We woke to heavy overnight snow which was surprising for late March, leaving the city looking beautiful in the sun.
We started the day with a visit to the Museum of Life Under Communism located on the left bank of the river in the Praga district. To get there, we took Tram 22 from Centrum. The museum is tucked away in a courtyard of the former headquarters of the Polish Optical Factory, preserving its 1950’s appearance. Admission is 8zl (£1.65) or included in the Warsaw Pass.
This charming museum resembles a 1950’s apartment with its own entrance, living room, kitchen and bathroom. It shows visitors how people used to live during communist times and is furnished with typical furniture and household items from the era.
Other small sections focus on propaganda, politics and leisure. There’s a little cafe where you can relax playing old Polish board games and have drinks served in authentic crockery and glassware. The museum is compact but we found it interesting to visit, gaining an insight into the highs and lows of life at that time.
We then returned to the city centre for lunch and a spot of retail therapy in the Zlote Tarasy which is a modern shopping centre and cinema complex located near the Centrum metro station. After browsing the stores and making a couple of purchases, we decided to make the most of the sunshine by returning to the vast Lazienki Park that we had briefly visited the previous day.
The park looked completely different with its blanket of snow as we strolled along small tree lined paths where we found several peacocks strutting around. We read a sign explaining that Lazienki means ‘baths’ and this became apparent as we toured the Lazienki Palace. Again, we were able to make use of our Warsaw Pass, but general admission is 25zl (£5.20) with free admission each Thursday.
The Palace on the Island was completed in 1683 as a bathhouse but was then converted into a residence in the late 1700’s. It is built on an artificial island that divides the park into two parts connected by two ornate bridges. We took a self guided tour of the state rooms which were decorated in the most extravagant of Baroque styles.
Returning outdoors, we continued though the gardens alongside a frozen stream and headed to the nearby Legia Warsaw Football Stadium in good time to take their 4.00 p.m. guided tour. Tours take place on non match days and last approximately 90 minutes. The tour costs 20 zl (£4.10) but we were able to make use of our 72 hour Warsaw Pass one final time to gain admission.
As we were early, it was suggested that we look around the Club’s museum which can be visited anytime, free of charge. Here we found trophies, football shirts and other memorabilia collected during the club’s history which started as a military club over 100 years ago.
There were just six of us on the tour, including two from Poland, two Greeks and ourselves. Tours are predominantly in Polish with abbreviated explanations in English but as there were only two Polish visitors, we benefited from a greater commentary in English.
The stadium is one of the most modern in Europe and is home to Poland’s most successful club. The tour gave us a chance to see aspects of the stadium normally only available for players and staff and I believe it would also be of interest to those who are not keen football fans,
We walked through the players tunnel and sat in the technical area at the pitch side, used by the coach, substitutes, etc. Next, we took a look in the players well equipped dressing room and massage area. Other aspects included the press conference room and media boxes. Climbing the steps up to the top of the stands, we tried out the seats in various zones. My favourite was the executive hospitality section where boxes accommodating 12 guests can be hired for a season at a cost of €100,000. These come equipped with outdoor seating and indoor dining and entertaining areas. Corporate clients can also use them on non match days for out-of-office meetings and other events.
Our tour guide was very pleasant and answered any questions we might have. I enquired why heat lamps were being utilised at one end of the pitch when the ground had underfloor heating. He explained the lamps were to accelerate the re-growth of grass which I hadn’t considered. Leaving the ground, we had a quick look in the club shop before returning on foot to our hotel to get changed for our evening outing.
It had been a day of contrasts from visiting a palace, a football stadium to completing the day with a cultural evening at the Polish National Opera. Located near the Arsenal metro station, this grand theatre is the largest in Europe with a seating capacity of over 2,000. The theatre first opened in 1833 but after suffering severe damage during the Second World War it was painstakingly rebuilt in the same style, re-opening over 20 years later.
We had arrived early for our 8.00 p.m. performance allowing us time to explore the lavish interior with its marble pillars, sweeping staircases and chandeliers. The performance we had come to see was quite special as it was the anniversary of Chopin’s debut performance of his Piano Concerto in F minor on his Buchholtz piano in 1830. It was thought that none of his pianos had survived to this day until one was discovered in the Ukraine. The Fryderyk Chopin Institute enlisted a piano maker with expertise in 18th century techniques to revive this instrument. By good timing, we had the pleasure of being present at this performance, which was accompanied by the Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra.
We enjoyed a splendid evening and although there wasn’t a strict dress code, most theatre goers were dressed for the occasion making it seem extra special. It was very late by the time we returned to our hotel and it was only minutes later that we were fast asleep after another action packed day in Warsaw.