I was intrigued by the charm of Warsaw when I was there the first time, spending only one night in this Polish capital only made me more curious of the place. So I promised myself to give it a second visit, which I did the next year. From legendary stories to its magnificent buildings, Warsaw has it all.
For me coming to Warsaw was much more than seeing pretty houses and taking pictures of its stunning cobblestone streets. It would be a shame being in Warsaw without understanding a little of its history – and trust me, the city has seen a lot of things in the past, some are really horrifying. Visiting Warsaw was like an entire education in itself for me and it was only right that I paid attention to its past as a way to respect the people who suffered and lost their lives in this city many years ago.
DREAM: Is this the right destination for you?
Warsaw is your dream destination if you:
- love gigantic buildings with interesting history
- have a fascination towards the history of communism as well as World War II
- don’t mind being spoilt by tasty vodka and delicious Polish dumplings (pierogi)
- love picturesque old towns
- want to find out more about some of the world’s most famous geniuses (Marie-Curie, Chopin, Copernicus)
EXPLORE: Interesting places to see
As much beauty as the old town of Warsaw contains, the old town was actually completely destroyed during World War II. Then after that the city suffered through the reign of communism, which nowadays you can still see traces of its huge buildings with its grim and grey characteristics. Rebuilding the city took a whole lot of effort but now Warsaw has one of the most enchanting old towns in Europe (which is also listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage) and the city itself is a thriving and exciting one to explore.
Here are some of my favourite places to explore in Warsaw:
Palac Kultury i Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science)
As one of the city’s highest building, I’m pretty sure you will not miss this Palace of Culture and Science. My local guide informed me that the locals sometimes call it “a present from Stalin” as it was built during his time and has the common characteristics of a communist building: gigantic and grim-looking. Now it is a place to hold cultural and scientific events and you can go inside to see what’s like to be in this tall building. You can even take the elevator to the top floor where you will be able to see Warsaw from above which I have to admit was pretty awesome.
Zamek Królewski (Royal Castle)
This castle is located in the famous plac Zamkowy (Castle Square) and was one of the buildings which suffered a lot of damage from WWII with only a few remaining of paintings and other valuable things. After some intensive restorations, this palace has been turned into a museum where now we are able to see how the royals used to live in Poland. This is a great place to visit if you love to see amazing paintings and rooms with sparking chandeliers.
TIP: If you don’t feel like going inside and doing a tour, you can still visit the Castle’s courtyard for free. Often there would be exhibitions here which you can check out.
Frédéric Chopin Museum
Lovers of Chopin and his works must visit this museum. Not only that, check out the “Chopin bench” located all over the cities. The benches are installed with music of Chopin which you can play and enjoy while you sit down. There are some in the old town as well as one at the Palace of Culture and Science. Happy Chopin hunting!
Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar)
Bar mleczny or “milky bar” is a basic Polish cafeteria. They became popular during the communist era as they were cheap. Nowadays you can still find milky bars all over Poland and it’s always a joy eating traditional Polish cuisines, such as pierogi and nalesniki, with the locals. Inside the bar, the menu is usually written in a huge board and you go to a counter where someone will take your order. Once your order is done, they will call out for you to collect. This is the perfect time to practice your Polish or take a Polish-speaking friend with you or just give it a go with a smile!
TIP: If you’re unsure of trying the milk bars, there is a chain restaurant selling traditional Polish food which I love to visit called Zapiecek. Really good food there!
Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier)
This place is dedicated to the unknown soldiers who died in Poland during the war. I think it is interesting to come to this place to give tribute to those who lost their lives. You can find this monument at Piłsudski Square and you will see that there is a fire burning, which is actually an eternal flame.
Other places that you may want to see in Warsaw (that I didn’t get to see): Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw Rising Museum, Wilanów Palace
WANDER: Where to get lost
Warsaw is a huge city so obviously walking from one part of town to the other might be a little tiring. Luckily they have trams, buses and metros that can take you to almost everywhere you want. However, walking is still my choice of wandering, so when I was there I simply picked an area, take a tram/bus/tram there and take my time getting lost in that particular area. Here are my suggestions of where to wander:
Stare Miasto (Old Town Square)
You definitely need to walk in Warsaw’s old town because it is GORGEOUS. Think colourful houses with the most beautiful windows and cobblestone streets with old walls surrounding the area. It is an enchanted place to be and I walked for ages in this area, stopping at a cafe and restaurant to fill my hungry tummy and continue wandering. Look out for the legendary Mermaid of Warsaw and also the Bell in Kanonia Square, legend has it if you circle it three times, it will bring good luck! Also don’t miss out the remaining of the old town’s wall or Barbakan Warszawski (Warsaw Barbican).
Wandering at this park will take some time since the park is huge, there is even a palace inside. Take your time to enjoy the nature and even do a little people watching. I absolutely love this park!
Beaches in Warsaw
OK it sounded a little ridiculous for me, having a “beach” in the middle of the city. I didn’t actually go and play in the beach but went passed it (it was rather cold so there weren’t so many people) and thought it was actually pretty genius to have a beach in the middle of this busy city. I saw the one by the Poniatowski Bridge and as I was browsing around the web, it turns out there are many of these beaches around Warsaw! Do check this out if you want to know more about it.
Street Art Walk
Over the years Warsaw has gotten more popular with its street art scene. Do keep your eyes open for street art around the city. I only saw some when I was there as I didn’t have much time which was a shame since there seem to be a lot springing up here and there in the city now.
Have you been to Warsaw? Did you fall in love with the city like I did?