If pre-war Warsaw was considered the Paris of the East, then Krakowskie Przedmieśćie would have been its Champs Elysees - its importance recognised by the number of palaces, institutions, monuments and churches that line it. Of those none is more important than the Presidential Palace at number 46/48, that mysterious fenced-off building guarded by stone lions and stern-looking soldiers. Construction on it started in 1643 at the behest of Stanisław Koniecpolski, though was only completed after his death. It passed into the hands of various aristocratic families and in the 18th century became famed for its banquets - the most extravagant being held to commemorate the coronation of Stanisław II August Poniatowski in 1789; over 2 million złoty was spent entertaining the 4,000 guests.
Poniatowski was to prove one of the nation's finest monarchs and the Constitution of May 3, 1791, signed on these very grounds, is recognised as Europe’s first - and only the second in the world. A statue of Poniatowski’s brother, himself a military hero, was added in 1965. Of its residents none were more eccentric than General Zajączek, a one-legged Duke who was carried around in his armchair by a team of simpering servants. After 1818 it became the seat of the Viceroy of the Polish Kingdom, and its halls entertained many a visiting Tsar.In 1852 calamity struck and the palace was burned to the ground.