A rare example of European Union funding being used in a genuinely visionary way, the CSC is many things, including the very best science centre in Europe, one of Warsaw’s top tourist attractions, and - in the words of Poland’s Education Minister shortly before the opening - an attempt to restate the case for science and research in what can still be an intensely and deeply religious country. In that sense, giving the centre the name of the man who did so much to end the church’s monopoly of education in the first place is little short of a masterstroke.
Arriving at the main doors of the stunning glass and steel building you will be met by the centre’s very own Robothespian - an interactive humanoid robot that visitors can prompt to make a number of sounds and movements (get him to sing the Sound of Music). This will keep the kids busy while you queue at the central ticket desk for a set of credit card-style entrance passes; keep hold of these as not only do they allow you to enter and exit the building throughout the day, but they also allow you to record your results as you move around (which are emailed to you afterwards if you register your email upon entering).
Once inside, not only will you learn an awful lot, but you’ll have a blast exploring the museum’s numerous thematic areas spread over two floors, among them: Roots of Civilisation, Humans & the Environment, LightZone, New World on the Move, and Bzzz! - aimed at kids between the ages of 0 and 6. Each area demonstrates a range of phenomenon by way of experiments, button pressing, quizzes and in some cases physical exertion. There’s a genuine flying carpet, you can pilot a spaceship, take a picture of your own eye (and then try to recognise it among the others photographed that day) or - and this was our favourite - try to outdo animals at their own game by out-hanging an Orangutan or beating a hippo in a race at the arena.
Additional hands-on activities geared especially towards teens can be found in the Re: generation Zone, where visitors over 14 can experiment with psychology, sociology, economics or biotechnology through 80 multimedia exhibits – we swear we’ve never seen teens more effusive and excited as they tried to identify a monkey’s emotions, or finish lyrics to popular songs. There are also four interactive labs dealing with chemistry, biology, physics and robotics that offer supervised experiments for kids over 13 (instructions are in Polish however). A new temporary exhibition entitled "Sink or Swim" examines the nature of the world's waterways, oceans, currents and explores the science of ships and subs. In addition to all that, there’s the Heavens of Copernicus planetarium, which immerses visitors in 20 million stars, and also screens films about natural science (imagine yourself diving into a volcano) and the origins of life on earth.
It’s easy to declare that the CSC is well-worth a few hours of your time and will impress you with its design and range of experiments. Factor in the main floor cafeteria, cafe, and the packed Science Store (potentially the best spot for children’s gifts in Warsaw), and it’s a one-stop day of fun.
The centre can be found in the shadow of the Świętokrzyski Bridge on the banks of the Wisła River. A journey to the CSC from the centre of Warsaw should take around 10 minutes. Buses 105, 118 and 127 will drop you at the Biblioteka Uniwersytecka stop, requiring a short walk around the corner to the unmissable building. Buses 102 and 162 will drop you at the "Metro Centrum Nauki Kopernik" stop with the CSC clearly in sight. Alternatively visit the ‘About us’ section of the English language website www.kopernik.org.pl, where you can get directions by car, by bus, or by foot by typing in your address.