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The medieval capital of Poland was the southern city of Krakow, but Warsaw has been the capital of the country since 1596. Completely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, the city managed to lift itself from ashes to become Poland's economic hub. Today, almost every building in Warsaw dates to the postwar era - with what little remains of the old structures being confined largely to the restored districts of Stare Miasto (the 'old city') and Nowe Miasto ('new city'), as well as selected monuments and cemeteries. With 1.7 million inhabitants, Warsaw is the largest city in Poland. Since the fall of communism in 1989, Warsaw has been developing much more rapidly than Poland as a whole. You wouldn't recognize the city if you saw it ten years ago, and more changes are constantly taking place. Warsaw has long been the easiest place in Poland to find employment, and for this reason many of the Polish inhabitants of the city are first or second generation, originating from all over the country. Even though much of Warsaw seems to imitate western cities, there are many peculiarities to be found here that you will not find in western capitals, for example the communist-era bar mleczny (lit.

'milk bar') that remains in operation. The monolithic gray apartment blocks that characterize much of the city (especially its outer areas) are a relic of the Stalinist utilitarianism that dominated the rebuilding efforts. A typical example of the Stalinist architecture is the monolithic Soviet skyscraper - the Palace of Culture (palac kultury) with its clock tower, which remains Warsaw's tallest building. Some of the other main highlights of Warsaw are: the Old Town full of cozy cafes, open-air galleries and street performers, and the ancient Warsaw Barbican. Moreover Warsaw is the only city in the European Union with a nature reserve – Jeziorko Czernikowskie, located in the center of the city. Warsaw is not only famous for its rich history but for its vibrant social scene: from abundant shopping options to gourmet dining experiences - it has everything to be the next big tourist hot spot of Eastern Europe and its spirit and energy make it a fascinating place for a city break.

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