About Sasha H
Lives in Healey, United Kingdom
Since Jan. 2015
I’ve swum with wild dolphins in the Maldives, fed baby kangaroos in Australia, spent hours in the shopping malls of Dubai and crash-landed a hot-air balloon in Poland – having spent the last decade travelling and freelancing, I am a joyful, nosy traveller, always meeting new experiences head on. I enjoy digging into the culture, listening to what’s happening around me and taking thousands of photos on the way. Thanks to two decades of travelling extensively through Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Caribbean, I know the cities and countries I write about inside out. And even though I live in the Yorkshire Dales – surely the most beautiful place on earth – I never lose my enthusiasm for skiing in Zermatt, visiting my favourite cities in Italy and Poland or discovering new places to shop in Dubai.
History Museums, Military Museums
Historic Walking Areas
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Civic Centres, Historic Sites, Historic Walking Areas
Castles, Art Museums, Historic Sites, History Museums
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Sacred & Religious Sites
Monuments & Statues
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Art Museums, Architectural Buildings
Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers, Points of Interest & Landmarks
History Museums, Speciality Museums
Head for one of Warsaw’s hardest hitting museums to get a handle on the city’s recent history. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is housed in a former tram yard, leading visitors through the military and political events leading up to the uprising of 1944, which were pivotal in the destruction of the city by the occupying Nazis as revenge. Crammed with informative video interviews, stark black-and-white images showing the damage inflicted on the city, and flickering movies, the museum details the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, events that led to the city rebelling against their rule, and the consequences of Soviet occupation following World War II. It’s the perfect springboard to understanding the psyche of modern-day Warsaw.
Warsaw’s historic Stare Miasto (Old Town) is a tangle of gaily painted, gabled townhouse interspersed with cobbled squares. Largely annihilated during World War II, it was reconstructed in the 1970s under Soviet rule and is now UNESCO listed for its clutch of ornate Baroque churches, defence walls and fine architectural restoration.
The heart of the Stare Miasto (Old Town) is the vast market square, with its origins in medieval times and now surrounded by a photogenic mishmash of Baroque townhouses. There’s a market most days with stalls selling painted eggs, glassware and amber jewelry, and the piazza is lined with buzzing restaurants serving Polish specialities and bars offering local beers and potent cocktails.
The handsome, red-brick Zamek Królewski (Royal Castle) was originally built in the 15th century and was once home to the Polish monarchs. It was another victim of World War II but today its spectacularly opulent, refurbished apartments are once more stuffed full with ornate furniture, stucco decorations and marble corridors; they were all painstakingly restored after the war. The castle’s fine art collections were largely plundered during Nazi and Soviet occupation of Warsaw, but many paintings have been returned, including some Rembrandts and a series of Canalettos featuring 17th-century Warsaw that were used as reference when the city was reconstructed in the late 20th century. Behind the castle, the terraced gardens look out over the River Vistula.
The vast courtyard outside the Royal Castle is a favorite meeting point in the city; it is surrounded by restaurants and dominated by the vast statue of King Zygmunt III Waza, who moved the Polish capital to Warsaw from Krakow in 1596.
A step away from the Royal Castle along the Royal Route is arguably the most beautiful neo-classical church in Warsaw; although a church has been on this site since medieval times, St Anne’s was built in the mid 15th century and was given its present neo-classical façade by architect Piotr Aigner in 1788. With a separate bell tower and a neat frontage topped by a pediment, the OTT interior is a fantasy of yellow, white and gold, gloomy biblical oil paintings, and mammoth chandeliers. Unusually for Warsaw, the church escaped serious damage during World War II but it subsequently nearly collapsed in 1949 due to tunnel building in the vicinity. Views from the tower are some of the best in Warsaw, worth the 150-step climb to see them.
The Tomb of Unknown Soldier is found at the edge of the great public park where the Pałac Saski (Saxon Palace) — destroyed during World War II — once stood. The marble mausoleum honors the fallen of Poland’s many battles and wars, and especially the last two world wars; it was designed by Polish sculptor Stanisław Kazimierz Ostrowski and is lit by an eternal flame. The somber memorial is guarded 24/7, with soldiers changing rota on the hour every hour.
