There are few buildings in Warsaw, Poland that are more controversial than Pałac Kultury i Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science), also known as PKiN (pronounced Peh-keen).
As it’s a symbol of Soviet Union’s communist oppression of the country, some would like to see it demolished and gone from the landscape. Others say that even though it’s part of painful history, it’s history nevertheless and should not be touched.
Until recently, it was the tallest building in Warsaw, but it has been eclipsed by the Varso Tower, which is now not only the tallest building in Warsaw but also in all of Europe.
“The Controversial Story of Stalin’s Palace in Warsaw” by Wojciech Oleksian published in Culture.pl offers a very thorough history of “Joseph Stalin’s idea of building a skyscraper over 200 metres (650 feet) tall in the middle of Warsaw’s post-war ruins” complete with photos from the early 1950s showing how out of place this gleaming white building looked like in the middle of bombed ruins of post-WWII Warsaw.
I spent many hours of my childhood and teenage years in this building, in the section called Pałac Młodzieży (the Youth Palace), which offered a multitude of after-school activities. When I was little, some of my friends and I attended their after school program that included lots of arts and crafts. I think my parents might still have some of the things I “crafted” back then.
Later on I took there dance, drawing, guitar, and photography and dark room lessons, and trained volleyball. I went to their annual Carnival parties and frequently used their large library that offered a much bigger collection of books than my school or local library had. I also tried to get on their swimming team, but didn’t pass the diving test.
During vacation time, the Youth Palace organized summer camps in Pieczarki, in the Mazury region where we slept in army tents, and spent the days doing all sorts of outdoor activities – we swam in the lake, we kayaked, and we hiked and biked all around the countryside. I believe I went to their summer camp at least four times when I was in elementary school. I see from Google Maps that they now seem to have several buildings, not just the dining hall on their property, but like we did, they still sleep in tents.
We had a blast at that camp.
Anyway, I digress…. Back from the memory lane to writing about PKiN…
The Youth Palace occupies only a small part of the entire Palace of Culture and Science, which covers 110,000 sq. m (1,120 thousand sq. ft) of space over 46 floors (including two underground). I knew the Palace housed several theaters, a movie theater, a concert hall, and a viewing deck, but I had no idea what else is in there.
The viewing deck is located on the 30th floor which you reach in 19 seconds by an elevator.
The views are pretty nice, even if it’s cloudy, though the photos don’t come out quite as well.
There are small parks with fountains on the northern and southern side of PKiN. In the photo above you can see the park on the northern side, separating the Palace from Swiętokrzyska street. Far in the distance on the right side you can barely see the roofs of the Old Town.
If you’re up for some shopping, the short bluish buildings in the photo above are home to Zara, Mango, Reserved, and other stores. The longer building also has a grocery store, Carrefour, if you need a quick bite. The Wisła (Vistula) river with its picturesque boulevards is in that direction.
Do take a look at the official PKiN website, especially the trivia page, to read more about the palace, including fun facts about various animals who live there.
In addition to visiting the viewing deck, you can also get a tour of some of the spaces. The company that we toured PKiN in January 2018 doesn’t seem to exist anymore, but it looks like there are three other companies that offer tours.
By the way, some of the spaces in the Palace are available for events.
Nobell Congressing has a floor plan for the rooms on level 2 and level 4 that can be rented.
For more photos of the Palace inside and out and the panoramas from the viewing deck visit the official PKiN instagram account.