Warsaw - Official Tourist Portal of the Capital City of Warsaw - Home Page
Award: European Best Destination 2023

Walk around Ursynów district

Ursynów is the largest concentration of pre-fab blocks of flats and was built in the south of Warsaw in stages, from the 1970s onwards. The oldest estates are in the north of the district and the youngest in the south. Most of them are named after former villages that existed in the area, including Służew, Imielin and Kabaty.

The history of Ursynów, however, is much older and dates back to the second half of the 11th century, when Benedictine monks settled nearby the present-day Służewiec stream, formerly called the Sadurka River. Ursynów is also home to St Catherine’s Church, dating from the 13th century – one of the oldest churches in Warsaw. In later centuries, the Ursynów area belonged to well-known noble families: the Lubomirski, Potocki and Branicki families, who built summer residences here. The district itself, however, takes its name from Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a writer, historian and member of the Commission on National Education. In 1822, he bought Krasiński Palace, located on the site of today’s Warsaw University of Life Sciences, and the whole area is now called Ursynów after him.

You can get to Ursynów from the centre of Warsaw on line 1 of the metro in around 15-20 minutes depending on which station you leave from. Enjoy an outing among the blocks and picturesque countryside.

For Poles, the word Ursynów is synonymous with pre-fab housing. This was a block-building technology that involved assembling blocks on site from huge prefabricated units. This significantly reduced construction time. Get off at Ursynów metro station and walk between the blocks. In the 1990s, the buildings were insulated, so you can no longer see what their original grey panels looked like. These apartment blocks were designed with the comfort of the residents in mind. Unlike many more ‘modern’ housing estates currently under construction, the prefabs in Ursynów are spaced far apart, with green areas, lawns and playgrounds in between. The estates are also separated by streets, creating ‘islands’ where there is no car traffic.

On one of the district’s main streets – Aleja Komisji Edukacji Narodowej – is one of the most interesting postmodern churches in Warsaw. The Church of the Ascension, as conceived by its designer, stands with its back to the street so that its façade overlooks a square that acts as a meeting place for locals. Nicknamed Malbork because of its immense size, it hides many architectural treats. Step inside to see the supports that do not touch the ground, or the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa, donated by director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who shot scenes for his ‘Decalogue’ here.

The first residents of Ursynów in the 1970s and 1980s were not happy with the living conditions they found here. The oldest remember that there was mud everywhere instead of pavements, the lack of shops and the terrible public transport. These years were best portrayed in Stanisław Bareja’s famous TV series ‘Alternatywy 4’. If you want to see the original block where the iconic series was shot, find the building at 3 Grzegorzewska Street, a few hundred metres from Imielin metro station. You won’t miss it, as it features a mural depicting scenes from the series and its characters. To find the specific places around the block frequented by Stanisław Anioł, Józef Balcerek and Comrade Winnicki, it’s a good idea to watch the series in advance. Not far from here, at 7 Kulczyńskiego Street, lived Adaś Miauczyński, the main character from the film ‘Day of the Wacko’.

To learn more about the history of the district, visit the Ursynów Museum, which is in a pre-war building at 8 Barwna Street. In the 1970s, it housed Ursynów’s first grocery shop, and it is rumoured that it was also possible to stock up – not entirely legally – on alcohol. Inside, you will see an exhibition of old maps of the Ursynów area, the study of Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz – the district’s patron – and a room from the 1970s and 1980s with a characteristic wall unit, a ‘Unitra’ brand radio and television and… a well-stocked bar. Stills from ‘Alternatywy 4’ are of course also on display.

There is another element of the Ursynów landscape that is hard to miss. The famous hills that were made of soil from the excavations carried out to build the blocks of flats. The best known is Kopa Cwila in North Ursynów. The music band Oddział Zamknięty shot a music video there in the 1980s. So climb to the top and see what has changed since those days.

Start your visit to the green part of the district with Kabacki Forest, a nature reserve located at its southern edge. Get off at Kabaty metro station and head, preferably by bike, towards the forest visible in the distance. For centuries, this area belonged to the Wilanów estate, which passed to successive noble families. The last owners, the Branicki family, sold it to the city in 1938 to pay off their debts. Since then, the forest has become a recreation area for the city’s residents. It became especially popular after the opening of the first metro line and the construction of the nearby Kabaty Housing Estate. Lots of people visit the forest, so try not to cause any damage to nature – follow only designated trails and obey the rules. As you walk in the forest, pay attention to its natural character, which is dominated by old deciduous trees.

There are two attractions on the edge of the forest. The first of these is the Culture Park in Powsin. It was built on the grounds of a pre-war golf club, and a reminder of that era is the wooden building that now houses the park office. Powsin is popular with people from Ursynów, who go there for picnics and to play chess. A swimming pool operates in the summer, and events, concerts and performances are also held. When you are in Powsin, also visit the nearby extensive Botanical Garden of the Polish Academy of Sciences at 2 Prawdziwka Street.

