The capital of Poland is a large city of about 1,600,000 people, with over 2,000,000 living in the Greater Warsaw area. It is located in central Poland on the River Vistula, near its confluence with the River Bug. The city stretches 29 km from west to east and 27 km from north to south, occupying a total area of 495 square km.
Because of its status as the Polish capital, Warsaw is the main political, economic, cultural and academic centre of the country, with such significant institutions as the Warsaw Stock Exchange, the National Bank of Poland and the headquarters of many other banks and Polish branches of foreign companies. The city is also the capital of the Mazovia Province. Warsaw lies in the heart of Poland, within the area of as many as four different geographical units. These are the Warsaw Valley, Warsaw Plain, Wołomin Plain and the Valley of the Middle Vistula.
Warsaw streets and districts
The main division within Warsaw is between its left-bank and right-bank districts, or Warsaw (proper) and Praga. Warsaw's districts have a ring layout while the city's outskirts have a radial layout. As a tourist, you may find this information handy, as the names of Warsaw's districts are always shown on street signs and bus/tram stop signs.
The district of Śródmieście is centrally located on the left bank of the Vistula. It has formed over the years around the previous historical centres of the Polish capital. The district consists of the following smaller administrative units: Śródmie?cie Północne (North Śródmie?cie), Śródmieście Południowe (South Śródmieście), Muranów, Nowe Miasto (New Town), Stare Miasto (Old Town), Powiśle, Solec and Ujazdów. Śródmieście is surrounded by a belt of centrally located districts forming the first ring of Warsaw's districts. These include:
Żoliborz (Stary Żoliborz, Sady Żoliborskie, Marymont-Potok), a smart district with many pre-war houses and villas, and thought to be Warsaw's safest area.
Wola (Mirów, Nowolipki, Powązki, Młynów, Czyste, Ulrychów, Koło), a large working-class district badly damaged during World War II.
Ochota (Filtry, Stara Ochota, Rakowiec, Szczęśliwice), Warsaw's smallest district, which is a busy area in many ways resembling Żoliborz.
Mokotów (Stary Mokotów, Czerniaków, Siekierki, Augustówka, Sielce, Wierzbno, Ksawerów, Służew, Służewiec, Wyględów), Warsaw's most metropolitan area apart from the district of Śródmie?cie.
Praga is a separate area located in the centre of the right-bank part of Warsaw. It is geographically and culturally different from the rest of the city. During the war it managed to avoid the scale of destruction suffered by the left-bank districts of Warsaw, and to a large extent, preserved its pre-war Grochów, Kamionek, Gocław, Gocławek and Olszynka Grochow-ska as well as Saska Kępa, which is different from the other areas and is more like the districts on the left-bank of the Vistula.
Warsaw's outer districts form the second ring between the centre and the boundaries of the city. The left-bank districts of the outer ring include: Bielany, Bemowo, Ursus (separate town until 1957), Włochy (separate administrative unit until 1951), Ursynów (Warsaw's largest district) and Wilanów. The right-bank districts of the outer ring include: Białołęka, Targówek, Rembertów (separate town until 1957), Wesoła (separate town until 2003) and the sprawling district of Wawer with many cultural similarities to Praga.
Warsaw has a unique coat of arms showing a young, topless woman with a fish tail below her waistline. This interesting image is believed to have developed from the coat of arms of the Mazovian Duke Trojden, whose seal showed a dragon regarded as a symbol of power. Warsaw adopted the dragon sign from its ruler and with time it was transformed into a mermaid, which also symbolizes sinful temptation, ferocity and even death. Despite these gloomy associations, the coat of arms has been fully accepted by the people of Warsaw, and today you can find it on buses, trams, taxis, lampposts, countless signs and flags and even inside churches. Since 1989 Warsaw has had its own city flag which consists of two horizontal stripes, a yellow one above and a red one below.
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