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Mazovian Attractions

If you are staying in Warsaw longer, get to know its surroundings too. Mazovia is a region with a longer history than just the capital and has captivating nature.
Mazovia is situated in the basin of the middle Vistula with its picturesque contributories – the Bug, Narew, Wkra, Liwiec, Świder, and Pilica… Each of these rivers offers a different challenge to lovers of kayaking and boating. The forests and landscaped parks are a further wealth of nature, ideal for exploring by foot, bicycle or on horseback. There are also medieval castles, each with its own ghost! and the incredible Modlin Fortress as well as skansens, leisure parks and unique places like Fryderyk Chopin’s Birthplace or Karolin – home to the ‘Mazowsze’ traditional song and dance group.

Castles and forts

Today Czersk is a small village, but in the Middle Ages, in the times of the dukes, it was the most important centre of Mazovia’s government apart from Płock. The monumental fort was erected on the orders of Janusz I the Elder.

After the duchy was taken over by the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland in 1526, Czersk became the property of Poland’s rulers. For some time, along with the majority of Mazovia, it belonged to Queen Bona. Bona Sforza d’Aragona, the widow of King Sigismund I the Old, Duchess of Bari and Rossano, extended the castle here and instilled a love of gardening and vines into the local residents. She liked the Mazovian fort so much she supposedly haunts it at night to this very day.

Today, we are reminded of Czersk’s heyday by knights’ festivals, reconstructions and historical picnics organised every year from spring to autumn as part of the ‘Historia Viva’ series of events.

The medieval fort in Ciechanów is over 600 years old. The powerful Gothic structure with two towers was erected during the reign of Prince Siemowit III and remained an unconquered fortress as long as knights were stationed in it. But the huge walls above the river Łydynia were not the town’s first stronghold.

The first settlement was established at Farska Góra, where a beautiful Neo-gothic bell tower stands today. It was an important bastion defending the northern border of the Christian world from the invading Pomeranians, Prussians, and Yotvingians. In the 14th century Lithuanians burned down the wooden fort built above the town.

At around this time, in a bend in the Łydnia river, on an island, a stone castled was built, expanded by successive rulers of Mazovia, including Janusz I among others.

The huge Gothic castle with two towers – the eastern one a prison and the western one an arsenal – like all old castles, still holds many secrets. One of these – the hiding place of Prince Janusz I’s treasure – is guarded by a fierce black dog which is really a knight, turned into the fearsome creature by an alchemist. You can meet him in the castle courtyard only at night…

A Gothic castle built on a marsh, this bastion of the last ruler of independent Mazovia is haunted by the famous Yellow Lady. It is the seat of the Armoury Museum and the site of an annual knights’ tournaments and other interesting events. It is also the only fort in Mazovia that you can paddle to in a kayak!

Construction was ordered by Janusz I the Elder, one of Mazovia’s greatest rulers. The work was continued by his grandson, Bolesław IV, and the defensive walls were exactly doubled in height when Princess Anna Mazowiecka, the last female ruler of independent Mazovia, became the lady of the castle. It is in her honour that one of the most important events is held here every year: The Knights Tournament for the Ring of Princess Anna. From the Gothic building have survived the gate tower, a fragment of the walls and the mayor’s mansion, which houses the Armoury Museum with its rich collection of weaponry. The area developed around it with a wooden courtyard creates a cultural-historical park which is a popular attraction during the tourist season.

The historical centre of Płock is Tumskie Hill. It was here that the town’s history began in the 10th century, when Mieszko raised a defensive fort on the high hill above the Vistula. For a short time, the ruler on Tumskie Hill was surely Miecław, a self-proclaimed ruler of Mazovia who tried to create a state independent of Poland based on the pagan faith. It was here that Bolesław the Bold founded the first cathedral for the bishopric established during his reign. From here, the whole of Poland was ruled by Prince Władysław Herman and his sons – Zbigniew and Bolesław III Wrymouth, and from the time of Konrad Mazowiecki, the Mazovian dukes held power.

