Slicing central Warsaw in two is Aleje Jerozolimskie, an area first chronicled in 1774 when it was known as Nowa Jerozolima, a small village populated largely by Jews. The village didn’t last long, most of its population choosing to move into the capital, but the name stuck and the thoroughfare acquired the name Aleje Jerozolimskie. Up until then a suburban backwater, the opening of Warsaw’s first train station in 1845 was just the economic jump-start Jerozolimskie needed. Built to a design by Henryk Marconi, the Dworzec Wiedeński station was an architectural showpiece, grandly flanked by two 25 metre towers. The rapid modernisation of Warsaw saw the station pulled down during the inter-war years, by which time Jerozolimskie had acquired a reputation as one of the most prosperous streets in Warsaw. Lined with tall art nouveau structures no address was more prestigious than Jerozolimskie 45, home of the Polonia Palace Hotel.Bankrolled by a family of local toffs the hotel was opened to widespread acclaim in 1913. It was the first hotel in town to boast luxuries such as running water in each room and it soon assumed a reputation as being a home to the stars. Unlike other hotels it escaped WWII virtually untouched and became the natural base for numerous foreign envoys and diplomats; black and white pictures recall a victory banquet that General Eisenhower held here in 1945. Following decades of neglect the hotel finally had the face surgery it deserved, and in 2006 was the hotel of choice for contestants of the Miss World beauty pageant. Cross the street to reach the rotund PKO Bank building that overlooks Rondo Dmowskiego. Built in 1969 this popular meeting point was also the site of one of Poland’s biggest post-war disasters. In 1979 an explosion tore through the building, killing 74 people and injuring 135. Although an inquest laid the blame on a gas leak many locals to this day believe the explosion was arranged by bank officials looking to cover up the embezzlement of funds. An identical replica of the rotunda was rebuilt following the disaster.
Although Jerozolimskie was virtually destroyed during WWII, it is not without its architectural gems. One building that was of note was the DHSmyk children’s department store (ul. Krucza 50). Completed in 1952 the functional masterpiece was one of the triumphs of the Socialist Realist era and was officially recognised as a historical monument since 2006. Designed to look like a gleaming lantern the building was struck by fire in 1975 with the blaze destroying all but two floors. Despite being recognised as a historic monument, this didn't stop the building being torn down with the aim of restoring the facade to its pre-fire grandeur. Continue further down Jerozolimskie reach theEMPiK megastore(ul. Nowy Świat 15/17). Formerly a German-only café during the war the exterior touts an interesting Socialist Realist mural of the Warsaw Uprising. Within close range find the Warsaw palm tree(Rondo de Gaulle'a), the Charles De Gaulle Statue (same address as the palm) and the National Museum(Al. Jerozolimskie 3) details of which you will find elsewhere in this guide.