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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » February 23, 2012
Destination Warsaw
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Still a Warsaw Landmark
February 23, 2012   
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Love it or hate it, the Palace of Culture and Science is a major landmark in Warsaw. Despite a lot of new high-rise development in its vicinity, the Palace of Culture remains the tallest building in Warsaw.

The building, whose socialist-realism construction started in 1952, was an unwelcome “gift” from Stalin. Its architecture closely resembles that seen in the Soviet Union, although the Russian architect incorporated some Polish cultural details. The monumental walls are headed with pieces of masonry copied from Cracow and Zamo¶ć renaissance mansions and palaces. At a time when Varsovians had nowhere to live after the Germans razed the capital to the ground, and were making an enormous effort to rebuild the city, the residents did not want a symbol of the new Soviet domination.

The monumental Palace of Culture can be seen from some 25 km away. Made of more than 40 million bricks, it is 231 meters tall with 3,288 rooms on 42 floors. The observation terrace on the 30th floor is a tourist attraction with a 360-degree panorama view of Warsaw. Inside there is a maze of halls and corridors, and secret rooms and elevators. Rumor has it that the most secret communist party deliberations were held in secret rooms that apparently still have not been discovered underground. The interior of the building with allegorical socialist reliefs that take inspiration from mythology has brass and crystal chandeliers, marble columns and parquet floors and marble staircases.

The Palace of Culture is in fact a complex of buildings. The main building is used for offices and a private university. The complex contains a cinema, the Museum of Technology, four theaters, a restaurant and the well-known Sala Kongresowa (Congress Hall) apparently inspired by Milan’s La Scala. The decadent-looking 2,880-seat theater was originally used for communist party conferences. Today it hosts some of the biggest local and international stars and concerts, as well being home to international conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions. The Palace of Culture is well worth a look inside.
J.W.
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