Kamienne Schodki

Kamienne Schodki street is considered one of the most picturesque in Warsaw. Is that right? This can be argued. The fact is, however, that you can meet various artists, painters and photographers here. Especially this place is favored by young couples, who after the ceremony at the Wedding Palace go to the steps for photo sessions.

An additional plus is the fact that the street is in the register of monuments and undoubtedly there is a story behind it. On the other hand, the careful, post-war reconstruction of the Old Town passed over Kamienne Schodki and today their buildings are a loose interpretation of old times.

The history of Kamienne Schodki

The street could have been built at the very beginning of the city's existence. We know, however, that when at the end of the fourteenth century Warsaw was surrounded by a wall from the Vistula River, at the height of the stairs a gate was pierced, and the isthmus between tenements Old Town Market and Krzywe Koło, created a steep road, which residents descended for water on the Vistula.

The retraction of the Vistula riverbed spontaneously created a further part of steps from Brzozowa to Bugaj Street. The irregular shape of the stairs may indicate that once there was a ravine of some brook. In any case, in the sixteenth century they gained the name street going to the Vistula. On this lower section, granaries, houses and gardens were erected, while the upper one filled the side walls of the tenement houses of the Market Square and Krzywe Koło. In the mid-seventeenth, there was talk of a road on the steps, and in the 18th century the Cobblestone Commission gave the official name Schodki.

Fishermen's Tower or White Gate

In 1560, during the time of Zygmunt August, the most important building on Kamienne Schodki street was built. The former gate in the tower was rebuilt into a much larger gate with an upper tower, which housed the city prison for over a hundred years. The gate was plastered and hence the name White Gate, the term Fishermen's Tower was also used interchangeably, as it was still, although not very comfortable, best descent from the city to the banks of the Vistula.

However, this lack of comfort was so bad that in 1780 the inhabitants built their own stone steps on the part from Brzozowa to Bugaj. However, the gate was dilapidated and renovations failed. The prison was closed, and in the nineteenth century the gate was completely demolished, opening a view of the Vistula. Napoleon Bonaparte himself admired the panorama of Prague from this place, and although he liked the view, the technical condition of the descent was reportedly described using a heavily gutter language.

Maksymilian Gierymski's watercolor "Kamienne Schodki Street" painted in the 19th century; source: cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl; the original painting is in the National Museum in Warsaw.

How are the Stone Stairs today?

I will develop a little thought from the introduction to this article. World War II brought destruction to Warsaw, including the Old Town and Kamienne Schodki. Apart from the corner tenement houses with the Market Square and Krzywe Koło, the buildings do not resemble how does it looks like before. There are no outbuildings of the tenement houses mentioned above, and below it is only worse. Brzozowa and Bugaj are the artistic vision of architects of the post-war reconstruction. Quite tightly built-up lower section today is empty squares. The side façades of the houses are smeared with daubs, and yet Kamienne Schodki attract tourists and artists.

Being in the Old Town I recommend stopping at the top of the street. On the left is a tasty restaurant called ... Kamienne Schodki. Once you fill up and drink, I suggest going down to Brzozowa through 37 steps. Then turn left to reach the lower section of the stairs, located a few meters away. Now you can look down from above. Through the narrow street, stylized lanterns and vegetation growing on the walls you will see the Vistula River. If you go further through the next 63 steps you will get to Bugaj, from where close to other stairs, but more entertaining.

37 steps on the upper section and 63 on the lower section. Exactly 100 stone steps divide the tourist Old Town and the party boulevards. I highly recommend both places to all residents and tourists.




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