Traveling to Warsaw has been in my must-do travel bag for years now. I remembered learning about the tragic history of the citizens of Warsaw as a teen and then, later, having the chance to befriend and spend a lot of time with someone from Warsaw who often told me “you would love it there.”

In college, I dabbled with the idea of becoming an art conservationist and in my studies, we went over the massive reconstruction job that was the old town of Warsaw. A city that, at one point, was almost 95% destroyed in the war.

I remember the pictures and the maps and the monotonous details of how the Polish would construct a building’s close to the original plan from photos, drawings and old letters. I knew about it, I learned about it… but it’s completely different to stand within it and to know “this place isn’t original.”

But it was mind-blowing to stand in it. To know that passion, love, memories and copious amounts of courage brought this place back up from literally just ashes. An extremely unique UNESCO heritage site, the old town sits in stark contrast to the Praga neighborhood just across the Vistula River.

Praga, although also part of the conflicts of WWII and the Soviet Invasion, was not reduced to rubble like the Old Town of Warsaw. By taking a day to visit this area you can see glimpses of how Warsaw looked just after the bombing ended. There is also some beautiful street art and very excellent places to eat. Great for explorers that love to wander.

All-in-all Warsaw is a wonderful short trip that I highly recommend. I only spent $200 all weekend, I walked away with some gorgeous handmade souvenirs for the holidays and I filled my heart with excellent memories and stirring inspiration. Visit Warsaw, it was cold but it was worth it.

More info: kelleyhudson.com

Old Town

Part of the main walking street, Krakowskie Przedmieście.

Restored signage

The dirty parts are the original bits recovered from the rubble after the war.

King Sigmund

The story goes that if King Sigmund’s sword is pointing up, everything is going well… Also, he was Swedish.

Zapiecek restauracja

A gorgeous little street corner in the Old Town of Warsaw.

The Old Town puzzle

The Old Town of Warsaw is like a puzzle made up of some new pieces and some old pieces. The brick facade and door frame from the red-ish building in front of me are old, the rest is new.

Thin corridors

A thin corridor looking out over what the Polish lovingly refers to as “Shitty Hill.” And not because it’s a crappy place or a bad location…

Everywhere there’s a church

It’s a very churchy part of town.

Making it fancy

A later addition to the very Swedish looking palace in the main square, this was meant to appease the people who thought the Swedes needed to lighten up a bit.

Old Town at night

Much like a jewel box, the Old Town shines in the early Polish afternoon (this was taken at 3 pm).

A bus drove by

Extremely easy to maneuver in, getting from one place to another was simple with a weekend ticket.

Pope John Paul II

I highly recommend seeing this beautiful marble sculpture of John Paul II, it was magnificently done. I was in awe.

Sunday mass

Inside churches you are welcome to stand behind viewing doors during mass to take photos, almost all the churches were open and very much worth popping in.

Just a quiet space

The Old Town is mostly for tourists and going to church/dinner. So, later in the evening, there’s hardly anyone out making for very cool long exposure opportunities.

Take the hidden escalator

Off the main shopping street, just before the main square with the statue of King Sigmund, there’s an indoor escalator. The most excellent view of the big main church is at the bottom, very worth it!

Step facades

One of the only improvised large scale building projects, this church was rebuilt from imagination and the old ways. The materials and construction all done from hand using historical techniques, but the facade is completely different from its pre-war one; made up using a collection of existing church facades around Poland.

The towers glow

Getting lost in the Old Town helps you find very cool towers and wall paintings.

More churches

There’s just a lot of really beautiful churches.

Night in the old town

The Old Town Square.

Old Town square

More of the Old Town Square at night.

My favorite buildings

These 4 were my favorite buildings in the Old Town Square.

Corner house

Back in the old days, houses were taxed on the size of their facades… So this one smart Polish person decided to build a house that is shaped like a triangle. Yes, that tiny 6-foot wide strip of a house in the very middle is actually a huge 4 story, triangle-shaped house.

Green light

This lone green light cast weird shadows on this walking street in the Old Town.

Praga

Praga is just across the Vistula River and can be accessed in just 15 minutes from the Old Town.

Older trolleys

In Praga, you can also see all the cool older street cars and trains.

The underground

There are also interesting underground walkways lined with shops filled with all sorts of cool stuff… like this old guy.

Street art

You can also see some street art I very much loved.

Bodegas

If you continue into Praga there are a few of these old and untouched blocks of stores and old apartments. All still occupied but the exteriors give off the vibe of abandonment.

New windows, old walls

Renovated windows, doors and probable interiors with post-war facades.

Keyhole

Big hole for a tiny view.

Goodbye decorations

The window molding may have been taken down for repairs or it could have been taken down by the Soviets to make the facade more uniform but their renovation plans fell short.

Three of a kind

Three of the same balconies, three different owners.

Pixels

An excellent mural by Low Bros in the Praga Neighborhood of Warsaw.

Popping in for lunch

A man pops in for some lunch or cigarettes… or a mani-pedi, I don’t actually know. I can’t read Polish.

Colorful balconies

Pop-up chapels

A leftover from the suppression of Catholicism. Little pop-up chapels for prayer appeared all over Warsaw after the churches were destroyed and religion was oppressed and are now commonplace in Praga.

Howdy!

A man smoking said hi.

Notable poles

A gorgeously colorful mural.

Up and coming

The old days come crumbling down and the new one’s rocket to the sky.