One of Warsaw’s swankiest shopping streets, Nowy Świat was leveled during World War II and reconstructed in a fairly bland architectural style. Nevertheless, it forms part of the Royal Route and is a popular shopping and partying spot, with a cluster of top designer names congregating around St Alexander’s Church, including Burberry and Armani. Somewhat incongruously, the austere hulk of the former Communist HQ can be seen at Nowy Świat 6.
Once one of the grandest palaces in Europe, said to rival Versailles for its sheer opulence; the ornate, gigantic and multi-winged 17th-century Baroque summer retreat of King John Sobieski III survived the ravages of two world wars. Today it sits blissfully in landscaped gardens as a genteel reminder of the power, charm and wealth that was once Warsaw. The interior of the ocher, pink and white palace is of peerless luxury, with a series of ever more flamboyant apartments and staterooms adorned with marble, vivid swirling ceiling frescoes, priceless porcelains and silverware, sculptures, and stucco work. 1805 saw the opening of one of Warsaw’s first decorative arts museums here, where star exhibits include traditional Polish wooden coffin portraits.
The Copernicus Science Center is just the spot for an afternoon’s interactive fun for families with kids. Named after Poland’s greatest astrologer, the science center opened in 2012 and offers up several floors of educational but entertaining science ‘light’. Robots, 4-D films in the planetarium, laser shows and themed experiments in the labs that all add to the slightly chaotic fun.
For decades Warsaw’s highest building, the Palace of Culture and Science was constructed while the city was under Soviet occupation and was widely regarded as an eyesore looming over the city and resented as symbolic of Soviet domination in Poland. Largely abandoned after the Russians left in 1989, it is only now finding its place in history. At 231 meters (758 feet) tall, the gigantic Social Realist edifice today hosts rock concerts and is open for tours of its austere charms. Most people simply head for the viewing platform on the 30th floor, which reveals the restored streets and impressive new skyscrapers of central Warsaw spreading out below.
Far from being a grimy, post-Soviet city, Warsaw is full of green spaces and foremost among these is Łazienki Park. Covering 78 hectares (192 acres) and forming part of the Royal Route, the landscaped gardens are scattered with lakes, waterfalls, an amphitheater, follies, and monuments to the great and good of Poland, including an Art Deco sculpture of Fryderyk Chopin. The park really comes into its own from late spring onwards, when it fills up with families picnicking, young couples strolling, and sightseers who come to see the how Poland’s royalty once lived. Properties once inhabited by the Royal Family include the cosy White House — where the king’s mistress was installed — the Baroque court theater, and the cast iron and glass Belvedere, now an expensive restaurant but originally an orangery.
The neo-classical Palace on the Isle in Łazienki Park is beautifully situated overlooking a tranquil lake and is as rich in decoration inside as out. It was originally a royal bathhouse before being revamped in the early 18th century as the summer residence of Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last king of Poland who died in 1798. When he moved in, the king brought his extensive collection of art with him and this forms the basis of the collections of fine art on display in the palace.
The Chopin Museum is dedicated to Poland’s favorite composer and showcases both his tumultuous love life side by side with his genius as a composer and musician. This state-of-the-art, interactive exhibition is one of a new raft of contemporary museums in Warsaw and is located in the elegant 17th-century Ostogski Palace. Holding the most comprehensive collection of Chopin ephemera in the world — manuscripts, portraits, pianos, scores, recordings, and love letters from novelist George Sand — the museum pays an absorbing and chronological tribute to his life.
Opened piecemeal but finally completed in October 2014, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is housed in a wacky ultra-modern glass and copper building on the site of Warsaw’s former Jewish ghetto in Muranów and examines the long relationship between the Jewish people and Poland. Before the advent of Nazi Germany in 1939, the Jews were an important and affluent section of the Warsaw community, but four short years brought about the eradication of 90 percent of the city’s 3.3 million Jews in the Nazi death camps. This humanitarian tragedy is conveyed through the thoughtful use of multimedia displays, survivor interviews and a fine collection of Jewish paraphernalia.