- Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Warsaw’s economy has boomed
- The City’s Strategy #2030 and Integrated Revitalisation Programme (2014–2022) aims to make Warsaw more inviting for residents, tourists and investors, with improvements to infrastructure as a major priority.
- Increasing cultural participation and social trust is a key goal for the city. Grassroots cultural initiatives are growing in Warsaw; audience development initiatives by cultural institutions and organisations in Warsaw are increasingly becoming more inclusive of underrepresented and minority groups.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 517 sq. km
- Total population: 1,764,615
Throughout its nine century old history, Warsaw has repeatedly rebuilt itself and evolved. Warsaw was historically a very diverse and multicultural town. After the almost complete annihilation during the World War II it rebuilt its central role in Poland and systematically regained its identity, which also include openness towards newcomers, both from other regions of Poland and from other countries and continents. Today, Warsaw is home to 1.8 million people, including a significant number of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Vietnamese among many other nationalities. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022 approximately 300,000 refugees have moved to the city.
The city of Warsaw oversees the management of a portfolio of municipal cultural institutions and several new developments. Warsaw runs over 30 cultural institutions including 17 theatres (among which award winning TR Warszawa and NOWY Theatre), four museums (including the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN and Warsaw Uprising Museum), Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra and others. The City’s cultural infrastructure is constantly being modernized and new venues appear. These include new buildings for the Museum of Modern Art, Sinfonia Varsovia and TR Warszawa Theatre.
The city also supports a dynamic and growing number of independent cultural organisations, assisting their expansion and professionalisation, and supporting a network of independent theatres.
There is a well-established ecosystem of social and cultural NGOs whose operation and development is financed by the city. Warsaw is also the epicentre of the country’s creative industries – from the well-established audio-visual sector, to a fast-growing gaming and music industries. The city has attracted a diverse range of professional talent and leadership.
The city of Warsaw’s Culture Department is responsible for devising and implementing cultural policy, financing cultural activity, and overseeing management of municipal cultural institutions. However, the City works as part of a bigger system and cooperates with other parties, such as governmental agencies responsible for cultural policy, Mazovian Province authorities and cultural institutions, crucial Polish cultural NGOs, private initiatives, among others. As the capital of Poland, Warsaw is home to the largest and most influential state-run cultural institutions and agencies while at the same time being a melting pot for creative sectors and industries.
Warsaw and its cultural sector face a number of direct financial and broader social challenges. Following a period of economic boom since the 1990s, the sector now faces a number of financial constraints, amplified by inflation, tax reform and increased pressure on city budgets from national authorities. The current unstable international situation due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its impacts on migration and the economic consequences, add to a very complex and unstable situation.
Five key interconnected values drive the city of Warsaw’s cultural policy, distinct from those of the national Ministry: diversity, openness, responsibility, freedom and cultural rooting. The city’s priorities focus on protecting culture as a space for freedom and imagination; on recognising culture as an educational tool which shapes competencies, attitudes and participation in the world; and giving culture a central role in the creation of a harmonious social and natural environment.
A priority for the city since the pandemic has been to deepen cultural participation. The city seeks to reach new groups, to involve residents in co-producing culture, and to ensure access to culture for all, both inside and outside of institutions. This is to be achieved by not only reducing barriers (both economical and infrastructural), but also by providing a possibility to participate in cultural activities close to one’s residence (in line with a “15 minute city” concept). Culture is also increasingly being understood as a tool for the development of universal competencies for civic life. To enable this, Warsaw is systematically strengthening the sector and directing funds to public, NGOs, and private initiatives. Following the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, the cultural sector is rapidly mobilising to provide support. The city is working with the sector to provide new cultural offers and to integrate refugees into the labour market.
There is an increasingly expanded role for culture in Warsaw. However, this also presents a challenge to provide adequate infrastructure at the pace of changing needs. Cultural institutions are evolving. Education is playing a central role, alongside a more interdisciplinary approach to cultural programming. Warsaw is also supporting the development of a network of libraries across the city, which positions libraries as a place for coming together in the community: a so-called “third place”, serving as local gateway to cultural activities.
There is an increasing trend towards culture online. Many cultural institutions have created their own video on demand (VOD) platforms, and the city itself launched a joint VOD Warsaw platform for cultural content from a wide range of organisations.
To support all these important initiatives, the City of Warsaw is building new relationships, and the city aims to strengthen cooperation between local and non-governmental organisations.