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Old Town Summer Sounds

This Old Town, probably the youngest in the world, fully reveals its charm in the summer sun. Walking along the cobbled streets, it’s hard to believe that the intricately decorated tenements are the result of post-war reconstruction. The scale of the renovation was appreciated by UNESCO, which recognised the whole area as a World Heritage site. On summer weekends, music resonates all around here, drawing lovers of good open-air entertainment.

Every Saturday in July and August, the Old Town Square fills with people. At 7 p.m. sharp, a compère takes to the stage and moments later the sound of jazz rings out. The free show – Jazz at the Old Town – is held here every year and is now celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. In the past, it has been possible to listen to Archie Vernon Shepp and Bill Evans for free. This year, the artists performing include the Emmet Cohen Trio, the Mark Whitfield Organ Quartet, the Christian Sands Trio, and the Fabrizio Bosso Quartet.

Make your way towards the stage and stop by a statue of a woman with a fish’s tail, holding a sword and shield. This is the Warsaw Mermaid – the legendary guardian of the city on the Vistula. Listen to music looking out over the tenements surrounding the market square. Check out the Museum of Warsaw situated right behind the stage. The combination of beautiful architecture and subtle sounds creates an unparalleled reverie. If you fancy sampling the local cuisine, seek out a place in one of the al fresco dining areas, especially since you can hear the music just as well from there.

Widok z lotu ptaka na plac Zamkowy, Zamek Królewski i Stare Miasto, w tle Wisła i most gdański, spacerują ludzie, słoneczny dzień, lato.
Old Town, photo: Cezary Warś

After a few encores the concert ends, but the Old Down doesn’t end at the market square. Walk down Nowomiejska Street, which leads off it. Pass by the legendary, Murzynek coffee bar and after a while you will come to the brick walls of the Barbican. Apart from the Old Town cellars, these are the only remnants of the city’s medieval buildings. Walking further, on the right you will see a white tenement building bearing a memorial plaque. This is the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous women – the double Noble Prize winner Maria Skłodowska-Curie. A moment later and you’re standing in a large square. This is Warsaw’s second market square – the centre of the New Town, founded more than 100 years later than Old Warsaw. On the last weekend of June it turns into a stage for theatre groups. During this year’s Street Art festival, circus acts accompanied by music will be performed by troupes from Poland, Ukraine and South Korea. The last of these will also lead a parade on Castle Square.

Cross the market square to Kościelna Street, on which stands one of Warsaw’s oldest churches – the Church of the Visitation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Stop at the edge of the escarpment and you will behold an extraordinary sight. At the bottom, to the rhythm of Abba’s eternal hits, columns of water rise up time and time again. This is the Multimedia Fountain Park, an ideal place to cool off. In the evening, on Fridays, Saturdays and bank holidays there are light, sound and water shows here. This year the famous Swedish pop stars will appear on the water screen. It is here too that the whole of Warsaw welcomes in the summer every year during the outdoor ‘Wreaths on the Vistula’ event. This year, it will be held on June 22. The energetic rock concert, ‘Sounds of Freedom’ will start at 8 p.m. and last until midnight. It will be preceded as always by a picnic to mark the Slavic folk tradition of Kupala Night. If you like folk singing and dancing, or want to join in the collective floating out of a wreath on to the Vistula, this is for you.

For those yearning for a more tranquil atmosphere, St John’s Archcathedral awaits, where organ concerts are held every day except Sundays and public holidays. Sit in the historic building’s cool interior and listen to masterworks performed by virtuosos of the instrument.

Warsaw is undoubtedly beautiful at every time of year, but the summer sounds of the Old Town will linger long in the memory.

Multimedialny Park Fontann, fontanny tryskają wodą, spacerują ludzie, inni odpoczywają na murkach otaczających fontanny, na ławkach i na trawie, w tle drzewa i bloki mieszkalne, dzień, lato.
Multimedia Fountain Park, photo: Tomasz Nowak