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leica

A thriving center of cultural significance, Warsaw is a destination for every budget, appealing equally to adventure travelers, culture buffs, historians, party goers, and the list could go on. This time, we’d like to introduce to you some of the most fascinating art spaces in town, featuring both contemporary and classic works, true temples of beauty, where you can enrich your soul, while getting closer to the spirit of this outstanding destination.

Our first stop is MiTo at Ludwika Waryńskiego 28, a concept cafe, that also acts as a gallery space, showcasing contemporary art by local creators, in small temporary exhibitions. If beauty is not enough, the cafe also offers an exceptional selection of books for sale: no matter what you like, you will leave this place richer.

MiTo

Leica Gallery (address: ul. Mysia 3 00-496 Śródmieście) is for lovers of photographic art. It mainly shows art by Polish artists and photographers, in temporary exhibitions (other solo, or group), mainly revolving around current trends and social realities.

Galeria Kuratorium is a space for contemporary art, but also a design store. A unique art concept space, this shop is exclusively focused on works by young local talent. What they sell here is an inspiring alternative to traditional souvenirs, authentic and valuable, an excellent choice for art collectors, but also for everyone who wants to enhance a home, or a work space, with quality artworks.

Kuratorium

More local art can be admired at Bęc Zmiana (Mokotowska 65) – a non-profit space, dedicated to the promotion of modern Polish art and culture. More than art exhibitions, this space also hosts concerts, events, readings, and other cultural activities.

The arts and culture center of Warsaw is unique, exciting, challenging and extraordinary. The locals transform simple spaces into exceptional concept venues, pretty much like Pies Czy Suka (Szpitalna 8), where you will find a design store and a cocktail bar sharing the same roof. On sale here, items by local emerging artists and craftsmen. You can sip a delicious cocktail while you admire the goods, pondering what to buy. It’s pretty hard to choose: everything is beautiful, valuable, and enticing.

Keret House

Last, but not least, the Keret House, is an ­art installation inserted between two buildings at ul. Chłodna 22.

The house’s location is where two ghettos – the large ghetto and the small ghetto met. Only a few steps from the house stood a footbridge that connected both sealed off areas.

A fully functional building, the Keret House is equipped with all the amenities required for living in the city. The Keret House is open for visitors only on selected days. Visit the website to learn when you can see this outstanding creation by Architect Jakub Szczęsny. Call it the world’s narrowest house if you will, and don’t miss it. This outstanding work of art measures 92 cm in its narrowest point ­and 152 cm in its ­widest point.

Chopin Museum

Warsaw is advertised as the city of Chopin, because the great Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin was born and raised here. His musical genius drew inspiration for many of his early works from the life pulsing on these historic streets, and from the beautiful nature of the local parks.

“The muse of his homeland dictates his songs, and the anguished cries of Poland lend to his art a mysterious, indefinable poetry which, for all those who have truly experienced it, cannot be compared to anything else,” said Franz Liszt once, referring to Chopin.

Fryderyk Chopin Statue in Warsaw © Artur Bogacki - Fotolia.com

Fryderyk Chopin Statue in Warsaw © Artur Bogacki – Fotolia.com

In fact, Chopin loved the cradle of his youth so much, he requested his heart be removed after death and returned to his beloved Warsaw. So if you want to tour Chopin’s Warsaw, you only need to follow his heart.

Walk down Krakowskie Przedmieście, to find the Church of the Holy Cross, where the heart of the composer rests in an urn immured in a pillar. This remarkable church, one of the most visited landmarks of the city, was built between 1679 and 1757, and was a collaborative effort, involving the creative genius of several architects and artists, including Józef Szymon Bellotti, the royal architect at the Royal Court of Poland, for the main building; as well as Józef and Jakub Fontana for the towers and the facade. But nothing of the original works remains: the church was blown up by the Germans in 1945. What you see today is the work of architect B. Zborowski. Luckily, the urn containing the heart of the composer was removed during the Warsaw Uprising (1944) by the Germans, who gave it to Bishop Antoni Szlagowski. Only on October 17, 1945 the heart was returned to the church, during a ceremony that celebrated 96 years since Chopin’s death.

Holy Cross Church Warsaw © stavrida - Fotolia.com

It’s easy to see Chopin’s Warsaw like a tourist: the city celebrates its most beloved son with pride and joy, and promotes all the significant landmarks that were touched by the composer, one way or another. The official route suggested by the City of Warsaw was inaugurated in connection with the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010. When you follow the route, you will find several multimedia benches, which have an interactive sound system that will play Chopin’s music. There are 15 spots where you can rest on one of Chopin’s Benches, all connected with landmarks that played an important role in the life of the composer.

For instance, at Radziwiłł Palace, where Chopin performed for the first time in public, the bench will play RONDO in C minor, Op.1; 32”. At the Holy Cross Church, you will listen to the MEMORIAL MARCH from SONATA in B minor, Op.35; 45”; while the bench on Miodowa Street will play MAZUREK in A minor, Op.68; 34”. This is the street where you will find Honoratka, the only venue from Chopin’s time that still stands in its original form.

