Warsaw Poland Travel Guide and Photo Gallery

  Warsaw Travel Guide: City Facts
Location: Warsaw straddles the Vistula river, approximately 370 kilometers (229.9 mi) from both the Carpathian mountains and Baltic Sea. It is located in the heartland of the Masovian Plain, and its average altitude is 100 meters (328.1 ft) above sea level, although there are some hills (mostly artificial) located within the confines of the city.

Climate: Warsaw's climate is continental humid. The average yearly temperature is 8 degrees Celsius (−2 °C (28.4 °F) in January and +18 °C (64.4 °F) in July). Temperatures may often reach +30 °C (86 °F) in the summer. Yearly rainfall averages at 680 millimeters (26.8 in), the most rainy month being July.

Districts: Warsaw is a powiat (county), and is further divided into 18 boroughs, each one known as a dzielnica (map), each one with its own administrative body. Each of the boroughs is divided into neighborhoods which are not officially recognized by the city but known by most Varsovians. The best known neighborhoods are the Old Town (Stare Miasto) and New Town (Nowe Miasto) in the borough of Śródmieście.

Municipal government: The Warsaw Act abolished all the former counties around Warsaw and formed one city powiat with a unified municipal government.

Copyright LukeTravels.com - Luke Handzlik
All Rights Reserved.

Legislative power in Warsaw is vested in a unicameral City Council (Rada Miasta), which comprises 60 members. Council members are elected directly every four years. Like most legislative bodies, the City Council divides itself into committees which have the oversight of various functions of the city government. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor (the President of Warsaw), who may sign them into law. If the mayor vetoes a bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.

Each of the 18 separate city districts has its own council (Rada dzielnicy). Their duties are focused on aiding the President and the City Council, as well as supervising various municipal companies, city-owned property and schools. The head of each of the District Councils is named the Mayor (Burmistrz) and is elected by the local council from the candidates proposed by the President of Warsaw. 

Warsaw Photo Gallery Preview

Politics: As the capital of Poland, Warsaw is the political centre of the country. All state agencies are located there, including the Polish Parliament, the Presidential Office and the Supreme Court. In the Polish parliament both the city and the area are represented by 31 MPs (out of 460). Additionally, two politicians were recently elected MEPs.

Transport: Although Warsaw was heavily damaged during World War II and reconstruction in the fifties widened many streets, the city is currently plagued with traffic problems. Public transport in Warsaw is as efficient as it is ubiquitous, serving the city with buses, tramways, and metro.

Airport: Warsaw has one international airport, Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport, located just 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) away from the city centre. With over 70 international and domestic flights a day and with over 8,270,000 passengers served in 2006, it is by far the biggest airport in Poland. Immediately adjacent to the main Frederic Chopin Airport terminal complex, Terminal 1, is the Etiuda terminal, serving both the domestic and the international routes flown by low-cost carriers. A new terminal, Terminal 2 is now under construction in order to alleviate current overcrowding, and to extend the airport's capacity by another 6 million passengers.

An ex-military airfield in the town of Modlin, 20 kilometers (12.4 mi) north of Warsaw, is currently being redeveloped into an airport for low-cost-carriers, cargo and charter traffic. It is scheduled to open after September 2007.

There are also plans to build an entirely new international airport, mostly for service to other European Union countries. Its location has not yet been determined.
Streetcars: The first tramway (streetcar line) in Warsaw opened on December 11, 1866. On March 26, 1908, all the lines, previously horse-powered, were running on electricity. In the period between the World War I and II, the tramway was being nationalized and the net was extended significantly.

After the Defence War of 1939 the service was halted for approximately three months due to war losses. Heavy aerial bombardment during the siege of Warsaw and requisition of all modern streetcars by the new German authorities postponed the reintroduction of service. However, by 1940 the trams were back on track.

Copyright LukeTravels.com - Luke Handzlik -All Rights Reserved.

