Not the Ugly Sister: Warsaw in Photos

By Abi King | Europe

Feb 28

Warsaw Photos Sign

Warsaw Photos

Warsaw. I’ve always thought it’s a shame about the name. Krakow, the first city in Poland I visited, sounds intriguing and edgy, a cracking place to be. Warsaw, on the other hand, conjures up a protracted conflict involving various weapons from carpentry. Or perhaps that’s just me.

It doesn’t help that it sounds suspiciously similar to eyesore and that I’d heard again and again before I arrived that Krakow was the beautiful one; Warsaw bore the scars from the Second World War.

The destruction part is true (the population of Warsaw stood at 1.3 million in 1939, reduced to only one thousand by 1945.) The appearance part is not.

I’m in Warsaw as I type, sleet and snow swirling at the window. Yet last night, I caught a glimpse of Warsaw in the dry, as the sun set and the lanterns of the Old Town cast shadows across the restored streets around the city’s Market Place.

I’m not sure what you think, but I think I’ve been misled.

Warsaw is beautiful. And here are the photos to prove it.

What do you think?

Warsaw watchtower photo

Warsaw Culture Building

Late night Warsaw photos

Buildings in Warsaw old town

Buildings in Warsaw old town

Warsaw Old Town photo

Warsaw Skyline photo

Disclosure: I am visiting Warsaw as a guest of the Polish Tourist Board. As ever, all opinions are my own…

For more information about Warsaw, and Poland in general, visit the Polish Tourist Board website.


About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on

Lane February 28, 2012

Beautiful night imagery.

Jenna February 28, 2012

Beautiful photos! I have been to Krakow twice but never to Warsaw. I used to hear a lot of people say that it wasn’t worth visiting, especially when compared to Krakow. I actually think that the fact that the city was so badly destroyed and now has rebuilt so well gives it a certain appeal.

    Abi King March 9, 2012

    I kept hearing the same thing but now that I’ve seen both cities, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Enjoy Warsaw, I say!

Camels & Chocolate February 29, 2012

Wow–I had no clue the city was so beautiful. Like you said, I always think of Krakow as a cool, quirky city, whereas Warsaw just sounds gray and bleak. (For the record, I’ve never been to either.)

    Abi King March 9, 2012

    Both cities suffered a lot in the 20th century – it’s good to see them both enjoying a revival now.

Larissa February 29, 2012

Warsaw is absolutely my favorite city in Poland. You have to have a massive amount of respect for a city that has completely resurrected itself and then some. Beautiful photos (especially the last one – so much cool architecture there!).

    Abi King March 9, 2012

    Yes – an exhibit in the Warsaw Uprising museum showed a panoramic “flight” across the city to demonstrate how little was left of it after WWII. It’s almost overwhelming to equate that to the city you find outside. Respect indeed (oh – and thanks for the compliments!)

Christy @ Technosyncratic March 1, 2012

These photos are lovely! I had some vague ideas about what Warsaw must be like, but never having visited I really had no idea. The architecture looks interesting, and I really like that first photo!

    Abi King March 9, 2012

    The architecture is fascinating – the renovated old town, the buildings from the Stalin years, the brand new stadium that only opened while I was there. Really interesting.

Monica March 1, 2012

Beautiful photos. I’d never even thought about visiting Warsaw but after what I’ve heard it sounds amazing and these photos look really magical.

    Abi King March 9, 2012

    It’s certainly more impressive than a number of other European cities…Thanks for stopping by!

Glenn Barker March 2, 2012

Awesome photos! I’ve never been to Poland, but those are some very inspiring shots. The shot “Buildings in Old Town Warsaw” remind me of Stockholm.

    Abi King March 10, 2012

    Ah…Then I shall have to make sure I see Stockholm…

I haven’t been to Poland yet but I always here good things about Krakow so it’s nice to see some wonderful photos of Warsaw. The square looks very traditional and part of the reason I like European cities.

    Abi King March 10, 2012

    Hope you get there one day.

