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Sights in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and is a very old and historic city that has several palaces, parks, museums, galleries, and Jewish monuments to the Warsaw rising and ghetto that are worth exploring and visiting.

  • Royal Castle—a large brick castle that served as a royal residence and housed Russian tsars before becoming the residence of the president in 1918 after Poland regained independence and includes period furniture and artwork, the Great Apartment and Great Assembly Hall with a large ceiling painting entitled The Disentanglement of Chaos, the National Hall with six large canvas paintings that depict important scenes from Polish history, and the Throne Room with sumptuous décor and 23 paintings by Bernardo Bellotto; Plac Zamkowy 4
  • Archikatedra Sw. Jana (Cathedral of St. John)—a cathedral built at the turn of the 14th century where coronations of Polish kings took place until the 18th century and where crypts containing the tombs of the last two princes of Mazovia, archbishops of Warsaw, and Polish luminaries such as 19th century novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz; Swietojanska 8
  • Biblioteka Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (Warsaw University Library)—a library completed in 1999 with cafes and shops on the ground floor, a roof with views of the city and the library’s interior, and a beautiful rooftop garden with brooks, paths, lawns, and benches; Dobra 56/66
  • Centrum Nauki Kopernik (Copernicus Science Center)—a science museum with interactive displays that explore various scientific disciplines such as biology, optics, and astrophysics, labs, shows, and a planetarium; Wybrzeze Kosciuszkowskie 20
  • Centrum Sztuki Wspolczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski (Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle)—a castle dating back to the 18th century and reconstructed in the 1980s that hosts temporary exhibitions by Polish and international artists and has the most comprehensive permanent collection of Polish contemporary art in the country as well as an outdoor cinema, cafeteria, bookshop, and restaurant; ul. Jazdow 2
  • Galeria Zacheta (Zacheta Gallery)—an art gallery that has special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in its high-ceilinged bright halls; pl. Malachowskiego 3
  • Jewish Cemetery—a cemetery that is gradually being restored after surviving World War II that features the headstones of the creator of Esperanto, the co-founder of Warsaw Polytechnic, and the minister of the treasury during the 1864 uprising against Russian rule; Okopowa 49-51
  • Jewish Historical Institute—an institute that provides genealogical information on archival resources and the history of towns and villages where Polish Jews lived and has a museum that has a permanent collection of mementos and artifacts; Tlomackie 3/5
  • Muzeum Chopina (Ostrogski Palace)—the Chopin museum which occupies the 17th century Palac Ostrogskich that features an interactive modern display of mementos such as the last piano played by Chopin and piano recitals and lessons for children; Okolnik 1
  • Muzeum Ethnograficzne (Ethnographic Museum)—a museum with a collection of Polish folk art, crafts, and costumes from throughout Poland and ethnographic collections from around the world; Kredytowa 1
  • Muzeum Narodowe (National Museum of Warsaw)—a museum with a large collection of contemporary Polish and European paintings, Gothic icons, and antiques; al. Jerozolimskie 3
  • Muzeum Wojska Polskiego (Polish Army Museum)—a museum with exhibits of weapons, armor, and uniforms that illustrate Polish military history for the past ten centuries; al. Jerozolimskie 3
  • Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews—an innovatively designed museum that has a permanent exhibition featuring evidence from people of different eras who tell their stories, permanent and temporary exhibitions, a play-education area for children, a café, bookshop, information center, and auditorium; Mordechaja Anielewicza 6
  • Palac Czapskich (Czapski Palace)—a palace dating back to the 17th century that is now the home of the Academy of Fine Arts and was formerly the birthplace of Zygmunt Krasinski, a Polish romantic poet, and residence of Chopin in the palace mews; Krakowskie Przedmiescie 5
  • Palac Kultury I Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science)—Warsaw’s main landmark that has been a national monument since 2007 with a panoramic view of the city from the 30th floor, a swimming pool, the Museum of Science and Technology with a vintage display, and several species of animals including cats, peregrine falcons, and beehives; pl. Defilad 1
  • Palac Wilanow (Wilanow Palace)—a palace built between 1681 and 1696 by King Jan III Sobieski with a Baroque gateway and fake moat and bought at the end of the 18th century by Stanislaw Kostka Potocki who had an impressive art collection there, laid out the gardens, and opened a public museum in 1805; inside the palace there is still a lot of the original furniture and a display of 16th to 18th century Polish portraits on the first floor and outside the palace is a scenic park with pagodas, summer houses, bridges, a lake, a formal Italian garden, and a gallery of contemporary Polish art; Stanislaw Kostki-Potockiego 10/16
  • Palac Lazienkowski (Lazienki Palace)—a grand palace that is the highlight of the Park Lazienkowski with 18th century furniture and part of the art collection of King Slainslaw August Poniatowski; Agrykola 1
  • Pomnik Bohaterow Getta (Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto)—a monument dedicated to the Jewish resistance from the Warsaw ghetto, a ghetto that was razed by Nazi flamethrowers, that now marks the location of the house where the command bunker was situated; al. Zamenhofa
  • Umschlagplatz—a plaza where the rail line was that transported tens of thousands of the Warsaw ghetto’s residents to the death camp of Treblinka, 60 miles northeast of Warsaw, with a memorial gateway built in 1988 on the 45th anniversary of the Jewish resistance; Stawki at al.
  • Warsaw Rising Museum—a great museum that depicts the 1944 Rising through interactive displays such as a life-size plane, cobblestone streets, reconstructed sewers, objects, photographs, video footage, and audio recordings; Grzybowska 79

