Travel Guide: City Facts
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.
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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
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.
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.
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
The principal railway stations are: Warszawa Centralna, Warszawa
Gdańska, Warszawa Wileńska, Warszawa Zachodnia,
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
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
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.
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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)
University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska)
- Warsaw School
of Economics (Szkoła Główna Handlowa)
Agricultural University (Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego)
Stefan Wyszyński University (Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana
University of Warsaw (Akademia Medyczna w Warszawie)
University of Technology (Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna)
- Academy of
National Defence (Akademia Obrony Narodowej)
- Academy of
Physical Education in Warsaw (Akademia Wychowania Fizycznego w
Chopin Academy of Music (Akademia Muzyczna im. Fryderyka Chopina)
(featured on an episode of "The Amazing Race All Star" US reality
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
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.
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