Due to its status as a medieval seat of power, signs of government emerged on Tumskie Hill: a ducal castle and an episcopal cathedral. Around them various buildings started to be constructed as well as other sites worth visiting during a trip to Płock, a town whose various titles would take a long time to list. Two of them are probably the most valuable to the town – the Ducal Capital City of Płock, stemming from the preamble to the civic statute, and Hero City, a name given to Płock by Marshal Józef Piłsudski for its brave defence against the Bolsheviks in 1920.

One of the biggest and best-preserved fortress complexes in Poland. It has the longest defensive barracks in Europe and second-longest in the world at over two kilometres in length, which could house as many as 100,000 people! The fantastic defensive conditions at the confluence of three rivers – the Vistula, the Narew, and the Wkra – were created by nature, and the icing on the cake was decided by Napoleon Bonaparte who gave the order to build fortifications at the site. At least that’s what legend says.

The fort was extended many times and contains elements of French, Russian and Polish defensive works. The last modernisation was carried out by the Russians before the outbreak of World War I. At that time, 10 concrete forts were built with reinforced concrete shields and steel armoured turrets, forming a second ring of battlements within a radius of 5 to 10 kilometres from the citadel. On the personal orders of Piłsudski, Poles added six combat shelters to the existing constructions as well as anti-tank ditches and field reinforcements.

One of the most interesting tourist attractions is to visit Modlin Fortress at night.

Open-air museums

A visit to the Sierpc museum can be planned for several days, and even then you may not be able to see all its attractions and secrets as it is not a typical open-air museum made up of historical cottages, but a very extensive and diverse ethnographic park covering 50 hectares. It functions in harmony with natural daily and annual rhythms and according to the calendar of traditional Polish holidays and folk customs. In the morning, the animals here have to be groomed and in the evening they are rounded up into their coops and pens. Wheat has to be sown in the spring, harvested in the summer when it is ripe, and autumn is a time for digging and protecting the hives before the frosts come. Before Christmas, wafers are baked and in the depth of winter drowned in the Sierpienica river as an offering.

Buildings from various parts of Mazovia can be seen in Sierpc. More than a dozen peasant homesteads from the north-western part of the province form a typical linear village. You can also find a forge and manor houses here, around which landscaped parks have been created. There is also a wooden church with a bell tower, but film crews and hungry tourists are most fascinated by the inn from Sochocin where you can eat delicious żurek (sour rye soup) every day as well as local bread with home-made smalec (pork fat).

The Museum of the Radom Village is one of the most interesting Polish open-air museums. It is not a museum where dust settles on the exhibits. Here, life goes on in its rural rhythm: grain and potatoes are grown, sourdough starters are bred and pots are made. The Bread Holiday and Potato Festival form a part of the lively and intensive cultivation of folklore and rural traditions. Apart from the seasonal holidays, plenty else also happens here.

Tourists can wander around the 32.5-hectare village, home to a wonderful collection of rural architecture: there is an 18th-century manor house and a historic wooden church, the biggest complex of windmills in Poland, water mills and peasant cottages from Jastrzębia, Kłonówek, and Chomentów.

During a walk through the museum you will see about 100 examples of old rural buildings. This is all topped off with more than 16,000 moving exhibits, including collections of vehicles, agricultural machinery, hives and beekeeping tools, fabrics and folk art.

Here the Green Kurpie ethnographic group can be explored with all the senses. You can view 15,000 items related to Kurpie culture in the carriage house, machine park and a barn converted into an exhibition hall.

This is not a traditional museum where you are not allowed to touch the exhibits; instead you can take them in your hands during workshops – amber mining and working, making flowers out of tissue paper, combing and grinding linen, or making Easter eggs. You can also immerse yourself in Kurpie culture with the aid of audio – during classes devoted to the Kurpie dialect, while your sense of smell will come in useful for the herbal workshops.

