Warsaw Districts – Where to stay in Warsaw?
This is an in-depth article about the districts of Warsaw. If you want to visit Warsaw, I suggest you get a hostel or a hotel in the Old Town Or Warsaw city center. Those are definitely the best places to stay in Warsaw while visiting (Ow, and if you are visiting you should also check these tours!). If instead, you want to find out more about renting an apartment in Warsaw, keep reading to learn more about the districts in Warsaw.
When I first arrived, I had no idea about the 18 Warsaw Districts. The only district I knew was the “Old Town”, which is not even a district by itself (it’s part of Śródmieście).
How could I possibly take a conscious decision about where to get a place to stay?
Warsaw turned out to be a way bigger city than I expected.
With 18 districts in Warsaw to choose from, dozens of websites with incomplete information, and different opinions from friends, I had what decision-making psychologists call an “Analysis paralysis”. I was overwhelmed by information, over-analyzing every single detail and I was never able to take a decision.
It took me hours of research (what you are reading now is the “enhanced document” of what was originally my research) to finally make up my mind.
What’s the best Warsaw district for you? That is a question only you can answer
In this article, I combine my knowledge, Anna’s knowledge, a study by the Warsaw’s Statistical Office and bits and pieces from around the Internet to help you answer that question. My aim is to provide you with a single consistent resource that will empower you to take the best decision ever, avoid analysis paralysis, information overload or whatever decision-making problem you might face.
I tried to organize the guide to the Warsaw districts in a logical order. You can follow along or just jump to the section that interests you the most.
This guide to Warsaw districts is organized as follows:
- Which are the most important things to consider when picking a Warsaw district?
- Which are the best districts in Warsaw? And the worst?
- Each Warsaw district in a sentence
- Western Central Warsaw: Wola, Ochota and Żoliborz
- South Warsaw: Mokotów, Ursynów and Wilanów
- North Warsaw: Białołęka, Targówek & Bielany
- West Warsaw: Bemowo, Ursus & Włochy
- East Warsaw: Rembertów, Wawer & Wesoła
- Warsaw Districts: Conclusion
What are the most important things to consider when picking a district in Warsaw?
As you already understood from the introduction of this article, I value a lot taking the right decision when it comes to choosing the perfect district in Warsaw. After all, you’ve got to live in it. If you don’t like your district, you are not going to like your home.
According to a research by real estate agents Metrohouse&Partnerzy, the most valued characteristics of a neighborhood are: good communication, developed retail and services, closeness of green areas, education infrastructure (for families with kids) and health infrastructure (for elderly persons).
Which are the best districts in Warsaw? And the worst? The results of a study.
These are the results from a study (RANKING OF WARSAW DISTRICTS ACCORDING TO
THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF LIVING CONDITIONS) published by the Statistical Office in Warsaw.
NOT MY OPINION.
I made a summary of the findings:
In order to rank the districts in Warsaw the following variables were considered for each group:
- Seniors: number of beneficiaries of social assistance per 1 thousand people, number libraries per 1000 people, the share of parks in the total area, access to healthcare and medicines.
- Singles: number of beneficiaries of social assistance per 1 thousand people, the share of green areas in the total area, quality of communication network, the number of cinemas museums and theaters per 1000 people.
- Families: number of beneficiaries of social assistance per 1 thousand people, the share of green areas in the total area, nursery schools per 1 thousand children (aged 3 to 6), the number of pupils per 1 personal computer (with the Internet) in primary schools, the number of people per one shop.
Overview of Warsaw’s districts
Known as the heart of Warsaw, Śródmieście is the most central district in Warsaw, comprising both the old and the new town. Śródmieście is the financial, commercial and cultural center of the city. This neighborhood boasts the tallest buildings, the most important museums, galleries, restaurants, theaters, and cinemas. It’s also the oldest (if you don’t consider the fact that the city was rebuilt after WWII) and arguably the prettiest (since the Old Town is here) part of Warsaw.
It’s also the most connected of all Warsaw’s districts. Here you can find the central railway station, the and the Świętokrzyska metro station (where the two metro lines intersect).
Śródmieście is also blessed with the best access to health care infrastructure and a well-developed education infrastructure with a very high number of primary schools.
Renting a flat in this part of Warsaw will be generally more expensive than in other areas of the city.
Here’s an overview of the highlights in Śródmieście.
Śródmieście main buildings and monuments:
- Presidential Palace, the official seat of the President of the Republic of Poland.
