8 places to visit in Warsaw, Poland.
Warsaw is quickly establishing itself as the cultural capital of Eastern Europe. A city rich with contrasts, Poland's capital balances remembering and paying tribute to its history whilst looking forward into its future.
As an international student who moved to Warsaw to study for four months, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My motivations were based on the reputation of my chosen university and a desire to experience my grandfather's country. Much to my surprise I have fallen in love with Poland’s capital and will definitely be returning in the future.
Even with four months living in the city, I never ran out of things to see and do, and after being so immersed for so long, I feel very qualified to offer up recommendations for places you must visit if you ever find yourself in Warsaw.
This list isn't exhaustive of what Warsaw has to offer and I can assure you that the range of museums and things to do will surprise and satisfy everyone's tastes. For those who have never considered visiting Warsaw before I cannot recommend the city enough.
The Old Town
A trip to Warsaw is incomplete without paying a visit to the Old Town. The majority of buildings have been reconstructed since WWII. However the Old Town definitely takes you back in time and will provide you with plenty of ways to experience and enjoy traditional Polish culture whilst you are there.
After visiting the Royal Castle and walking along the Barbican, the Old Town is the perfect place to try traditional Polish cuisine such as Zurek and Pierogi. The places I recommend for authentic Polish food in Old Town are the Zapiecek restaurants, which specialise in traditional Polish dishes and can be found in various locations in the Old Town.
The Palace of Culture and Science
Constructed by the communists in 1955, the Palace of Culture and Science remains the tallest building in Poland and is hard to miss when walking around central Warsaw as it dominates the city's skyline. Originally known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture, it was given to the people of Warsaw as a gift from the Soviet Union and its design was influenced by all of Poland’s architectural styles.
Today the palace contains a museum, theatres, a cinema and government offices. There is also a viewing platform on the top floor of the 231 metre structure for tourists, which costs 20/15zł and is open most of the day. This really is the best way to view the city as from there you will see most of Warsaw, including the river, old town and even the Praga district.
My personal favourite spot in the city is the royal Łazenki park which includes an 18th century summer palace on a lake, an art gallery, museum, botanical gardens and also the famous Chopin Monument. Where every Sunday during the summer you can attend a free Chopin concert twice daily.
Aside from the museums and landmarks, the park is the most relaxing and beautiful park in the city to walk around, especially during the summer. There is also a packed calendar of events at Łazenki throughout the year, including concerts on the lake, film screenings and free yoga classes.
One of Warsaw’s most beautiful buildings that wasn’t destroyed during WWII is Wilanów Palace. Located in the south of Warsaw, this Baroque Palace serves as a reminder of Polish culture before its misfortunes in the 18th century. Owned most notably by King Jan III Sobieksi, this impressive yellow palace is an intriguing preservation of Polish opulence and as you explore the extravagant rooms and gardens you may find yourself imagining living in such a place.
The palace also hosts events and concerts in summer and if you happen to be visiting the city in winter, a must see is Wilanów Palace’s Garden of Light. Where the gardens are illuminated by thousands of lights in the evenings.
Warsaw University library roof garden
If you fancy an alternative place to relax in Warsaw, then the Warsaw University Library Roof Garden is a must. With views of the river and Warsaw's skyline this is the perfect place for a picnic with friends or to relax with a book.
Keep in mind that this spot is only open during the spring and summer months, so do check the opening dates if you are planning a visit. However being multiple University campuses in Warsaw you will also find some other cool spots to visit in this area, including the popular Mr Pancake and Cafe Kafka, which was one of my personal favourite places to meet with friends in Warsaw.
Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Jewish Cemetery
For those with an interest in history, one of the most fascinating museums in Warsaw is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Muranów. This is where the Jewish Ghetto existed in Warsaw during WWII and where you can still see remains of the ghetto wall marked out on some of the pavements.
You can easily spend hours taking in the main exhibition and after visiting the museum it is only a five minute walk to the Jewish Cemetery, which is one of the largest in Europe and contains over 250,000 marked graves and those of the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Spending half a day in this part of Warsaw learning about the history of a community that mostly doesn't exist in the city anymore is a moving experience for many and allows you to connect with the history of Warsaw during your stay.
The Vistula is Poland's largest and longest river and flows through the middle of Warsaw. On the west side you will find bars, cafes and one of the best cycle paths in Warsaw. In contrast, the east side of the river is mostly wild and there are even beaches in central Warsaw which are great to relax on during the summer months.
Plac Konstytucji and Marszałkowska
One of the best areas for eating out and shopping in Warsaw is around Plac Konstytucji and along the rest of Marszałkowska street. Here you will find some of Warsaw's trendiest coffee shops and cafes such as Etno Cafe and Ministerstwo Kawy. There is even a Friends themed cafe called How You Doin? which I really recommend visiting if you're a fan of the show.
The distinctive social realist architecture along this street also makes it an interesting place to visit and there are also some neon signs from the Soviet era still present along Marszałkowska to look out for as well.