Among the offer of the Kurpie Museum, created by Zdzisław and Laura Bziukiewicz, are also culinary workshops and the chance to savour such Kurpie delicacies as fafernuchy (traditional Kurpie biscuits), rejbak (meat and potato cake), cabbage with buckwheat, łagodniak z kruszonką (breakfast yeast cake with crumble topping), and the legendary psiwo kozicowe z jałowcowych jagód (juniper beer).

Leisure parks

The Suntago complex is the biggest indoor aquapark in Europe and the first leisure development of its type in Poland. Perfect for those seeking an unforgettable experience created by Europe’s biggest indoor hall of water slides and flumes, of which the biggest is over 30 metres high and more than 300 metres in length. There is also a wave pool, a river with a current and an adventure river.

Suntago Water World is divided into three thematic zones: Jamango, available to all ages, and the Saunaria and Relax zones only for people over 16. This last zone also houses a Wellness and Spa area. Here you can enjoy a tropical climate of 32°C all year round surrounded by 740 real palm trees brought in from all corners of the world, as well as several thousand flowers.

For those wishing to spend several days here, the Suntago Village accommodation centre is available featuring 92 fully-equipped modern chalets with a play area for children, barbecue areas and a reception with mini delicatessen.

Julinek outside Warsaw is a unique place not only in Mazovia and Poland, but globally. It is the site of a former circus centre which used to be home to more than 20 circus troupes. Today this unique leisure park draws on its extraordinary history to build a new tradition of the modern circus based on human skills and talents.

Every weekend in the summer, performances can be enjoyed here. Young acrobats and jugglers perform and there are also theatrical shows, with outdoor activities including one of the biggest ropes courses in Poland and the Land of Inflatables. And all of this in the heart of the Kampinos National Park!

When your child hears the sudden call of adventure and wants to be Indiana Jones, a crazy scientist, Thumbelina, or all these characters at once, take the whole family to Farma Iluzji in Mościska, near Trojanów. Every young adventure lover can make their dreams come true here, even the wildest.

The most famous building, and the farm’s symbol, is of course the Flying Hut of Secrets – a small house partially floating in the air ‘thanks’ to a bunch of balloons. Other unusual constructions include the Tunnel of Forgetfulness, the Museum of Illusion, the Twisted House and the Labyrinth of Mirrors. One of the newer attractions is the Gold Mine. A real mining elevator goes down to underground corridors and the aim of the expedition is to solve the mystery of a group of miners that disappeared years ago. It’s fun for truly brave adventure lovers! There are also fun-fair attractions: a carousel, the Free Fall Tree, and the Dragon Railway, a mini roller-coaster.

Unusual places

In the early 19th century, this was site of a small village with the rather unromantic name of Ruda Guzowska (Tumour Ore). At the end of the 1820s a revolution occurred – the construction of a new factory making linen products, relocated to the Pisia Gągolina river from Marymont on the outskirts of Warsaw. The factory started production in 1833 using machines designed by a French engineer who invented, among other things, a linen fibre spinning machine, which spun 150 km of thread from a kilo of linen, a linen combing machine, a machine for producing linen yarn from tow, and many other improvements for the textile industry. His name was Filip de Girard and the name Żyrardów is a Polonisation of his surname.

Almost the whole history of this place remains written in its walls, cobblestones, parks and green spaces to this day, with as much as 95 percent having been preserved for today’s visitors. Sights include the first factory and residential buildings for owners, managers and workers, and traces of the industrial boom of the 1880s when 16,000 spindles roared at once in the spinning mill. Żyrardów was created as a factory settlement and as a town of gardens in which the open spaces and greenery were an important part of the whole conurbation.

For a short while, at the end of the 20th century, it seemed that the whole extraordinary post-industrial heritage would be lost and function only in a few buildings converted into lofts and shops. Luckily, the 21st century has brought new ideas to develop the settlement, creating a place, unique in Europe, where the story of Mazovia’s flourishing industrial era lives on.

