Levelled during the war in a bid to erase all traces of the Ghetto, the often unsung Muranów district offers more than a handful of key sights to justify a proper day of exploration.
Taken on their own the 1950s aesthetics impress architecture buffs looking to snap examples of the Socialist Realist past, but look a little deeper and one will find a number of sights relating to the area’s tragic role in the Holocaust. Whereas the world-class POLIN museum acts as the primary draw, this is a district that contains so much more.
Though less obvious than the large-format murals found elsewhere in Warsaw, Muranów has no shortage of artworks decorating the arched passageways of its housing estates. Best of the bunch is Dawne Leszno (Solidarności 78), an intricate work that depicts lost local landmarks: the Femina theatre the Great Synagogue and the Pasażu Simonsa shopping emporium. Of the more traditional murals, favourites include one of a wartime messenger boy on the side of the primary school at Lewartowskiego 2 and Swansky’s tree of life on Nowolipki 11.
Immaculately preened, weekends at Krasińskich Gardens draw groups of middle-class friends armed with picnics and their own set of boules – its particularly atmospheric when tango music bursts from the local dance school, itself found in a strange concave-roofed building smuggled beyond the treeline. Serene and scenic, the park’s highlights include remains of a barricade constructed during the Warsaw Uprising, a fountain that encourages visitors to run through its cooling sprays, and a Baroque era palace.
Good To Catch
Bookending the aforementioned park, find a monument dedicated to the women of the Warsaw Uprising and a set of hideously-coloured winged horses at one end (honouring the works of Polish writer Zbigniew Herbert), and at the other, a memorial commemorating Poland’s triumph at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Up the road, the monument dedicated to the Poles deported to Siberia at the height of Stalin’s terror is especially striking when lit at night.
The Jewish Trail
Muranów was the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, and although little survives landmarks include the monument marking the Umschlagplatz – the point from which thousands were packed into cattle wagons bound for Treblinka. As for the 1943 Ghetto Uprising, that was conducted close by from a shelter on Miła 18. Surrounded by Germans, it was here that the 24-year-old commander, Mordechai Anielewicz, killed himself along with 100 other defenders. After the war the bodies were not exhumed; instead, rubble was poured on the spot and visitors can now climb the knoll marking the area of the ‘bunker’.
Pawiak Prison still casts a shadow over Warsaw’s psyche. What was once a Tsarist jail was used by the Nazis to house 100,000 political prisoners. Around 37,000 were executed on-site. The gloomy cells can still be visited, though it is the mangled, preserved tree – decorated with death announcements – that makes the most impact.
Rebuilt after the war in Socialist Realist style, the Muranów housing estate fascinates with its Orwellian style. This especially holds true walking Andersa street which was modelled on Berlin’s Karl-Marx Allee. Designed to house 15,000, landmarks include the archway above Kino Muranów, a quadrangular courtyard further up where a subway station was to be built, and the colonnaded walkways by Anielewicza. Nicknamed ‘Stalin’s Palaces’, people once travelled from around Warsaw to stare in wonder at these very blocks.
Insider Recommends Food & Drink
Muranów’s food and drink option have improved beyond measure. Behind Polin, find Tonka serving specialty coffee and what we rate as among the city’s best cakes. Andersa street is mined with options that include the uber-cool Fat White specialty coffee den and crazy beers from Craft Beer Muranów. On Jana Pawla, Jas I Maglosia bar is rated by locals. Heading down south, the pavilions between Solidanorsci and Nowolipki are filled with ethnic hole-in-the-wall joints like Delhi6, Queen Sheba, and Achi Achi.