News that Warsaw’s parks had reopened following their temporary closure was greeted with the kind of fanfare usually reserved for a moon landing. Just in the nick of time for summer, we bring you our rundown of the ones that can’t be missed!
For… The Best of Warsaw
The most celebrated of all of Poland’s parks, Łazienki is fully worthy of the plaudits. A throwback to the Imperial Age, the gorgeous gardens are today ruled by the strutting peacocks that have made it their home.
Pristine and picture perfect, points of interest number a Greco-Roman amphitheater inspired by Herculaneum, the dramatic ‘Palace on the Water’, and an intricate orangery built to house the exotic plants collected by Tsar Nicholas II. Stranger still, don’t miss the Chinese Garden – modeled on Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing.
For… Extraordinary Sculpture
There’s one primary reason to visit Bródno, and that’s for a sculpture park that’s commonly cited as one of Warsaw’s best kept artistic secrets.
Sprinkled with wacky installations of varying merit, highlights number an upside tea house, a bronze nude with jets of water shooting from her nipples, and an invisible sculpture that you really can’t see…
For… Urban Legends
Scattered with Moorish-style towers and neo-Gothic architectural elements designed by Henryk Marconi, Morskie Oko is a good candidate for the city’s spookiest park.
Aside from a creepy mausoleum, the back balcony of the building at No. 5 is allegedly haunted by a weeping teenage girl picked off in 1944 by a Nazi sniper. The rumor’s been debunked several times over, but you’ll still hear some locals claiming that a Soviet tank can be found sitting at the bottom of one of the park’s three lakes.
For… Something Secret
Originally created as an orchard in the late 1700s, Dolina Szwajcarska’s mixed history includes a stint as a pre-war fairground filled with stalls, bandstands and amusements such as fire eaters, sword swallowers, jugglers and an ice rink. Reduced to its current size after the war, “The Swiss Valley” is today a serene alcove of sunken gardens, cherubic statues and winding paths.
For… Moments of Refinement
Immaculately preened, weekends at Krasiński draw groups of middle class friends armed with picnics and their own set of boules.
Bottles of wine find their way into the hampers, and there’s enough private corners to enjoy sunset toasts – how such behavior will be tolerated during these current times is unclear, so instead busy yourself by checking out the monument commemorating Poland’s contribution to the Battle of Monte Cassino as well as two remaining parts of a barricade constructed during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
A product of the 1960s, at Kępa Potocka the curving canal-side pathway serves as a magnet for roller bladers, cyclists and joggers, though others will know it for its signature pink neon, a dazzly, space age affair created by artist Maurycy Gomulicki.
For… The PRL Past
Laid out over war rubble, this former industrial area was remodeled by landscape artist Alina Scholtze and her team of little munchkins: over 15,000 school kids volunteered to create Park Śmigłego-Rydza, working diligently whilst bands tooted in the background to keep spirits from wavering. Opened in 1953, Warsaw’s first ‘dance club’ was closed after noise complaints (a familiar story), whilst the city’s first ‘permanent circus’ fared little better shutting after a year in 1971. Blasts to the past still exist though, namely in the form of a quite awesome 1975 statue honoring the post-war sappers that rendered the city safe from German mines.
For… Romantic Proposals
Serving previous functions as a military parade ground and a fairground, Park Ujazdowski owes its current look to Franciszek Szanior. Remodeling it in the late 19th century, it was on Szanior’s behest the area was filled with decorative pools, curling paths and little nooks.
Curiosities abound, including a weighing scale once used by Charles De Gaulle (and displayed at the 1900 Paris World Fair), a nude statue designed by one of Rodin’s proteges and an itsy, bitsy humpbacked bridge ideal for proposals and selfies.
For… Sunset Moments
Why spend the afternoon inside a library when you can spend it on it instead? “Distinguished by its colors, scents and moods,” the one hectare garden that sits on top of the University Library is breathtaking. Featuring sloping, metal walkways and leafy alcoves, hang around till scarlet sunsets settle over the Wisła right ahead.
For… The Love of Art
Królikarnia has always been good fun: built in the 18th century for Augustus II, its primary function was to serve as a hunting base, though according to some it was actually little more than ‘a high class brothel’. Now it operates as a gallery complete with an unusual outdoor sculpture park whose set of rules at the entrance specifically encourage reading, the flying of kites and the hugging of statues. Of the decorative statues, our fave is a work by Maria Rostowska depicting a cute dog with spirally, trippy eyes.
Opened one year prior to WWII, the park was devastated during the Uprising – trees were uprooted for firewood, and the grounds utilized as a cemetery. Since revitalized the park is planned around a central axis and includes a distinctive memorial to local Uprising combatants, inter-changing poster exhibits on the gates and a fussball table that’s likely to have stood there for over 40-years. Be advised, the sign on the gate expressly forbids explosives, trumpets, watering the plants and jumping on the flowers.
Just off Pl. Wilsona, Żoliborz’s best-known park was founded in the inter-war years at a time when work on this garden suburb was fully underway. Six-hundred unemployed workers were given the task of landscaping it, and today its primary focus remains, as then, Fort Sokolnicki, a Tsarist bastion that served as a field hospital during the Warsaw Uprising.
For… The People!
Bars (remember them!), jogging trails and bike hire points all conspire to make Pole Mokotowskie “the people’s park”. But it ain’t just for humans. This park loves dogs, so much so there’s a monument of a smiling Golden Retriever called Lokat. He’s there to remind people that animals need love! Other draws include ‘Cosmo Golem’ (an unexpected wooden statue of an alien-like beast), and the ‘Kapuściński trail’ dedicated to Poland’s only officially sanctioned foreign correspondent during communism – find it festooned with his quotes and photographs.
For… Watery Pleasures
Rumored to have been built because Tsar Nicholas II didn’t want Poniatowski Bridge (which was set to be named after him) opening out onto muddy fields filled with cows, today’s Skaryszewski includes a 9/11 monument dedicated to the six Poles who died in the tragedy and a commemorative boulder saluting an RAF plane that was downed here during a WWII supply mission. Often though these and the galaxy of other monuments go overlooked thanks to the number of decorative waterfalls, ribboning streams and expansive lakes.
For… Inner City Elegance
Originally inspired by the baroque gardens of Versailles, Ogród Saski attained its current look thanks to a 19th century redesign conducted by Englishman James Savage. An ornate 1,000 seater theater – added in 1870 – cemented the park’s status as ‘Warsaw’s summer salon’, but whilst that’s since been lost, other elements have survived: a 19th century sundial, a chalice-shaped fountain designed by Henryk Marconi, a classicist water tower inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli and a row of sandstone statues depicting both muses and virtues.