25 Things to do in Warsaw
This was our first trip to Poland and we dove into the capital headfirst. While our travels may have started in the charming Old Town, it wasn’t long before we discovered that Warsaw has a cool artsy side. We visited bright neon museums in the art district, shopped in boutiques selling soviet-chic apparel, and got to experience the capital’s legendary nightlife. In many ways it was a whirlwind visit, but it was also a fun introduction that made us curious to discover more of Poland in our future travels. The following travel guide, video & photo essay will highlight 25 things to do in Warsaw and give you a glimpse into this up and coming capital.
1) Castle Square
(Polish: plac Zamkowy w Warszawie)
Walking around the Old Town – especially Castle Square – is a fascinating experience because almost all of what you see is new even if it looks authentic. Most of the city was razed to the ground after the Second World War, and that makes for a rather surreal visit. Come during the day and at night for a completely different experience.
2) Royal Castle
(Polish: Zamek Królewski w Warszawie)
One of the most recognizable landmarks is Warszawa’s Royal Castle which used to be home to the Polish Monarchy. Of course Poland hasn’t had a monarchy for a really long time but this still remains an historical building. Located in Castle Square it is a UNESCO heritage site and national monument.
On our first day in Poland we decided what better way to get acquainted with the local cuisine than to sample Pierogi. Considered by many to be ‘the’ National Dish we ordered a plate full of them along with beer. If you’ve never tried Perogies before they’re a stuffed dumpling; typically, they are steamed and then they’re fried and they come in a variety of different flavors. We ended up ordering meat and cheese ones but you can also get dessert pierogi (often fruit flavored) as well. When we first ordered our pierogi we were surprised that restaurants only served 5 or 6 a plate – it seemed like a small meal at first glance, but we soon learned that looks can be deceiving and that pierogi are incredibly filling!
4) The Neon Muzeum
(Polish: Muzeum Neonów)
The Neon Museum is located in Soho Factory Praga and it is ‘the place’ to learn about Cold War Neon. It’s definitely one of the most interesting museums we’ve ever set foot in.
5) Nysa Van tour with Adventure Warsaw
During our trip we joined Adventure Warsaw for a historical tour of the city. Our ride was a bubblegum pink Nysa van from the Soviet days and together with our guide we cruised the city in style while uncovering a bit of the past and learning how it has shaped the present day city.
6) Milk bar
(Polish: bar mleczny)
Milk bars are a bit of misnomer because you don’t go there to drink milk, nor do you go there to drink alcohol. You can however try dairy based Polish dishes in a cafeteria-like setting, including pink beetroot soup.
7) Vistula River Cruise
On a nice summer day consider hiring a boat to cruise down the Vistula River.The water levels were particularly low when we visited during the summer months, so our leisurely boat ride required a little bit of punting. The boat trip was a fun way to see Warsaw’s riverside beaches and gaze at the Old Town off in the distance.
8) Pub Crawl
Warsaw has legendary nightlife. I would rank it in the same stratosphere as what you can find in Berlin. To maximize your time and meet new friends consider taking a pub crawl and canceling sightseeing plans for the next morning 😉
9) Palace of Culture and Science
(Polish: Pałac Kultury i Nauki)
Much to the chagrin of locals the one building that really dominates the skyline here in Warszawa it is the Palace of Culture and Science. It was built in the 1950’s as a so-called gift from the Soviet Union. The sentiment towards the Palace of Culture and Science is very mixed. There are those who see beauty in this historical landmark and others who despise the Soviet regime that it once stood for. If you are interested in visiting this structure, there are tours that take you behind closed doors, before going up to observation deck – on the 30th floor – for views of the city below.
10) Fryderyk Chopin Museum
(Polish: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina)
The Chopin Museum is another museum to consider visiting. It holds an extensive collection of manuscripts, letters and paintings that document the composer’s life.
11) Making Pierogi with Polish Your Cooking
When we weren’t sampling Polish food in restaurants, we were learning to make Pierogi by hand. We ended up taking a cooking class with ‘Polish Your Cooking’ where we learned to make pierogi with various fillings including: ground beef and onions, cheese and potatoes, and strawberries for dessert. It took us about 3 hours to prepare all the food and then we devoured it in a matter of minutes.
