Many people associate Eastern Europe with the not-so-nice part of Europe, thinking that the cities are not as developed and worth seeing as those in the West. This is often the case with Polish cities as well. However, these people are missing out on many great vacation destinations as Eastern Europe, especially Poland, has some hidden gems that offer tons of fun and great things to do.
On the top of the list of these gems is the Polish capital Warsaw. The European metropolis of Warsaw is famous for its intense past and unparalleled friendliness. The Polish city keeps on evolving at full speed while preserving its personality that makes it a resolutely sparkling city.
With its reconstructed Old Town, Warsaw has long been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, investing in state-of-the-art architecture and excellent museums. Warsaw is definitely a great vacation destination. From its east to its west, here is our travel guide of the best things to do in Warsaw and the best places to visit. Let’s roll!
Warsaw’s Magnificent Old Town
The Old Town of Warsaw is actually relatively new. After being razed to the ground by the German occupiers in 1944 and 90% of the Old Town was destroyed, the city was rebuilt once the war ended. Immediately after the liberation, the reconstruction of the Old Town began, and it lasted until the mid-1960s. This terrible history of the area has earned it its place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
No visit to Warsaw would be complete without seeing this beautiful, colorful Old Town. The best thing to do there is to just walk through the small alleys in the Old Town, have a coffee or a beer in one of the cute cafes, and watch the hustle and bustle there.
Wandering the alleys of the historic Old Town was unquestionably one of our favorite things to do in Warsaw. Tip: Since the Old Town is one of the top sights in Warsaw and very popular with visitors, we recommend going in the early morning hours to explore everything at your leisure.
Warsaw Royal Castle
At the southern entrance to the Old Town, you will be greeted by the 90-meter-high Baroque facade of the Royal Castle, which was home to Polish monarchs for hundreds of years. The castle has survived a full seven centuries of history, during which it was destroyed twice, once by the Swedes in the middle of the 17th century, and the second time by the Germans during World War II.
After the last reconstruction in the 1980s, the castle was turned into a museum, where you will have the opportunity to see the private apartments of King Sigismund II August and visit the Parliament building.
In the Royal Castle, you can also see a collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, including works by well-known artists such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Joos van Cleve, and Gainsborough.
The Castle Square
If you don’t know what to see in Warsaw, go to Castle Square. It is a guaranteed pleasure! When the capital of Poland moved from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596, the square next to the castle became a symbol of Europe’s largest Renaissance empire in Europe. It was thanks to King Sigismund III Vasa, whose memory was immortalized in a bronze statue on an 8.5-meter column.
The statue was created in 1644, but in 1944 the monument was destroyed by the Nazis, so its original red marble was later replaced by granite. It is in this square that a number of significant events in Polish history took place, such as the bloody mutiny during martial law in 1982, and Bill Clinton’s speech in which he welcomed Poland as a new member of NATO.
To this day, the square hosts several events and performances, whether it’s a rally or a concert, there is something interesting always happening on Castle Square in the summer.
It happens that almost all historical attractions of Warsaw are located along one street, which begins at Castle Square and stretches south for 15 kilometers to the residence of King Jan III Sobieski. There are churches, parks, palaces, educational institutions, and chic townhouses along this road.
There are three residences that give this route the “royal” character; the Royal Castle, Lazienki Palace, located in the gorgeous park of the same name, and Wilanów Palace at the southern end. All three sites perfectly personify the wealth and power of the Renaissance and Baroque Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A stroll along the Royal Route is a must while in Warsaw!
Lazienki Park in Warsaw is the largest park in the city, and it belongs on every itinerary while visiting Warsaw! Warsaw’s largest park is located along the Royal Route and is an ideal place for family weekend strolls. It was originally the location of the royal baths (Lazienki in Polish means “baths”), and the park itself appeared later, in the 18th century, thanks to the efforts of King Stanislaus II August.
On the park’s 76 hectares, there are palaces, pavilions, two greenhouses, an amphitheater, a planetarium, embankments, and monuments of national importance. Here you can easily spend the whole day, looking at the magnificent houses and the Lazienki Palace, examining the exhibits of the four museums, or just relaxing on the green lawns.
Perhaps the most prominent of all monuments in the park is the one dedicated to composer Frederic Chopin. This Art Nouveau sculpture was started in 1907 and was not finished until 1926. There are so many parks and green spaces in Warsaw that you can walk through the whole city without ever leaving them! Lazienki Park is undoubtedly the most beautiful one of them; it is a must-visit place in Warsaw.