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sights in Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania and has endured a turbulent history of occupation and violence and has many memorials to victims of the atrocities that occurred within the city and country.

  • Arkikatedra Bazilika—Vilnius’s main cathedral that has been a national icon for centuries and inside is the 17th century Chapel of St. Kazimieras; this cathedral was originally a temple to a pagan god before becoming a church in the 13th century when Lithuania converted from paganism to Christianity (the last European country to convert); Katedros 1
  • Ausros Vartai (Gates of Dawn)—the only remaining gate of Vilnius’s nine 16th century gates which has to the right of the gate a door leading to the Chapel of Our Lady of Vilnius, a room that has its walls covered with metal and silver hearts and an icon of the Virgin Mary known for its healing powers; Ausros Vartu 12
  • Vilnil Museum of Illusions—a fun museum that explores how different illusions work through interactive displays; Vokieciu g.6
  • Apastalu Petro ir Povilo Baznycia (Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church)—a Baroque style church with extensive white décor inside the church including sculptures and intricate stucco carvings; Antakalnio g. 1
  • Paneriai—a forested historic site that serves as a memorial to the many Lithuanian citizens who were killed in the Holocaust; Agrastu 17
  • Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania—a museum that provides an overview of the monetary development of Lithuania such as the transition to a central bank; Totoriu g. 2/8
  • Anne’s Church—a Gothic church known for its impressive façade; Maironio g. 8
  • John’s Church—a beautiful church located on the campus of Vilnius’s university that was reconstructed in 1749 with a high altar and elaborate blue organ and is known for its adjoining bell tower which can be accessed via a modern glass lift elevator; Sv. Jono g. 12
  • Church of St. Theresa—an early Baroque-style church with ornate carvings and frescoes inside; Aushros Vartu g. 12
  • KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus)—a museum dedicated to the Russian KGB and its prisoners who had to survive unbearable conditions; Auku g. 2a
  • Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania—a fortified palace that has been remodeled, expanded, destroyed, and rebuilt over the years and is now shown in its restored version of a Baroque palace built for the grand dukes in the 17th century with a central courtyard and ceremonial halls; Katedros aikste 4
  • Antakalnis Cemetery—one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful graveyards with the burial sites of those killed by Soviet special forces on January 13, 1991, and a memorial that honors Napoleonic soldiers who perished from starvation and injuries in Vilnius while retreating from the Russian army; off Kariu kapu gatve
  • Vilnius University—founded in 1579 during the Counter-Reformation, this university was run by Jesuits for 200 years before being closed by Russians in 1832 and not reopening until 1919, it has 23,000 students and is home to Lithuania’s oldest library with 5 million books including one of two original editions of The Catechism by Martynas Mazvydas (the first book published in Lithuanian); Universiteto gatve 3
  • Mindaugas—a landmark statue that depicts the early unifier of the Lithuanian tribes in the mid-13th century and Lithuania’s first king; Arsenalo gatve 1
  • Gediminas Castle and Museum—the last of a series of settlements and fortified buildings that have occupied the site since Neolithic times and is a brick structure built by Grand Duke Vytautas in the early 15th century with great views of Vilnius and an exhibition that traces the history of the castle over the years with some scale models; Gediminas Hill, Arsenalo gatve 5
  • Tolerance Centre—one of the three main branches of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum that has served as a refuge, concert hall, and theatre over the years that displays Lithuanian Jewish art, cultural, and historic collections with a small permanent exhibit on the Jewish avant-garde movement in Vilnius; Naugarduko gatve 10/2
  • Presidential Palace—a classical edifice that is home to the president and chancellery with a ceremonial changing of the guard every day at 6 pm and the flag-hoisting ceremony on Sundays at noon, tours must be booked in advance; S. Daukanto gatve 3