Fiona Flores Watson March 3, 2012

Yup, those buildings are pretty damn gorgeous!

    Abi King March 15, 2012

    Humbug to those who say it’s not worth a visit!

Your photos definitely capture a beautiful evening in Warsaw. I’ve never been to Warsaw so I’m not talking from experience, but the city’s architecture as featured in your photos appears to be reminiscent of both New York and London. I’m intrigued and would absolutely consider a visit.

    Abi King March 15, 2012

    I see some similarities with New York but I’m not seeing London there…Perhaps that’s because I know London much better than New York!

Steve March 3, 2012

1300000 to 1000 in the space of 6 years? My heart would like to think that many of those people managed to escape the horror of the war and find a safe haven. My head warns my heart to be prepared for the truth…. I deliberately typed the numbers out in full just to see how many zeroes you have to remove to get from the pre to the post…. I could cry just at the thought of it.

Wonderful photos once again – I love the way you manage to mix such stunning imagery with such thought provoking writing

    Abi King March 15, 2012

    Wow, thank you for such a thoughtful comment, Steve. I did ask about those numbers at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The answer I was given was that many people had fled to the countryside – but I couldn’t find out a precise number. Obviously, through fighting, the concentration camps, lack of shelter and so on, there will have been very many deaths. The more I look into the history of this period in time, the more obvious it becomes that no-one really has a great grasp of the numbers involved. Almost the whole world was at war and it was difficult to keep track. Whatever the exact figure, though, it was a great tragedy. But take some comfort – some people did survive and did escape.

    Thank you once again for such a thoughtful comment.

      GF Cholewczynski April 21, 2012

      Hello from New Orleans . . . .

      In a Polish community, similar to others populated by victims of the Nazis, Communists, or both . . .

      Without resorting to higher mathematics, in September 1939, Warsaw was bombarded, or under siege for 27 days. With thousands killed or starved

      A ghetto was created where over a million Jews were starved, murdered in death camps, or were killed in the 1943 Uprising.

      So-called “Aryan” Poles were killed as hostages in street executions, tortured to death or killed as members of the resistance, and thousands of others deported to concentration camps or for slave labor.

      In the 62 days of the 1944 Uprising, more people were killed than in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The rest were deported, save for the odd thousand that remained in hiding while the Nazis looted the city, destroying what they could not take.

      To put images to these harrowing stories, I recommend both the film and the book THE PIANIST, authored by Wladyslaw Spielman.

      “Liberation” in 1945 meant more killing as Poland was made into a Stalinist state.

      So from 1939, until 1989, the people living in Poland had suffered unbelievably, and when the mass killings finally ceased, were forced to live lives of drudgery and poverty under moronic ideological systems.

      THANK YOU for your coverage of Poland, and Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia. . .
      Poland had the first free elections in the former “Soviet Bloc” nations, and though problems remain, as in any and every society, I am indeed very proud of what my people have done in the past 20-odd years to reverse much of the historic damage inflicted upon our land, our bodies and minds.

      The country is now green, beautiful, and now people smile in the streets – do visit, you will smile too!

        Abi King May 1, 2012

        Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum which shed at least a little light onto the city’s terrible experiences during the war. I have more to write about that and the other atrocities that took place in Poland in the 20th century – but I want to take my time. I hope you understand – like you, I also want to draw attention to the successes and character of life there today. I loved my time in Warsaw – it certainly made me smile.

James March 4, 2012

Very beautiful pictures for a beautiful place indeed.

    Abi King March 15, 2012

    Yes, here’s to Warsaw!

Zorica May 18, 2012

Love these photos! And indeed Warsaw IS beautiful, and more you’re there more you fall in love with it :)

    Abi King July 3, 2012

    Thank you! I shall, as I so often say, have to go back…

GF Cholewczynski July 3, 2012

WONDERFUL article in today’s New York Times

    Abi King July 4, 2012

    Yes, that is an interesting one. Thanks for pointing it out. Cheers

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