As Poland shakes off its dark past, the country’s capital Warsaw is becoming more and more popular with visitors. Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Warsaw has emerged from its post-war shadows to become a lively and vibrant city while still maintaining its rich heritage. The Polish capital has kept a good balance between concrete and man-made structures and natural areas with its colourful Old Town and more than 80 parks spread throughout the city.
Since Warsaw was destroyed after the Second World War, as a revenge act by the Nazis, the city had to be rebuilt. Therefore it feels like, you are somewhere between two very different worlds; the post-war era and the new era.
Best Time to Visit Warsaw
The best time to visit Warsaw is during the spring and summer months when everything is green, the parks are colourful with flowers, and there are many activities going on around the city. Spring is ideal for those who prefer less crowded periods as most people visit the city in the summertime.
But for those who like the cold and snow, wintertime can also be a good time to visit. There are a number of ice-skating rinks spread around the city, but the most notable is at the National Football Stadium on the eastern side of the Wisla River.
Warsaw is also a good starting point to do some skiing in Poland. Zakopane is the most famous resort in the country and is loved by the Polish and those from the neighbouring countries. Zakopane is a 5.5-hour drive or 6-7 hours bus ride away from the capital. A two-day pass for an adult only costs about 55 EUR.
What to Do in Warsaw
Warsaw has many sides to it and getting to know the city starts with a gorgeous panoramic view of the Old Town. If it’s a beautiful, sunny day, you can spend some time relaxing on the grass near the fountain just north-east of the old town. During the warmer months, the fountain entertains visitors with a spectacular multimedia presentation at night complete with lasers and lights. The fountain lights up each night at 9.30pm between May and September.
You can explore Warsaw on your own or you can go on a walking or bicycle tour. A walking tour will give you a general idea of the history, architecture, places to see and things to eat. If you choose to cycle your way around Warsaw, you can explore the Jewish district, visit Masurian Lake District or ride along the river. You can find an extensive list of options here.
Warsaw is rich with parks, and the most well-known parks are Saxon Garden, the Krasiński Palace Garden, the Łazienki Park (Royal Baths Park), the Wilanów Palace Park and the Królikarnia Palace Park. Take a walk through the gardens, or take a picnic and relax between sightseeing stops.
One of the reasons you probably know about Poland is its dark past, especially in World War II. If you want to find out more about the history of Warsaw and Poland, there are plenty of free walking tours on offer in the Old Town to find out the basics. For a more in-depth introduction, it’s a good idea to head to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. It’s full of history unique to the city, and while it can be a bit sombre, you won’t find anything else like it in town. The museum mainly features information about the effort of the Polish Resistance Movement during the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1944. It only costs 10 PLN, or just over 2 EUR to visit.
Poland has a rich Jewish culture as well and if you are interested in learning about their 1000-year-old history, and find answers to questions such as how did the Jews come to Poland and how did Poland become the centre of the largest Jewish community, you may want to visit The Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Tickets are available for only 30 PLN, or 7 EUR.
On a lighter note, you can visit Adventure Warsaw and get up close to vintage cars. Tours are available, and you can also drink an excellent coffee in their bar.
The Chopin Outdoor Concert is held during the summer months (until the end of September) and is a must do for classical music lovers. It is a free event held every Sunday from noon to 4pm in Royal Łazienki, and features pianists from Poland, Japan, Russia and Ukraine.
Other attractions in town include Copernicus Science Centre, The Palace of Culture and Science, which also has an amazing rooftop with a panoramic view over Warsaw and the City Beach where you can just relax and have a drink with some friends.
Where to Eat and Drink
The old town is home to a lot of interesting options for restaurants, but my pick is Portretowa – a great value restaurant with a menu full of tasty, traditional food. For a more modern twist, there’s Karmnik, also in the old town. For those on a budget, Warsaw’s “milk bars” (Bar Mleczny in Polish) offer quick, traditional food at bargain prices.
The Bambino Bar cooks exactly like your grandmother would and is home style cooking at its best. If you would like to try traditional Polish dumplings, sausages and other traditional dishes, Pikanteria is another good pick.
Polish cuisine can be quite heavy with meat, so for vegetarians or those seeking a change from the hearty Polish dishes, there are several vegetarian restaurants in the downtown area around Hoza Street. It’s not a touristy part of the city, but in the space of a couple of blocks you can find vegan burgers at Krowarzywa, vegan burritos ,and nachos at Momencik on Poznanska (who give a free soup or lemonade with purchases on Monday), vegan pizza on Wilcza, as well as a vegan sushi place on Hoza.
For those with a sweet tooth, Limoni has the best ice cream in town in my opinion, and they have a few locations throughout the city. Although some people insist Ulica Baśniowa is better, but I guess you are just going to have to try both and make your own decision.
When in Poland, you have to down at least one drink of famous Polish vodka. One of the best places is Banjaluka where you can taste all types of spirits.
If you’re seeking the nightlife in Warsaw, head along to Parkingowa Street. This small downtown street has lots of bars to choose from. One of my favourites is PiwPaw, which is well stocked with craft beers. PiwPaw also has a second location near the city’s Nowy Swiat street.
Also just off Nowy Swiat you can find Pawilony, a popular area for students that is home to small, grungy bars.
To dance the night away, the best place to go is Mazowiecka Street. Nightclubs line the street, and it’s busy almost every night of the week. In summer time there are bars all along the foreshore of the Wisla River. You can also check out the Sky Bar at the Marriott Hotel. It’s a little expensive, but it’s a great place to get a view of the city.
Where to Stay
Warsaw offers a wide selection of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets and ranks well in the hostel stakes. Tatamka Hostel ranks high on the list. They offer a 10% discount if you book online. If you prefer a very unique looking room, Hipstel is the place for you. If you want to add the cool factor to your stay, check out their Alice in Wonderland or Pacman room.
Find and book these hotels on our favourite accommodation search website: Booking.com
eMKa Hostel, Dream Hostel and Moon Hostel are also good options. As most of the hostels and hotels are located close to the city centre and the most popular tourist attractions, there is not one particular area recommended for your stay. Warsaw is a safe city, so you can walk on the streets at any time of the day without any problems.
Once you fall in love with Poland and want explore more, you may want to rent a car. You can rent a car for as little as 7 EUR per day, or take Lux Express, a quality low-cost bus company offering routes to the most popular Polish cities such as Krakow, Gdańsk or Poznań.
Another great alternative for accommodation in Warsaw is Airbnb, where private rooms start at $24 and offer a unique way to experience the city from a more local perspective.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive a discount to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
How Much Time Do You Need in Warsaw
Recommended time in Warsaw: A stay of three to four days is recommended in Warsaw to discover the city and its history.
Check out these handy itineraries for your Warsaw visit:
About the Author: Fanni Bartanics is the author behind My Seven Worlds – the inner work of a nomad. A blog that is dedicated to self-development through travelling amongst some practical travel advice. My Seven Worlds explains principles from a travelling angel, when travelling itself sometimes only used as a metaphor. The blog aims to connect different thoughts and help you better understand yourself. It is not only for the nomad community, but also for those who read the articles while enjoying the comfort of their home. The journey of the soul sometimes is more important than the outside experiences. Follow My Seven Worlds on Facebook and Instagram
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