Poland is a country that has quite literally risen from the ashes of one of the darkest (if not the darkest) chapters of human history. Even before WW2 and its well-documented struggles there, the country has always had a rough time of it, but thankfully all of that looks to be in the past. While many tourists flock to the more popular second city of Krakow, Warsaw should not be overlooked, and there’s more to see and do in here than walk in the footprints of darkness.
From a stunningly beautiful UNESCO heritage centre to some of the finest wining and dining in Eastern Europe, Warsaw is truly a phoenix from the flames – and rightly so. Like many cities that have suffered under a tyrannical boot, it has blossomed into something more than the sum of its parts. Polish globetrotters Agness and Cez from eTramping are here to explain what you shouldn’t miss on a weekend break to their nation’s capital.
The Old Town
As with most European cities, when getting to know the lay of the land, the old town is usually a good place to start. Warsaw’s is particularly unique, considering it was razed to the ground during that infamous conflict and has been painstakingly rebuilt in the period since.
So much so that original plans were used down to the exact same bricks for construction. It’s a stunning accomplishment and there’s little wonder that the area is Warsaw’s most popular tourist draw. Make sure you spend plenty of time here to soak it all in.
The Royal Castle
Conveniently enough, the Royal Castle is located a rather pleasant one mile away, at the end of Krakowskie Przedmieście and should be one of your first ports of call. Dating back to the 14th Century, the castle (like much of the city) has been extensively rebuilt throughout the 1970s after it was burned and looted by those nasty Nazis.
Internally, the castle is beautifully and decadently decorated, and regular tours are available throughout the week. It’s certainly a stunning focal point of the old town and is well worth a visit. Outside, King Sigismund’s Column is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
Museum of Warsaw
You might as well stay in the old town for a while as this excellent museum is a stone’s throw from the old market square. The Museum of Warsaw was re-opened in 2017 and now contains 21 themed rooms, each a window on different aspects of the city. It’s the perfect introduction to learn about Warsaw’s past and present, with exhibitions, tours and a cinema dedicated to preserving the cities culture.
Vodka is to Poland what whiskey is to Scotland, and you’ll have a first-hand experience of it if you ever happen to be invited to join Polish wedding traditions. Since you’re here, you might as well learn about the history of the national drink by paying a visit to the Vodka Museum.
It has hundreds of interesting and educational exhibits all to do with the beloved spirit, and of course, includes a tasting session at the end of your tour. Poles are keen to point out that vodka should be enjoyed as a delicacy rather than simply to put you on your back. eTramping also encourages responsible drinking!
The Palace of Culture and Science
You’ll be hard-pressed to miss this high-rise building which dominates the skyline in central Warsaw. It was built in 1955 and houses a plethora of institutions, clubs, educational faculties, companies and entertainment venues. It also happens to be the tallest building in Poland.
Interestingly, the Palace of Culture and Science was originally gifted in Joseph Stalin’s name but was revoked in the wake of his death. There’s always something going on in and around the building and visitors can enjoy a wonderful panorama of the city on the 30th floor.
Warsaw Rising Museum
Of all the turbulent events that have taken place over the course of Warsaw’s tempestuous history, perhaps the darkest and most keenly felt was the 1944 uprising. Polish resistance and the home guard co-ordinated an embattled and bitter attempt to liberate the city from Nazi occupation. Needless to say, it resulted in thousands of deaths. The Warsaw Rising Museum is an emotional yet fascinating tribute to a people who never said die and eventually won their freedom.
Łazienki Park and Palace
For those tired of the museum circuit or just wanting to spend time outdoors, head over to Łazienki Park – the largest green space in the city. The extensive gardens and water features are beautiful at any time of year and both residents and visitors alike enjoy their charms in all seasons.
There are botanical and Chinese gardens, as well as an amphitheatre and arts centre that offers concerts in warmer weather. You’ll most likely be treated to works by one of Poland’s most famous sons – Frédéric Chopin. His monument resides in the upper section of the park and is a highlight of any visit here.
Our country’s food often gets a bad rep – but trust us – it’s absolutely delicious! While you’re sampling the vodka, why not enjoy some Polish food traditions? Taking a cooking class to learn more about our cuisine is a great way to immerse yourself in our culture while getting all the benefits of a great feed at the same time. It’s a win-win!
Soon to Return…
This is more than enough to keep anyone occupied over the course of a weekend when visiting Warsaw, and there’s so much more to see and do that you’ll just have to come back. But with Polish hospitality being what it is, we’re sure it won’t be long before you’re crossing our borders once again – and you’d be more than welcome.
Have you visited Warsaw? Let us know your experiences!
Ready to take the trip?
Here’s your toolkit full of links so you don’t have to go searching!
- Get more info on your destination through guidebooks.
- Find the right hotel for you on Booking.com through the incredible amount of filters available.
- Discover the perfect experience through GetYourGuide. From transit tickets to food tours, it’s all right here.
- Need a flight? Gotcha covered with Skyscanner (USA people, THIS link is for you).
- Don’t forget travel insurance! We use World Nomads and you can easily get a quote for your trip.
Now, go and have an AMAZING time! Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@awanderlustforlife) so we can see your memorable moments.
About the authors:
Meet Agness and Cez – adventurous travel duo of eTramping – a source of knowledge for everyone who looks for intensive and unique travel experiences across the world. Hailing originally from Poland, they have been exploring the world together since 2011 and it doesn’t seem like they are planning to stop anytime soon! They love to visit unique travel destinations such as Tibet, North Korea or Antarctica, building up relationships with locals and travel brands as well as motivate others to stay healthy on the road. Join Etramping on Instagram & Facebook to get travel and adventure inspired.