IEW News entry #5 – Green Warsaw

The Overview

Warsaw is a green city, no doubt about it. Almost ¼ of its area is comprised of parks, green squares and lush gardens, making Warsaw a European metropolis that truly offers its visitors a breath of fresh air. Some of the city’s parks are historical, and many house former royal residences and saxonic gardens. In these respects, Łazienki and Wilanów parks, Saski Garden, the roof of the University library and various hidden green gems around the Pole Mokotowskie area are all examples of modern gardens with a historic feel. That makes them favorite places of relaxation, for both Warsaw residents and visitors. Additionally, the city boasts two botanical gardens, which are perfect sanctuaries. Warsaw is also one of those rare cities that can proudly say that its green, wooded boundaries are actually growing outwards! The massive Kampinoski National Park is recognized to be and protected as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reservation.

Łazienki Park (Łazienki Królewskie)

Located in Śródmieście – City center. One of the biggest and most beautiful parks in Warsaw and one of the most loveliest palace parks in Europe. A former residence of Polish royalty, constructed between 1774-1784, at the command of King Stanisław August Poniatowski. It stands over 76 hectares and combines elements of a traditional French garden within the landscape of a classically English park. Place of numerous natural, scientific and cultural events. What is worth to visit is the Palace located on the island, an amphitheater and Chopin’s statue.

Park in Wilanów (Park w Wilanowie)

One of the finest examples of antique Baroque in Europe. The park emerged in the second half of the 17th century as an important aspect of Wilanów Palace, and was completely reconstructed in the 1950’s, designed by Gerard Ciołek. It encompasses two sweeping gardens (occupying a total land surface of 45 hectares), and is scattered with ancient brick walls, and on a main part of the Palace, a set of stairs opens up to the main hall. The garden itself embraces numerous different styles in design: a stylish Baroque garden with traditional roses, an English-inspired landscape and some Chinese influences. There is also a lake, offering an unparallelled view of the buildings and the grounds.

Saxon Garden (Ogród Saski)

This is one of the oldest public parks in Poland: it was built between 1713-1745, for King August II, on the base of a pre-existing palace. One of the former palace’s surviving columns is now the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which eternally burns, under the careful and constant guard of Representatives of the Polish Army Batallion. Sculptures of mythical figures are a highlight of Saxon Garden, and the choices include gods and goddesses of the seasons, sciences, arts and abstract concepts such as justice. The fountain was created in 1852; today, a new illumination system draws the attention of evening passers-by to the calming water. Take note of the garden sun-dial, which dates from 1863.

Krasiński Garden (Ogród Krasińskich)

This garden emerged in the second half of the 17th century, on the area of Jan Dobrogost Krasiński’s palace. It was designed by Tylman of Gameren, a prominent architect of the day of King Jan III Sobieski. Today, it boasts some ancient tree specimens, including ginkgo bilobas, caucasian wingnuts, black walnuts and Turkish hazels. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the garden acted as a summer salon for residents of the northern district, which was largely inhabited by poor Jews. In addition to the plants in the western part of the garden, there is also a partially-preserved Baroque piece of the original palace fence and gate, from the 18th century, which was placed around 1915.

Garden on the roof of BUW (Ogród na dachu BUW)

This is one of the biggest and most beautiful roof gardens in Europe, designed by Irena Bajerska and opened on June 12, 2002. The garden spreads over an area of more than 1 hectare. The garden is open to the general public (although it is enclosed) and is the perfect resting place not only for students or researchers, but also for Warsaw residents and tourists. The garden consists of two parts: the upper area is 2,000 m2, and the lower area is 15,000 m2, linked by a fountain of cascading water, where ducks have taken up residence. At the bottom of the garden stand numerous sculptures by Ryszard Stryjecki. Those looking for a great view of the city will not be disappointed: from the deck, you get a sweeping view of Warsaw, the Vistula river and the Świętokrzyski Bridge. The garden’s visitors can also see directly inside the library through special windows, or the glass roof itself.

