Warsaw, the capital of Poland, has so much to offer and you’re in luck because Poland is extremely cheap for travelers. The history of the country is fascinating and there's a multitude of museums to learn about it all. Poland is still somewhat of a hidden gem and for that, I find it important to talk about all the wonderful things it has to offer! With that said, here’s a list of the top 10 things to do in Warsaw!
1. Visit Old Town
For being called Old Town, this area of the city is relatively new. After it was destroyed in WW2, it was decided the city would be rebuilt to look exactly like before. This makes Warsaw’s Old Town more unique compared to other European cities because it represents the Polish people reclaiming their identity after the war.
This area is one of the best places to see in all of Warsaw, with many attractions. The square is lively and great for a drink! Prepare to spend money because there are a variety of shops, along with many stores selling Amber jewelry. Amber is a huge deal in Poland and has been for centuries because of the country's proximity to the Baltic Sea.
2. Łazienki Park
This is a great park if you’re looking to relax and walk around. If you’re interested, there’s a palace on the grounds with a royal picture gallery inside, as well as a sculpture gallery in the Old Orangery Museum located in the park.
3. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Not only is this museum a great learning experience, but architecturally, this museum is remarkable. The main exhibit will take you through the history of Jews in Poland, allowing you to learn all about their culture and acknowledging all the events that happened throughout their history.
4. Jewish Ghetto Memorial
This memorial sits across from the POLIN Museum in commemoration of the people who took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. The center figure is of Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the ZOB, the organization that fought back against the Germans.
A 10-minute walk from here is the Miła 18 Bunker, a hidden shelter where the ZOB hid. A few weeks after the fighting began during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Germans discovered it. They tried throwing tear gas into it to force the ZOB fighters out. Instead of surrendering, the people within the bunker drank poison to avoid being captured, while a few were able to escape. Today, the area is a mound with a commemorative stone in the center. I highly suggest reading up on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and visiting this burial site.
5. Warsaw Uprising Museum
Often not discussed in school history courses, the Warsaw Uprising is a major event worth learning about that represented resilience by the Polish people. You can spend hours in this museum; I spent around 4 hours myself. The exhibits go into detail about how the Poles tried to retake the city from the Germans in 1944.
6. Palace of Culture and Science
This is one of the most noticeable buildings in Warsaw for its Soviet architecture. It was built upon request by Joseph Stalin as a gift from the Soviet Union in the 1950s. For the equivalent of around $5, you can ride the elevator to the viewing terrace at the top to get a view of the entire city!
Take a 10-minute walk from here to see the Jewish Ghetto Wall Fragment, one of the last pieces still standing from the Warsaw Ghetto. Throughout the rest of the city, you’ll see a trail on the ground highlighting where the wall use to stand.
7. Wilanów Palace
Construction on this palace began in 1677 when King John Sobieski III bought the property. Over the years the palace’s ownership has changed hands from prominent people to other kings. In 1805, the palace became a museum and has been ever since. You can see the palace’s royal apartments along with a portrait gallery of Polish monarchs. The palace grounds also include Park Wilanów, which is super beautiful to walk around.
8. St. Anne’s Church
You can’t go anywhere in Europe without visiting a church! Completed in 1788, the church escaped destruction during WW2. This neoclassical style church is stunning on the inside and if you’re wanting a great view over Old Town, you can visit the viewing terrace from the bell tower for the equivalent of $1.
9. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Right next to the Saxon Gardens, you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Germans destroyed the Saxon Palace during WW2, and all that remained from the destruction was the tomb. It has held an unknown soldier since 1925 and since then, more urns have been added.
10. Royal Castle
Destroyed in WW2, the castle began reconstruction in the 1970s. Today it is a beautiful building with an art gallery inside, and a royal garden in the back. You have the ability to tour the castle’s rooms along with seeing an exhibit on the reconstruction of the castle.
Best Restaurants from a Local
I’m lucky enough to have a friend from Warsaw who happily shared a list of the best places to eat in the city!
(Price range between $25-$50)
Prosciutteria Powiśle - The best place in Warsaw to share Italian food and drink wine
Wabu Sushi - Great sushi
Bracka 20 - Great all vegan restaurant
(Price range between $8-$10)
Uki Uki - Delicious udon and ramen
Oki Green - Vegan version of Uki Uki
Ciao a Tutti - Best pizza
To Eat Polish Food
(Price range between $8-$15)
Der Elegant - New Version of Traditional Food
Sztara Szafa - Traditional Polish Food
Akademia - Modern Polish Food
Folk Gospoda - 1000% Traditional Polish Food
(Price range between $5-$10)
Kiti - A variety of creative drinks
Zamieszanie/Cuda Na Kiju - Another great place for cocktails
Dzik - Fantastic place to drink and party
Weles - Secret and very elegant place to drink
Ale Wino - Very good wine and food (Price range between $15-$25)
Bakeries and Ice Cream
Na Końcu Tęczy
Bar Mleczny: Known as a ‘Milk Bar’ in English, these places became popular after WW2 during the communist era because the food was super cheap and subsidized by the government. If you’re looking to try traditional Polish food fast for an extremely cheap price, this is the place to go. These places are simple in appearance, but you’ll get a good, hardy meal. Prasowy is my favorite milk bar.
Shot Bars: You can’t visit Eastern Europe without trying their Vodka! These bars sell shots for the equivalent of $1, with a variety of unique mixtures to choose from.
Wrapping it Up
Warsaw is a fun, interesting city worth visiting. I visited Poland on my first trip to Europe and this is where my love for travel really began. You’ll leave having gained so much knowledge, not just about WW2, but Poland as a whole. Travel to Poland, try all the food, take in all the history, see all the sights, and then spread the word about how great it is!