Warsaw City Guide
Poland’s capital Warsaw is situated on the banks of the River Vistula in Mazowieckie province. The city was completely destroyed at the end of the Second World War, but in recent years it has emerged as a favorite vacation destination.
Warsaw has successfully shrugged off its dismal Eastern bloc image and is now one of the leading lights of the ‘New Europe’. The city has much to offer to the tourists with its several historic attractions and vibrant entertainment options, such as clubs, bars, cafes and gardens that are a constant hub of activity especially during the summer months.
Where to stay in Warsaw
Warsaw is divided into two sections by the River Vistula (Wisla). The right bank of the river was populated first. However, the left bank of the river presently hosts Warsaw’s main tourist sites and the city’s main Central district called Sródmiesci (inner city). In fact, Warsaw is divided into 18 districts with the Sródmiesci and six other districts forming what is called the ‘Centrum’. This inner city section of Warsaw is the heart of the city hosting a wide array of hotels, restaurants and nightlife haunts, thus making it an extremely popular as an accommodation option.
Plac Trzech Krzyzy Hotels
This area is the embassy district of Warsaw, which is home to some of the city’s most upscale hotels, stores, restaurants and nightclubs.
Praga Poludine Hotels
The Praga district is located on the eastern bank of River Vistula, opposite the Old Town on the western bank. It is the erstwhile industrial district of Warsaw. Today, the Praga area has become increasingly trendy and hosts several mid-range and discount hotels that are popular with the visitors to Warsaw.
Places to see in Warsaw
Old Town (Stare Miasto)
The Old Town of Warsaw was completely rebuilt after the devastation of World War II. The focal point of the Old Town is its Old Market Square, which is surrounded by Gothic churches, Renaissance tenement houses, stylish cafes, restaurants and museums. In the eastern section of the Old Town is the Castle Square, which hosts the Royal Castle.
The Royal Castle
The baroque Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) was the residence of Polish kings. Today, the castle hosts a museum that offers displays of Gobelin tapestry, period furniture and decorative artifacts, such as porcelain and artworks.
The Royal Way
The world famous thoroughfare known as the Royal Way or Royal Route is 4 km long and bisects the city of Warsaw from north to south. Starting from the foot of the Royal Castle (Plac Zamkowy) in the Old Town to the Krakowskie Przedmiescie, and running parallel with the River Vistula, this grand avenue links the Old Town and Royal Castle with some of the important landmarks in Warsaw, including the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University and the Polish Academy of Sciences. This prestigious thoroughfare in Warsaw houses many impressive galleries, museums and historical buildings.
Wilanow Palace Museum
The Wilanow Palace was built for King Jan III Sobieski (1629-96), who is believed to be Poland's most enigmatic ruler. This baroque palace, which was modeled on Versailles, for quite some time passed on amongst the most influential Polish families, and it remained under private ownership right up until 1944. The Wilanow Palace mercifully survived the ravages of World War II and is today a museum offering splendid paintings, artworks and furniture. The palace is surrounded by gardens, which also hosts a gallery of contemporary Polish art as well as the Polish poster gallery.
The Lazienki Park is one Warsaw’s most beautiful, open green spaces extending over an area of 80 hectares. It is also one of the most stunning 18th-century park-and-palace complexes in central Europe. Warsaw’s famous landmark, the lovely neo-classical Lazienki Palace, often called Palace on the Water, greatly attracts visitors here. Besides, the visitors also get an opportunity to listen to live concerts by famous pianists near the monument of Frederick Chopin at an amphitheatre named ‘Island Theatre’, which is located within the Lazienki Park. It is at this park that concerts are held every summer during Chopin Festival.
Celebrated Polish composer Frederick Chopin used to live 32 miles outside Warsaw, and today his home has been converted into a prominent tourist attraction. The manor house surrounded by a park features displays of 19th century furniture and instruments, and is a venue for concerts during summer.
Muranow – The Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto
The Jewish resistance fighters were housed in a bunker below a house on Mila 18 during World War II and they tried hard to resist the Nazis but were ultimately overcome and either killed or sent off to concentration camps in Tremblinka. The granite monument standing on this spot today is a tribute to those 220 freedom fighters. This was the first monument to be constructed by the Communist government in Poland in 1948.
