Small town of Warszawa was established (about 1300) by the Dukes of Masovia, becoming the capital of Masovia. Upon the extinction of the local ducal line, the duchy was reincorporated into the Polish Crown in 1526. Since 1570 it became the seat of Polish Kings and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Parliament which resulted in growth of the city significance. After 3rd partition of Poland (1795), Warsaw was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia. Liberated by Napoleon's army in 1807, Warsaw was made the capital of the newly created Duchy of Warsaw. Following the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Warsaw became the centre of the Congress Poland, a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with Imperial Russia.
Warsaw became the capital of the newly independent Poland in 1918. During the WW2 central Poland, including Warsaw, came under the rule of the General Government, a Nazi administration. All higher education institutions were immediately closed and Warsaw's entire Jewish population - several hundred thousand, some 30% of the city population - herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. When the order came to annihilate the Ghetto as part of Hitler's "final solution" on April 19, 1943, Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered, the Ghetto held out for almost a month.
On 1 August 1944, as the Soviet army was nearing the city very fast, the underground Polish Home Army and the civilian population started the Warsaw Uprising. The armed struggle, planned to last 48 hours, went on for 63 days, and eventually the Home Army fighters were forced to capitulate. They were transported to the POW camps in Germany, while the entire civilian population was expelled. Hitler, ignoring the agreed terms of the capitulation, ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground, and the library and museum collections taken to Germany or burned. Monuments and government buildings were blown up by special German troops known as Verbrennungs und Vernichtungskommando (burning and destruction detachments). About 85% of the city had been destroyed, including the historic Old Town and the Royal Castle. After the war the city resumed its role as the capital of Poland and the country's centre of political and economic life. Many of the historic streets, buildings, and churches were restored to their original form. In 1980 Warsaw's historic Old Town was inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage list.
In 1995 the Warsaw Metro opened, and with the entry of Poland into the European Union in 2004, Warsaw is currently experiencing the biggest economic boom of its history. The opening match of the UEFA Euro 2012 is scheduled to take place in Warsaw.
Although today's Warsaw is a fairly young city, it has a lot of tourist attractions. Apart from the Warsaw Old Town quarter, carefully reconstructed after World War 2, each district has something to offer. Among the most notable landmarks of the Old Town are the Royal Castle, King Sigismund's Column, Market Square, and the Barbican.
Further south is the so-called Royal Route, with many classicist palaces, the Presidential Palace and the Warsaw University campus. Also the popular Nowy Świat Street is worth mentioning. Warsaw's oldest public park, the Ogród Saski, is located within 10 minutes' walk from the old town. Warsaw's biggest public park and said to be the most beautiful is the Royal Łazienki Park. It is also very old - established in the 17th century and given its current classical shape in late 18th century - is located further south, on the Royal Route, about 3 km from the Warsaw Old Town.
The Powązki Cemetery is one of the oldest in Europe, full of sculptures, some of them by the most renowned Polish artists of the 19th and 20th centuries often called a necropolis. Nearby is the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. To the north of the city centre is the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The borough of Żoliborz is famous for its architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. Between Żoliborz and the Vistula River is the Warsaw Citadel, a monument of 19th century military architecture.
Former royal residence of king Jan III Sobieski - Wilanów Palace is notable for their baroque architecture and beautiful parks.
Examples of contemporary architecture include the Palace of Culture and Science, a Soc-realist skyscraper located in the city centre, the Stadion 10-lecia which used to be the biggest open-air market in Europe and the Constitution square with its monumental Social realism architecture.
The central part of the right-bank (east) Praga district it is a place where very run-down houses stand right next to modern apartment buildings and shopping malls.
A stay in Warsaw need not be limited to visits to its historical sites. It is not far from Wilanow to Konstancin, famous for its exquisite residences and spa, where therapeutic brine-saturated air helps cure patients suffering from pulmonary tract diseases. There are several forests and nature reserves within Warsaw’s boundaries and on the edge of the city stands Kampinoski National Park. It’s worth visiting Chopin’s birthplace, now a museum, in Żelazowa Wola, where concerts are held in the summer. Nearby Nieborów is home to the impressive residence of the Radziwill magnate family, surrounded by a picturesque park. Today the palace houses a museum. Just 5 km away is the beautiful scenic park of Arkadia.
See Warsaw gallery