Suggested Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
April to October
My Thoughts on Warsaw
Warsaw, now officially the capital and largest city of Poland is stunningly vibrant, rich in color, and deep in history. Its story however, is steeped in a very painful and disturbing past. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland with a population of around 1.8 million residents. This makes it the 7th most-populous capital city in the European Union. This major international tourist destination is famous for its Old Town - a UNESCO World Heritage Site; its beauty, its age, its size and its indestructible core. Just like phoenix, Warsaw repeatedly rose from the ashes of war. Its old town is electric, exuberant and very vibrant in its vibe. Its scars are still visible and its pain, etched in its walls. I loved exploring it on foot. Warsaw, unlike Sopot, is happening, and packed with lively visitors. Still seemingly cold, but not as ice cold as Sopot and its residents. Seeing the Royal Park, the Palace Square, visiting the Jewish museum, and sitting in the stories of the Poles told by my guide - in regards to the trying times Jews and Poles faced in the hands of the Nazi's, leaves one utterly bewildered and duly heart broken. There is a lot of pain still left in the heart of this city and so many wounds that haven't completely healed in this country, in my opinion. Be that as it may, I loved Warsaw. I loved the medley of the old, the new and the in-between. I particularly loved the Be Happy Museum. A museum that injects fun into everyone, even those who may be aching within or those who may have lost their will. The remnants of the city's medieval walls reminds them and us all, never to forget. Poland is off the radar on most people's maps, but I have to say, it is one beautiful country and I am so happy to be able to check it off my life list. This is Warsaw! - a TE highly recommended destination. Remember to click on all pictures on this page to reveal additional photos or useful links.
Airports to Fly Into
Where to Stay
Warsaw Marriott Hotel
Al. Jerozolimskie 65/79 Warsaw, Poland 00-697 +48 22 630 63 06
My number one pick and TE Spotlight always reflects where I stayed in each city and/or country. For my humble abode in Warsaw, I stayed at the Warsaw Marriott Hotel, a five-star hotel located only steps from the Warsaw Central Train Station and close to many of Warsaw's major attractions. It is within walking distance of the Old Town, the Royal Castle, Grand Opera House, and the Palace of Culture and Science, to mention a few. Warsaw Chopin International Airport is 20 minutes away and for shopperholics, Warsaw's main mall is right across the street. For dine-in or in-room service, try any of Marriott's restaurants. Floor No 2 Restaurant is a Polish restaurant that combines past and present to create a new tradition of French and Polish cuisines which are inspirational and legendary. There's also the Panorama Sky Bar for sweeping views of Warsaw as you wine and dine, or the Lobby Bar, an international bar with a refined space and relaxed atmosphere. All amenities needed to make ones' stay extremely comfortable are present. This hotel gets a worthy thumbs up from TE simply for its proximity to Warsaw Central and most of Warsaw's major attractions.
OTHER SUGGESTED PLACES TO STAY IN warsaw:
Raffles Europejski Warsaw (0.2 miles from city center)
Krakowskie Przedmiecie 13, 00-071 Warszawa, Poland +48 22 255 95 00
The Westin Warsaw (0.8 miles from city center)
Al. Jana Pawla II 21 Warsaw, Poland 00-854
Sheraton Grand Warsaw (0.5 miles from city center)
Bolesawa Prusa 2, 00-493 Warszawa, Poland +48 22 450 60 00
(Side Bar Information: Airline utilized - N/A. Take a train to Warsaw. It is cheaper. Avoid COVID-19 testing/airport hassles. Currency: Polish Zloty. Currency Exchange: $1 = 3.96 PLN. Distance from Warsaw Central Station to Warsaw Marriott Hotel: 1 minute by foot. Taxi fare from Warsaw Chopin Airport to City Center: $10.72 (44.59 PLN). For more hotels in Warsaw, please visit the world wide web)..
