10 Best Things To Do In The Capital Of Poland-Warsaw
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Warsaw is one of my favorite cities in the world. The heavy historical facts and monuments around the city are a massive contrast to the peaceful life here as it is today. The architecture here goes from old, tending to fall prewar buildings, through renovated neoclassical palaces, to high, grey, Soviet-style residential buildings. Tourism has been skyrocketing in the last years, but it still keeps a vibe of a yet-to-be-discovered gem. I love all these contrasts and I enjoy seeing this city progressing and leaving its dark past behind.
What is there to see and do in Warsaw? Here are the 10 best things to do in Warsaw Poland:
Stroll on Nowy Swiat and Krakowskie Przedmieście
Nowy Swiat is the main street in Warsaw. It is the place for both locals and visitors to see and to be seen and my favorite street to stroll on every time I visit the city. The name Nowy Swiat means “The New World” and might be a bit confusing, as it is not so new. It was built already in the 17th century, but because it was outside of the old city, it was named “new”. Today Nowy Swiat is filled with new-classical townhouses, that host shops, cafes, and restaurants. The street has been damaged severely during World War II but was remarkably rebuilt after the war while keeping the same beautiful old style that you see today.
I usually start my walk from Al. Jerozolimskie up towards the old city. About halfway through, where the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument is standing, the name of the street changes to ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście. Here the buildings around you are more classical and with interesting references to history. Chopin played here at the age of 13 (building no. 62), Picasso stayed in a hotel here, and the presidential palace is also here (building no. 48). Don’t miss the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument (next to building 33)
In both streets, you will find brass plaques on the building with the interesting historical facts.
Tip: As you walk on Nowy Swiat, check out the crossing streets. They are as well interesting and might be a place to find boutique cafes with a different charm than on the main street. One street worth mentioning is Chmielna – a great place for shopping during the day and clubs during the night.
Walk the cobblestone streets of the Old Town
The Story of the old town of Warsaw covers much of the history of the entire country of Poland. The castle at Plac Zamkowy ( castle square) was made Royal when the city was declared Poland’s capital at the end of the 16th century. In the middle of the square stands 22-meter-high Sigismund’s Column, who was the first king to rule Poland from Warsaw. This is a beautiful place and the best point to start exploring the old city. The Royal Castle is open to the public, tickets need to be purchased.
Warsaw’s old town, as the rest of the city, was ruined completely in World War II. Like other parts, it was rebuilt based on photos and drawings. Realistically, it’s pretty new, but the renovation is so good that it looks like it is standing there for centuries. I always feel like a jump back in time when I walk in the cobblestone streets towards the main old town market square, which is lined with picturesque buildings all around. The cafes and restaurants are great for traditional-yet-touristic dinner or just a beer (which I prefer) while enjoying this magical colorful and beautiful square.
Visit Wilanow Palace
Wilanow Palace is one of the few buildings in Warsaw that was not ruined during World War II, so it is a rare symbol of the glory that this city once had. The “Polish Versailles” of King Jan III is an impressive palace, with unique architecture that combines Polish styles with western European features. Not only that the building is beautiful, and you can see it from both the outside and inside, there is also an art gallery with historical paintings inside.
Explore Łazienki Park
Łazienki park is like the big green lung of Warsaw – Just like Central Park of New York. Walking on the roads inside the park is relaxing and it’s the perfect place for a romantic break. Łazienki park might get busy on summer Sundays, but due to its size, it doesn’t feel overpacked. There are a few monuments and buildings that I like here, such as the Chopin monument, the Temple of the Sybil, Belvedere Palace, and the highlight – the Palace on the Water. What used to be the royal residence is now a peek to the past lives of Polish kings. I love the beautiful classicist design and the walk between the royal bath, ballroom, dining room, bed chambers, and more.