  • Michael the Archangel Church—an early 17th century church built by the Sapiega family with a Gothic nave, colored marble high altar, and alabaster statuary that is a unique example of late-Renaissance architecture with an exhibition inside with religious art, liturgical vessels, rare manuscripts, and reliquaries from Vilnius Cathedral; Sv Mykolo gatve 9
  • Bernardine Church and Monastery—one of Vilnius’s most impressive churches which was extended and improved in the 17th and 19th centuries and converted to a warehouse by the Soviets before being regained by the Bernardine community once Lithuania gained its independence and is now back to its original state with trails to explore the complex; Maironio gatve 10
  • Museum of Applied Art—housed in the Old Arsenal which was built in the 16th century and restored in the 1980s, this museum features temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection of 15th to 19th century Lithuanian sacred art; Arsenalo gatve 3a
  • National Museum of Lithuania—this museum displays artifacts that show how Lithuanians lived from Neolithic times to the 202th century with special collections devoted to the country’s folk traditions such as numismatics with some of the very first Lithuanian coins and burial goods; Arsenalo gatve 1
  • TV Tower—a 326-meter high TV tower with a tall needle that is symbolic of Lithuania’s resilience and strength as 12 pro-independence protesters were killed by the Soviet army here on January 13, 1991, with memorials to the victims near the tower and a revolving restaurant and observation deck at 165 meters high; Sausio 13-osios gatve 10
  • Theatre, Music, and Cinema Museum—a museum with three centuries worth of musical instruments such as the pusline (a primitive Baltic string instrument made from animal bladders) and kankle (plucked fretted-string instruments) as well as memorabilia from Lithuanian and Soviet films and an extensive collection that documents the national theater; Vilniaus gatve 41
  • House of Signatories—the 18th century home where Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence was signed on February 16, 1918, and now has an exhibition of materials related to the National Movement and the signatories; Pilies gatve 26
  • Holocaust Museum—a museum that depicts the destruction of Lithuania’s Jewish community, the Litvaks, through photos, documentation, and firsthand accounts; Pamenkalnio gatve 12
  • Amber Museum-Gallery—a small museum that is dedicated to Baltic gold and what can be created from it with trinkets and jewelry upstairs and in the basement pieces of many-hued amber, kilns, and other archaeological finds; Sv. Mykolo gatve 8
  • Kazys Varnelis Museum—a museum that features the personal collection of Kazys Varnelis, an artist who became famous for his optical and 3D paintings, with the collection including paintings, furniture, sculptures, maps, and books; Didzioji gatve 26
  • Bernadinu sodas—gardens located between Gediminas Hill and the Bernardine Church with riverbanks, paths, trees, and flowerbeds; Maironio gatve
  • Contemporary Art Centre—the largest center for contemporary art in the Baltic region with 2400 square meters of photography, video, installations, exhibits, and events such as lectures, live music, and film screenings; Vokieciu gatve 2
  • Vilnius Picture Gallery—built in the 17th century with additions in the 19th century, this former palace features a permanent collection of Lithuanian art from the 16th to the 19th centuries as well as temporary exhibitions that showcase Lithuanian movements, artists, and mediums; Didzioji gatve 4
  • Energy and Technology Museum—Vilnius’s first power station that operated between 1903-2003, is now home to exhibitions on energy, technology, and their historical development with original machinery for power generation preserved; Rinktines gatve 2
  • Memorial Complex—located on the grounds of the Tuskulenai Manor is this memorial to the victims of violence during the 20th century in Lithuania; Zirmunu gatve 1F
  • Radvilos Palace—a 17th century palazzo that is home to the foreign fine-arts section of the Lithuanian Art Museum; Vilnaius gatve 24
  • Europa Tower—the highest skyscraper in the Baltic region; Konstitucijos Prospektas 7

 

Sights in Riga, Latvia

Riga is an historic city with a sad history of occupation by Sweden, the Soviet Union, and Nazi forces during World War II but has many parks, memorials, monuments, and museums worth checking out to see how the city’s past has shaped its present appearance.