Honoratka

The composer used to dine and meet with his contemporaries often in the restaurant, back then called Kawiarni Honoratka. Today’s Honoratka is a place to discover traditional Polish cuisine, accompanied by the music of the master. Almost everything here is designed as an homage to Chopin: you will feel his presence, an uplifting experience, enhanced by cultural and artistic events and exhibits. And, of course, there’s even a Chopin menu.

Another uplifting experience on the itinerary is the Łazienki Królewskie Park, where, in the heat of July, August and September, every Sunday, from noon to 16:00 there are free Chopin piano concerts performed outdoors at the foot of the Chopin Monument, one of the most recognizable symbols of the city.

Łazienki Królewskie Park © aarstudio - Fotolia.com

The park used to be a playground for young Fryderyk and the son of the Prince. The gardens surrounding the various royal buildings are among the most beautiful in the city, and are popular for tourists and residents alike, not only for their outstanding landscape, but also for the events held here. Besides Sunday Chopin concerts, from June to September you can also appreciate performances by the Horse Quadrilles, which are staged on each first sunday of the month at 12:00.

Łazienki Królewskie Park is the site of the Royal Residence of King Stanisław August, today a prestigious museum, showcasing the Royal collections of paintings, sculptures, numismatics, and graphics, as well as temporary exhibitions on various themes.

No other landmark on the Chopin itinerary is as authentic as Salonik Chopinów, a small part of the flat where the composer spent his last years before leaving Poland. The flat, the only one belonging to the composer, which is still open to the general public, can be found inside Pałac Czapskich, formerly Pałac Krasińskich, and currently the Academy of Fine Arts. The apartment, however, doesn’t feature original furnishings, which were destroyed or lost during the World War II. Instead, the beautiful drawing salon was recreated in 1960 based on drawings by Antoni Kolberg.

If these landmarks are not enough to tame your thirst for knowledge, step inside Pałac Ostrogskich for the largest collection in the world of memorabilia and documents related to Chopin. One of his original pianos is still preserved here, together with manuscripts of his works, letters, notes, photographs, personal items, and much more. Unlike most museums celebrating the life and work of a local hero, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum is the most modern biographical museum in Europe. The experience is direct, hands-on, designed to satisfy curiosity and interest in visitors of all ages. 15 different rooms inside the palace are each a different “mini-museum” dedicated to the great composer.

This tour that celebrates Chopin will bring the purest of the local spirit closer to your heart. This is a kind of experience that completes your understanding of Varsovian tradition in unusual and unexpected ways, in tune, if you will, and perfect harmony: the kind of experience that redefines the purpose of travel, enriching your soul.

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Cherry blossoms in Budapest

When Nature puts on a coat of green, Budapest shows off her true colors under the blissful sun, while the locals get together, to celebrate a new season, as well as ancient traditions, alongside cheerful new festivals that lift up the spirit, and transform the city into a joyous stage of dance, music, culture and art.

The local Húsvét traditions, the Hungarian Easter, attract thousands of tourists, especially at the Easter Market on Vörösmarty tér, where you can buy seasonal treats, authentic crafts and souvenirs, all while enjoying traditional Hungarian foods, specific to this holiday.

Hand painted Easter eggs from Budapest

Hand painted Easter eggs from Budapest (Image © mirtya – Fotolia.com)

Some of the most popular attractions continue to be the Buda Castle, where you can enjoy the finest of Hungarian traditions, art, culture and gastronomy; as well as the Budapest Zoo and the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, both very close to Mamaison Hotel Andrassy and Mamaison Residence Izabella.

After Easter, Budapest continues a sun seeking quest with the Cherry Blossom Festival (Sakura) at the Füvészkert Botanical Gardens (officially ELTE Botanical Garden). The festival takes place the second, and the third weekends in April. Pick your date, and enjoy the sun, the blossoms, and the early Spring breeze.

May Day is a public holiday in Hungary, as well as most Eastern and Central European countries. In Budapest, this is an occasion to gather and celebrate together at the Városliget city park, where you will enjoy traditional foods, local beers and refreshments, music, contests and many other fun, entertaining activities.

After May Day, don’t miss the Budapest International Wine Festival, Rosalia (May 9-11 at Gesztenyés kert); the sun safeguards the boatmen on the Danube as they race in the European Dragon Boat Championship on May 11-12, and their fans gathered on the Rákóczi Bridge to watch the race.

Rosalia

Rosalia – Rosé Festival (Image credit: Budavári Borfesztivál)

Floralia, is a must for sun seekers in May too. A celebration of Flora, the goddess of flowers and Spring, the festival is an opportunity for you to feel and party like a Hungarian. Add the Museum of Aquincum to your itinerary if you happen to be in Budapest on May 24-25.

FLORALIA 2012 - Római tavaszünnep Aquincumban

Floralia is one of the most interesting Spring festivals in Budapest.

It’s easy to find the sunniest spots to enjoy the Spring in Budapest, but don’t forget that the best way to celebrate is by meeting the locals, and getting to know them. Just like the brightest stars in the skies, Bulgarians are kind-spirited, welcoming, and warm, with beaming sunshiny smiles during this season. Welcome to Budapest!