Skaryszewski Park

This massive park was originally established between 1906-1922, on 58 hectares of land, on the old Kamionek area of Saska Kępa; it was designed by Franciszek Szanior. He created it as an urban park centre for recreation and refreshment. Hills, artificial waterfall and sparkling lakes – along with the rich and colourful horticultural surroundings – make this one of the most unusual places in Warsaw. It boasts several interesting sculptures from the 20th century, such as a bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski. It also has a number of relaxing and fun summer activities, such as canoeing and sailing on Kamionkowskie Lake (Jeziorko Kamionkowskie), or roller-blading and cycling along its wide boulevards. On summer evenings, concerts and film festivals are organized.

Ujazdowski Park

Created at the end of the 19th century based on a project by Franciszek Szanior, the park’s landscape was extremely fashionable and stylish for its time. The characteristic features of the design include a fluidity of line which links the park with its water elements: its pond is the most interesting of all of these, as it consists of a fountain cascading over rocks, and a stunning viewing area. There is also a lovely stone bridge over the channel, an innovative item that was designed by William Lindley. Another unusual attraction is the antique scale from 1912, which attracts numerous visitors, and monuments include an 1892 sculpture of Gladiator Pius Weloński, and a memorial to Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Kepa Potocka Park

The park was built in the 1960’s, on an island separated from the Łacha Potocka area via a canal. The planners and creators of this unique park were Karol Kozłowski and Elżbieta Jankowska. The central elements of the park – the canal, specially-built promenades and bicycle paths, as well as a children’s playground – all attract numerous visitors over the summer months, including cyclists, joggers and families with small children. Lots of open-air picnics, concerts and galas are organized in the park.

Morskie Oko Park

This park is located in old Mokotów, and is situated both under and over a buttress. The grounds were originally a romantic garden/palace complex, designed in the 18th century for Izabela Czartoryska Lubomirska. In the 19th century, it was bought by Franciszek Szuster (hence the name of the palace on the grounds – Szustra Palace/Pałac Szustra). The only buildings to have survived World War II were the Mauretański House and the Gothic House (also called Gołębniki House), both of which may be found at the very edge of Puławska Street. Every day at 5 pm, the Mokotowska March is played from the Gothic House, in memory of the Warsaw Uprising; on the building itself is an information board explaining the history of the song. Since both the park and its palace were completely destroyed during World War II, the entire area had to be rebuilt during the 1960’s.
The park’s name (‘Marine Eye’), dates from the time that a clay pit was being dug and it filled up with water; the small lake is in the most north-western part of the park. According to urban legend, a tank from the war is lying at the bottom of the lake – and although other objects and vehicles have been found in the water by divers, their searches have never turned up a tank…


Pole Mokotowskie

This is a huge park complex, right near the centre of Warsaw, situated over and between three districts: Mokotów, Ochota and Śródmieście, and it stretches all the way from ulica Żwirki i Wigury to ulica Waryńskiego. Before World War II, this 200 hectares served numerous functions. Its central location means that the park has an incredibly important task: it provides the centre of Warsaw with a free flow of air, all the way to the downtown area.
Despite this unusual purpose, it is also a very typical sports and recreation green space, with wide walking boulevards and bicycle paths, as well as a lovely fountain that is extremely popular with Varsovians. On sunny summer days, hundreds of people are to be found sunning themselves on the grass, or enjoying some food and drink at one of the park’s pubs. The park also has a monument that especially delights children: the Monument of the Happy Dog (Pomnik Szczęśliwego Psa). The park hosts concerts, all year round.