12) Łazienki Park
(Polish: Park Łazienkowski – Łazienki Królewskie)
Lazienki Park is the largest park in Warsaw and the name means baths thanks to the bathing pavilion that was located on these very grounds. The park is also part of the Royal Route, which was a communication route that ran southward from the Old Town back in the days when snail mail was the only way to get urgent messages across.
13) POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
(Polish: Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich)
The POLIN museum sits on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto and it documents the history of Polish Jews in a chronological timeline. The exhibit starts out with the traveling merchants that came to Poland during the medieval period and it spans several hundred years through to the Holocaust and the Post War Years.
14) Bigos – Polish Hunter’s Stew
While visiting Warsaw’s Old Town be sure to sit down at a restaurant to try Bigos – also known as Polish hunter’s stew. Consisting of an assortment of different meats and cabbage typically served in a bread bowl. No two Bigos recipes are the same. It is basically just a mix of different cuts of meat where you can have beef, veal, pork, venison, rabbit. This is the type of dish you’d eat during the winter months, but if you look hard enough you’ll be able to find it on some restaurant menus year round.
15) Czar PRL – Life under Communism Museum
Another cool museum to visit is the Life Under Communism Museum. It may be small, but the way it’s been set up will make you feel like you’ve travelled back through time. Not only will you visit rooms styled the way the average home would have looked during Soviet period, but they also have posters, board games, music, and fashion from the same era.
16) Warsaw University Library Garden
For a look at a very unique garden, you can swing by the rooftop gardens at the Warsawâ€™s University Library. It’s a beautiful place and we noticed more than one student napping there.
17) St. Anne’s Church
(Polish: Kościół św. Anny)
While visiting the historic centre of Warsaw you’ll spot St. Anne’s Church where you can come during noon hour for a concert.
18) Warsaw Barbican
(Polish: barbakan warszawski)
The Barbican is a red-brick fortification that once encircled Warsaw. These days the city has expanded well beyond the fortification’s limits, but it still remains one of the city’s top attractions. You’ll find lots of artists and buskers along the main gates, and you can also enjoy some scenic views of the city by walking along the length of the wall.
19) Presidential Palace
(Polish: Pałac Prezydencki)
Just a short walk from Castle Square you’ll find the Presidential Palace, an elegant classicist building that has been rebuilt and remodeled several times once serving as private property for several aristocratic families.
20) Polish Torpedo Dessert
(Polish: Rurki z Kremem)
If you’re in the mood for a bit of a sweet treat consider having Polish Torpedo dessert known locally as Rurki z Kremem. Consisting of a buttery flaky pastry filled with cream it is a bit like an ice cream cone that isn’t overly sweet.
21) Warsaw Uprising Museum
(Polish: Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego)
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 led by the Polish resistance army. The museum chronicles the 63 days of the uprising as Poles fought against Germans.
22) Copernicus Science Centre
(Polish: Centrum Nauki Kopernik)
The Copernicus Science Centre is an interactive learning centre where you can discover science through experiments. While we were probably a little too old for the exhibits, we can see how this would be a fun place for children.
23) Warsaw night views
If you’re in town during the summer months and over the weekend, I would also suggest checking out the Old Town at night. There is live music, people are out enjoying a cool evening stroll, and the restaurants are packed. It’s a really fun atmosphere.
24) National Stadium
(Polish: Stadion Narodowy)
For the football lovers, there’s the option of catching a match at the National Stadium. Or perhaps a concert if it’s not football season.
Just hours before departing to Romania we tried Paczki for the first time. It’s basically like a donut filled with jam inside covered in icing and sprinkled with almonds on top. Not a bad way to end a trip 😉
Warsaw Travel Video
If you have trouble viewing this video click here: http://youtu.be/7sLHCsmFX0s
Warsaw Photo Essay
We came to Warsaw with little to no expectations and the city completely surprised us. Our week in the capital was spent sampling Polish cuisine, learning about the city’s past through museums and historical tours, and also dabbling in a bit of the nightlife. Warsaw is quickly rising through the ranks and we think it won’t be long before travellers are flocking en masse. So if you’re planning a trip to Poland, don’t skip over the capital because there is more to Warsaw than meets the eye.
If you have any more suggestions of activities that travelers shouldn’t miss, feel free to share those in the comments below.