Warsaw Travel Guide
Warsaw, the capital and largest city of Poland, is located almost directly in the center of the country. It’s had a rough history, most recently during World War II and shortly after. The Nazis occupied much of the city and subsequently destroyed much of it as they left.
Afterwards, Warsaw experienced the throes of communism for several decades. However, the Polish people are nothing if not resilient. The city may seem dark and gray at times, even during the sunny, summer days, and Warsaw may not instantly cause one to fall in love with it, the way Rome or Paris might. But give Warsaw enough time, even just a few days, and the warmth of the people will shine through; sooner or later you will admit that you love this place, too.
Lately, Warsaw is under perpetual construction in every section of the city. Cranes rise up throughout the skyline, placeholders for towers that are destined for these locations. As more and more people discover the Polish capital and it solidifies its spot on the global map, there is no better time to visit than now.
Warsaw is home to almost 1.8 million residents, the 9th largest city within the European Union. Different from other Polish cities, Warsaw does not revolve around its Old Town; rather, it relegates that to a corner, while most of the action is spread out in the center and elsewhere.
Things to Do & See
As the Polish capital and one of the largest cities in Europe, Warsaw has plenty of attractions to satisfy any taste. Here are our top picks of places to visit while in Warsaw:
Nowy Świat is a street rather than a single place, but pay attention to the section that stretches from Warsaw’s Old Town through to Jerusalem Street (Aleje Jerozolimskie) – one of the trendiest in Warszawa at any time of day.
More Places to Visit
Eat & Drink
Warsaw is quickly becoming more and more of an international city, but world cuisine options are not ubiquitous as in other European cities. For cheap, traditional Polish food, visit one of the many milk bars (bar mleczny) throughout the city, where you can spend less than €3 (~15 zloty) for an entire meal.
Here are our top dining choices for your visit to Warsaw:
Kebab „Egipt” (Egypt Kebab) is one of my favorites. Open 24 hours a day, this is my go-to joint after a night out on the town. Their long kebab wraps are absolutely amazing! And it’s right in the very center, perfect to stop at before taking a night bus or Uber back to your hotel. [map]
Manekin is a crêperie that is just about the most popular destination in Warsaw. No matter what time of the day you visit, there’ll probably be a line. However, it’s worth the hassle! Two locations, one on either end of Marszałkowska St. [map]
More Places to Eat
Warsaw does nightlife well. If you come in the summer (recommended), the city is alive all over the place with people spilled out onto sidewalks, dancing at pop-up bars along the riverbank, and just more buzz and activity throughout.
However, the long, cold nights of the winter months can be just as active, though everything is indoors. You may see the empty streets and take it as a sign that the city is dead, but behind club doors, you’ll always find packed clubs and bars.
Where to Stay
Warsaw straddles the Vistula River, and most of the action is on the western side.
For any first-timer, Stare Miasto (Warsaw’s Old Town) is a must-see nabe. Castle Square (plac Zamkowy) is a perfect place to start any sightseeing excursion, and it is also a good place to meet up with friends.
Centrum is the heart of Warsaw, situated around where the Palace of Culture stands tall and the Novotel hotel diagonally opposite. Here you’ll be at the center of everything, so it’s a great place to set up camp.
Praga is the Brooklyn of Warsaw; located on the eastern side of the Vistula, Praga is quite a hip place in its own right, especially the middle area between North and South Praga around Ząbkowska Street. Hipster bars, street art, and even cheaper prices await.
Warsaw has some decent hotels that are not too expensive. I like to use the Accor brand of accommodations while here, ideally-located and competitively priced.
Also, this is the first place I ever couchsurfed, so I’d be remiss not to mention the platform as a great way to really see the true side of Warsaw.
Public transportation is super cheap and usually on time, though there are rarely some service changes or delays that even a long-time resident would be clueless to explain. The trams, buses, and the 2-line metro all share the same ticketing system for great coverage throughout.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive, but Uber is the way to go. The cost in Warsaw for an Uber fare is negligible, and may be even cheaper than public transport if you are traveling with another person or two.
The bike share system is new and has decent coverage throughout the city during the spring through autumn months, and is super cheap as well, so long as you stick to under 20 minutes at a time. Visit the Veturilo website to learn more.
Getting In & Out
The Central Railway Station, like in all great European cities, is located right in the heart of Warsaw, just behind the Palace of Culture. Connections to all parts of Poland and several international cities are available here.
Warszawa Młociny is one of the major bus stations, serving many international and domestic destinations on the FlixBus network.
Warsaw Chopin Airport is the larger of the city’s two airports, and serves most international and domestic flights. Easy connections to the city center are available by cab and public transportation.
Warsaw Modlin Airport serves both international and domestic flights, as well, but usually from budget airlines like Ryanair. It is located about an hour from the city center by a charter bus.
Warsaw ↔ Łódź is about 136 km (84 mi)
Warsaw ↔ Kraków is about 295 km (183 mi)
Warsaw ↔ Gdańsk is about 416 km (258 mi)
Warsaw ↔ Berlin is about 574 km (357 mi)
Warsaw ↔ Prague is about 681 km (423 mi)
We’ll update soon!
Costs & Money
Warsaw is relatively inexpensive in comparison to the European cities to its west. The currency is the Polish złoty (PLN).
Shopping is not one of the main reasons to visit Warsaw, though the commerce scene is steadily growing. Most of the better stores and prices are usually found in international retailers, such as H&M for clothing and Flying Tiger for quirky gifts.
What to Buy as Souvenirs
If you can bring back food, an easy-to-pack Polish specialty is smalec, a spreadable lard paste. As a vodka capital, you’d do well to pick up some bottles of the stuff to bring home, as well.
Health & Safety
Warsaw is relatively safe in all the touristy areas. There can be some danger during protests, where there has been known to be right-wing violence against people of color, but it is rare. You’ll more likely drink yourself under the table with Polish vodka, so watch out for that! 😉
When to Go
Summer. The city comes alive during the summer months, from the end of May through the end of August. People drink and have bonfires on the “Beach” along the Vistula, and there are many pop-up bars and open-air nightclubs along the waterfront. Elsewhere, there is just a great vibe and plenty of things to do.
The weather in Warsaw is quite cold (often freezing for months) in the winter while surprisingly warm (35°C and up) in the heat of the summer.