Warsaw was founded around 1300, and early on it became a major trade centre and meeting point for the many peoples of Central Europe. The variety found in streets' architecture and design, where stark differences can be found between different neighbourhoods, is a clear sign of a multicultural past: a population of Poles, Germans and Russians, with the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions crossing paths. This is also a troubled past, with periods of prosperity interrupted by crises and wars: between the 17th and 19th Centuries, the city was invaded by the Germans, the Swedish and the French (led by Napoleon Bonaparte), ending with a period of Russian domination.
The latest of these great conflicts — Second World War — almost completely devastated the city. During the Communist regime, several historical landmarks were rebuilt, which helped to recover some of the lost heritage but also led to the creation of new areas with the typical Soviet architecture. When Poland joined the European Union, more colours were added to the "painting". As a result, to this day the different areas of the city have distinct identities, with one particularly visible division: on the left bank of the Vistula river that cuts through the city we find old, classical Warsaw. On the right bank of the river, we can witness the birth of a new city.
Left Bank and Historic Centre
To learn about Warsaw's distant past, we must begin our visit at the Śródmieście city district, where we find the historic centre — the Old City (Stare Miasto), which was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1980.