The most beautiful view of Warsaw Old Town is definitely from the Bell Tower of St. Anne’s Church. The entrance fee is cheap, and the 150 steps to the top are not hard to climb. Once at the top, you will have a great panoramic view of the Old Town (the Royal Castle and, of course, the Castle Square directly below you) and large parts of Warsaw. The Bell Tower and especially the view is one of the most beautiful sights of Warsaw!
The New Town
Warsaw not only has a charming Old Town, but the New Town (Nowe Miasto) is also something to behold! The New Town is directly adjacent to the Old Town, and the town would leave you in awe with its breathtaking buildings and sights. There are numerous churches and monuments in this part of Warsaw.
St. John’s Cathedral
The oldest church in Warsaw, St. John’s Cathedral, is thought to have been built in the early 15th century on the site of an original wooden church, after which it was rebuilt several times. During World War II, the church was completely destroyed, and it was later revived to its original Gothic appearance after the post-war reconstruction.
One of the best attractions of the cathedral is the tomb made of red marble from the Renaissance period, where the ashes of the last Mazovian princes are buried. Going downstairs you will find the cemetery where famous Polish people are buried, among them Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916). St. John’s Cathedral is an interesting place in Warsaw, and it would be a waste to be in the city and not give it a visit.
Copernicus Science Center
The Copernicus Science Center is Poland’s main science museum and it was opened in 2010. There are more than 400 interactive exhibitions spread across six sections, each dedicated to a different area – from “Roots of Civilization” to the “Light Zone”, which talks about the nature of light.
For example, the “World in Motion” zone features an entire earthquake simulation and a curious moving model showing a human skeleton behind the wheel of a bicycle. In the “People and Environment” zone, you can learn about urban ecosystems and construction technologies.
You can also see video broadcasts from webcams located right next to the falcon’s nest in the Palace of Culture and Science and the gorilla enclosure in the Warsaw Zoo. A modern planetarium with gorgeous 3D sound shows an interesting show about the nature of space and the peculiarities of different human cultures. The Copernicus Science Center is one of the most fun things to do in Warsaw!
The Palace of Culture and Science
If you arrive by train at Warsaw Central Station, the first thing you’re likely to see is the Palace of Culture and Science. A colossus reminiscent of a cross between Big Ben and the Empire State Building, the palace was a gift from the Soviet Union to the Polish nation. The tower, which is 237 meters tall, can be easily seen from various city angles; accordingly, from its 30th floor, you’ll have a fantastic view of…well, everything in Warsaw!
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw is probably one of the most striking skyscrapers and is also a landmark of the city. In the palace itself, you will find cinemas, museums, halls, and theaters as well. Built in the style of socialist classicism, the “gift of the Soviet nation” with its more than 3,000 rooms can be visited by guided tour, and the observation floor on the 30th floor can be reached by elevator.
Visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum
When you visit Warsaw, sooner or later, you will realize that history plays an important role there. In the city, you will find a monument on every corner. There are also a lot of museums in Warsaw, and if you want to see just one, it should be the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum was opened on the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising in the former building of the tramway power station, an architectural monument of the 20th century. Today, the museum is one of the most important cultural institutions and a popular destination for tourists from Poland and abroad. In 2018, the museum received the Tourist Academy Award in the country.
The exhibition is dedicated to the events of the uprising against the German occupation, a 63-day struggle for the Polish capital, and the entire country’s independence. In a carefully curated exhibition at the museum, you will be taken back to the historical events by some impressive exhibits, film sequences, animations, and light and sound effects.
The museum is a place of remembrance for all those who gave their lives to the struggle for the capital and the freedom of their country. Through workshops, lectures, film screenings, concerts, the museum provides a deeper understanding of the past. A visit to the museum is a must while in Warsaw, you shouldn’t miss it.
The Neon Museum
You never thought you would visit a neon museum in your life, right? However, it would be a shame not to see the one in Warsaw! It is an original and atypical activity that we strongly advise you to do in Warsaw. Located in a quirky neighborhood, in the heart of an old factory in Praga, this gallery will surprise you with its lights and its fantastic collection. You won’t forget this amazing discovery in the heart of the Polish capital!
The Museum of Technology and Industry
The Museum of Technology and Industry is a lovely museum located in the Palace of Science and Culture in the center of Warsaw. You can see exhibitions of motorcycles and cars from the past, computers, rockets and even a planetarium. You can also see the famous Enigma machine, the German encryption machine whose code was broken by Polish mathematicians.
