35 Amazing Things to do in Warsaw (Poland) in 2021Warsaw is the lively capital of Poland and the country’s largest city. Situated on the Vistula River and spread over a wide area, Warsaw impresses with its history, nightlife, and high standard of its restaurants.
There are so many things to do in Warsaw. In this post, we are going to highlight the best attractions, museums, restaurants, nightlife, shopping hotspots, breathtaking views, and off the beaten path experiences that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Warsaw.
If you come to Warsaw during the weekend, do not miss our weekend guide with the best events in Warsaw. Make sure you check it out.
Need to rent a car? In Poland, Rentalcar.com is the best website to find the cheapest rental cars and their insurance has a good reputation for actually covering eventual damages.
Also, bridges and sidewalks are known to be uncomfortable and generally not a great place to sleep (no matter how clean the city is). On Booking.com you can find some good alternatives. But book early enough!
1) Discover Warsaw’s alternative side
Warsaw’s eastern district, Praga, is one of the most interesting districts in the city. While it is always fun to just get lost and discover true hidden gems, reserving a local tour can be the better choice if you do not have so much time at your disposal.
Jumping aboard these communist vans allows you to cover a lot of ground in little time (tours are 4 hours) and see some of Warsaw’s most interesting spots without much planning on your side.
Bear in mind that these are not hop-on-hop-off buses, but rather personal tours with a max of 8 people on board.
2) Learn how to make Pierogi (Traditional Polish Dumplings) from scratch!
No trip to Warsaw is complete unless you try the famous Polish dumplings.
Or, even better, learn how to make them yourself (vegan version available as well).
The name of this dish probably derives from the Polish verb “to drink”, making pierogi the ultimate choice for party food. The class ends with pierogi lunch or dinner, so we strongly advise you to show up hungry!
Only in December, the Pierogi class is combined with a traditional Polish dinner (3 courses + drinks included).
Must-Visit Museums in Warsaw
In Warsaw, there are more than 70 museums you can choose from. That’s a lot of sightseeing! Here we suggest to you what we think is a must-see, whether you into sightseeing or not! Some of these attractions are free all year round, others are free for the whole month of November and most museums are free at least one day per week.
Here is a list of what I think are the best museums in Warsaw, with an indication of when you can enter free of charge.
3) Royal Castle
The Royal Castle in Warsaw is an experience you will hold dear in your heart for a long time. First built in the 14th century, the castle went through some dreadful times. As you may already know, the Royal Castle – and the entire old town in Warsaw – was completely destroyed by Nazi Germany during WWII and rebuilt later on.
To be honest, I was a bit put off by the Royal Castle being a reproduction of the original.
But I couldn’t be more wrong.
The rebuilt Royal Castle symbolizes Warsaw’s tenaciousness and its will to exist.
Warsaw is today nicknamed “Phoenix” because it “was burned to the ground only to rise again from the ashes”. The Royal Castle is THE emblem of Warsaw, and you would be mistaken if you considered this castle unauthentic.
Today, the Royal Castle is an interesting museum which hosts:
- a permanent exhibition about the life of the castle,
- the castle route, which is composed of 32 incredibly reconstructed rooms. It also hosts a collection of paintings and furniture,
- and the Lanckoroński Collection, which hosts, among other great pieces, two Rembrandt paintings.
I wrote more about the Royal Castle here.
The entrance is 30PLN (about 6-7 EUR), FREE on Sundays and the whole month of November.
The Royal Castle is open all year round with a few exceptions.
Find out more: official website.
4) Warsaw Uprising Museum
The Warsaw Uprising museum covers a dark chapter of the 20th-century, of which I knew very little about. And if you are not Polish, you may not be familiar with it either. The museum recreates the atmosphere, history and struggles that Varsovians went through in the attempt to liberate Warsaw from the Nazi occupation in 1944.
The Warsaw Uprising is one of the darkest moments in recent history, yet it is often overlooked by western society. Warsaw was almost completely annihilated and hundreds of thousands of people died for their freedom.
90% of Warsaw was destroyed in WWII and the population dropped from 1.3 millions in 1939 to 162.000 in 1944*. Poland suffered the most casualties in terms of percentage of the population (17% of the population died) during WWII.
It is a hard task to create an exhibition about such tragedy. I believe that the curators of the museum did an outstanding job. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is one of its kind and will offer an experience hard to forget.
The entrance is 20 PLN (or about 4-5 EUR), FREE on Sunday.
*source: STATISTICAL YEARBOOK OF WARSAW 2016, http://warszawa.stat.gov.pl
5) POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The POLIN – also called “Museum of the History of Polish Jews” – lies on the grounds where the Jewish district used to be in pre-war Warsaw. It opened its doors in 2013, for the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
If you are not impressed by the exterior of this award-winning building, wait to see the interior! When you enter the museum, you will find yourself in a dramatically wavy passage extending in front of you.
These concrete waves refers to the Exodus (parting of the red sea by God when Moses was guiding the escape of the Israelites from Egypt).
Thanks to the amazing architecture, you will already be deep into the exhibition before you even pay for your ticket!
