The Palace of Culture and Science is one of the most popular landmarks of Warsaw that marked the new center of the postwar capital. This controversial remain of communist reign in Poland inevitably became the symbol of the city and a popular visiting spot. The monumental building has a lot to offer, and you can definitely spend the whole day exploring different parts of the Palace of Culture and Science.
The history of the building started in 1952 when Joseph Stalin decided to gift it as a proof of Soviet friendship for the Polish nation. It took three years and up to 10.000 workers to finish such a large construction. The main architect, Leo Rudniev, designed the Palace of Culture and Science based on the famous 'Seven Sisters' of Moscow - the group of skyscrapers erected in the style of socialist realism. The design did not change much until today, so you can still admire this specific style - evoking the figures of workers, but also national heroes standing as monuments around the building, mixing traditional Polish folk with monumental forms, etc. To create such a big cubature, the whole block between the four streets that mark the central Warsaw now: Świętokrzyska, Marszałkowska, Jerozolimskie Avenue and Emilii Plater, had to be demolished. Before the Second World War, it was densely built up with 19th-century tenement houses. For the people living at that time in Warsaw, the sight of a new, shiny edifice, peering from the sea of ruins, was a heartbreaking sign of the new regime.
It was arguably the biggest undertaking of these times, vastly covered in the local and national press. The workers were encouraged to break the records of working pace, pioneering in their field. From the very beginning, the function of the building was the same - it was a place for promoting culture and science, and it still remains like this today.
Since its erection, the Palace of Culture was - and still remains, the tallest building in Poland, measuring 237 meters of height. It consists of more than 3000 rooms, dispersed over 44 floors. Apart from the cultural and clerical functions, it also houses some animals! There is a big group of cats living in the basements, whose main role was to take care of the mice living in the building. Moreover, the tall roof seemed a suitable location for a family of falcons that settled their nests there. Apart from that, other representatives of the animal kingdom living on the roofs of the palace are common - kestrels and a hive of bees.
The clock that we can see now on the high tower was not mentioned in the original plans - it was hung in 2000, and its magnificent size makes it the second biggest construction of this kind in Europe. The building hosts four theatres, four museums, a cinema, a few bars and cafes, and even a swimming pool (although not accessible to the public)!
Definitely, one of the points not to miss is a rooftop visit. Not only will you have a unique chance to see Warsaw from above - and from its central point, you can also start your day enjoying a cup of coffee with an amazing panoramic view. The cafe on the 30th floor will be a good place for that. If you feel like visiting some museums, you can stop by the Museum of Technology, located in the southern wing. It is a truly original experience, as the place feels like stuck in old times - with a very edgy exhibition and proper relics of technology that you cannot even imagine. Another interesting attraction might be the Dollhouse Museum that gathers more than 130 examples of historical dolls and accessories. It is also worth mentioning that the Studio Theatre hosts a small gallery that often has exhibitions worth seeing, so make sure to check what is currently on display.
As the building has some magnificent interior design, it is also worth making some more effort to see more of the palace's rooms than the ones accessible to everyone. Though on a normal basis it is not possible just to buy a ticket and go inside the building for sightseeing (as there are many various institutions), you a can book a special trip via some tour companies that are listed on the official website of the palace.
When you get tired of sightseeing, you might find yourself wanting to relax and watch a movie in one of the coolest cinemas in the capital. Having eight projection rooms, it will always offer something interesting to see, and also for the foreigners to watch in the preferred language. As I mentioned already, PKiN (the abbreviation for the Palace of Culture and Science) is also a house for a few theatres, from which Teatr Studio and Teatr Dramatyczny are the most worthy of visiting. The cast usually consists of the best Polish actors, and the plays are always conducted by the highest standards. The repertoire is very varied, but mostly they stage contemporary plays or the modernized versions of classical pieces. Make sure to check before - you might find a play with English subtitles.
Apart from the rooftop cafe, you can visit two bars that turn into party places in the evening. During the day Cafe Kulturalna and Bar Studio (both linked to the abovementioned theatres) are great places for grabbing a bite or having a coffee. During the weekends Bar Studio organizes communal breakfast, when you can sit by a huge table with other people and share the most important meal of the day. Both of the places offer really good food and a variety of drinks, among which everyone should find something for themselves.
When you finished your day full of sightseeing and walking, you might relax with a glass of your favorite liquor staying in the same place. The Studio and Kulturalna turn into one of the hottest party places in central Warsaw.
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw is an unskippable point of the touristic map of the capital, and you should not miss it on your next trip. This controversial building is a document of the recent history, and I think it is important to spend some time in it and understand its context. Surely, the wide variety of things to see will please even the fussiest ones, and will surely make your day in the palace an unforgettable experience.
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