Warsaw, the city of neon lights

Anna Kowalska | Live the World

November 23, 2022

While visiting Warsaw, especially by night, you will surely notice that the city is lit by multiple neons in various beautiful forms. It has been a tradition for the Polish capital to have advertisements created in this interesting version, and recently we could see a big revival of it. There are a lot of projects focused on preserving the old neons, such as a picturesque Neon Museum located in the Praga district. In this story, I am going to show you some of the most interesting places to see in Warsaw, the city of neon lights.

A bit of history

©iStock/Ewa Meissner

The history of the presence of the neons in the Polish capital started in the 1950s when the officials set some guidelines regarding the shape of the advertisements in the cities. The specially created commission was to overlook the creations of the new forms, which were to be bigger and more decorative. Following the examples of the biggest cities of Europe, like Paris or London, the companies were encouraged to create their visual identifications in the shiny forms to bring some modern touch into the city. In the next decade, it was decided that the neons should be located around the biggest arteries of the cities, and we can still see their remainings today (e.g. on Marszałkowska St. and Jerozolimskie Avenue in Warsaw). The 1980s with their political problems and changes brought the neglecting of care for the aesthetics of the streets. However, in recent years, we can see a growing interest and a movement towards the preservation of these precious documents of history.

The Museum of Neons

© Wikimedia Commons/Adrian Grycuk

Definitely, one of the most interesting museums in Warsaw is the Neon Museum. Created in 2005, it takes care of preservation and gathering of the postwar forms of advertisement. Located in two big rooms, the collection comprises of more than 150 objects that we can admire today. When you enter the museum, you can start by watching a short documentary about the story of neons starting around the 20th century. It is definitely a nice and fun experience, even though the ride to the distant part of Praga might not be the shortest! The museum is located in the old post-industrial brick building, which gives the collection some additional charm.

Neons around the city

© Wikimedia Commons/Cofefe

Some of the neons you should definitely see while traveling around Warsaw are to be seen outside, in the various districts. The best place for that will be the streets intersecting in the center, as well as the Puławska Street. One of the most loved and iconic is the neon of the volleyball player, located by the Constitution Square. The moving figure standing on the top of the building was created there as an advertisement for the sports equipment store in 1960. After disappearing for a while from the facade, it was brought back to life in 2006 by a Polish artist, Paulina Ołowska. Another interesting, moving neon, is a glass of fizzy lemonade, created by Maurycy Gomulicki in the Żoliborz district. The bright pink sign is to represent the joy of life and it definitely lights up the dull surroundings of the blocks of flats! The last one I would like to point out here is hung by the bridge over the Vistula River. "Miło Cię Widzieć" or "Nice to see you" is a greeting revealing itself to everyone crossing the water to enter or leave the city center. It is also located by the river boulevards, a popular place to spend time in the summer.

I hope this story encouraged you to focus your attention on some details of the streets of the capital, to see the city in the different light. On your next visit, try to discover Warsaw as the city of neon lights!

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