Żelazowa Wola is certainly the most famous of Poland’s smallest villages with its population of just a few dozen. The village, situated 3 km from Sochaczew on the edge of the Kampinos Forest, was the birthplace of Poland’s most outstanding composer, Fryderyk Chopin. And in the house where he was born there is an exceptional museum devoted to him, drawing visitors from the world over.

The Chopins lived in the same outbuilding, which today resembles a manor house bearing the name ‘Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin.’ But the building’s current appearance does not reflect the extremely humble conditions in which Fryderyks’s parents lived. There was surely threshing rather than a proper floor and no columned porch which makes the house look stately today. The original building burnt down in 1812, two years after the Chopins moved to Warsaw.

The current building is a place telling the tale of two friendly Żelazowa Wola families – the Skarbeks and the Chopins, and at the same time of the daily life of minor nobility in a Mazovian village. A further story concerns the genius composer who was born in this place. A musical room with a piano, fresh flowers and the image of the artist is also a concert venue with recitals from spring to autumn, which you can enjoy while relaxing in the beautiful historical park surrounding the museum.

The centre was created in the Karolin palace, legendary home to the Mazowsze folk music and dance ensemble. It was here in 1948 that the history of Polish culture’s most famous ambassadors began. The places where the group have given their concerts worldwide are commemorated by stones bearing their names placed in front of the palace.

The history of the troupe and its founders is one of the two main themes of an exhibition at the Centre for Polish Folklore. The second theme is the history of Polish Folklore. Kurpie, Eastern Mazovia and Podlasie, Western Mazovia, Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) and Kuyavia, Pomerania, Warmia-Masuria, Silesia and Małopolska (Lesser Poland) – each region has its own room with a clearly laid-out story made up of exhibits. These include Mazowsze concert costumes as well as original folk attire collected during ethnographic searches, unique photos documenting rural life in the first half of the 20th century, and folk instruments. The story of each region is further told by multimedia and the decoration of each room itself.

A post-industrial brick building embellished with steel and glass. A cosy cinema with Poland’s best sound system. A gigantic furnace housing a small art gallery. The ‘Elektrownia’ Mazovian Centre of Contemporary Art in Radom never ceases to surprise and attract visitors with its interesting ideas for exhibitions, installations, events and film screenings.

The independent, small cinema built at ‘Elektrownia’ is the envy of many movie makers in Poland. It boasts the country’s most modern Meyer Sound audio system. There is also a faithful copy of ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas’s private cinema. Interestingly, it was Polish film maker Andrzej Wajda who inspired the Radom authorities to thoroughly renovate the site and open a cultural and exhibition centre here.

‘Elektrownia’ MCCA is also a great exhibition space in which shows of Polish and foreign artists are organised. The huge collection gathered here is from the old Museum of Contemporary Art along with work by Tadeusz Brzozowski, Zdzisław Beksiński, Jerzy Bereś and Wojciech Fangor, among very many other Polish artists. Workshops are also held here on a wide range of themes.

The Museum of Ancient Mazovian Metallurgy in Pruszków hides an incredible secret from many centuries ago: the Mazovian Centre of Metallurgy. Around two thousand years ago, a real metallurgical powerhouse thrived in these areas. Products from Western Mazovia may even have reached the very Caesars and wealthy patricians of Rome! Because they certainly reached the ancient Romans.

Archaeologists believe there were once as many as 120,000-150,000 smelting furnaces at this ancient metallurgical site and that it was one of the most extensive clusters of its type in Europe. The smelting and processing was probably done by the Vandals who, due to migration, finally settled in North Africa. The discovery of the Centre’s traces in the 1960s gave rise to an extraordinary exhibition. The permanent display primarily presents the impressive find from the western part of Mazovia, made at ancient settlement and burial sites in Biskupice, Milanówek-Falęcin, Brwinów, Reguły, Grodzisk Mazowiecki, and many other locations.