Where and What to Eat
Vapiano II Restaurant
Vapiano is a popular restaurant chain in Europe. They specialize in Italian, Pizza, and European dishes. Much like London, the Vapiano II Restaurant located on ul. Aleje Jerozolimskie 63, Warsaw 00-697 Poland is pristinely clean and the technology behind the assembly line method of getting your dishes are quite impressive. They hand you a credit card-like card at the entrance. All your dishes are scanned onto this card at the time of order placement. On your way out, you hand in this credit card and proceed to take care of your bill. It limits any exchange of legal tender, funds and/or cards at the point of food production, hence lending to the utmost sanitary exchange and environment. The dishes are also quite tasty and do not disappoint given that it is a restaurant chain. If possible, give them a try when in Warsaw or other parts of Europe where Vapianos are present. Price: $$
When in Warsaw, spoil yourself a little. Indulge in some world class, extremely fine dining, by trying out Nolita Restaurant located on Wilcza 46, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland. This Michelin Guide restaurant offers innovative, modern cooking in a stylish atmosphere. There are colorful artworks and displays on the walls, alongside an open kitchen. Guests can view the showmanship and artistic pace of signature chef/owner Jacek Grochowina, as he and his team create their culinary magic. This restaurant is located in a vibrant social district of Warsaw, so after dinner, try to explore the area. If funds permit, try them out. Price: $$$$ (Photo credit for Nolita to original copyright holders)
When in Poland, be Polish and eat some traditional Polish food. Stary Dom, considered one of the best restaurants in Warsaw is located on Puawska 104/106, 02-620 Warszawa, Poland. This amazing Polish restaurant should be given a try. Albeit Warsaw has many great restaurants, ultimately, one couldn't go wrong with their own discoveries, as it were. Be that as it may, the essence of TE is to offer readily available restaurant options that have been tried, tested and made the cut, before your next trip. This eliminiates or keeps the guessing, searching, trial, and food errors to a minimum. For pierogi lovers, Stary Dom has the best ones in Warsaw. They have wonderful reviews as a result and many have been visiting them for years. The service is phenomenal and the quality of food is of the highest grade. Try their delicious Beef Tartar. Price range: $$-$$$ (Photo credit for Stary Dom to original copyright holders)
In Poland, there are so many staples to try that go well beyond Pierogi, such as Sernik, a dessert that mimics a cheesecake, but a much drier version; Szarlotka, polish apple pie which is quite delicious. Paczki, forget Dunkin', this Polish donut will have you begging for more. Red Barszcz, a red beet broth typically served as an appetizer with minced meat or mushroom mini-dumplings (uszki) in it, and many more. However, one particular staple to try is Gołabki. Pronounced goh-wom-kee, better known as "stuffed cabbage". In this dish, you have cabbage leaves that are initially cooked, then filled with rice, sautéed onions, and some assortment of ground meat (turkey, beef, etc.) This dish changes your perspective on cabbage, for those that aren't cabbage lovers like me. There are scores upon scores of variations of this dish. They is no limit to what can be stuffed in side. They can be found everywhere and are one of the most delicious foods to try on your next visit to Poland. Price: $ (Photo credit for Golabki to original copyright holders)
Panorama Sky Bar
Enjoy cocktails, DJ sets and city views all in one felt swoop in this glamorous designer lounge with a long black and red bar. Panorama Sky Bar located inside the Warsaw Marriott hotel on Al. Jerozolimskie 65/79 Warsaw, Poland 00-697 is a cool spot to hang out at night to grab a bite, a drink, and/or to take in the city views. This very relaxing bar with a unique, aerial point of view, is the neatest way to stop and soak up some of Warsaw's atmosphere. Located on the 40th floor of Marriott hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning views across Warsaw, one must not miss a beat if they can afford to drop by. Indulge in some refreshing cocktails or a selection of beers and/or tempting delights from the menu at Panorama Sky Bar. Price range: $$-$$$. (Photo credit for Panorama Sky Bar to original copyright holders)
What to See and Do
Palace of Culture and Science
One of the most architecturally sound buildings I've come across in a while is the Palace of Culture and Science constructed in 1955. This notable high-rise building in central Warsaw, is 237 meters high and happens to be the second tallest building in Poland after Varso. It is also the 6th-tallest building in the European Union, and was the tallest clock tower in the world until the installation of a clock mechanism on the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building in Tokyo, Japan. It houses several public and cultural institutions such as cinemas, theatres', libraries, sports clubs, a restaurant, university faculties and authorities of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It also offers amazing views of the city from the observation deck. The PKiN was designed by Soviet Russian architect Lev Rudnev in "Seven Sisters" style and is informally referred to as the Eighth Sister.