In 1941 the present colors of the cars were introduced (yellow and red, in the Flag of Warsaw colors. This was done to demoralize the Poles in the city by attempting to wipe out all traces of the white and red colors of Poland. Up until this point, the trams were painted either in a white and red mixture, or entirely red). Following the Warsaw Uprising the tramway was destroyed by the Germans until the liberation of the ruins in January 1945. The streets were filled with rubble, the tram stations destroyed, and the cars either burnt or transported to Germany. However, the first streetcar line was opened again for the public on 20 June 1945.

Following the Second World War the tramway in Warsaw underwent fast development. The tracks reached all the principal parts of the city. However, in the sixties the official policy of both Polish and Soviet authorities promoted the use of Soviet oil and the concomitant exportat of the Polish coal.

The availability of coal on the home market decreased, and the tramway net was shortened, while more buses were bought. Until 1989 only 28 lines were preserved.

Currently, the Tramwaje Warszawskie company runs 863 cars on almost 470 kilometers (292.1 mi) of track. Twenty-nine lines run across the city with additional lines opened on special occasions (such as public holidays or All-Saints Day).

Railway: The first railway reached Warsaw in 1845 (the Warsaw-Vienna Railway). Nowadays Warsaw is one of the main railway nodes and exchange points in Poland. Cheap and fairly efficient, the PKP (Polskie Koleje Państwowe, or Polish State-owned Railways) are one of the principal means of transport in Poland.

The main railway station is Warszawa Centralna. Both domestic and the international connections run from there to almost every major city in Poland and Europe. There are also 5 additional major railway stations and a number of smaller stations for suburban lines.

The railway crosses under the city through a tunnel (tunel średnicowy). It is approximately 2.2 kilometers (1.4 mi) long and runs directly under the city centre. It is part of an east-west line connecting the Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia railway stations through the tunnel and a railway bridge over the Vistula River.

The principal railway stations are: Warszawa Centralna, Warszawa Gdańska, Warszawa Wileńska, Warszawa Zachodnia,
Warszawa Wschodnia.

Warsaw Photo Gallery Preview

Culture: From 1833 to the outbreak of World War II, Teatralny Square (Theatre Square) was the country's theatrical and cultural hub and home to the following theatres from 1833.

The main building housed the Teatr Wielki from 1833-1834, the Rozmaitości Theatre from 1836 to 1924 and then the National Theatre, the Reduta Theatre from 1919 to 1924, and from 1928 to 1939 - the Nowy Theatre, which staged productions of contemporary poetical drama, including those directed by Leon Schiller.

Nearby, in the Saski (Saxon) Garden, the Summer Theatre was in operation from 1870 to September 1939, and in the inter-war period, the theatre complex also included Momus, Warsaw's first artistic literary cabaret at 29 Senatorska St., and Leon Schiller's musical theatre Melodram at 29 Senatorska St. The Wojciech Bogusławski Theatre (1922-1926) at 5 Hipoteczna St., in the former Nowości Theatre building, was the best materialization of "Polish monumental theatre". From the mid-1930s, a Teatr Wielki building at 10 Trębacka St. housed the State Institute of Dramatic Arts - the first state-run academy of dramatic art, with an Acting Department and a Stage Directing Department.

Teatralny Square and its environs was the venue for numerous parades, celebrations of state holidays, carnival balls, and concerts.

Theatre: Warsaw is home to over 30 major theatres that are spread throughout the city, including the National Theatre (founded in 1765) and the Grand Theatre in Warsaw (established 1778).

Warsaw also attracts many young and off-stream directors and performers who add to the city's theatre culture. Their productions may be viewed mostly in smaller theatres and Houses of Culture (Dom Kultury), mostly outside Śródmieście (downtown Warsaw). One of the most notable stages in Poland is TR Warszawa (formerly Teatr Rozmaitości). Warsaw hosts the International Theatrical Meetings.

Music: Thanks to numerous musical venues, including the Teatr Wielki, the Polish National Opera, the Chamber Opera, the National Philharmonic Hall and the National Theatre, as well as the music theatres Roma and Buffo and the Congress Hall in the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw hosts many renown events and festivals.