The actual exhibition will carry you through 1000 years of Jewish history in Poland. From the first arrival of Jewish merchants, through the “Paradisus Iudaeorum” (Paradise of the Jews in Latin) of the 16th century in Poland, until the mass massacres by Nazi Germany in WWII.
The entrance is 30PLN (or about 6-7EUR), FREE on THURSDAYS.
Find out more about this must-see attraction in Warsaw on the official website.
Eat like a local in Warsaw
If you believe Polish food is just boiled potatoes and cabbage, think again.
Polish cuisine is hearty, tasty and rich in meat. It developed eclectically over hundreds of years, being influenced by Russian, Ukrainian, German, Jewish as well as Italian, French and Turkish cuisine.
Besides, eating in Poland is quite cheap. From Bar Mleczny to Michelin Restaurants, you will eat without breaking the bank. No wonder some of the international fast food giants are struggling in Poland.
In this article, I suggest some of the best places to eat polish food. I don’t, however, describe in detail the most traditional Polish dishes, like Bigos, Pierogi or Zurek. If you want to have a delicious overview of what Polish food tastes like, you could go to this Warsaw Food Tour and sample the icons of Polish cuisine (the tour guides are absolute Warsaw experts as well!).
Do you want to know more about the restaurant scene in Warsaw? Check out our ranking of the best restaurants in Warsaw (the top of each national cuisine).
6) Eat at a Bar Mleczny
Bar Mleczny literally means Milk Bar. The first Bar Mleczny, which was opened in Warsaw in 1896, had a menu mainly based on dairy items. Today, you can eat a wide range of traditional Polish food for the cost of a Starbucks coffee. That’s right! For around 5 euros you can have a full meal composed of soup, first course and a drink (kompot).
Don’t expect the best service, though. You’ll have to line up to order and then line up again to collect your food.
Note: Sometimes the dish won’t be ready and you’ll have to wait at the table until an old lady will scream the name of your dish. A little price to pay for an authentic experience and some great homemade traditional food. I actually find the whole thing quite entertaining!
There are many Bar Mleczny in Warsaw. Make sure you visit one of these (link to google maps):
You can’t say you visited Poland until you eat in a Milk Bar!
Here you can read my full article about the Milk Bars in Warsaw.
7) Eat a Pączek in a Piekarnia
Polish bread is one of the best I have ever eaten and Polish piekarnia (bakery) is up to Italian “forno” or French “boulangerie” standards. You can find “piekarnias” at almost every corner of the street, there are literally hundreds of them.
If you happen to go to one, you should definitely try “pączek”, an amazing donut. It’s traditionally filled with wild rose jam but you can find it in many other varieties. The dough is deliciously sweet and it melts in your mouth. The most famous place to eat these is Zagoździński, in Wola (open since 1925), but you can find good pączki in every bakery.
Pączek is the signature of Polish sweets, you really have to try it!
8) Try the most traditional of Polish fast food, Zapiekanka
The best place to eat it in Warsaw is Zapiexy Luxusowe, in Widok 19 street (“Centrum” metro station, really close to the Palace of Culture). They get fresh bread from the bakery every day and the portions are huge. My favorite is the “Firmowa Zapiekanka” which is toasted bread with Polish sheep cheese, crispy bacon, and onion (11.5PLN or about 2.5 EUR).
9) Head to the “Vegan District”
A Vegan friend of mine once asked me: “Will I find vegan food in Warsaw? Or will I be forced to eat potatoes for a week?”.
That’s a popular misconception because Polish cuisine is renowned for being rich in meat.
However, unlike 10 years ago, vegetarian and vegan restaurants are really easy to find in Warsaw. More and more Varsovians are jumping on the Vegetarian/Vegan trend and countless restaurants are popping up everywhere. You can even learn to make Vegan pierogi from scratch!
In some areas, it is even difficult to find a good old traditional cake made with milk, eggs and flour (which contains gluten. Thus also plenty of options for celiacs)!
Warsaw is a vegan heaven!
You will find basically every kind of cuisine you can think of, but converted into vegan only: vegan sushi, vegan Indian and vegan pizzas are just a few examples! In just one square kilometer there are over 20 vegan/vegetarian restaurants rated more than 4.5 (on google).
I call this area “the vegan district” (Even though this is not its official name).
10) Taste the Polish countryside at Hala Mirowska
Originally built at the end of the 19th century, Hala Mirowska was the biggest market in the city until the WWII when it was destroyed. It was then rebuilt in the 50s and today it still serves its original function of an organic food market.
I must say that this is not a place for everybody. It is not a major tourist attraction nor a must-see landmark, it’s just a food market.
However, if you like markets as much as I do, you should definitely drop by. Here in Hala Mirowska you will experience the authentic vibe of a 1990 Warsaw food market, you will deal with non-English speaking farmers and… you will find the freshest fruit, veggies, and eggs, the most amazing bread, the best meat, and the sweetest honey. You will also taste Polish delicacies like kabanos (smoked dry sausages), oscypek (smoked cheese from the mountains) or śledź (traditional herring marinated in hundreds of different ways).
