the Vistula River, was built for the Dukes of Mazovia and expanded when King Zygmunt III Vasa moved the capital to Warsaw.
From the early 17th until the late 18th century, this was the seat of the Polish kings. It subsequently housed the parliament and is now a museum displaying tapestries, period furniture, coffin portraits and collections of porcelain and other decorative arts. Work is underway to recreate the castle gardens, set on the slopes of the Vistula River, which were also badly scarred when the Nazis leveled the rest of the castle complex.
* WARSAW'S CATHEDRAL - St John's Cathedral claims to be the oldest church in Warsaw. Although a major church in the Mazovian Gothic style, completed in the 15th century, St John's was only upgraded from a parish church to a cathedral in 1798. Destroyed during World War II, it has been reconstructed in its original style.
* LAZIENKI PARK AND PALACE - In addition to a number of palaces, Lazienki Park contains the Chopin Monument - where the annual Chopin Festival is held each summer - and the Orangerie, set within extensive 18th-century gardens. Palac Lazienkowski (Palace on the Water) is best viewed from near the monument to Jan Sobieski, on the bridge where Agrykola street crosses the water. On warm summer days, rowing boats offer short cruises around the park's lake. Cycling is banned in the park.
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