Warsaw Travel Guide
Introduction to Warsaw
Wedged between Russia and a variety of imperially-minded European powers over the past few centuries has led to Warsaw, and the rest of Poland with it, being at the centre of a geopolitical game of tug of war. Despite having countless conflicts raze it over that time, this resilient city has come back strong every time, most notably after its near complete destruction during World War II. Built back to the way it was, Warsaw’s Old Town will charm you, but modern aspects of this ascending city will also lead you to stay here longer than you planned.
Cultural Experiences in Warsaw
Begin your time in Warsaw by touring the halls of the Royal Castle. Home to many generations of Polish monarchs up until its last one was deposed by the national congress (the Sejm) in the early 19th century, the Royal Castle is a massive presence that can’t be missed by anyone visiting Warsaw’s Old Town.
The splendor of its interior is made all the more impressive by the fact that much of the Royal Castle was painstakingly rebuilt from a ruined state after the end of the Second World War; don’t miss the Throne Room or the Royal Apartments.
If you’re a fan of the visual arts, check out the Jagiellonian Rooms, as they host a particularly broad selection of artworks hanging on their walls.
If you haven’t had enough exposure to opulence after that, then checking out the Lazienki Palace should do the trick.
Situated within the park of the same name (the most popular in Warsaw, which will be covered later on in this guide), this royal residence served as the summer home of the Polish royal family, starting with Count Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski in the late 17th century.
Situated on an island in the middle of a lake and linked to the shore by two stunning bridges, this former bathhouse nonetheless became an important landmark, as its elaborately decorated rooms and its hosting of Thursday Dinners (where intellectuals, artists and other interesting people dined with the King weekly, discussing art, current affairs and other matters) has made this beautiful building a prominent point of interest on the Warsaw tourist calendar.
The 20th century may have not been kind to Poland, but many of its citizens didn’t take the occupations that afflicted them during this time lying down.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is testament to the spirit of its people during the trying times when the citizens of this city were occupied by Nazi Germany, who rose up against their oppressors in 1944, timed to coincide with an expected westward surge by Soviet forces.
The latter didn’t happen in the way that the rebels expected, and thus, the insurrection was quelled. Exhibits chronicle the organization of the uprising, how the rebellion unfolded, and its legacy as Poland transitioned to becoming a satellite state of the Soviet Union after World War II.
Other Attractions in Warsaw
Named after one of Poland’s brightest scientific minds, the Copernicus Science Center is one of Europe’s largest interactive science museums, with 450 exhibits that allow visitors to learn by doing. These experiment stations span over six different fields of study, and with a planetarium and a rooftop garden, it is an excellent place to take the kids on days when the weather isn’t cooperating with your initial plans.
If the weather is playing nice, make the most of it by exploring the Old Town in depth. Attractions like the St. John’s Archcathedral, the city walls and its Barbican will please those looking to capture memorable photos of some of the most beautiful architectural styles devised in the course of human history, and its courtyards will make for a great venue for those looking to enjoy a drink or dinner while watching the citizens of Warsaw walk past.
If you are looking to get out into nature during your time in Poland’s capital, then spending the day in Lazienki Park will easily accomplish this goal. Sprawling over 76 hectares of land in the middle of Warsaw, this green space is the perfect place to take advantage of a perfect summer day. In addition to being home to the Lazienki Palace as discussed earlier, another royal residence known as Myślewicki Palace can also be found here, as well as an arboretum that used to grow oranges (today, it plays host to a variety of tropical plants) and a replica Roman theatre that was built in the 18th century (which is still home to productions in season).
Oh, and don’t forget to try delicious Pierogi!