If you have a sweet tooth you can indulge in some creamy Wuzetka (Warsaw cake), give way to a tasty Szarlotka (Polish apple pie) or sink your teeth into a fluffy Pączek (my favorite pastry in the world).
NOTE: Be aware that even though the market officially closes at 7 pm, you should definitely come here in the morning: most of the merchants are actual farmers and in order to get here they have to get up crazy early in the morning. If you come in the afternoon many of them will have left and the market will be a bit empty and kinda “dead”.
There is an indoor and outdoor market. The sweets are inside but most of the food is in the outdoor market.
11) Indulge in international cuisine. Hala Koszyki
Hala Koszyki is a hip food court, very similar to the “Foodhallen” in Amsterdam or the “Mathallen” in Oslo.
I wouldn’t suggest you go if you are visiting Warsaw for just a few days. There are other great places to eat amazing hearty Polish food all over the city.
However, if you are tired of Polish cuisine, or you are just looking for something different, at Hala Koszyki you will find a variety of dining options under one roof.
Italian, Polish or Thai, vegan or meaty, Hala Koszyki has it all.
You will also find quite a wide variety of Polish and international beers.
12) Treat yourself. Book a Michelin Restaurant
In Warsaw, there are two restaurants awarded with a Michelin star. Amaro is “a new restaurant concept serving dishes using only the superb Polish seasonal products creating real culinary masterpieces every day” while Senses defines itself as “honest and emotional about the food… innovative and modern yet surprisingly familiar”.
The two Michelin Restaurants are both committed to organic Polish products and to providing experiences rather than just food. For a dinner at Amaro, you will pay around 80 euros (plus pairing), whereas at Sense you’ll pay between 170 and 250 euros (pairing included). A bit pricey for Polish standards but cheaper than other Michelin Restaurants in other European countries.
If you want to make sure you get a table at one of these restaurants you should book 3 to 6 months in advance.
Out for a drink in Warsaw
Here we list our favorite places to grab a drink.
If you want to drink with a big group of young travelers, you can also join this awesome Warsaw pub crawl. It will be a great opportunity to make friends during your trip 🙂
13) 25 spots to say “na zdrowie”, the Pawilony
“Pawilony” is a little area in Nowy Świat street with 25 tiny pubs! It’s a perfect place to start the evening, to meet a friend or to do the hell of a pub crawl. Every tiny pub is a little bit different from the next one. There is plenty of choice for all tastes.
“Pawilony” is a place where locals, expats, and a few lucky tourists come together. Yes, the tourists that come here are few, because the “Pawilony” hides… in plain sight! It is right in the center, in the pretty Nowy Świat street. To find it, however, you have to go through the gates 22, 24 or 26. There is no apparent reason to do so unless you know what’s hiding behind!
14) Let your head go for a spin, the Shot Bars
There are a lot of shot bars in Warsaw, enough to satisfy any taste. Even if you don’t like vodka!
Are you out of Zloty (PLN) but you are still in the mood for a shot? Dig some of the euros from the bottom of your backpack and go to “Pijalnia wódki i piwa”, which accepts euros (only banknotes actually). They make 13 different kinds of tiny vodka cocktails, served in shot glasses. They cost 1 € and are amazing! I’m not suggesting this, but trying all of them won’t break the bank and will definitely get you tipsy (ok, a bit more than tipsy!). There is one that, crazy enough, tastes exactly like the “Coca-Cola Chupa Chups”, don’t tell your kids (if you have any). They also make their own lemon vodka which is delicious.
If you love Tarantino movies, head to the “Pulp Fiction bar” (pl. Konstytucji 1 Śródmieście, Warsaw). This nice little shot bar has a great vibe, good prices, and bloody good shots! You will also find other liquors besides the vodkas. But maybe you want to have a taste of Poland from Commies times, then better go to “meta-seta-galareta”. They serve great tartar to accompany your vodka shots. Or maybe you want to stay in the Old Town? Then “Bar Warszawa” is your place.
And how can I forget “Ulubiona”. How does such a place still exist in the 21st century? Fascinating! It’s bare, tiny and cheap. You do one thing here: get a shot of vodka (or more) and leave. You will pay as little as 50 cents for the shot of the day, but don’t expect a fancy place!
The list could go on for a while, read more about the best shot bars in Warsaw here. Or join this awesome Warsaw pub crawl or this uber interesting vodka tour and make sure you get the full experience.
15) Learn how to make Polish liquor
During our class, you will learn how to make 3 different mouthwatering liqueurs – honey with spices, lemon, and caramel. Taste them at the end of the class and take home three 100 ml bottles (maximum onboard allowance).
16) Go to Warsaw’s “beer heaven”: the Piw Paw
The Piw Paw, with its characteristic walls covered by thousands of beer cups, it’s a true “beer heaven”. Here you will find a rich collection of tap beers (57 exactly) and over 200 bottles.
