Whenever I tell people that I spent a few months in Warsaw, people get confused.
‘Is Warsaw worth visiting?‘ they always ask.
Even many of those that have visited Warsaw don’t speak too highly of it, often recommending only spending one day in Warsaw, or even skipping it entirely.
And I get it.
Warsaw isn’t as easy to fall in love with as other cities in Poland, where the colourful buildings, copper dwarves and horse-drawn carriages on cobbled streets create a sense of magic usually only found in fairy tales.
Warsaw is big.
Tall glass buildings with revolving doors open onto roads with 4 lanes of traffic, people are glued to their iPhones and it’s difficult to find somewhere to get drunk at 2am on a weekday (but not impossible).
However, while it may cater less to tourists enjoying romantic city breaks and more towards business professionals, that isn’t to say that Warsaw doesn’t have a certain charm.
My love affair with Warsaw may have been a slow burn, but as I returned time and time again, I kept finding new things to love about Warsaw every day, and I realised that if you just give Warsaw a chance, it might surprise you.
In this article, I want to teach you how to appreciate Warsaw as it deserves to be appreciated.
Is Warsaw worth visiting?
Here are 7 reasons to visit Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
Is Warsaw Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons to Visit Warsaw
1. Warsaw is not touristy
When people visit Krakow, they find themselves in one of the most famous European city break destinations, well-practiced in catering to thousands of tourists, many of them raucous stag parties from the UK.
Warsaw, on the other hand, sees significantly less tourism than Krakow.
When you explore the streets of Warsaw, you will not be accosted by club promoters, people selling horse and carriage rides, and you will not have to fight your way through hordes of tourists wielding selfie sticks.
You will simply find a working Polish city, where people wake up at 6am, they go to work, they go to the gym and they have business meetings at Starbucks.
This might not sound super exciting (after all, it can be nice to be in that tourist bubble!), but nothing beats experiencing a place as the locals do, and you will be able to do that in Warsaw.
2. Warsaw is a green city
It’s easy to think of Warsaw as a big grey city, and honestly, in some areas it kind of is!
However, Warsaw has some beautiful parks that provide a total escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Opened to the public in 1727, Saxon Garden (Ogrod Saski) is the oldest public garden in Warsaw (and one of the oldest in the world!).
Not only is it a very pretty place to sit and watch the world go by, but it is also home to a tonne of history.
In Saxon Garden, you can find:
– A sundial dating from 1863
– The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which is the only part of Saxon Palace that survived WW11 and houses the ashes of unknown soldiers from WW11)
– A memorial honouring Warsaw residents killed in WW11
– A statue of Stefan Starzyński, who was the city’s Mayor at the outbreak of WW11 and went on to be murdered at Dachau concentration camp.
The second park that you should stick on your Warsaw itinerary is Łazienki Park (the ‘Ł’ is pronounced like a ‘W’).
Łazienki Park is a beautiful park where you can find almost every Warsaw resident on a Sunday afternoon (including many resident peacocks and other unusual birds!).
One of the most famous things to see in Łazienki Park is the ‘Palace on the Island,’ which used to be a private bathhouse before being bought by the last King of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski, who turned it into his private residence.
Other things not to miss are an amphitheatre from 1791, a Botanical Garden, and countless lakes, museums, palaces and monuments.
There are also free Fryderyk Chopin concerts here every Sunday in the summertime!
3. Warsaw nightlife
Warsaw nightlife is not like Krakow nightlife.
That said, Warsaw is still home to a decent nightlife scene – you just need to know where to find it.
My favourite drinking spot in Warsaw is Pawilony.
Pawilony is an area of over 20 dive bars popular with students and young Poles looking for a cheap beer.
Every Pawilony bar has a tiny ground floor area with dingy basements providing extra seating.
While each bar has its own vibe (why not try the superhero-themed Komic, or Shot Gun, who specialise in shots and rock music?), they all offer a cheap dive bar experience and are guaranteed to be packed full of Warsaw’s hipsters every day of the week.
One of the best things about Pawilony is that the bars often spill out onto the courtyard, making a night at Pawilony feel like one big house party.
Pawilony is also the cheapest place to drink in Warsaw.
You can find Pawilony at: Pawilon 14, Nowy Świat 22/28, 00-373.
4. Warsaw’s culinary scene
By far one of the best things to do in Warsaw is to eat, eat, and then EAT some more.
Poland is one of my FAVOURITE countries for food, and that’s because not only is traditional Polish food super yummy, but also because Poland is home to an abundance of international cuisine, as well as being one of the most vegan friendly places I’ve ever been (yes, really!).
My favourite international restaurants in Warsaw are Greek restaurant Paros, where you can dance on tables and feast on incredible Greek cuisine, Aioli, a Mediterranean restaurant specialising in pizza and pasta, and Banialuka, who serve up live music and hearty Balkan cuisine in a rustic setting.
Vegans should head to Beirut hummus bar for Middle Eastern favourites, or Vega for an ever-changing menu of affordable vegan food, both Polish classics and Indian-inspired dishes.
If you fancy a hark back to communist times, you can get 13 PLN Polish classics like zurek and beef tartarski at Pijalnia wodki i piwa, and to indulge your sweet tooth, head to Mr. Pancake for pancakes and Prosecco.
The culinary scene in Warsaw is excellent, and makes Warsaw well worth visiting.
5. Warsaw’s history
Is Warsaw worth visiting? If you’re into history, it certainly is.
People often associate Polish history with concentration camps like Auschwitz, but Warsaw also has a long and tragic history.