- Parliament building
- Royal Castle (Old Town) was the official residence of the Polish monarchs, today it is a museum which hosts among many others, two Rembrandts (Girl in a Picture Frame and A Scholar at his Writing Table).
- Palace of Culture and Science, 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.
- Sigismund’s Column – one of Warsaw’s most famous landmarks, was originally erected at the end of the 16th century.
- artificial palm tree, “a symbol of tolerance, openness, and light-heartedness”
Main museums in Śródmieście:
- Museum of the History of Polish Jews
- National Museum
- Royal Castle
- Copernicus Science Centre
- Ujazdowski Park is Warsaw’s most picturesque park
- Łazienki Royal Park is a stunning park both in terms of greenery and architecture. Free Chopin concerts from May to September.
Main streets and squares in Śródmieście:
- Krakowskie Przedmieście: historical buildings and 19th-century feeling.
- Nowy Świat – an 18th-century style with a lot of tiny coffee shops, restaurants, and shops.
- Aleje Ujazdowskie – a contemporary avenue with historical villas, parks, embassies and government institutions.
- Marszałkowska – modern wide thoroughfare with monumental buildings from the 1950s onwards.
- Plac Trzech Krzyży – a good starting point to go hunting for unconventional little shops of all kinds.
- Plac Konstytucji/MDM – created in modernist style (Monuments to the working class), similar to 1930s Moscow.
- Plac Zbawiciela – or what is now referred to as the “hipster square” is an important hotspot for nightlife, trendy coffee shops and shops.
- Plac Bankowy – it’s Warsaw’s main public transport hub, it also hosts the city hall.
- Piłsudski Square – Poland’s largest (but not the prettiest) square.
Best Hotels in Śródmieście:
In a previous post, I wrote a super awesome (modesty apart) review of the best hotels in Warsaw, in which I list the best hostels and hotels in Warsaw (they are all in the Śródmieście District).
These were my picks:
Warsaw Praga District
Praga is located on the right side of the Vistula, at the same height of Śródmieście. Praga is separated into two parts, Praga Północ and Praga Południe, which are very different from each other.
Praga Północ (Praga North in English) still has a very bad reputation among many Varsovians because in past this was a very dangerous and poor area of the city (its nickname was Bermuda Triangle). Nowadays, especially on its southern side, this district is becoming a cultural and trendy hotspot in Warsaw, with art galleries, artists’ ateliers, cool restaurants, and pubs. It is also important to note that this side of the Praga was not destroyed by the nazis and thus preserved its charming pre-war character.
However charming and vibrant, this is still the district with the highest unemployment rate, the poorest population, and the worst conditions to bring up a family.
Praga Południe (Praga South in English) is mainly a residential area. In recent years, this district is investing a lot into building new houses and a better communication network. It is divided in Gocław and Gocławek, which are districts crowded with 1960s buildings, and Saska Kępa, which is a pretty prestigious area, and Olszynka Grochowska, which is mainly a green area (forest).
- Praga’s zoo is not just a zoo: I suggest you read about Żabiński, the Warsaw Zoo’s director, and how he saved thousands of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.
- Francuska, a street crowded with nice independent cafes and restaurants.
- Ząbkowska Street is a student, tourist and hipster-friendly place. Many cheap restaurants and cool bars. This is a hub for artists and musicians.
- Artists boutiques and artisans shops in Praga Północ
- Praski Park which you can find next to the zoo. In the warm months, there are three bears living here (secured in a concrete island). The rest of the park is quite standard.
- Skaryszewski Park is one of the most beautiful in Warsaw. You can picnic or come with a bike (contrary to Łazienki Park)
Some Hostels in Praga:
Western Central Warsaw Districts: Wola, Ochota and Żoliborz
Wola, is the first district in Warsaw west of Śródmieście. It used to be an industrial district and today is an important center centre, where many multinational corporations have decided to base their offices.
This is a very attractive district to live in. It is right next to the center and the transportation network is excellent. If you have kids, consider this district as you will likely have primary and lower secondary schools close to home (most of which are not overcrowded).
Also, there are more gyms in Wola than in any other district! So.. no excuses allowed, if you establish yourself in this district you’ve got to go to the gym (wink). If you are a shopaholic, I’m happy to tell you that there are also more shops here than in any other Varsovian district.
Wola is a highly urbanized district. If you don’t like skyscrapers or you don’t like to live in big apartment complex there might be better districts for you.
Best of Wola:
- the Warsaw Uprising Museum, regarded as one of the best in the country, is a tribute to the Varsovians who fought for freedom during WWII.