In the country of vodka, nobody thought that opening a pub with such a vast selection of beer could be a good idea. Eventually, though, craft beer became super popular also here in Poland. The “Piw Paw” is constantly visited by a relaxed crowd of beer lovers, every day of the week.
Make sure you go but don’t get intimidated by the number of beers! To choose a beer with such a large choice it’s always a challenge for me. If you have no idea about what you want, you can always start narrowing it down by choosing the country of origin and the kind of beer first. Or just ask the staff, they’ll be happy to help.
PawPaw Parkingowa was the first (Address: Zurawia 32/34 Warsaw) but there are two more locations in Warsaw. One is PiwPaw BeerHeaven which has 95 tap beers (Address: Foksal 16, Warsaw) and the other is PiwPaw Mazowiecka (address: Mazowiecka 9, Warsaw), which is right in the heart of party-Warsaw.
Breathtaking Views in Warsaw
One of my favorite ways to experience cities is from up high. Warsaw skyline is quite characteristic, with its contrasting Palace of Culture rising amidst sleek and modern skyscrapers.
Pictures from these viewpoints can be the best souvenir you’ll ever bring home. Make sure you visit at least one of these spots at sunset.
17) Visit The Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science was a “gift” from Stalin to the people of Poland. It took about 9000 workers and three years to build this majestic building. Varsovians have mixed feelings about this building – as it is sometimes considered a symbol of Soviet domination – but Warsaw Skyline wouldn’t be the same without it.
Today, you can access the Palace’s terrace on the 30th floor and enjoy a mesmerizing 360° view of Warsaw ( 20 PLN, 22 PLN at night during summer months).
Most tourists stop with the view, but in the Palace of Culture you can also enjoy a cinema, four theaters (Studio, Dramatyczny, Lalka and 6. piętro), two museums (Museum of Evolution and Museum of Technology), offices, bookshops, a large swimming pool and a coffee house.
More info about the Palace of Culture and Science.
18) Have a drink at The Marriott Sky Panorama Bar
With its 170 meters, the Warsaw Marriott Hotel is one of the tallest buildings in Warsaw (and one of the best hotels).
This skyscraper certainly contributes to making Warsaw’s skyline so unique. But, if you want to enjoy the best view in Warsaw you won’t see the Marriott hotel because… well, because you will be IN the Marriott hotel. The view from here is my personal favorite because it includes the Palace of Culture. Since you are here you can also enjoy great cocktails as well as nice dinners. But be aware that the prices are high for Polish standards.
Find more info about the Marriott Hotel or download the menu of its panoramic bar.
19) Enjoy the view from the Tower of St. Anna church
The tower of St. Anna, sometimes called “The Old Town Observation Terrace”, is the best spot to enjoy a nice view over the old town. To find it, go to the Castle Square and look for a tower with written “Taras widokowy” on top.
The entrance fee is just 5 PLN (1€), totally worthy.
Check out the view in this google photosphere.
20) A different view from the Szczęśliwicka Hill
Rising to 152 meters, the artificial Szczęśliwicka Hill was created as a dump for rubble from the destruction of Warsaw during WWII. Today the rubble is covered by soil and grass and it’s one of the best parks in the city. The main attraction of the hill is its slope, where you can practice skiing and snowboarding all year around (also in the absence of snow) and… enjoy one of the best views of Warsaw.
Find out more about the Szczęśliwicka Hill and its price.
21) Warsaw Uprising Mound
Similarly to Szczęśliwicka, this is another artificial hill made of the debris of destroyed Warsaw. It’s a great view of the city (even though a little bit far away) but also an important site that commemorates the Warsaw uprising. After climbing 400 steps you’ll get to a monument of the “Kotwica” (anchor in English), the symbol of the fight against Nazi Germany.
Every 1st of August, the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, a fire is lit and it burns for 63 days, which is the exact lenght of the Uprising.
You can find this hill in the Mokotow District (Bartycka Street).
Shopping in Warsaw
22) Things to do in Warsaw Poland: Shop like a Varsovian
The days in which bright neon signs advertised empty shops are long gone.
Shopping in Warsaw is exciting and varied, both authentic and cosmopolitan. Whether you prefer strolling inside luxurious shopping malls, or exploring flea markets in search of the rarest vintage find, Warsaw has it all. Local designers’ stores, often packed with the cutest Warsaw inspired designs, are the best places if you are looking for souvenirs. Flea markets are as scrappy as they can be, but they hide rare and unexpected Slavic treasures.
If you are looking for some quirky gifts, whether for yourself or for a friend, you should avoid getting the classical souvenirs (for example magnets or vodka shot glasses, there are plenty of these in the Old Town). You can buy those souvenirs in other European cities. In Warsaw, you can do better than that! Varsovians love their city so much that a thriving community of designers is constantly crafting new amazing objects related to Warsaw.
I’ve listed some of the best places to shop below. Some of them might be a bit hard to find, but you will be pleasantly rewarded.
So, if you want something truly unique, something that won’t be abandoned in some hidden corner of your house but rather displayed proudly in your living room, go to one of these Warsaw-inspired designer stores:
- Reset (address: Puławska 48) – mainly interior and nice home objects.
