Top historic sites in Warsaw

Warsaw Royal Castle

The history of the Royal Castle goes back to the 14th century when the Great Tower was erected. In the 16th and 17th centuries during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Castle underwent large-scale expansion and was transformed into a five-winged edifice with an inner courtyard. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural centre of the country. Des ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Palace of Culture and Science

The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland and the eighth tallest building in the European Union. It is 231 metres tall, which includes a 43-metre high spire. The building was originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, but in the wake of destalinization the dedication to Stalin was revoked. The building was conceived as a 'gift from the Soviet people to the Polish n ...
Founded: 1952-1955 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw Uprising Museum

The Warsaw Uprising Museum is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The institution of the Museum was established in 1983, but no construction work took place for many years, and the museum finally opened on July 31, 2004, marking the 60th anniversary of the Uprising. The Museum sponsors research into the history of the Uprising, and the history and possessions of the Polish Underground State. It collects and maintai ...
Founded: 1983 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Lazienki Palace

The origins of today’s Łazienki Palace date back to the late 17th century. The Bathhouse was built at the behest of Prince Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, one of the most important politicians, writers and philosophers of the time. The Baroque garden pavilion, designed by the Dutch architect, Tylman van Gameren, was intended as a place for resting, leisure and contemplation. The interiors of the Bathhouse were styliz ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Wilanów Palace

The history of the Wilanow Palace, a wonderful Baroque royal residence, began on April 23, 1677, when a village became the property of King John Sobieski III. Augustyn Locci, the king’s court architect, received the task of creating only a ground floor residence of a layout typical for the buildings of the Republic of Poland. However, military successes and an increase of the importance of royalty in the coming years ha ...
Founded: 1677-1696 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw National Museum

The National Museum in Warsaw was originally founded in 1862 as the Museum of Fine Arts and is currently one of the oldest art museums in the country. After Poland regained its independence in 1918, the National Museum was ascribed a prominent role in the plans for the new state and its capital city of Warsaw, and the Modernist building in which it currently resides was erected in 1927–1938. Today, the National Muse ...
Founded: 1862 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Ostrogski Palace

Ostrogski Palace site was bought by Prince Janusz Ostrogski in early 17th century. As the area had been still a suburb of Warsaw and exempted from the laws of the city which prevented the inhabitants from building private fortifications, Ostrogski decided to build a small castle there. For that he financed a bastion on which the manor was to be constructed. However, it was not until after his death that the manor itself w ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Ujazdów Castle

Ujazdów Castle dates to the 13th century, and it was rebuilt several times. Like many structures in Warsaw, it sustained much damage in the Warsaw Uprising (1944). Reconstructed 30 years later (1974), it now houses Warsaw"s Center for Contemporary Art. The first castle on the spot was erected by the Dukes of Masovia as early as the 13th century. However, in the following century their court was moved to the f ...
Founded: 1624 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Fort Legionow

Fort Legionow was built between 1852 and 1854 on the southern foreland of the Warsaw Citadel. Initially, the fort had the shape of a three-storey artillery turret, surrounded by a fortified ditch with three cofferdams and a gallery in the counterscarp. Its task was to guard the citadel from the side of the New Town and also to defend the seasonal bridge over the Vistula River. In the years between 1866 and 1874 the fort ...
Founded: 1852 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw Citadel

Warsaw Citadel was built by personal order of Tsar Nicholas I after the 1830 November Uprising. Its chief architect, Major General Johan Jakob von Daehn (Ivan Dehn), used the plan of the citadel in Antwerp as the basis for his own plan (the same that was demolished by the French later that year). The fortress is a pentagon-shaped brick structure with high outer walls, enclosing an area of 36 hectares. Its construction re ...
Founded: 1834 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw Jewish Cemetery

The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe and in the world. It was established in 1806 and occupies 33 hectares of land. The cemetery contains over 200,000 marked graves, as well as mass graves of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of these graves and crypts are overgrown, having been abandoned after the German invasion of Poland and subsequent Holocaust. Although the cemetery was closed ...
Founded: 1806 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.