Among the seasonal events worth particular attention are: the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition, the International Contemporary Music Festival Warsaw Autumn, the Jazz Jamboree, Warsaw Summer Jazz Days, the International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition, the Mozart Festival, and the Festival of Old Music.

Copyright LukeTravels.com - Luke Handzlik
Copyright LukeTravels.com - Luke Handzlik -All Rights Reserved.

Museums and art galleries: Ostrogski Palace, The Museum of Frederic ChopinThere are many museums and art galleries in Warsaw, most notable are the Muzeum Narodowe, The Polish Aviation Museum, Zachęta Art Gallery, Center for Contemporary Art, Museum of the Polish Army. The biggest of them, the Warsaw National Museum has numerous divisions located in many parts of Warsaw, most notably in the Royal Castle and the Wilanów Palace. Since 2004, a Warsaw Uprising Museum has been open to the public.

Education: Warsaw is one of the most important education centers of Poland. It is home to four major universities and over 62 smaller schools of higher education. The most important are:

  • University of Warsaw (Uniwersytet Warszawski)
  • Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska)
  • Warsaw School of Economics (Szkoła Główna Handlowa)
  • Warsaw Agricultural University (Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego)
  • Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego)
  • Medical University of Warsaw (Akademia Medyczna w Warszawie)
  • Military University of Technology (Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna)
  • Academy of National Defence (Akademia Obrony Narodowej)
  • Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw (Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego w Warszawie)
  • Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music (Akademia Muzyczna im. Fryderyka Chopina) (featured on an episode of "The Amazing Race All Star" US reality show)
  • Theatre Academy (Akademia Teatralna im. Aleksandra Zelwerowicza)
  • The overall number of students of all grades of education in Warsaw is almost 500,000 (29.2% of the city population; 2002). The number of university students is over 255,000.

Economy: Warsaw, especially its city centre (Śródmieście), is home not only to many national institutions and government agencies, but also to many domestic and international companies. In 2003, 268,307 companies were registered in the city. Warsaw is seen as the heart of Poland by foreign investors, whose financial participation in the city's development was estimated in 2002 at over 650 million Euro.

Warsaw produces more than 15% of Poland's national income. The GDP (PPP) per capita in Warsaw was about $28,000 in the year 2005.

At the same time the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Poland, not exceeding 6%, according to the official figures. The city itself collects around 8,740,882,000 złotys in taxes and direct government grants.

It has been said that Warsaw, together with Frankfurt, London and Paris, is one of the tallest cities in Europe. Eleven of the tallest skyscrapers in Poland, nine of which are office buildings, are located in Warsaw. The centrally located tallest structure, the Palace of Culture and Science (shown in the photo gallery), is the fourth tallest building in the European Union.

Stock exchange: Although Warsaw was home to a stock exchange since 1817, in 1945, because of political changes after World War II, it could not be recreated. It only started operating again in April 1991, after the reintroduction of the free-market economy and democracy. It is now the biggest stock exchange in the country, with more than 250 companies listed. The main indexes of its performance are WIG and WIG20. History likes funny twists — it's worth mentioning that from 1991 until 2000 the Warsaw Stock Exchange was situated in the building previously used as the headquarters of the Polish Communist Party (PZPR).

Industry: Following the destruction of the city in World War II and its reconstruction, the communist authorities decided that Warsaw be rebuilt as a major industrial center. Several hundred major factories were built in the city or just outside of it. Most notable were the Huta Warszawa Steel Works and two car factories. However, as the communist economical system deteriorated, most of them lost any significance. In the years following 1989, in the course of a peaceful transformation of both political and economical system in Poland, most of these went bankrupt. Nowadays, the Lucchini-Warszawa Steel Mill (formerly Huta Warszawa) is the only major factory remaining. Car factories Ursus and FSO (short from Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych - Individual Cars Fabric) also operates, producing cars mostly to the export.

Warsaw Site Menu
Warsaw Main Page | Warsaw Photo Gallery | Warsaw Facts | Attractions and Sights | Warsaw's Royal Castle | History of Warsaw | How to Get There - Air and Hotel Info | Krakow Site | Auschwitz Site | Contact Us | LukeTravels.com Home