The Historic Centre of Warsaw (Warsaw Old Town) is the oldest part of Warsaw. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place; which is very popular with tourists and contains many restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, St. John's Cathedral and the Barbican which links the Old Town with Warsaw New Town.
In excess of 85% of the historic centre of Warsaw was deliberately destroyed during World War II by Nazi Germany. A meticulous restoration of the Old Town took place after the war and this included its important religious buildings, the Royal Castle, Old Town Market, townhouses, and the circuit of the city walls. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
Where possible, original bricks and decorative elements found in the rubble were reused during the reconstruction; which was not entirely accurate to pre-war Warsaw but more of a mix between pre-war Warsaw and an earlier period. The objective was to reconstruct but at the same time, try to improve on the original.
The 13th century Old Town Market Place was the true heart of the Old Town and until the end of the 18th century it was the heart of all of Warsaw. Prior to the great fire of 1607, the buildings around the square were Gothic in style, after the fire, they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style.
When approaching the Old Town from the centre of Warsaw, your first view of the reconstructed Old Town is Castle Square, dominated by Zygmunt's Column, which towers above the beautiful Old Town houses.
Royal Castle Warsaw is an exceptional copy of the original red-brick castle; which was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The very first version of the castle was actually a wooden stronghold dating back to the 14th century built for the dukes of Mazovia and since then it has been the residence of Polish kings in addition to being the home of the president and also the seat of parliament.