War is not sexy, and museums dedicated to it even less so. All things considered, It’s hard to pull off a good war museum, if not downright impossible. It’s got to be interesting. It’s got to be interactive. And it’s got to do its job — honour the fallen, while informing and enlightening the masses. But perhaps above all this, its got to avoid being boring.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) succeeds in all of these.
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t know much about the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Okay, I’ll be honest, I pretty much knew nothing at all. I knew where Warsaw is of course, and I knew it suffered terribly during the war, but something that happened 70 years ago is not really top of mind for most. I’m an ignorant Westerner, and I felt kinda shitty about that as I walked in.
As far as museums go, the Warsaw Uprising Museum is one of the better thought out ones I’ve been to.
It’s huge, it’s interactive, and it’s gritty.
Not all war museums are created equal, and that’s pretty evident at the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
There are no medals in dusty cases.
No yellowing pamphlets behind scratched glass.
Instead, cobblestone floors snake through narrow hallways and dark cubbyholes, giving a sense of being on the streets of Warsaw during the period.
Interaction is the norm rather than the exception.
There are even a couple of replicas of the sewers that the insurgents used (thankfully empty of what’s normally found in sewers.)
There’s also a scavenger hunt set up for kids to make the experience more interactive for them.
So what was the Warsaw Uprising? During the summer of 1944 the Germans were retreating, Poland’s Soviet allies were advancing, so the Polish resistance movement saw an opportunity to take back Warsaw from the Nazis. All did not go as planned. The Soviets stopped short of the city, the Germans regrouped and what ensued was basically wholesale slaughter of Warsaw.
The Memorial Wall in Freedom Park behind the Warsaw Uprising Museum with the names of those that perished during the uprising is both somber and sobering.
And the street art inspired by the uprising is a nice colourful touch.
I was surprised by how much time I could’ve spent there, and for a war museum — or any museum for that matter — I think that’s exactly what they’d like to hear.
What’s the best museum you’ve ever been to?
Warsaw Uprising Museum Information
Address: Grybowska 79, Warsaw, Poland
Phone: +48 22 539 79 05
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday 08.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.,
- Thursday 08.00 a.m. – 8.00 p.m.,
- Saturday and Sunday 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.,
- the Museum is closed on Tuesdays
- Individual tickets: 14.00 PLN; children, students, and seniors: 10.00 PLN; group with guide: 7.00 PLN per person
- “The City of Ruins” film: 2.00 PLN
- Admission is free of charge on Sundays
*(Note that the official name is the Warsaw Rising Museum, even though most guidebooks refer to it as the Warsaw Uprising Museum)