Royal Baths Park
Royal Baths Park or Lazienki Park is the largest park in Warsaw, Poland. It occupies 76 hectares of the city's center and is absolutely stunning. It leaves you transported in many ways to an era from yonder. There's a beautiful lake that glistens and casts beautiful shadows on its waters. YOu'll find newly weds ceremoniously etching their love in photographs at this park. At the Royal Baths Park, you'll find the Royal Palace, a moat, and many more that lie between this park-and-palace complex. It is also part of the Royal Route linking the Royal Castle with Wilanów Palace to the south.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw
The Royal Castle in Warsaw served as the official and former home of Polish monarchs for centuries. Initially, the fortified complex served as the residence of the Masovian dukes. It is situated in Castle Square, at the entrance of Warsaw Old Town. The Royal Castle housed the personal office of the king as well as the administrative offices of the royal court from the 16th century until the final partition of Poland in 1795. The medieval Gothic structure was remodeled into Italian mannerism by architects Giovanni Battista Trevano and Matteo Castelli. The Baroque easternmost wing was designed by Gaetano Chiaveri and completed in 1747. The edifice was redesigned into a neoclassical style following the partitions of Poland. This Castle has witnessed many notable events in Poland's history; including the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791; the first of its kind in Europe. (Click Photo to view)
Palace on the Isle
The Palace on the Isle, aka Baths Palace, is a classicist palace located in Royal Baths Park. It was erected on a square plan and richly decorated with statues, the oldest street lamp in Warsaw, stuccos, paintings; as well as some of the original decorations and architectural details that survived from 1674. The Castle and property belonged to Count Stanisaw Herakliusz Lubomirski, who commissioned a Baroque bath house called "azienka", similar to a number of other European historic sites. There is a fascinating story behind the park run general and one should definitely visit. (Click Photo to view)
Old Town Market Square
Old Town Market Square is a pivotal point and major attraction in Warsaw. It is the heart and center, a as well as the oldest part of the Old Town of Warsaw. Immediately after the Warsaw Uprising, it was systematically blown up by the German Army. After World War II, the Old Town Market Place was restored to its pre-war appearance with a fountain called the "The Warsaw Mermaid" as a unique center piece. The square is vibrant, active, bustling and action packed with tourists and locals alike. You'll find restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and houses. The houses around it previously represented the Gothic style until the great fire of 1607, after which they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style; and subsequently, in the late-Baroque style by Tylman Gamerski in 1701.
Frederic Chopin Monument in Warsaw is a large bronze statue of Frédéric Chopin that now stands in the upper part of Warsaw's Royal Baths Park, adjacent to Aleje Ujazdowskie. This lovely area is quite beautiful to relax in and lounge on the benches set up at the park-like setting with live music on the weekends. The Sunday piano concerts are utterly amazing and many arrive in droves to take in beautiful Chopin sets.
Sigismund's Column is located at Castle Square, in Warsaw. It was erected in 1644 and is one of Warsaw's most famous landmarks as well as the first secular monument in the form of a column in modern history. In 1596, King Sigismund III Vasa moved Poland's capital from Kraków to Warsaw. The Sigismund's column and statue was erected to commemorate that event. The Corinthian column is 8.5 meters high and the sculpture of the King is 2.75 meters high. Sigismund's Column itself, stands at 22 meters tall and is adorned by four eagles. The king is dressed in armor and carries a cross in one hand and wields a sword in the other. (Click Photo to view)
Castle Square is a historic and bustling square in front of the Royal Castle - the former official residence of Polish monarchs. This is a popular meeting destination for tourists, locals, tour guides, excursions, hang-outs, meet-ups, and many more. At this triangular shape square, you'll find the famous Sigismund's Column landmark. There are historic townhouses, restaurants, cafes, vendors and shops. One can also get a glimpse of Warsaw's Stadium from this vantage point. It marks the beginning of the bustling Royal Route extending to the south. (Click Photo to view)
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. Its cornerstone was laid in 2007, and afterwards, opened on April 19th, 2013. The Hebrew word Polin means either "Poland" or "rest here" and relates to a legend about the arrival of the first Jews to Poland. The museum features a multimedia exhibition on the Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the World War II Holocaust. This post-modern building is made of glass, copper, and concrete, and was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma.
The Warsaw Barbican is a major attraction located between the Old and New Towns in Warsaw. It is one of few remaining relics of the complex network of historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw. The barbican had the form of a three-level semicircular bastion manned by fusiliers. It was 14 meters wide and 15 meters high from the bottom of the moat, which surrounded the city walls, and also extended 30 meters from the external walls. It was erected in place of an older gate to protect Nowomiejska Street in 1540. It's a stark difference from its surroundings and a splendid surprise to behold.
