Stretching along the eastern bank of the Vistula River, Praga Polnoc is a historic district in the central part of Warsaw. It largely survived the devastation of World War II bombing and is today an atmospheric spot to wander, with well-preserved architectural landmarks, religious buildings and pre-war lampposts on display.
Praga Polnoc is home to Warsaw’s Zoological Garden within the northern part of Park Praski which features more than 5,000 animals, including a brown bear enclosure which is famously situated outside the zoo walls. Just to the south is the late 19th century Różycki Bazaar, established by a wealthy pharmacist as a major centre of trade and still a popular shopping area in the city, with three houses built by Jewish merchant Berek Rothblatt dominating its entrance. They are among the oldest preserved buildings in Praga and form part of the district’s museum complex. The Monument of Praga’s Backyard Orchestra is also nearby, a sculpture depicting a travelling band which once played traditional music in Praga’s courtyards. To the east of Park Praski is the Polish Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene which first opened in 1869 to serve the religious needs of the city’s growing Russian community and is distinctive for its five onion domes. Its interior is richly adorned with frescoes and religious icons, together with elaborate openwork tsarist gates. During the summer months, a “beach” opens up on the banks of the Vistula River in PragaPolnoc with lawn chairs, volleyball and badminton courts set up, together with evening concerts and DJ parties accompanied by views across towards the Old Town.
Praga Polnoc is well connected to the rest of Warsaw from the Warszawa Praga and Warszawa ZOO train stations, as well as by trams which run throughout the district. Public buses and subway also serve the area, while it’s leafy parks and gardens make it pleasant to explore on foot.
Praga functioned as an independent town for many centuries and was granted municipal rights in 1648 by King Władysław IV Vasa. At the end of the 18th century, it became part of the Polish capital, Warsaw, and in 1945 was divided into Praga Polnoc (North) and Praga Poludnie (South).