Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa [varˈʂava] ( listen); see also other names) is the capital and largest city of Poland. It stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland, roughly 260 kilometres (160 mi) from the Baltic Sea and 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population is estimated at 1.740 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 2.666 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 9th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi).
In 2012 the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Warsaw as the 32nd most liveable city in the world. It was also ranked as one of the most liveable cities in Central Europe. Today Warsaw is considered an “Alpha–” global city, a major international tourist destination and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Warsaw’s economy, by a wide variety of industries, is characterised by FMCG manufacturing, metal processing, steel and electronic manufacturing and food processing. The city is a significant centre of research and development, BPO, ITO, as well as of the Polish media industry. The Warsaw Stock Exchange is one of the largest and most important in Central and Eastern Europe. Frontex, the European Union agency for external border security, has its headquarters in Warsaw. It has been said that Warsaw, together with Frankfurt, London, Paris and Barcelona is one of the cities with the highest number of skyscrapers in the European Union. Warsaw has also been called “Eastern Europe’s chic cultural capital with thriving art and club scenes and serious restaurants”.
The first historical reference to Warsaw dates back to the year 1313, at a time when Kraków served as the Polish capital city. Due to its central location between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth’s capitals of Kraków and Vilnius, Warsaw became the capital of the Commonwealth and of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland when King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Warsaw was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars, the city became the official capital of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a puppet state of the First French Empire established by Napoleon Bonaparte. In accordance with the decisions of the Congress of Vienna, the Russian Empire annexed Warsaw in 1815 and it became part of the “Congress Kingdom”. Only in 1918 did it regain independence from the foreign rule and emerge as a new capital of the independent Republic of Poland. The German invasion in 1939, the massacre of the Jewish population and deportations to concentration camps led to the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and to the major and devastating Warsaw Uprising between August and October 1944. Warsaw gained the title of the “Phoenix City” because it has survived many wars, conflicts and invasions throughout its long history. Most notably, the city required painstaking rebuilding after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, which destroyed 85% of its buildings.On 9 November 1940, the city was awarded Poland’s highest military decoration for heroism, the Virtuti Militari, during the Siege of Warsaw (1939).
The city is the seat of a Roman Catholic archdiocese (left bank of the Vistula) and diocese (right bank), and possesses various universities, most notably the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Warsaw, two opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries and monuments. The historic city-centre of Warsaw with its picturesque Old Town in 1980 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other main architectural attractions include the Castle Square with the Royal Castle and the iconic King Sigismund’s Column, St. John’s Cathedral, Market Square, palaces, churches and mansions all displaying a richness of colour and architectural detail. Buildings represent examples of nearly every European architectural style and historical period. Warsaw provides many examples of architecture from the gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical periods, and around a quarter of the city is filled with luxurious parks and royal gardens.