- Pan tu nie stał (address: Koszykowa 34/50) – mainly unique Polish inspired clothing and accessories.
Drastically different from the previous two, but nonetheless equally special:
- Cepelia, (Marszałkowska 99/101, or Chmielna 8) – traditional handmade Polish folklore objects.
If you consider yourself a treasure hunter, or if you like to collect little vintage objects from every city you visit, you shouldn’t miss these flea markets in Warsaw:
- BAZAR NA KOLE, unique old pottery, and furniture. It’s guaranteed to find some little gem here.
- OLIMPIA, besides food and regional products you can also find vintage furniture, antiques, books, and clothing, among other stuff. Let the treasure hunt begin!
Another great idea for a souvenir: books about Warsaw. I’ve got loads!
Local books about Warsaw are perfect if you want to remember all the amazing experiences from your trip.
Head to one of these quaint little bookshops and discover what local artists, writers, and photographers have to say about their beloved Warsaw. All of the bookshops below have a good collection of books in English as well.
These are some of the prettiest and unusual bookshops in Warsaw:
- As You Like It. Designers books and photography books, among others. (Address: Emilii Plater 4)
- Super Saloon, similar to As you like but more modern looking. (Address: Chmielna 10)
- Art bookstore at the Centre for Contemporary Art “Ujazdowski Castle”. This bookshop is packed with books in English and Polish and also some cute souvenirs (like the crunchable map of Warsaw). (Address: Jazdów 2)
- Antykwariat Grochowski, very nice second-hand bookstore, where time seems to have stopped a while ago. Besides loads of second-hand Polish books, they also have a nice collection of English books, travel books and pieces of vinyl. (address: Ludwika Kickiego 12)
Warsaw Off the Beaten Path
23) Explore the Praga District
Sure, most of the museums, attractions and the Old Town are on the left side of the Vistula river. Yet, you should not neglect the right side. The river bank on this side is rough, wild and authentic. Adjectives that could as well describe the up-and-coming Praga District.
Praga was for decades an off-limit area, for both Varsovians and tourists. The crime rate, unemployment and living conditions of this neighborhood were the worst in the city.
Today, the Praga district is undergoing a revival. It is safe, cool and dynamic.
There is plenty to discover. Here you will find amazing street art from both International and Polish artists, 40 years old “mural-ads” from communist times, wrecks of buildings riddled by bullets in WWII, underground bars, alternative museums (Neon Museum and Czar PRL – Life under Communism Museum) and great tours (adventure Warsaw).
If you seek off the beaten track sights and activities Praga will be your favorite district in Warsaw.
24) Visit the Neon Museum
A unique little gem in Warsaw’s Praga district, the Neon Museum is a private initiative of photographer Ilona Karwińska. This museum is the biggest collection of neons in Europe and the only one in Poland.
When entering the Neon Museum, you will be presented with an illuminating timeline of Warsaw’s post-war past. What role did neons play in Warsaw? How did it influence the way Varsovians perceived their city? And how could such an eccentric and colorful medium be used in dull communist Poland? You will find the answers to all of these questions at the museum.
The visit will be brief – it won’t take more than 30 minutes – but stimulating. If you want to learn more about Polish post-war history, or if you love typography, neons or design, visiting this museum is an absolute must.
You will find the Neon Museum in the fascinating Praga district, on the right bank of the Vistula. While you are here, you should also go to the “Life Under Communism Museum”, which is literally 200 meters away.
25) Take an alternative tour of Warsaw
If you are 25-35 old you probably value experiences a lot more than boring tours.
These super cool cult Żuk fire trucks will bring you off the beaten path, where you will learn stories of life under communism and discover Warsaw’s most dynamic corners.
26) Admire Industrial architecture at the Gas Work Museum
Off the beaten path, a few minutes away from the pretty Old Town, lies the Gas Work Museum.
In the late 19th century, the first time in the history of the city, this was an avant-garde complex providing gas and lighting to Warsaw’s streets. Today, it’s a very interesting (and FREE) Gas Work Museum, with a great collection of original machinery, street lamps, and gas cookers from over a century ago, all in mint condition.
When you step inside the museum, you will notice the pungent smell of grease – probably used to keep the metal from oxidizing. You might be the only person in the whole building, which totally makes it a great experience.
The museum is not the only thing to see here.
The whole complex is fascinating and worth visiting. The 19th-century industrial architecture, the red bricks, and the original gas street lamps, effectively manage to bring you back to a time when lighting in the street was a sign of technological progress.
You should also go have a look at the cool old “colosseums” (the one in the picture above), or to be more accurate, the old gas storage tanks. These colossal cylindrical buildings – contrary to the rest of the facility – aren’t restored and have an incredibly romantic look, with their broken windows and deteriorated bricks.
They are not part of the museum and it’s not allowed to go inside but you can snap nice pictures from here (link to google map location).
Some people manage to get inside but it’s private property so you could get in trouble. I really hope the owners will make good use of those amazing buildings, and that, one day, they will become monuments.