Watch the view from the Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science stands in the middle of Warsaw and is one of the famous landmarks of the city. Despite its classical look, it was built only in the 1950s. The building was granted as a gift from Stalin during the communist era, and it makes its heritage pretty controversial. Most of the building is offices and conference facilities, but it’s worth visiting for the viewing terrace. Up high on the 30th floor, you get to see a beautiful 360 degrees view of the city around you.
Honor the Warsaw Uprising Monument and Museum
The uprising of 1944 is one of the shaping events of the modern Polish history. The faces of the bronze sculptures express the fighters’ sadness and desperation from one side, and the braveness and ambitious from the other. For a deeper understanding of the life of the civilian population before and during the uprising check out the Uprising Museum. Surprisingly they are not close, but a 10 minutes taxi ride will get you there.
Visit POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The Jewish population had an inseparable part of the history of Warsaw and Poland. 1000 years of Jewish life in Poland were brought together into this museum, to be the first and only such museum in the world. Opened in 2005, the exhibition is modern and interactive. From the stories of how the first Jews were allowed to set base in Poland to real Jewish artifacts from the last centuries – this is a fascinating lesson of history.
Respect the Jewish Ghetto Memorials
A sad part of the history of Warsaw is related to the Jewish Ghetto and the tragedy of the Jewish population of this city (and the rest of Europe). There are few monuments and places that tell this story, and they are spread in the area that used to be the Jewish ghetto. A part of the Ghetto wall is still standing in the backyard of the residential building in Złota 62. In Mila 18, there is a monument for the ghetto uprising. The Umshlagplatz is where trains left the city to the extermination camp of Treblinka. The Nozyk Synagogue is the only synagogue that survived the war. The Jewish Cemetery is 200 years old and is interesting to walk in.
Tip: If you want to get detailed explanations of all these locations, it is better to take a tour, like the tours offered by Get Your Guide.
Chill out at the gardens of the University of Warsaw’s library
On the roof of the University of Warsaw’s library, there is a hidden secret. Opened in 2002, the garden is one of the largest roof gardens in Europe and is an impressive and surprising gem. You can walk between fishponds, ducks, and sculptures, and enjoy a break from the hectic city life. Thanks to its perfect location close to the Vistula river, the view of the city from here is beautiful and relaxing and it is one of the romantic things to do in Warsaw.
This is one of the surprising experiences I had in Warsaw and I highly recommend coming here in an early afternoon – to enjoy the views and the quiet.
Shop at Zlote Tarasy
Zote Tarasy is the main shopping mall in Warsaw and provides one of the best shopping experiences you can get. You will find brands from H&M to Hugo Boss, a cinema complex, and 40 different restaurants and bars. The first Hard Rock Café of Poland is here, and for me, it is always a fun experience. Built only in 2007, the unique glass-made, wave-shaped roof is already one of Warsaw’s landmarks.
Tip: There’s a currency exchange in the mall, which I preferred to use, rather than on the streets or in the hotels.
Plac Zbawiciela nickname is Hipster square, and this is where the young locals hang out. My favorite spot here is Charlotte restaurant. During the day you can get a quick breakfast or lunch, and in the evenings, it turns into a classic wine bar.
Zapiecek restaurants – this is a chain of traditional Polish food, with old school Polish design and staff wearing traditional polish clothes. If you want to eat Polish Pierogies, this is the place!
TARG Śniadaniowy – The Breakfast Market is a lovely local outdoor food market with few locations in the city. I was in the one in Mokotów and it was super fun – Food stands with local and international foods, families picnicking, kids playing around and stage with performances of local kids clubs.
If you are traveling with kids than the Copernicus Science Centre might interest you as well. It’s a fun and interactive experience.
Even though the sad and traumatic past, Warsaw of today is a fun city. The reason I love it so much might be related to the roots I have here (my grandparents were born in Warsaw), but It is probably more because of the amazing vibes of the city. After visiting it thoroughly three times, I still enjoy stopping here for layovers and walk around the city center and the old city.
For first time travelers, 4-5 days are enough for sightseeing and museums. Try to be here on the weekend, to enjoy the local nightlife as well.
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