Warszawa - Historic City Complex with Royal Route and Wilanów Palace, Warszawa
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Warszawa - Historic City Complex with Royal Route and Wilanów Palace

Warszawa

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The area designated as a scheduled historic monument encompasses the capital’s most significant urban architectural ensembles and its palace and garden complexes, located along the steep Vistula escarpment. The best known component is the 14th-century Old Town with its geometrical network of streets and squares lined with town houses and ecclesiastical buildings. Encircled by a city wall, the Old Town is connected at its south-east end to the Royal Castle - seat of state since the time of Sigismund III Vasa. The castle, Sigismund’s Column and the cathedral - burial place of many distinguished Poles - are the dominant features contributing to the characteristic townscape of Warsaw’s historic centre. At its northern end the Old Town adjoins the New Town, with its more modest layout and architecture, which, other than townhouses, features a number of monasteries and the Gothic Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located on the Vistula escarpment. To the north of the New Town rises the Citadel built in 1832 - a symbol of repression built after the November Uprising and a Tsarist political prison, it currently serves as a museum and a monument to the art of fortification.

The suburbs which grew up around the relatively small town centre provided sites for numerous magnatial residences, mansions, townhouses and coaching inns. These were built along the major thoroughfares leading to the city: Zakroczymska, Długa, Senatorska, Podwale and Miodowa Streets. The oldest and most important route, its southern end terminating at the Old Town Gate, is known as the Krakowskie Przedmieście, and to this day it remains the city’s most beautiful street. Extended by the addition of Nowy ŚwiatStreet, it has witnessed many historic events which have had an impact not only Warsaw, but also on the history of Poland. Other buildings which lined this route, alongside the royal and magnatial palaces, and the townhouses included seats of learning (the Knights’ School - University of Warsaw), the Science Society (Staszic Palace), churches and monasteries (Observant Franciscan, Carmelite, Visitationist and Lazarite), hospitals (Holy Ghost Hospital), inns (Dziekanka) and hotels.

The monumental gate on Krakowskie Przedmieście marked the starting point of the extensive Baroque Saxon Axis(Oś Saska) - an urban feature created during the reign of the Saxon kings, Augustus II and III. It originally consisted of a substantial courtyard lined with lavish buildings, a palace and large garden with numerous pavilions, and a barracks complex with garden. All that remains at present is a small street leading to the old courtyard - now Piłsudski Square - and a public garden with several dozen stone statues. The palace courtyard, converted into a public square, was used by Grand Duke Constantine as an army drill ground. During the interwar period a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was installed beneath the arcades of the Saxon Palace. Evidence of another large-scale feature - the Road to Calvary - is provided by the present-day Three Cross Square and the avenue known as Aleje Ujazdowskie, which constitutes an extension of the main thoroughfare, leading to the suburban royal palaces of Ujazdów and Łazienki. Warsaw’s most beautiful avenue is lined with small palaces and villas and well laid-out parks: Ujazdów, the Botanic Garden and Łazienki. The oldest building is Ujazdów Castle, built by Sigismund III and remodelled on multiple occasions, in 1784 it was donated to the army. Ujazdów park, with an ornamental 18th-century canal at the foot of the Warsaw Escarpment, is connected to the Łazienki Królewskie palace and garden complex and Belweder Palace. Redesigned at the bidding of King Stanisław Poniatowski, the romantic Łazienki Park, featuring a palace located on an island, numerous pavilions, sculptures and monuments to King John III Sobieski and Frederic Chopin, is one of the most beautiful and original palace and park complexes in Europe. The last and southernmost of the royal residences along the Royal Route, located at the foot of the escarpment, is the summer residence of King John III Sobieski - Wilanów. The expansive Baroque palace and park complex consists of a grand palace set at the edge of a large courtyard, and a botanic garden enhanced with numerous pavilions, sculptures and fountains. The sizeable garden, incorporating the natural beauty of Lake Wilanów, is integrally linked to the romantic Morysin Park, which lies on the opposite bank of the lake.

Looking today at the picturesque Old Town and the palaces nestled among Warsaw’s parks it is difficult to believe that barely 70 years ago the Nazis planned to annihilate the city and replace it with a new town intended for some 150,000 German settlers and Polish labourers. The Old and New Towns, the Royal Castle, the buildings lining Krakowskie Przedmieście and Nowy Świat, as well as the palaces of Ujazdów, Łazienki and Wilanów were reduced to heaps of rubble during World War II; however, the most important of Warsaw’s buildings and complexes were rebuilt. The city’s architecture, green spaces, sculptures and monuments showcase a wealth of architectural variety, garden design, and art forms. They bear testimony to the highly talented town planners, architects, artists and craftsmen who worked in the capital over the centuries.

General information

  • Type: urban layout
  • Chronology: pocz. XIV - XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Warszawa
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Warszawa, commune Warszawa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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