Museum of the Warsaw Uprising
This relatively new museum chronicles the events of the Warsaw uprising that took place at the fag end of the World War II when the Germans were already in retreat. This uprising orchestrated by the commanders of the Polish insurgent Home Army loyal to the Polish government in exile in London greatly angered Hitler, who called for a strong retaliation to the uprising.
The Polish commanders, who had banked on the support of the Red Army, were forced to capitulate after several weeks of intense fighting. Thousands of Warsaw residents also perished during the uprising, which in fact had made Hitler quite angry. He subsequently commanded his forces to annihilate the city, and entire buildings were thus destroyed with the aid of dynamite.
It is estimated that 85% of the city was destroyed during the Warsaw uprising. This museum offers harrowing documentaries that catalogue this horrific event. If you have an interest in the events of World War II, then this museum should figure as a must-visit on your list of places during your Warsaw vacation.
Best time to visit Warsaw
Warsaw experiences a climate featuring warm summers and cold winters. The average temperatures during the winter months in Warsaw usually hover around 27F (-3C) while summer temperatures generally hover at an average of 71F (21C)
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Getting around in Warsaw
Frederyk Chopin Airport, located 6 miles away from the city center, connects Warsaw with different parts of the world. The airport handles several cheap domestic flights as well as international airlines, which makes getting to the Polish capital convenient and quite easy. The airport is also connected to the city center by an airport shuttle bus, public buses and taxis. However, the visitors to Warsaw are warned to be vigilant and avoid hiring unmarked taxis and getting into contact with the touts who usually hang around the airport.
There are several outlets of major car rental agencies located outside the Warsaw airport. However, if you are desirous of renting a car for your Warsaw vacation, it would be better to arrange your car rental in advance before you arrive in Warsaw. Fare Buzz offers a wide array of affordable car rentals for Warsaw, which can also be booked at the very same platforms used to make your other travel bookings.
The city of Warsaw is served by an efficient and cheap public transportation which consists of buses, trams and a metro system. Warsaw is quite a large city, and depending on where you are based, you can either explore the neighborhood on foot or else you will have to rely on the various modes of public transport serving the city.
Warsaw is also equipped with a fleet of metered taxis that operate in the city. However, these taxi services have a variety of complicated surcharge for luggage and other services. The visitors are often overcharged and so it is always better to negotiate a price with the driver before setting off on your journey within the city.
Where to shop in Warsaw
Warsaw has still a long way to go until it becomes a shopping destination like London, Dubai or Hong Kong but the city has in recent years witnessed much growth and development, so much so that its shopping landscape now features many western-style malls, boutiques, antique stores and more. Arkadia, Galeria Mokotów Warszawa Wilenska, Blue City and Zlote Tarasy are some of the Warsaw shopping malls which are located close to the city center and are worth visiting if you live to do your shopping at malls and shopping centers.
Warsaw also offers much opportunity for souvenir shopping at its stores like PolArt (Polish pottery, decorated eggs, carved wooden folk art), Cepelia stores (traditional folk art and crafts), Abonda (hand-crafted jewelry, ceramics and embroidery), Galeria Artis and Artis Folk(traditional arts and crafts), Patera (Polish glassware and porcelain), and the Wedel Chocolate shops, Most tourists also like to take home diverse Polish food specialties like hard candies, preserves, mushrooms, honey, vodka and liqueurs as souvenirs. These various Polish foods and beverages can be bought at the many specialty food stores that line streets of the city center in Warsaw.
Where to eat in Warsaw
Warsaw’s dining scene in recent years has blossomed to include a wide range of restaurants, which offer both local and international eats. The ‘best ‘ restaurants in Warsaw currently include eateries like Boathouse Restaurant and Bar (Mediterranean), U Fukiera (Polish),Atrio (Polish and International), Sekret Restaurant (Polish), the Belvedere (Polish and international), Butchery and Wine (Steak) Dom Polski Restauarant (Polish) and Papaya Restauarant (Asian fare).
Nightlife in Warsaw
Warsaw’s nightlife arena currently features scores of thriving bars, thumping nightclubs, jazz clubs, microbreweries and more. Most of these nightspots rock on until the wee hours, so it comes as no surprise then that the Polish capital is now considered a favored haunt for hen and stag nights in Europe. Buzzing nightlife haunts in Warsaw currently include bars like Momu Gastrobar, Drink Bar Jasna 24, Papparazi, Bierhalle,+One Bar, and clubs like Foksal XVIII, Bank Club, Bollywood Lounge, Club Capitol and Club Mirage.