Kampinos Park

This is the second largest park in Poland, and the largest in northern Europe. It was opened on January 16, 1959, and was created for the protection of the natural environment, namely the forest and its wildlife. Within the park, there are over 5,000 types of animal, including salmon, lynx, black storks and bison. The area has been recognized by UNESCO World Biosphere Reservation of biological diversity, as well as a bird sanctuary by the European Union. The forest is north-west of Warsaw, and is largely comprised of dense forests and swamps, as well as a few old sandy fields. Evidently, though, the forest itself dominates the national park, and encompasses about 71% of its total area, with oaks being a defining characteristic of the park – it’s quite unusual to find this type of tree on sand. There is a great deal of diversity of vegetation, with about 118 groups known to exist.
But Kampinoski Park does not only consist of nature, as a quick walk around will confirm: there are architectural antiques and historical curiosities to be admired. The oldest and most valuable are the 12th century Roman-style Abbey, found at the edge of the forest, and the Salezjanów Basilica and monastery from the 15th century. Also, make a point of seeing the wooden Baroque church built from 1773-1782, and a classical court from the beginning of the 19th century which served as the Zygmunt Padlewski’s headquarters at the time of the January Uprising. The building is currently in private hands, but acts as Kampinoski National Park Museum, and is one of the very few antique wooden buildings found in forests – many of these were created in the interwar period, but few survived. Also of interest is the well-maintained, medieval castle from the 10th to 12th centuries. It is comprised of two sweeping axes, which probably funcioned as moats originally, and was used as both a hunting lodge and safe place for nobility and the king’s subjects, who lived in Rokitno, near Błonie.
The forest was a witness to many tragic and historic events in Poland’s history, and has numerous places dedicated to national memorials. One of the most well-known is the cemetery/mausoleum in Palmiry, in memory of some 2,115 victims of secret Nazi executions performed between 1939-1941. Victims included prominent politicians and social thinkers of the time, scientists and intellectuals, athletes, cultured people, and those killed for their religious faith – among the victims were the Speaker of the Parliament (Sejm) and one of the leaders of the People’s Movement, Maciej Rataj; the Vice-President of Warsaw, Jan Pohoski; Olympian Janusz Kusociński; and the priest, Father Zygmunt Sajna. In Truskaw, there is a monument to honour its fallen villagers: during World War II, the Nazis twice incinerated the village (in September of 1939 and then again in August of 1944), during which time many inhabitants were killed. And in the Zaborowie forest, there is a monument to the 76 young insurgents who were killed on April 14, 1863.

Botanical Garden

This is one of oldest botanical gardens in Poland – it’s estimated to be about 200 years old. This is a wonderful place that offers a substitute for the wilds of ‘real’ nature, right in the bustling centre of the city: it has the perfect location, in the same neighbourhood as the absolutely lovely Łazienki Park.

The garden’s founders were Michał Szubert and Jakub F. Hoffman; they launched it in 1818. Within the first six years of its opening, over 10,000 different plants were detailed and listed within its grounds. Unfortunately, the rapid and impressive progress of the botanical gardens was completely halted due to the November Uprising, and the gardens were forced to close, as in 1834 the Tsar decreed that the University of Warsaw – and all its branches and subsidiary projects – be shut down. The garden did not re-open until 1916, and once again, it did so under the authority of the University, and the direction of Professor Zygmunt Wóycicki. Sadly, the garden suffered extensive damage during World War II: its greenhouses were completely destroyed and its orangery and outbuildings were levelled, though many of the trees and plants continued to grow wild.
It was not until 1987 that the government ordered the botanical gardens to be returned to their pre-war state of beauty and stature, and that the gardens be a real centre of the study, research and preservation of Polish wildlife, plants, shrubs and horticulture. Within a short time of this decree, the botanical gardens undertook specialised research and very succesfully fulfilled their role as an ‘experimental, scientific studio’ of botany and dendrology.

PAN Botnical Garden

With an area of about 40 hectares, the botanical garden came into existence in 1974, thanks to the initiative of the PAN President. The instigator of this small ‘revolt’ in horticulture was Professor Szczepan Pieniążek. Since 1990, it has been open to the public for tours and viewing.

The gardens are extremely well-organized, and are divided into numerous categories: the arboretum (a collection of trees and shrubs), collections of Polish flora, and decorative plants, both utilitarian and exotic. The trees in the arboretum consist mainly of coniferous shrubs, plants, magnolias and roses, and a large population of trees native to the Tatras region; in total, there are about 3,000 types of plants in this area. Of course, the collection of Polish flora is presented in its natural environment, in the soil of its native land. The gardens allow visitors to admire plants that are quite ‘common’, but which they may not get the opportunity to see in their natural, far-flung habitats.

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