A Few Facts About Chmielna Street in Warsaw

There’s a lot you can write about Warsaw’s tourist attractions. Tourist sites, that are frequently mentioned, are historical palaces and churches, museums and cultural institutes, but also market squares and streets. Some streets look inconspicuous, others are the most important places in the capital. What about Chmielna street, where our hotel is located?

Chmielna Street in Warsaw – location, present condition

If you ask a person what is a “street” everyone will probably imagine a straight line. What’s interesting, in case of Chmielna street situation looks much different since it consists of two fragments that aren’t really connected. Of course, it wasn’t always the case, more about Chmielna’s history later.

Chmielna street is located in two Warsaw districts: in Śródmieście and Wola. One part runs from Nowy Świat street and ends at Marszałkowska, the other one starts at Jan Paweł II Avenue and runs to Miedziana. Each part has approximately 600 metres.

Origins of ”Chmielna”?

The official name – Chmielna street – was coined in 1770,  although it had been used much earlier. The name derives from areas called Chmielnik that originally belonged to the dukes of Mazovia. In the past there was a busy road running through Chmielnik towards the village called Wielka Wola. This Polish name of these areas suggest that there had to be the so called “chmielnik,” that is a field where hop was planted and grown.

1770 was a significant year, not only because at that time the name Chmielna street was coined, but also because surveyor Maciej Deutsch designated the street’s course and shape. At that time it was possible to introduce changes to the street’s course, since it was surrounded by fields and gardens, and number of  buildings was very low. First brick buildings were erected after 1792 – these were small houses. Bigger buildings started to appear after 1825, also because of the fact that crowded Nowy Świat had no more place to expand.

Warsaw Central Railway station support warehouses and Warsaw Vienna Railway Line building

Warsaw Central Railway station support buildings were one of the most important structures on Chmielna street in XIX century’s second half. The Railway Station was expanded in 1868-1870, at that time nine new  brick buildings and a three storey engine house were erected. At the same time Warsaw Vienna Railway Line building was erected (eventually demolished in 2013). Over time Chmielna street was filled up with tenement houses, but there weren’t many factories. The ones worth mentioning are:

  • The Central Chemical Laboratory,
  • The Hygiene Laboratory,
  • Juliusz Fejgenbaum Company Record Syrena,
  • Bathhouse Diana.

Chmielna street in 1914-1944

For a long time Chmielna street had a bad opinion – prostitution was spread all over it. That situation lasted during both I and II World War and in the interwar period. Yet, at the same time Chmielna street was bustling with trade activities. Clothes and women’s wear were popular areas of business ongoing on the street. Until 1939 a lot of shops and hotels (Grand Hotel Garni, Hotel Litewski, Hotel Hiszpański) and cinema Palladium (later changed into Bałtyk) were opened there. After I World War the Central Railway Station (Chmielna 51) was also expanded and Railway Mail building was also erected.

During II World War Warsaw was badly damaged. Chmielna street was mostly damaged in its western part. It was caused by bombing raids on strategic places such as the Central Railway Station. Following raids part of Chmielna street was completely burned.

Ruined buildings demolished and new ones erected

After II World War some buildings on Chmielna street were so badly damaged they needed to be demolished. Unfortunately,  too many of them were unnecessarily scheduled for demolition – fault of Warsaw Rebuild Office planning. The office decided to demolish whole buildings, which were still safe to live. What’s more, in 1952 the construction of Palace of Culture and Science was started, to this day it’s perceived as the symbol of communist power.

Palace of Culture and Science was planned to be built in such a place that Chmielna street needed to be split into two separate parts. Western part was still called Chmielna street whereas eastern part was changed into Henryka Rutkowskiego street. Rutkowskiego street returned to Chmielna only in 1990. In the original place of old Chmielna street commemorative plaque was placed saying “Previously Chmielna street.” The plaque can be seen in front of Palace of Culture and Science, from its south side.

Chmielna street today

Today Chmielna street as most of streets in the city centre is bustling with life. There’s plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants in the street. Part of Chmielna is dedicated to promenade, and as such it’s filled with pedestrians. Relative proximity of the Central Railway Station also influences Chmielna’s traffic. The station also visibly affects public transportation and its development. Our hotel is travellers’ first choice due to these reasons, proximity to the station and Chopin airport as well. It’s also located near more peaceful and quieter part of Chmielna street.