*tip: if you want to see original gas street lamps in Warsaw go to Agrykola street, next to Lazienki Park (the best time to admire them is at dusk).
A few hundred meters from the gas work museum lies another great spot in Warsaw: the Tibetan Gallery in Wola (number 26, next on this list), keep reading!
27) Discover the Tibetan Gallery in Wola
The Tibetan Gallery is an “open-air street art gallery” showing Tibetan culture, Tibetan history, and the atrocities happening today in Tibet. This gallery is the first of its kind in the world.
The idea of creating the Gallery came after the Council of Warsaw awarded Dalai Lama with honorary citizenship.
28) See the narrowest house in the World: the Keret house
The Keret House is the narrowest house in the world, with 152 cm at its widest point and 92 at its narrowest point. This world record house was initially conceived as an example of “impossible architecture”, which could fit in the “non-productive” cracks of Warsaw’s chaotic urban landscape.
The house might not be the best place for a claustrophobic person, but it’s actually a perfect place to live in and it’s regularly rented to young creative individuals (mostly writers).
For this reason, the house is usually open to the public only once or twice a year, welcoming just about 100 people who booked their visit well in advance: The house will be open to the public in the spring of 2017. Check the official Keret House Website to find out the exact dates.
The Keret House can be difficult to find, as it’s way narrower than you might think!
When you do find it, don’t just snap a picture and leave, as most people do. What you see from the street is just the back of the house.
If you want to see the front of the house, you should enter the bakery (in Polish: “piekarnia”) which lies right next to the house.
Here you will meet Jacob, the young owner of the bakery. Just ask about the Keret house and he will be happy to guide you to the back of his bakery, into the inner yard of the building, where you will be able to see the front of the Keret House.
The bakery, besides serving excellent breakfast and coffee, is also a good place to go if you want to learn some extra facts and figures about the Keret House, as it will host (from April/May 2017 onwards) a little exposition about the house.
note: it is actually possible to access the front of the house from the street but you will have to go a long way around, it’s easier through the bakery!
29) Go back in time at the FOTOPLASTIKON
If I told you that you could travel back in time for the price of a bus ride (1$), would you do it?
Stepping into the Fotoplastikon in Warsaw is a truly “time-warping” experience. As you walk into the tiny room that accommodates the machine – before you even put your eyes on the viewfinder – you are quickly transported back in time. Old songs play quietly in the background, the gentle smell of old wood permeates your nostrils, and the sight of this old machine, once the latest miracle of the entertaining business, takes you away from modern society.
The Fotoplastikon is a stereoscopic machine with a collection of more than seven thousand 3D pictures. These pictures were captured by hundreds of photographers and journalists, who were sent around the world to depict all those faraway places that the common people could not afford to see.
It’s also worth saying that this is the oldest working machine in its original location. There are other machines similar to this one in the world, but they are usually in museums!
Things to do in Warsaw by season
30) Things to do in Warsaw in Winter: the Christmas Light Festival
Warsaw’s temperatures in December and January are rigid, but the spirits are warm. In the coldest months of the year, Warsaw Old Town dresses up with its prettiest clothes and transforms itself into a glowing wonderland full of light creations, ice skating rinks, and Christmas markets.
This amazing light festival displays 1300 artistic installations and covers over 20 km. It is the biggest light festival in Poland and one of the biggest in Europe. Every year the light sculptures are bigger and more creative than the previous year. Think that in 2016 the number of lights doubled compared to 2015 (all the lights are LED, which makes this huge festival eco-friendly). It doesn’t look like this trend is going to slow down.
In 2013, French newspaper “Le Figaro” considered Warsaw to be “among the ten most beautifully decorated cities in the world”. If they had come in 2016, Warsaw would have definitely made the top of their list! So come in winter if you want to see Warsaw at its prettiest! Find out more winter activities here.
31) What to do in Warsaw in Spring: Chopin Concert at Łazienki Park
Łazienki Park is a great place to visit all year around. But it’s probably at its best in spring.
In spring, Łazienki park is an explosion of life and colors. Vibrant multicolored flowers, the infinite shades of green treetops, the tweet of birds, the company of red furred squirrels and the reflection of the buildings in the lake are the perfect muse for any artist.
Bring your own food and a blanket. Sit on the grass and enjoy a Chopin concert on Sundays (between 12.00 and 16.00). Get there early to secure a good spot! The Chopin concerts start on the 15th of May and last until the 25th of September.
The access to the park and to the concert is free.
32) What to do in Warsaw in Summer: The Vistula River. “Everybody wants to be a Varsovian in Summer”.
As soon as the temperature rises, the Vistula shores get out of their winter lethargy and explode with life.
Parties, bars, walking routes, bike paths, sandy beaches, wildlife and water sports.
The Vistula river has so much to offer!
All you need to know is that there are two sides of the river, one wild and untamed on the right side (Praga side) where you can find the sandy beaches, and the tamed and cemented on the left side (Centrum side), which is also super cool with great parties and floating bars.