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews was opened in 2014. It highlights the thousand-year history of the Jewish people in Poland. POLIN is located in the northern part of the former Warsaw ghetto of Muranowska Square and was designed by the Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki.
The main exhibition, housed in eight galleries, offers an interesting mix of authentic artifacts, reconstructions, and modern interactive displays that explain exactly how Poland became home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. Here you will be able to see a prayer book from 1272 with text written in Yiddish and learn about the so-called “Golden Age” of religious tolerance in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Warsaw Zoo was founded in 1928, and today its enclosures are home to more than 3,000 animals, representing 500 species from all over the world. Among the inhabitants, you can find bears, wolves, hippos, and even two male gorillas. The largest aquarium in Poland is home to formidable sharks and other ocean dwellers. It is a great place for relaxing family vacations and walks and is open all year round.
The Praga District
The Praga district is one of the few places that were not destroyed during the Second World War. Its alleys are home to a few chapels and old-fashioned factories in the heart of old buildings. Also, there are numerous murals, graffiti, and other demonstrations of art here. The visit to Praga is worth the detour and one of the best things to do in Warsaw!
Before arriving in the old town, you can take a walk at the famous Krakowskie Przedmiescie avenue. There you will see the Polish president’s palace. Also, you will see the most beautiful buildings of the city, the most beautiful churches, the University of Warsaw, and it is the best location for taking some stunning photos in the city.
Marvel at Architecture in Saska Kępa
You can breathe a bit of the air of the Golden Twenties and Thirties in Saska Kępa. In this quiet, almost small-town neighborhood, many villas from the interwar period have been preserved (today, most of them are embassies), and the architecture here is quite different from that in the rest of the city. If the weather is suitable, plan your route through the pretty Skaryszewski Park too, which was voted the most beautiful park in Poland.
Looking for something unusual? How about seeing the city from a different perspective while kayaking in the morning! In the morning hours, there is no one on the water except you in the rental kayak.
Thanks to the low current, it is very easy to paddle, and the wide river gives you the chance to enjoy it even if you are not so good at steering. On the riverbank, there is a beach where you can moor and enjoy the view of the old town. Kayaking on the Vistula is one of the absolute highlights of Warsaw.
Explore Warsaw on Bike
If Kayaking is not your thing, then you should consider biking. One of the best ways to explore Warsaw is on a bike, especially since bikes are pretty easy to come around in the city. Veturilo is the company’s name where you can rent a bike at pretty much every corner in Warsaw.
All you have to do is download the app, and you’re ready to go. Hop on and ride off. This works especially well on the Vistula River, where a long stretch of the riverbank has been developed with bike paths.
Warsaw University Library: The Most Beautiful Roof Garden In Europe
This is how one should be allowed to study: in a modern library with connections to three different coffee providers, surrounded by a beautiful garden. For the students in Warsaw, this is reality…. Welcome to Warsaw University Library!
From the ground, the building of the Warsaw University Library, located a few dozen meters from the Vistula River looks quite unusual; the long and austere stone facade with blue trim somewhat resembles the famous Pompidou Center of Paris. However, the library is famous not for its façade, but for having one of the largest roof gardens in all of Europe.
This one-hectare space is a magical little land of fountains, streams, gazebos, and lawns, and the library’s windows and skylights add a slightly surreal touch to the place. The roof garden was designed by the talented architect Irena Bajerska. From the roof garden, you will have a fantastic view of the city with panoramas of the Vistula River, the newly built PGE National Stadium, and the Copernicus Center.
Taste The Unique Flavors of Warsaw
Numerous traditional bars and restaurants will take you on an adventure of culinary discovery in Warsaw. Don’t hesitate to try some of the local sweet and pastry dishes for breakfast. You can’t miss the Wuzetka, a delicious cream cake. You can also eat on the go in the markets and try the Zapienkanka, an exquisite chicken baguette with vegetables and cheese!
Try The Famous Polish Beer
The most popular alcoholic drink among Poles? Definitely beer! That’s what the locals prefer to drink even more than vodka. With over 1,000 types of beer available in Poland, there’s plenty to choose from. When you are in Warsaw, a “Beer-Tasting” should certainly be on your program; especially the Craft Beer, beer with taste, it’s super tasty, and also super cheap!
Warsaw is a city that has it all; there are really great free events, lots of greenery and water, and culture doesn’t come up short in Warsaw either, and for foodies, the Polish capital is just heaven. There is an extraordinary atmosphere in Warsaw; everything is peaceful, the city is beautiful and offers a lot to its visitors.