The Warsaw Old Town (Polish: Stare Miasto) is the oldest part of the city. It is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Warsaw and a UNESCO site. The Old Town Market Place is the heart of this part of the city, with several restaurants, cafés, and shops.
The Royal Castle, the official residence of the Polish monarchs for centuries, is today a museum that hosts among many others, two Rembrandts (Girl in a Picture Frame and A Scholar at his Writing Table).
The venue is a center for music, the arts, and culture. It hosts several buildings like the Palace on the Isle, a classical amphitheater, and stage on the isle, the White House, the Myślewicki Palace, The Old Orangery, the New Orangery, the Temple of Diana, the Egyptian temple, the Water tower, The Hermitage, The Old Guardhouse, and several more buildings worth visiting.
Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science is a typical example of Stalinist architecture. A present from Stalin to Poland, it is today a symbol of Warsaw. Loved and hated by the Varsovians.
Fryderyk Chopin Museum
The Museum, located in the Ostrogski Palace, covers the history and works of Chopin and includes original manuscripts and documents written by the composer, photographs and sculptures of him, as well as his letters. It also hosts piano recitals and competitions of Chopin’s works.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
The Warsaw Rising Museum – first opened in 2004 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising – recreates the atmosphere, history and struggles that Varsovians went through in the attempt to liberate their city from Nazi oppressors.
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The museum features a multimedia exhibition about the Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the World War II Holocaust. The Hebrew word Polin means either “Poland” or “rest here” and relates to a legend about the arrival of the first Jews to Poland.
The National Museum, founded in 1862, is currently one of the oldest art museums in the country. Its modernist building was erected in 1927–1938. Today, the National Museum in Warsaw boasts a collection of 830,000 works of art from Poland and abroad, from ancient to modern times.
Read more about Warsaw's main themes
WWII in Warsaw
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 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.
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 like you and I, 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.
The Warsaw Alternative tour brings you on a time warping experience, from the communist times to WWII and finally back to modern times. The tour ends with a lunch in a local eatery, where you can sample some delicious Polish dishes.
Warsaw Alternative Tour:
Pick up from the hotel
Driving around on a communist fire van (visit Jewish sites, Communist sites, as well as a bit of the Praga district)
Spend the afternoon in Łazienki Park, probably the most visited park in Warsaw. Start off with the Palace on the Isle, an elegant neoclassical palace surrounded by lovely canals, and then check out the Old Orangery, which hosts the Royal Theatre, one of the few surviving authentic eighteenth-century court theatres in Europe.
Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the park, spotting squirrels and peacocks (and if you are lucky, a deer), and relax at the tea house on the premises of the park.
Opening times: The Museum buildings are open six days a week. We invite you to the gardens every day from the morning until the evening (8 p.m.). For more info click here.
Suggested entrance: western gate from Ujazdowskie Avenue
Cost saving tip: the entrance to the park is free, but the entrance to the buildings costs between 10 and 25 PLN. You can get a pass for 40 PLN which includes all the buildings or go on Thursday, when the entrance is free of charge. More info about pricing.
Go for a walk in the Old town. To not be missed is the Old Town Market Square, where you can admire the colourful painted facades and take a very “instagrammable” picture of the Warsaw Mermaid.
Continue with Plac Zamkowy (Royal Castle Square), characterized by the popular Sigmund Column. It’s interesting to know that the column is not the original one. The original column lies on the right hand side of the Royal Castle. If you look carefully, you’ll notice some bullet holes. Right adjacent to Plac Zamkowy, lies the Barbakan (bastion), the atmospheric fortification surrounding the Old Town. It is worth a stroll all year around, but in winter particularly so as it hosts a nice Christmas market.
If you still have time, you can continue your stroll on the Krakowskie Przedmieście Street and Nowy Świat.
A local snack and vodka!
Head up to “Meta Seta Galareta”, a small shot bar and eatery that retained a its original communist vibe. It is a cult place for many Varsovians (me included). Order a vodka shot and a tartar (or a marinated herring).
Second Day in Warsaw (Royal Castle, Palace of Culture, Bar Mleczny)
Let’s start the day from the main attraction: the Royal Castle.
Don’t skip the multimedia exposition “The Royal Castle – from Destruction to Reconstruction”. This is an important part of the visit and it will give you a very good overview of the castle’s history.
Take some time to explore the “Lanckoroński Collection”, where you can find two remarkable Rembrandt paintings. Then, circle around the “Royal Castle Route”, where you can admire the perfect reconstruction of the castle’s interiors.
If you started the visit of the Royal Castle at 10AM, you probably still have time for a quick visit of the St. Anna tower.
Climb up the 147 steps leading to the roof terrace and enjoy the stunning view of the Castle Square, the Old Town and the Krakowskie Przedmieście street. From up here, you can also see the Palace of Culture.
Head to “Bambino”, one of the best Milk Bars in Warsaw. Milk bars are some of the cheapest and most authentic eateries in Poland and you can try several traditional Polish dishes for next to nothing.