As you have noticed, the Cultural Park in Powsin is located on top of the Vistula Escarpment. Head north along it and discover real natural and historical treasures. Cycle along the Forest Route, which later changes to Relaksowa and Rosoła Streets. After a while, turn into Kasztanowa Avenue – a picturesque street that was created in 1815. As well as mature, centuries-old trees, check out the cross erected one year after the end of the January Uprising, which started in 1863. It commemorates the rescue from deportation to Siberia of Felicia and Antoni Karniewski, who were administrators of the estate of Count Potocki, the then-owner of Kabaty. Along the avenue is a hollowed-out area – a remnant of the brickworks that existed here in the 19th century – and the Przy Bażantarni park with its popular children’s playground. Then return to Rosoła Street and turn slightly right onto Nowoursynowska Street. Here, you will find the entrance to a real natural and historical treasure – Natolin Park. It is actually located in Wilanów, so it is described in the guide to that district.

Not far from the gate, just off the cobbled road, the oak tree called Mieszko I, almost 9 metres in circumference, has been growing for more than 600 years. This monument of nature is the oldest tree in Warsaw. In the 1970s, the tree underwent salvage treatment – its interior was filled with concrete and its branches were lashed together with ropes. Every year, in spring, one of its large branches is still green with leaves.

After seeing the oak tree, continue along Nowoursynowska Street. At some point, after passing the bypass, you will enter the former village of Wolica. A few wooden houses from former farms still survive there. Look for them on Kokosowa Street.

You can reach the place, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, in one of two ways. Follow the path at the foot of the escarpment overgrown with forest (this is in the Wilanów district) or along Nowoursynowska, Nugat and – again -Nowoursynowska Streets. The university is divided into 2 parts – on the left side of Nowoursynowska there are the new campus buildings, and on the right there are the old historic buildings. So, turn right towards the beautifully situated Krasiński Palace in Ursynów, where the vice-chancellor’s building is now located. Building work on the palace, originally called ‘Rozkosz’, or ‘Delight’, began in 1775. It belonged to a number of noble families, was occupied by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz for nine years and became the property of the Krasiński family at the end of the 19th century. Be sure to stand on the terrace at the back of the palace and enjoy the view of the escarpment.

Now it is time for the extreme stage of our expedition – we will enter the former Gucin-Gaj Park. This forgotten and neglected property is located between Arbuzowa, Przy Grobli and Fosa Streets. The best way to get there is from Arbuzowa and then along Renety Street by the cemetery. You will see amazing wildlife in the middle of the city – ponds with herons and kingfishers and a dark marsh with dead trees sticking out. Right next to St Catherine’s Church, which stands on the escarpment, is a brick tunnel that was once a cellar. It has been declared a monument of nature because bats overwinter there. The entrance is blocked.

Exit the park through the gate at Fosa Street. Walking to the right you will come to a wooden forge where the private Blacksmithing Museum is located. In it, you can learn about the history of the forge and also see a blacksmith working with a red-hot iron. As you head to the right, you will reach St Catherine’s Church, also known as the Church on the Hill. It was built in 1238 on the site of a pagan cult. It is the church of the oldest existing parish on Warsaw’s left bank (founded half a century before Old Warsaw). Legend has it that Tadeusz Kościuszko and Romuald Traugutt prayed in the church, that Gotard, the medieval owner of Służew, was buried in the crypt, and that the bells were the first to announce victory in the Battle of Warsaw. The vicarage building dates from 1640, with a 17th-century Mazovian brick floor preserved in its hall. The current bell tower was built on the site of the previous one in 1881 and, like the church and vicarage, it survived the Second World War.

This was the longest leg of your Ursynów expedition. You will need some rest before the next one. Head to the nearby revitalised Służew Fort, where there are several cafes and restaurants. Enjoy!

A weekend trip to Służewiec Racecourse is an attraction not to be missed. But first a bit of history. The first racetrack in Warsaw was on Polna Street in Pole Mokotowskie, outside the city borders at the time. After the First World War, when Mokotów was built, the track found itself in the centre of Warsaw, which caused a lot of inconvenience for the animals and the city’s inhabitants. In 1925, therefore, land was purchased for a new track in Służewiec. The entire complex, which included the main grandstand in the style of an ocean liner, a second grandstand, the main track, a training track, stables and other facilities, opened in 1939. In 1989, the racecourse became a protected heritage site.

The start of the season at Służewiec usually falls at the end of April and, depending on the weather, racing ends in late autumn. So you have plenty of time to enjoy an unforgettable experience. It is especially worth visiting the track for the summer Derby or September’s Great Warsaw race. Buy a ticket, admire the interesting modernist architecture, bet on your favourites and soak up the Warsaw atmosphere!