If you want to move here with your family, Ochota is the ideal residential district for you: quite, fashionable, close to the center, well connected and with many recreational areas.
For all the above reasons this is one of Warsaw’s most popular, and therefore crowded, districts. This popularity is reflected on the price of houses and on rents.
One of the smallest of all districts in Warsaw, Żoliborz boasts the highest percentage of parks, lawns and green areas. Yet, it is very close to the center. This is an interesting place to go live in, if you are looking for tranquillity, but you won’t find a lot in terms of bars and nightlife. This is also the district with the highest percentage of elderly persons.
South Warsaw districts: Mokotów, Ursynów and Wilanów
Mokotow is the district immediately south of Śródmieście. The southern part of Mokotow, which is close to both the center and the airport, is one of the preferred districts for multinational corporations.
Because of its location, its good communication network and the high standard of housing, Mokotów is the most populous district in Warsaw.
If you don’t consider the southern part, Mokotow is also very green. Here you can find numerous parks (with a total area of 145 hectares), a nature reserve (Czerniakowskie Lake, which is the biggest lake in Warsaw) and the longest network of bike paths in Warsaw.
If you have kids this could be a good district for you because here you can find the highest number of primary, lower secondary and secondary schools. Even with its 200.000 inhabitants, Mokotow has enough educational infrastructures to offer a great learning experience, especially in primary schools.
Best of Mokotow:
Królikarnia, is a section of the National Museum, hosting the highest number of sculptures in Poland. The access to the museum and to the sculpture park is free of charge.
Lake Czerniakowskie. It’s a “natural swimming pool”, a lake (and natural reserve) where it’s safe to swim.
Ursynów was once called bedroom district because of its purely residential nature. Most of the houses were constructed in the seventies using prefabricated cement blocks, popular in those years because of the ease of construction.
The district is changing though. More and more supermarkets, shops and high schools have been opened in recent years. Moreover, this district hosts the highest number of:
- Football fields
- Fitness centers
- And swimming pools.
It is overall becoming an appealing district to live in.
Wilanow has large wild underdeveloped areas. This allows activities in the nature such as bicycle riding, golf, and kayaking along the Vistula.
Recently there have been investments in residential development but the transportation network is not well developed yet.
Wilanow is famous for its baroque palace: the Wilanów Palace. Sometimes called the Polish Versailles, this palace (and museum) is one of the main attractions in Warsaw. Every winter, from December to March, the Palace’s garden hosts a suggestive light festival.
The Poster Museum is definitely a must in you’re interested in cool vintage posters.
North Warsaw: Białołęka, Targówek & Bielany
Bielany is one of the greenest Warsaw districts. It’s situated the furthest north, on the left bank of the Vistula. This district neighbors with the Kampinos National Park (green lungs of Warsaw’), which is located further north-west. This district benefits, more than any other district, from the fresh oxygenated air from the Kampinos Reserve, which is a good thing if you think about the alarming smog levels of the last years.
Bielany is also one of the most populated districts in Warsaw, with over 100.000 people living here but offers poor access to health care infrastructures and pharmacies. Moreover, there is a low number of primary and lower secondary institutions (but many research and higher education institutions).
Natural parks and forests:
- The Bielany Forest is a Nature Reserve, a remnant of the ancient medieval Forest Mazowsze. Here you could see wild boars, deer, foxes, hares, moose, martens, squirrels, black woodpeckers and around 40 different species of nesting birds.
- The Młociny Park and forest, a dense forest which acts as a buffer zone to the Kampinos National Park.
Targówek is located on the east side of Praga Północ, on the right bank of the Vistula. Targówek is divided into a residential part (Bródno, Targówek Mieszkaniowy and Zacisze) and industrial part (Targówek Fabryczny).
Targówek is much closer to the Śródmieście than many other districts and well connected by an efficient network of roads.
If you enjoy running and strolling in Parks, this could be a good district as about 30% of Targówek is covered by parks, including Lasek Bródnowski, Park Bródnowski and Park Wiecha. Moreover, Targówek is putting a lot of effort into building new sport clubs and recreational facilities. However, be aware that Targówek educational institutions are among the most crowded, compared to other districts. If having a good primary school close to home is important for you, better to opt for another district.
Also, you shouldn’t move here if you value the vicinity to pharmacy and health institutions. Targowek ranks 15th among the 18 districts for accessibility to health care infrastructure.
- Bródnowski Cemetery, Established 1883, it is one of Europe’s oldest cemeteries.