If you are looking for a good place for a walk or a bike ride (more about biking in Warsaw below), look no farther than the bike path along the Vistula, which you can access from the “Most Poniatowskiego” (Poniatowskiego Bridge), at the “Rondo Waszyngtona” (Waszyngtona Roundabout).
If you want to BBQ or just chill around a bonfire, get your spot in the wide sandy beaches next to Poniatowski bridge on Praga side. A crazy night out is not hard to find either. I suggest you go to Pomost 511 or Cud nad Wisłą (two cool bars just next to each other on the left side of the river). There are new amazing spots popping up every year, I can’t wait to see what the Vistula riverside will offer this summer.
If you are interested in wildlife, you’ll be surprised to know that the Vistula shore hosts more than 40 different species of animals. Some year ago a moose was spotted swimming in the river (youtube video)!
Also along the Vistula, you should definitely check out the Multimedia Fountain Park.
This is a great show which uses water, light, and sound to provide an incredible experience which attracts thousands of people.
You can see the performance on Fridays & Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. from May to August and at 9 p.m. in September.
More info about the Multimedia Fountain Park here.
33) What to do in Warsaw in Autumn: Warsaw Film Festival and FREE access to Museums
In October you can go to the Warsaw Film Festival, a major film festival. The organizers strive to “show a film before it wins an Oscar” and they are proud of “not chasing filmmakers who are already famous”. In 2009, the Warsaw Film Festival joined the elite group of events recognized by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations – next to Cannes, Venice, and Berlin.
Besides the WFF, autumn is a good time to visit Warsaw because the royal residences are free!
In November all the former royal residences have free admission and special programs in place. This means that major landmarks like the Royal Castle, the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów, and all the buildings in the Royal Łazienki Museum are free to visit!
34) Visit Łazienki – Royal Residence Park and Museum Complex
Łazienki Park, the largest public park in Warsaw, is an important venue for music and culture and a must-see for architecture and nature lovers.
Once inside Łazienki Park, you will easily forget you are in the center of one of Europe’s biggest cities. This massive park, covering about 76 hectares (which is about 120 foot- ball fields), is also home to a variety of buildings worth visiting (Palace on the Isle and Myślewicki Palace are particularly interesting museums). Plan three to four hours to visit. In summer and spring, I would recommend a longer stay, with a lunch break for the Chopin concert (Arrive well in time to reserve a good spot or rent a free cushion).
The access to the park is free all year around but each building has its own price. Entrance to ALL buildings is FREE on Thursday (But better to go in the morning if you can, as after- noons get busy).
Check the official website of Łazienki Park.
If you want to read more about this park, I describe it in detail in my full article about Łazienki Park!
35) Rent a “Veturilo” Public Bike
You should definitely rent a Veturilo bike (the public bike in Warsaw).
Did you know?
Veturilo means “vehicle” in Esperanto*. The name was chosen among thousands of other suggestions from internet users.
It’s very cheap (it’s actually FREE for the first 20 minutes but you have to pay for registration: 10PLN one-time fee), easy, and you can find them everywhere!
Here is the official map. This map is great because you can see the availability of the bikes before you get there. I also created my own map with google’s “my maps”, so that you can use it in Google maps and get directions to the nearest station (you can’t do that with the official maps). You can also download the app (app name: “nextbike”), which allows you to get the bike at the click of a button!
A great bike path is the “Sunny Route”. It runs along the right bank of the Vistula River. It’s quite unique because you will be immersed in wild nature even if in the middle of the city. Over 8 km forest and beaches to enjoy on your Veturilo bike! You can access the bike path from the “Most Poniatowskiego” (Poniatowskiego Bridge), at the Rondo Waszyngtona (Waszyngtona Roundabout).
Another route, perhaps a bit more demanding, is the “Vistula route” This route runs for 34 km from Młociny to Powsin. It runs across the Młociński Forest, along the Vistula and Ujazdowskie Avenue, passing through the Łazienki Park and Wilanów.
On the last Friday of every month, Warsaw Critical Mass meets up for a 30 km ride in the capital’s streets. The start point is the Royal Castle Square.
Uprising Mass. A yearly bicycle ride organized in tribute to the soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising. This route runs along locations associated with the Uprising. The ride takes place in August.
Do you want to join an organized bike tour? Check this one out.
If you want to be more independent instead, I’m sure that you will make great use of this Warsaw bike map.
*Esperanto is a language invented by Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof
36) Go Kayaking on the Vistula river
Jump in a kayak and tame one of Europe’s coolest rivers! You can get a kayak in one of three available destinations and then bring it back in any of the three.
The locations on google maps:
- Pomost 511 (left bank of the Vistula)
- Plaża Poniatówka (right bank of the Vistula)
- Plaża Rusałka przy przystani AQUATICA (right bank of the Vistula)
The cost is 20 PLN for the first hour and 10 additional PLN every 30 minutes.
If you want, you could combine the kayaking experience with the Veturilo bikes. This is called the “Kayak and Bike loop”:
- Get the kayak on one bank of the river.
- Leave it on the other bank.
- Then get a Veturilo bike (free for the first 20 minutes) and cross the river on Świętokrzyski bridge (nice and safe bike path on both sides of the bridge).
