Today Warsaw is the gleaming capital of Poland and the old city is stunning. It feels like a trip back into a romantic time of Europe's past. The vibe of the city is chill, charming, and relaxing. But there is something deceptive about it all. The city was completely leveled and destroyed in 1944 during World War Two.

Today Warsaw is one of the main places everyone should visit in Poland. There are even great affordable hostels in the center of Warsaw's Old Town. Poland is a great country to visit and one that can be traveled on a backpacking budget.

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The Willful Destruction Of Warsaw & Rebuilding

After the Warsaw Uprising, the infuriated Germans methodically destroyed the city in a vengeful act of reprisal. The razing of the city left 80-90% of the city's once stunning buildings and monuments destroyed. Most of the damage to other European cities was done during the fighting, but Warsaw was razed after the fighting. Gone were the city's timeless museums, art galleries, theaters, churches, parks, and historical buildings (like castles and palaces).

  • Damage: Around 80-90% of Warsaw's Buildings Were Destroyed
  • Razed: The Germans Razed The City After The Battle

But after the war, the Poles refused to accept that their cultural heritage had been eradicated. In one of the great rebuilding works of history, the Poles in the 1950s and 1970s worked to rebuild their fallen city.

For a while, the inhabitants of Warsaw lived among the rubble. It was even suggested that the haunted ruins of the city be left to memorialize the war and the capital be relocated but soon the Poles decided on building their historic capital.

They used what rubble and original fragments of the Old Town's building that they could. Local people help the construction workers and specialized builders in resurrecting their city. The rallying cry rang out "The entire nation builds its capital”.

  • Rebuilt: Completed in The 1980s (Most Of The World Done By 1955)

Most of the work was finished by 1955 - within 10 years of the war's conclusion. While much of the Old Town is as it was, there are also a number of minor inaccuracies. The rebuilding of the Palace of Culture and Science was completed in 1955 as a "gift" from the Soviet Union. Reconstruction works continued in the 1980s and in the end, the Old Town was thoroughly rebuilt. The New Town of Warsaw was only partly rebuilt.

Related: Visiting Krakow? Do These Historic Things During Your Trip

The Street Scene Paintings of Bernardo Bellotto

A number of old paintings and historical documents to accurately restore their heritage. Some cityscapes were rebuilt with paintings from the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780).

  • Bellotto: The Court Painter To The King Of Poland
  • Origin: Venice (He Also Painted Other Cities)
  • Lived: 1722 to 1780

Bellotto was designated as the court painter to the King of Poland in 1768. While in Poland he beautifully and accurately painted the old buildings and squares of Warsaw. 200 years later, it was his paintings that were used to rebuild the same buildings and squares.

Bellotto had 22 street scenes of historic Warsaw - these came in high demand over the years with Napoleon, Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and Germany all making off with his canvases. Fortunately, all 22 of his street scenes survived the war (other of his works didn't). Today they can be seen in the Royal Castle's Canaletto room.

It's crazy to think that without a 200-year-old artist's paints serving as the crucial blueprint, Warsaw would look very different today.

  • Bellotto 22 Street Scenes: Exhibited In the Royal Castle's Canaletto Room

Visiting Warsaw And The Best Hostel

Today Warsaw is more than just another European city with a stunning Old Town. Warsaw is the living embodiment of destruction and rebirth and an inspiration for others.

Today everyone should visit the city if given the chance. If one is backpacking, then the best hostel is Safestay Warsaw. The hostel boasts the best "hostel vibe" and is located in one of the rebuilt historical buildings right in the very beating heart of the Old Town - that was depicted in Bellotto's paintings.

  • Rating: A 9.5 Rating Out of 2562 Reviews On Hostel World
  • Location: The Heart of The Old Town

Today no one would have any idea that the heart of the city was rubble 80 years ago, today the charming city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.