Pronounced something like Biah-OO-oh-OO-en-kah, Białołęka is the furthermost northern district in Warsaw. This district has gained the surname of “Warsaw dormitory” because of the insane pace at which it invested in housing construction.
On the one hand, Białołęka is characterized as a modern, calm and green district but also young and dynamic. On the other hand, the infrastructures are not sufficient to serve the growing population in an efficient manner: the primary schools are the crowdest here compared to other districts.The health care institutions and pharmacies are the lowest (both at about 0.3 institutions per 1000 people).
If you don’t have kids and you are not planning to have some, this could be an attractive place for you. Young freelancers, young professionals, and companies seem to like this district because of the low cost of rent.
West Warsaw Districts: Bemowo, Ursus & Włochy.
Bemowo is the district right west of Wola. It is characterized by extended green areas with a conglomeration of residential tower blocks around Powstańców Śląskich street. Bemowo communication efficiency, together with a growing housing sector, is attracting young people to the district. Similarly to other suburban areas of the city, Bemowo suffers in terms of health and education infrastructures.
You should have a look at the unique street art gallery at Fort Bema.
Ursus is the smallest of all the districts in Warsaw. Formerly a purely industrial district (it takes its name from the brand of tractors once manufactured here) is now turning into a residential one.
Ursus is a very highly populated district and, similarly to other districts in the outskirts of Warsaw, is struggling to provide proper health and education infrastructures. It’s recently attracting young professionals thanks to convenient communication routes to the center.
There are three parks in Ursus: Czechowicki, Hassów and Aher. Also, in Ursus, you will find one of the two FACTORY (designer outlet) in the city.
Włochy, which literally means “Italy” in Polish , is a sparsely populated district in the south-west of Warsaw. Here is where the Chopin Airport lies. It’s well connected to the city, but it’s quite far away. Because of this, Włochy is the district with the most cars per 1000 people. Włochy also has insufficient health and education infrastructures.
East Warsaw Districts: Rembertów, Wawer & Wesoła
Rembertów is a district in the eastern side of Warsaw, right next to Praga Południe. It’s the least populated district in Warsaw and one of the greenest, with 30% of its territory covered by forests. One of these green areas is “Kawęczyn”, a natural reserve established by the Minister of the Environment in order to protect its unique vegetation.
Rembertow is characterized by low and sparse houses, which makes it perfect if you don’t like to live in an apartment (and you don’t have to commute every day). Thanks to the large spaces available, there are also a lot of sport and leisure facilities. Moreover, Rembertów has pretty good educational infrastructures and good access to pharmacies. There are not that many health institutions though, consider this if you need it on a regular basis.
Wawer is the biggest district in Warsaw, taking over 15% of the whole Warsaw area. Forests cover more than one-third of its surface and residential buildings are few, usually independent and low. Because of this, Wawer is very sparsely populated.
This is another of those districts that are perfect for all of you who prefer to live surrounded by nature rather than living in the burst of the city center. But be aware that transportation to the city is not the best here.
The educational infrastructure is quite good and schools are not overcrowded.
You might not know:
In Wawer (1939) was committed one of the first large-scale massacres of Polish civilians by Nazi Germany. Members of the Armia Krajowa started writing “Pomścimy Wawer” (“We’ll avenge Wawer”) on Warsaw walls. With time, this became the Kotwica or “Anchor” in English. This is the symbol that later on gained more meanings like Polska Walcząca (“Fighting Poland”), Wojsko Polskie (“Polish Army“) and Powstanie Warszawskie (“Warsaw Uprising”).
Wesoła was the last of the districts annexed to Warsaw. Forests cover more than half of its surface and residential buildings are usually low independent units. Similarly to Wawer, this is a good option for nature lovers.
Wesola has a good educational infrastructure and lots of sport and recreational facilities. Communication with the center is not the best though.
You might not know:
Wesola was annexed to Warsaw in 2002. Because of this it has many streets which have the same name as streets in Warsaw. Because of this, addresses in Wesoła are followed by a ‘Wesoła’ annotation.
Warsaw Districts: Conclusion
Don’t forget that it’s also important to understand what you DON’T like. For example, maybe you don’t like skyscrapers or to live in an apartment (avoid Śródmieście or Wola), or in old buildings (avoid Praga Połnoc) or maybe you don’t like to deal with tourists (avoid the Old Town).
You got the idea!
I hope this guide was useful to you. Do you have other tips to share? Do you know something that would improve this article? Please let me know in the comment section!
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