  • Riga Motormuseum—a recently renovated museum with the largest and most diverse vintage motor vehicle collection in the Baltic region with over 100 automobiles and motorcycles as well as interactive exhibits, virtual reality simulations, a children’s play area, a museum café, and a gift shop; Sergeja Eizenshteina Iela 8
  • Vermanes Garden—a scenic garden with colorful flowers that have different colors and textures; Terbatas Iela 2D
  • Mezaparks—a spacious large park with a zoo, restaurants, forested areas, bike paths, and a lake; Mezaparks
  • Zanis Lipke Memorial—a museum dedicated to Zanis Lipke, a Latvian who with his family helped save the lives of 50 Jewish individuals during the Holocaust and smuggled them to safety via an underground railway; Mazais Balasta Dambis 8
  • Latvian National Museum of Art—the largest depository of professional art in Latvia with five floors of works by Latvian artists and beautiful architectural design inside and outside; 1 Janis Rozentals Square
  • Nativity of Christ Cathedral—a beautiful cathedral with a golden dome and many treasures inside such as gold cupolas and Russian Orthodox iconography; Brivibas bulvaris 23
  • Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum—an outdoor museum that shows how Latvians in the countryside lived; Brivibas gatve 440
  • Musee Art Nouveau—an apartment with ten rooms furnished in the Art Nouveau style with descriptions written in several languages; Alberta iela 12
  • Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum—a museum that highlights the story of the Holocaust in Latvia and has a house that was in a Jewish ghetto; Maskavas iela 14a
  • Riga Cathedral—originally built in 1270 as a bishop’s cathedral, this cathedral features a large organ built around 1884 that has 6,768 pipes, one of the largest in the world; Herdera laukums 6
  • National Library of Latvia—a repository of national and world literature with the majority of the 4 million items in the collection consisting of Latvian and foreign publications about Latvia and Latvians; 3 Mukusalas Street
  • Museum of the Occupation of Latvia—an educational institution established in 1993 to display artifacts, documents, and educational exhibits about the 51 years that Latvia was occupied by the USSR and Nazi Germany; Raina bulvaris 7
  • Pareizticico katedrale—a restored Russian Orthodox church with glistening gold domes and an interior with icons and ornate décor
  • Art Museum Riga Bourse—an art museum with a small permanent collection consisting of an Oriental section, Ancient Egyptian exhibition, and other treasures from around the world as well as temporary exhibitions; Dome Square 6
  • Freedom Monument—a statue completed in 1935 to commemorate Latvian independence that depicts the image of Liberty holding three stars in her hands to symbolize unity; 1 Brivivas iela
  • Museum of Riga’s History and Navigation—a museum that takes visitors through 1000 years of Riga’s history with a variety of artifacts some prehistoric; Palasta iela 4
  • Riga Zoo—a small zoo with a polar bear, tropical house, giraffe house, a reptile room, and insect room; Meza prospekts 1
  • Latvian War Museum—a large museum with each floor focusing on a different war or theme with temporary exhibitions as well; Smilshu iela 20
  • Cat House—a popular attraction that depicts the story of a Latvian homeowner who was denied membership in the Great Guild and then built two cat sculptures on his roof with their backsides facing the Guild and their tails straight up in the air; Meistaru iela 19
  • Railway History Museum—a museum that illustrates the history of train operating systems, telephones, telegraphs, and the work at a railway line and models such as a German steam engine, snow plows, and a prison coach; 2/4 Uzvaras Boulevard
  • Swedish Gate—the only surviving city gate of Riga which was built into the city wall in 1698 during Swedish rule; Torna iela 11
  • World of Hat Museum—the only museum dedicated to hats in the world containing exhibits from around the world including hats, bonnets, and headbands; Vilandes iela 7
  • Jewish Museum—a museum dedicated to the history of Latvia’s Jewish community from the first Jews in Latvia in the 16th century to the events of the Holocaust; Skolas iela 6
  • Rumbula Forest Memorial—this forest was the site where thousands of Jews were forced to march to and were then shot and dumped in mass graves and is now a memorial with a large menorah surrounded by rough stones; Maskavas iela
  • ZINOO Riga—a children’s museum with over 100 interactive science exhibits and games; Dzirnavu iela 67
  • Modes Muzejs—a fashion museum with interactive hands-on exhibits for children and adults that displays clothing styles throughout the years; Grecinieku iela 24
  • Sun Museum—the only European museum dedicated to the sun which explores how different cultures depict the sun; Valnu iela 30
  • Botanisches Garten des Universitaets—a beautiful botanic garden with tropical houses, greenhouses, trees, and flowers; Kandavas iela 2
  • Great Choral Synagogue Memorial—a moving memorial that shows the ruins of a synagogue burned to the ground with hundreds of Jewish worshippers inside during the Holocaust; Gogola iela 25
  • Melngalvju Nams—the Gothic Blackheads House built in 1344 as a hotel for wayfaring merchants who wore black hats that was leveled by the Soviets in 1948 and renovated and reopened in 2000 for Riga’s 800th anniversary with a Dutch Renaissance façade; Ratslaukums 7
  • Okupacijas Muzejs—the Latvian Occupation museum which depicts the devastation of Latvia by Nazi and Soviet forces during World War II and the Latvian struggle for independence in September 1991 with a monument to the Latvian sharpshooters who protected Lenin during the 1917 revolution outside; Strelnieku laukums 1