The Market Square in Warsaw was founded in the beginning of the 14th century and has been the center of the city for a long time. Even though now it is not considered the main square of the city, it still lures crowds of tourists and can be fairly called the main touristic square. It was so popular and important that even each side of the square has its own name! The northern one is Dekert’s side, eastern – Barss’, western – Kołłątaj’s, and the southern one – Zakrzewski’s. They have had these names since the 18th century.
This square is quite big: 90 by 73 meters. Up to 1817, the city Town Hall (Ratusz) was standing in the center of it. Now there is a monument of the Warsaw Mermaid (a mermaid is the symbol of Warsaw). It has been on the city’s coat of arms since the beginning of the 20th century. The monument is surrounded by a fountain, which is a real oasis both for the locals and tourists during hot summer days.
Similarly to almost any Polish city, Warsaw is full of legends. One of them explains how a mermaid became the symbol of the city: Once upon a time the mermaid coming up the Vistula river from the sea went out of water not far from today’s Old Town to have some rest. She liked the place so much that decided to live there. Shortly after that, the fishermen noticed that every time they went fishing on the river, somebody stirred the waves, teared the nets and set the fish free. They decided to catch and kill the wrecker. However, as soon as the fishermen heard the mermaid’s song, they immediately fell in love with her.
One day a rich merchant was walking along the banks of the Vistula River, he saw the mermaid and tricked her, imprisoning her in a wooden shed. The son of a fisherman heard her cries, took his friends and came at night to set her free. As a sign of gratitude, she promised the fishermen that she would help and protect them whenever they needed. From that time on, the Warsaw Mermaid protects the city and its dwellers with a sword and a shield.
While this legend is very old, all the buildings you see on this square are new. This is because all the central part of the city was completely demolished during the WWII and rebuilt brick by brick after the war – back to their beautiful Renaissance-era look. Actually, at times you can feel that something is wrong and the surrounding buildings are not ancient. However, the wonderful atmosphere of the Warsaw Market Square is becoming even more impressive when you understand the amount of destruction and reconstruction it underwent as a result of the war.