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Magnificent Warsaw


1.Gestapo Headquarters

Currently the home of the Ministry of Education, from 1939 to 1945, this was the one place in town you absolutely did not want to visit. A small museum in the buildings lower reaches holds the cells and interrogation rooms that are nearly untouched from how they were at the end of the war. The displays paint a vivid picture of the torture and killing that went on here -- and the lengths to which the Nazis went to break the Polish opposition. Children under 14 are not admitted.

2.Jewish Cemetery

Established in 1806, it holds more than 150,000 tombs on 34 hectares (83 acres), making it one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of the Esperanto language, was among those buried here. Although the site was relatively unscathed during the war, many of the headstones are now barely legible or crumbling, and the grounds are overgrown. It is a poignant memorial and not to be missed.

3.Koneser Vodka Factory 

Listed on the Polish Architectural Heritage list (a protected status that prohibits tearing down a building), this red-brick complex was built in 1895 specifically to supply 1L (34 oz.) of vodka per day to the 120,000 Russian soldiers based at this outpost. Aside from its own labels, the plant also had contracts with brands like Finlandia. Production halted in 2007, and the facility is gradually being transformed into a cultural center.

4.Nozyk Synagogue

This is the only synagogue in Warsaw to survive World War II. Named after its founders, it opened its doors to worshipers in 1902. The facade is in neo-Romanesque style, and the interior can hold up to 600 people. It is closed to tourists during prayers and special events. Access to the synagogue is not via the front door, but from the far end. Admission includes a guide, but you must call in advance to reserve one, and there are no guides on Sunday.


5.Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene

Built in the 1860s to serve Russians arriving from St. Petersburg at the nearby Wilenska train station, the golden chapel retains its original Byzantine portraits. The impressive building sports five onion domes and is in Russo-Byzantine style. It is one of the two Orthodox churches that survived demolition in the 1920s.