Although most of Warsaw was tragically raved to the ground during the Second World War, the Polish capital was given a nip 'n' tuck by architects who used artwork by 18th century court painter Bellotto to try to recapture its former glory. Even so, Warsaw will never win a pretty city award, but its historic centre has clusters of handsome buildings, as well as a rich offering in terms of art, culture and nightlife.
Warsaw Rising Museum - A former power station commemorates the definitive event in the city's history, when plucky Polish freedom fighters were annihilated by the Nazis in 1944 after battling for an independent Poland.
The events unfolded in front of a backdrop of underhand Stalin-led Soviet dealings, who later tried to hush the whole thing up. After inciting Varsovians to rebel against the Nazi occupiers in August-September 1944, advancing Soviets pulled up just across the Vistula River. Restricting Allied supply airdrops, the Soviets watched events unfold from the suburb of Praga as the Nazis put down the rebellion and took a drastic revenge. Some 85 per cent of Warsaw was razed and pictures show a Hiroshima-like landscape. When the Soviets did come, they began their own occupation which lasted for four decades.
Best of the rest
One of the city’s big attraction is the 231m-high Palace of Culture and Science. Which has been ruling the Warsaw skyline for 55 years; this is Europe's very own Empire State Building. From the observation deck on the 30th floor you can view the entire city. The building is a remnant of Stalin’s and Russian rule. But the People's Republic of Poland collapsed in 1989 and now the caverns of this 3.3-hectare Palace house a multiplex and a cafe frequented by celebrities. Still the highest building in the country, the Palace's distinctive silhouette is stamped on the souvenir postcards you can buy and post from there.
Warsaw's most famous residents, Chopin, is paid tribute to in the revamped Chopin Museum, which boasts a concert hall and Chopin memorabilia. When evening falls Warsaw's old market square buzzes; along the grand boulevard of Krakowskie Prezedmiescie, music lovers celebrate local boy Chopin.
Get your fix of serious culture with a trip to the opera or ballet at Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa. Tickets are a steal at 20-100 zloty ($5.40 to $25).
Get something to eat
Polish food is hearty and tasty, perfect fodder for a cold winter's day. Tuck into pierogi, dumplings stuffed with everything from mushrooms to mince. Warsaw proper ornate facades of the UNESCO-recognised old town - known locally as Stare Miasto - offer a much more relaxed environment.
If it's comfort food you're after, visit Bar Krokecik. For generous portions at affordable prices, Kompania Piwna in the Old Town is a good stop.
Try the local tipple
Drinking vodka in Poland is a custom going back centuries, and you'll soon discover that everyone from young hipsters to grannies is partial to a shot or two of the stuff. Drink vodka neat and chilled in 50ml measurements.
Before knocking it back in one gulp, make friends by saying a toast to good health: "Na zdrowie!" Famous brands include Zubrowka, flavoured with bison grass from the Bialowiza Forest; berry-flavoured Wisniowska and Jarzebiak; and lemon-infused Cytrynowka. Warsaw has a jumping club and bar scene. Big name Djs spin tunes at post-industrial-style club 1500m2 Do Wynajecia.