The menu can be a bit confusing, so I would suggest you ask for “Pierogi z mięsem” (Polish dumplings with meat), “bigos” (cabbage and meat stew) and “Kotlet Schabowy” (fried pork cutlet), and Kompot (traditional beverage made from cooked fruits).
Note: Be aware that this is not the classical restaurant experience: there are no waiters, no English speakers and to order your meal you have to stand at the cash desk at the entrance.
Bar Mleczny “Bambino”:
Price: the menu suggested on top will be between 20 and 30 PLN (5/7 euros)
Opening times: 8AM–8PM, Saturday and Sunday 9AM–6PM
Tip: Hidden from sight, afew hundred meters from the Palace of Culture, lays a hidden gem that not every tourist visits, the Fotoplastikon. The Fotoplastikon is the oldest *stereoscopic machine still running in its original location in the world.
*Stereoscopic machines are basically the precursor of cinema and show still photographs in 3D.
Price: 6 PLN
Opening times: from Wednesday to Sunday 10AM - 6PM
POLIN Museum is a “narrative museum” which presents a 1000-year history of Polish Jews. By promoting openness, tolerance, and truth, POLIN Museum contributes to the mutual understanding and respect amongst Poles and Jews.
Tip: the POLIN building itself is worth visiting because of its award-winning Postmodern Architecture.
Budget tip: the entrance to the POLIN museum is free of charge on Thursdays.
Go towards Muzeum Narodowe. Here you’ll see a palm tree, an art installation by Joanna Rajkowska. Walk past the palm tree and on the right side of the street you should see a restaurant called Zapiecek, where you can try many different kinds of pierogi (typical Polish dumplings).
Price: 23 PLN for 9 pierogi
Opening times: from 11AM to 11PM
Address: Aleje Jerozolimskie 28, Warsaw
After dinner, head left and turn around the corner. Stroll down Nowy Świat until you see (on your right hand side) the gate 25. Walk through it. You are now at Pawilony, one of the liveliest spots in Warsaw and, without a doubt, the best place to relax with a beer (or get started for a party!
Check out the section about “nightlife in Warsaw” for more info).
Price: 8/10 PLN for a beer
Opening times: from 11AM to 11PM
Address: Nowy Świat 22/28, Warsaw
Third-Day in Warsaw (Praga)
It’s time to cross the mighty Vistula river and head to the infamous Praga district. Start with the Neon Museum which hosts the biggest collection of neons in Europe.
A couple of hundreds of meters from the Neon Museum is the “Life Under Communism” Museum, worth visiting if you want to get a feeling of Polish everyday life during communism.
Price: 12 PLN
Opening times: Monday to Friday from 12 to 5PM
Saturday12 to 6PM
Sunday11AM to 5PM
Address: Soho Factory, Mińska 25, Warsaw
Life under communism museum:
Price: 5 PLN
Opening times: Monday to Friday from 10AM to 4PM
Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 5PM
Address: Głucha 3A, Warsaw
Continue with a quick visit of the Museum of Warsaw Praga where you can learn about the history of Warsaw’s right bank district and get acquainted with the unique atmosphere of Praga’s local markets and courtyards.
Museum of Warsaw Praga:
Pyzy Flaki Gorące is a true hidden spot in Warsaw: small, unpretentious and cheap.
If you are into fatty dishes, try “Pyzy”, a delicacy typical of the right hand side of the Vistula river.
Pyzy Flaki Gorące:
Now that you know more about Praga, you can venture to Bazar Różyckiego, the oldest existing market in the city.
This market played a big social role during World War II, providing people with ammunition and medical equipment. Nowadays, this market hosts around 300 sellers. You can find a lot of weird stuff here, but honestly it’s worth visiting especially for its ”rough vibe”.
Head to The Warsaw Vodka Factory ‘Koneser’, a red brick building home to some of the best Polish vodkas: ‘Wyborowa’ and ‘Żubrówka’. Other famous alcoholic products you should try are the lemon and grapefruit flavored vodkas (‘Cytrynowka’ and ‘Grejpfrutowka’) as well as the ‘Klubowy’ brandy.
If you have more time, visit the Skaryszewski Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Warsaw (you should get a Veturilo bike to enjoy it fully).
Opening times: 7AM–5PM (closed on Sundays)
Address: Targowa 54
Museum of Polish Vodka:
Price: 40,00 PLN
Opening times: 11AM - 8PM
Address: Plac Konesera 2
In summer: If you are visiting Warsaw in Summer, you should definitely take a break from sightseeing and chill out on the Poniatówka Beach.
Dinner and beers
Stop for dinner at W Oparach Absurdu, a nice little pub with a bohemian interior and a welcoming atmosphere. The pierogi here are probably the best in Warsaw. If you want to be 100% Polish, order a vodka with your Pierogi.
If you want to stick around in the evening In 11 Listopada 22 there is a small graffiti painted corner of Warsaw with interesting nightlife and music. There are three pubs here: the Skład Butelek (squatty place, similar vibe to W Oparach Absurdu but rougher), Chmury (nice atmosphere and concerts) and Hydrozagadka (retro nights on the weekend).
On OddUrbanThings, we provide up-to-date info about the coolest events and the best stuff to do in Warsaw.