The museum is housed in the restored interior of an outbuilding of the Potulicki Palace, surrounded by a beautiful park.


The Kampinos Forest and the Kampinos National Park that constitutes a large part of it, is a phenomenon on the European scale. Warsaw is the only capital on the Old Continent neighbouring a national park. You don’t even need to cross the city limits to find yourself in the forest, which is criss-crossed with well-marked tourist trails. Lovers of rambling or running can make us of more than 360 km of footpaths and educational trails. Meanwhile, for fans of riding on two wheels there are 200 km of cycle paths. Wandering through the forest you might meet elk, deer and roe, while lynx and wolves are also worth seeing.

Kozienicka Forest is the remainder of the ancient Radom Forest. Its wildness is protected by the Kozienicki Landscape Park with over a dozen nature reserves. This is an exceptional territory with a specific microclimate: slightly warmer and wetter than the areas beyond its borders. This means a longer growing season and vegetation not found in other parts of the province, such as fir, beech, hornbeam and Scots elm.

The forest was the favourite hunting ground of King Władysław Jagiełło. Legend has it that he often quenched his thirst in a place later known in his honour as the Royal Spring. Today it is a nature reserve and the spring is actually a set of springs by the Zagożdżonka River.

Once called the Zagajnica (Grove). For a long time, clearing and settlement were strictly forbidden in this area. Such was the situation in the times of the Mazovian dukes and Polish kings, who used to go hunting here for the biggest game: aurochs, bison and bear. Beekeepers, tar makers, hunters and fishermen could live in the forest on a seasonal basis but had to get special permission first.

A natural wood, characteristic of the ancient Kurpie Forest, can be seen in the Czarnia reserve near the town of Myszyniec. Its’s worth a visit to follow the trail of the Kurpie beehives.

They lie on two sides of the Bug River – the Biała (White) to the north of the town of Wyszków and the Kamieniecka to the south. Parts of their area go to make up the Bug Landscape Park, one of the biggest in Poland. It covers two banks of the Bug, picturesquely winding through woods, meadows and marshes. The nature reserves situated in the park – the Moczydło, Czaplowizna, Stawinoga, Popławy and Wilcze Błota – say a lot about it. It is heaven for waterfowl, beavers and… kayakers.


The main river of the Mazovian province is the Vistula, the queen of Polish rivers. From the east, wild rivers still run into it – the Narew and the Bug. Their waters flow from the town of Serock into Zegrze Lake, and in the vicinity of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, fortified by the river Wkra, they flow into the Vistula creating an exceptional place in strategic terms. Its qualities were valued by Napoleon Bonaparte, who ordered the construction of a fort, known today as Modlin Fortress. From the west, the Radomka, Pilica, Bzura and Jeziorka rivers flow into the Vistula.

Kayaking is organised on many of the rivers. Every year the scope for aquatic tourism broadens: rental facilities providing equipment appear in spots chosen by tourists and the accommodation and gastronomic offer is ever more interesting, especially in terms of agritourism.

The Mazovian rivers offer a variety of experiences and each of these opportunities is just a stone’s throw away – just a short drive from the centre of Warsaw, Radom, Płock or Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki.

Zegrze Lake

Zegrze Lake, known as the ‘Warsaw Sea’, is the biggest reservoir in the Warsaw area. It is a Mecca for sailors, motor boaters, and enthusiasts of all type of water sport, as well as of relaxing on the lake.

The reservoir is surrounded by pine forests that lie between Dębe, Wieliszew, Białobrzegi and Rynia as well as in the vicinity of Jadwisin and Jachranka. They form the habitat of birds including terns, seagulls, swans, grebes, and ducks. After it was created in the 1960s, many recreation centres and summer chalets sprang up immediately around Zegrze. These are located mainly in the towns and villages of Nieporęt, Zegrze, Zegrze Południowe, Serock, Zegrzynek, Jadwisin, Jachranka, Białobrzegi and Rynia.