JUMP TO ANOTHER SECTION:
- 3 Must-visit Museums
- Eat like a local
- Out for a drink (maybe not just one)
- Breathtaking views
- Shopping Secrets
- Seasonal Musts
- Off the beaten path
- Outdoor activities
- Buy our independent Warsaw guide
Some history about Warsaw and common themes
To say that Warsaw had a tough time in the past 200 years is a euphemism. Did you know that Warsaw was almost completely annihilated? Or that 800.000 Varsovians died during the WWII?
During WWII, Poland has suffered a higher number of deaths as a percentage of the population than any other country in the world. You must go to the Warsaw Uprising Museum if you want to learn more about WWII in Warsaw.
The Warsaw Old Town
After WWII Varsovians flooded the ruins of their city with one goal: to rebuild what the Nazis destroyed. The task seemed ridiculous and impossible – over 85% of the city was completely destroyed. For five years, the citizens were restoring the Old town using paintings from the 18th century. Because of this incredible reconstruction, Warsaw is now called “A Phoenix that rose from its ashes” and its Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before WWII Warsaw was a truly multicultural city and more than 30% of Varsovians were Jews.
The obvious place to visit if you want to know more about Jewish Warsaw is the POLIN museum. You can also join this tour if you want to see some remnants of the Jewish district (The former Jewish Ghetto was largely flattened during WWII). The memorial Umschlag-plats, the Jewish Cemetery in Okopowa and the Synagogue in Twarda 6 are also worth visiting if you are interested in Jewish Warsaw.
Communism In Warsaw
Between 1952 and 1989, Poland was called the Polish People’s Republic. Under the influence of the USSR, Poles were watched, censored, and the socialist system influenced every sphere of their life. For people that have lived in democracies all their lives, it is hard to imagine how it must be to live under such a controlled regime, but if you want to learn a bit more about Poland under communism you can visit the Palace of Culture and Science, the Neon Museum, and the Museum of Life under Communism. Or join the Warsaw Alternative Tour, which gives a very broad overview of life in those years and covers the most relevant spots.
In Warsaw, you can find top-notch culture, entertainment, and great food standards while paying about half of what you’d spend in any western European country.
Warsaw is also very vegan-friendly! In the last decade, Warsaw transformed itself into the third best city in the world for vegan and vegetarian cuisine (according to the number of Vegan Restaurants per capita and other factors)! Think that in Śródmieście alone (the central district of Warsaw) you can count more than forty top-rated vegan and vegetarian restaurants in less than a square mile. And you can find everything from vegan pizza to vegan sushi.
Warsaw is, contrary to common belief, a very green city. 30% of its area is covered by fields, parks, gardens, and forests. The Lazienki Park and the Saski Garden are also historical icons, while the University Library has one of the largest roof gardens in Europe (more than 10,000 m2). Noteworthy are also the Kampinoski National Park, located right on the edge of Warsaw’s boundaries, and the green banks of the Vistula, which are home to more than 40 different species of animals.
Best time to visit Warsaw
The best time to visit Warsaw depends on what you value most.
From May to August the weather is the best, with temperatures around 20-25 degrees celsius.
During the warmest months, there can be storms, but most days are dry.
The months from November to February are really cold, but the city is fascinating thanks to its record-breaking Christmas decorations all over the city. The old town is the prettiest in these months, thanks to the massive Light Festival and the heart-warming Christmas markets!
Although Warsaw gets really cold in winter, it is not humid and the cold can be handled easily with proper clothing (thick shoes, good gloves, and hat are a must).
Cheapest time to visit Warsaw
Warsaw is quite cheap to visit all year round, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the difference in costs.
The cheapest time to visit is late autumn (November) and winter, with the exclusion of the Christmas period. November is particularly good if you are on a budget, as all the Royal Residences are free to visit for the entire month.
What to wear in Warsaw in Autumn/Winter
The temperature in Warsaw in winter is around 0 degrees Celsius but can be as low as -20 Celsius). There will likely be snow from late November until March. You don’t need to wear snow pants but good leather shoes (or waterproof) are a must. Forget about sneakers in Winter. Early Autumn can welcome you with pleasant temperatures, but you should prepare for the worst.
What you’ll need:
- Warm jacket
- Good leather (or waterproof) shoes
- A good hat
- Gloves (those made for touch screens are advisable so that you don’t have to ever remove your glove outside)
- Thermal tights (also the locals are proud owners of these)
- Multiple layers of clothes to handle the indoor-outdoor temperature shock
What to pack for summer/spring in Warsaw:
Early spring and late summer can be chilly (early April and late August).
What you’ll need:
- A jacket (just in case)
- Jumpers (pack some extra layers for the occasional chilly night)
- At least one pair of long pants
- Comfy airy shoes (sandals/flats) and sneakers
- Shorts, t-shirts etc
- Picnic blanket or sheet (or borrow one from your hotel). One of the best things to do in Warsaw in summer is to go to Lazienki Park for an outdoor concert or to a picnic on one of the Vistula beaches.