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Warsaw, its Historic Remains, and the Palace of Culture
The largest city in Poland (population 1.6 million) and its capital, Warsaw is also the centre of government, the location of both houses of parliament and of all foreign embassies. Having been capital since 1596, Warsaw has far more to see than just the modern sky-scrapers of the city centre, and there are many important historical remains in the city.
Warsaw’s Old Town arose in the 14th century. During the heroic Warsaw Rising at the end of World War II about 90% of it was reduced to rubble. The historic centre of the Old Town was later rebuilt and meticulously restored to its original form, and in 1980 was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Old Town is the most picturesque part of Warsaw. Not far from the Main Square of the Old Town are fragments of the old defence walls, and the Barbican and Powder Gate, which were also reconstructed after the Second World War.
The New Town was founded in the 15th century and was a separate town until the 18th century. The buildings situated at the Main Square of the New Town and the Church of St Jacek are worth seeing. The Great Theatre with its splendid colonnade overlooks Theatre Square. Behind the theatre at Jozef Pilsudski Square is the national Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, located under the remaining arcades of what was the Suski Palace before the Second World War. The tomb was built there in 1925. It stands against the background of the Saski Garden, the first public park in Warsaw, which was opened to the public in the middle of the 186 century.
The first secular monument in Poland, the Column of Sigismund III, which was erected in 1644, stands in the square outside the Royal Castle. The castle is a more recent example of post-war reconstruction in Warsaw. Reconstruction of the castle was completed in 1984. The Ballroom is the most elegant of the castle’s halls. The Royal Way in Warsaw runs from the castle to Lazienki Park, and ends in WilanOw, where visitors can tour the palace and gardens, the Gallery of Polish Portraits (featuring portraits of famous Poles), the Crimson Room and the Etruscan Study. Lazienki Park is considered the most beautiful palace and gardens in Warsaw. The Orangerie is a glazed pavilion full of exotic trees, and it houses the biggest sculpture gallery in Poland. The Palace on Water is a charming residence with a big ballroom. Near the white Belvedere Palace in Aleje Ujazdowskie, which is the official residence of the President of Poland, stands a monument to Chopin.
There are over sixty institutions of higher education in Warsaw, including Warsaw University, which was founded in 1816, and which has over 60,000 students. The city has 34 theatres, 51 museums and almost 1,200 historical buildings, and over 7,000 plants, trees, and bushes grow in the Warsaw Botanical Gardens. The Palace of Culture, a very characteristic building constructed under the dictates of architectural sociorealism, can be seen from almost every place in the capital. It is the highest building in Poland (2,345 m), and the view of Warsaw from the top floor is breathtaking.