Many visitors to Warsaw complain about the fact that its Old Town is very small, and not as picturesque as Krakow’s, but it is important to understand why that is.
A brief history lesson
In 1944, resistance forces in Warsaw decided to rise up against the Germans.
This uprising largely failed, and the Nazis decided to punish the people of Warsaw by making an example of their city and obliterating it.
They flattened more than 85% of the city, and Warsaw’s population went from 2 million to just 1000 because people simply had nowhere to live and were forced to leave.
Everything in Warsaw had to be rebuilt from scratch, and this is the reason why Warsaw’s ‘Old Town’ is actually more of a ‘New Town.’
When you understand all of this, you begin to see Warsaw not as lacking, but as prospering, a city of strength and resilience – there’s a reason that Warsaw is known as the Phoenix City!
You can learn about Warsaw’s history by attending a free walking tour, visiting the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (free to enter on Thursdays), and the Warsaw Uprising Museum (free on Mondays).
Both museums are super interactive, not to mention comprehensive, and gave me a clear understanding of just how much the Polish capital has been through.
6. Warsaw is fantastic in the summer
I won’t lie to you: Polish winters are harsh, especially in the east.
When the parks are covered in snow and the city is enveloped in a bitterly cold wind, Warsaw isn’t the most fun place to be. Unlike Krakow and Wrocław, whose impressive Christmas markets add a much-needed sprinkle of magic, winter in Warsaw revolves around rushing from A to B, and when everything around you is wet and grey, it’s definitely hard to see the beauty.
However, despite Warsaw being miserable in the wintertime, in the summer it transforms into a completely different city!
If you’re wondering what to do in Warsaw in the summer, look no further than the Vistula River Beach, the undisputed place to be in the summer.
On one side, there are huge stone steps with ‘beach bars’ serving up tropical house music and fruity cocktails, while on the other, you’ll find a huge city beach next to Poniatowski Bridge with BBQs right there in the sand – you just have to bring your own coal and kiełbasa!
Vistula River Beach is also the only place in Warsaw where it’s legal to drink in a public place, so get stocked up on Polish beer and get yourself down there to watch the sunset – the atmosphere is amazing!
For an actual beach club, then look no further than La Playa Music Bar.
La Playa has deck chairs, volleyball nets, and a decking area that doubles as a dance floor.
At La Playa, you will feel like you’re in an exclusive beach club in Ibiza rather than the capital of Poland.
7. The Palace of Culture and Science
Poland’s tallest and by far the most controversial building is the Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki).
Built as a gift from the Soviet Union to Poland in 1955, this breathtaking piece of architecture still divides Poles, with petitions demanding the palace be destroyed.
Some unofficial nicknames for the palace include Stalin’s Syringe, Russian Wedding Cake and Chuj Stalina, which means Stalin’s – erm – well, you can guess.
However, controversies aside, the Palace of Culture and Science is an architectural wonder, and I can’t help but stop in awe every time I’m walking beside it.
Adorned with mermaids (the symbol of Warsaw) and home to 4 theatres, 2 museums, a cinema, a swimming pool, 2 bars, 2 libraries, ballrooms, a university and a Congress Hall, the Palace of Culture and Science is (in my opinion) a valuable part of Warsaw and testament to Warsaw’s ability to turn an ugly past into something quite beautiful.
Getting to Warsaw
Warsaw is an affordable destination to fly to, with most budget airlines flying directly to Warsaw from the UK.
You can also reach Warsaw from many cities in Europe by bus.
My go-to bus travel in Europe is always FlixBus. Flixbus is the most extensive bus network worldwide, and all Flix buses have Wi-Fi, extra legroom, charging ports and the ability to modify your booking just 15 minutes before departure!
Poland also has a fast and reliable train system, even in the smaller towns. To compare buses and trains, use Trainline.
Another popular way to travel around Poland is with Blablacar. Blablacar is a ride sharing site where you can chip in to fuel costs with somebody who is already driving to your destination. I used Blablacar a lot during my time in Poland.
Where to stay in Warsaw
There are tonnes of fantastic accommodations in Warsaw from backpacker hostels to chic Airbnbs and international hotel chains.
My favourite hostel in Warsaw is Oki Doki Old Town Hostel, a beautiful hostel in the heart of the old town with great facilities and a social atmosphere. This is a hostel that has found the perfect balance between an upmarket feel and social backpacker vibe.
If it’s an apartment you’re looking for, Noma Homes City Suite might be just the spot.
This slick apartment is centrally located, beautifully decorated, and even has a balcony with city views.
Currently, a stay costs around 85 EUR on average.
For a more luxe experience, I can personally recommend the InterContinental Warszawa.
This 5-star hotel has everything you’d expect from an ICG Hotel – a fine dining restaurant, wellness centre, swimming pool, and modern, comfortable rooms.
Some of the rooms even offer views of the Palace of Culture and Science, which can’t be beaten.
Is Warsaw Worth Visiting? | Final Thoughts
So, there we have it – some of the (many) reasons why I fell in love with Poland’s capital city.
While I used to view Warsaw as big, grey, and boring, I am now filled with a mix of nostalgia, fondness, and admiration whenever I think of Poland’s Phoenix City.
Is Warsaw worth visiting?
That’s all I’ve got for today, but if you have any questions about Warsaw or Poland in general, please reach out and ask me in the comments section below!
Warszawa, jesteś piękna i kocham cię <3 Warsaw, you are beautiful and I love you <3
Until next time,
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