St. John's Arch-Cathedral
St. John's Arch-Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the three major cathedrals in the city of Warsaw. This Gothic style Roman Catholic church is located within the Old Town precinct. It is the only temple that possesses the title of an arch-cathedral, alongside being the mother church of the archdiocese of Warsaw. It is also one of Poland's national pantheons. (Click Photo to view)
Be Happy Museum
The happiest place on earth is no longer Disney World for me, it's the Be Happy Museum tucked away in a mall all the way in Warsaw, Poland. Located on al. Jerozolimskie 148, 02-326 Warszawa, Poland, this museum forces you to choose happiness and reminds you that life is child-like and wonderful; at least for the hours you're in here. One is immersed in a colorful burst of props and an alternate universe where humans merge with the world of pop, avatars, and spaces that collides with them, and/or that they've just entered into. No distressed heart, or worried soul will depart unhealed. Upon entrance of this musuem, you'll be greeted with a very viable saying, "You are exactly, where you need tyo be!" I couldn't possibly have agreed more. (Click Photo to view)
City to See Nearby
(Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Poland)
Auschwitz concentration camp was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by the Nazis from Germany. It comprised of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) in Owicim; Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a concentration and extermination camp with gas chambers; Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a labor camp for the chemical conglomerate IG Farben; and scores of other subcamps. The atrocities committed here are enough to make you throw up for a dozen years. Women, children, men, were all murdered in the worst way and/or sent to gas chambers under the disguise of being sent to take a bath or shower. Stripped naked of all their belongings and marched right to their deaths. This evil existed in our world merely decades ago and continues to exist till this day in some way, shape, or form.
The Back Story
Of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died. (Marinate on that for a moment - Take that in)! The few that survived on liberation day in 1945 barely weighed 44 lbs (20 kg). How actual sons of men and women, human beings like you and I can harbor such waggish, black hearts, still mystifies me today. This terror, this evil, this despicable deeds by the Nazi Germans must never be forgotten. The evil we face today must never be taken lightly or sitting down. Complacency is the disease that slowly kills bystanders who watch as evil thrives.
Auschwitz I Gate
Gate to Auschwitz I with its Arbeit macht frei sign - "work sets you free". (Click Photo to view)
The commandant's and administration building, Auschwitz I (Click Photo to view)
Block 10 and 11
Block 10, Auschwitz I, where medical experiments were performed on women. Click on photo to view Block 11 where the "death wall" of Auschwitz I was located. (Click Photo to view)
My Favorite Moments & Quotes
Warsaw exudes fun and happiness. My visit there was quite timely. Not only was it surreal, it was educational, and deeply emotional. And then came Auschwitz like a wrecking ball; its concentration camps ripped my heart out. In the end, Warsaw turned right around and offered great healing for my aching soul.
- Lynda 'Kechy
Cultivation, old civilization, beauty, history! Surprising turnings of streets, shapes of venerable cottages, lovely aged eaves, unexpected and gossamer turrets, steeples, the gloss, the antiquity! Gardens. Whoever speaks of Paris has never seen Warsaw. Whoever yearns for an aristocratic sensibility, let him switch on the great light of Warsaw.
- Cynthia Ozick
I think one sees more pretty women in five minutes in Warsaw than in half an hour in any other European capital, London thrown in.
- Harry de Windt
First, Poland has been again overrun by two of the great powers which held her in bondage for 150 years but were unable to quench the spirit of the Polish nation. The heroic defense of Warsaw shows that the soul of Poland is indestructible and that she will rise again like a rock which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave but which remains a rock.
- Winston Churchill
When Pope John Paul II kissed the ground at the Warsaw airport he began the process by which communism in Poland and ultimately elsewhere in Europe, would come to an end.
- John Lewis Gaddis The Cold War
The Holocaust committed by the Nazis turned this country, where most of the European Jews used to live and where their culture used to flourish, into a massive grave. This is why initiatives to revive Jewish culture in Poland is so important.
- Marek Belka
I can't imagine life without Poland. I find it very hard to find a place for myself in the West.
- Krzysztof Kieslowski
Poland was the racial laboratory of the Nazis. This is where they started to put their abhorrent theories into practice.
- Norman Davies
You are in a country that comes and goes, where the people have been mistreated but rarely oppose. Borders have changed by rulers from afar, although sometimes closer than neighbourhoods are. Their religion is sacred and the heavens smile down, but the history they keep will lead you to frown.
- Sean F. Hogan, Painting Angels
It has been said that Poland is dead, exhausted, enslaved, but here is the proof of her life and triumph.
- Henryk Sienkiewicz
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHILE VISITING WARSAW
1. Every visitor to Poland must have a valid passport to enter. U.S. citizens can enter visa-free for tourism or business stays of up to 90 days. There is a six months passport validity requirement for U.S. citizens entering Poland like most countries.
2. The European Union is facilitating travel within Europe with the EU Digital COVID Certificate, a digital pass for EU and U.S. residents who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, tested negative for the virus, or have recovered from it will be needed upon entry to or exit from Poland. To visit other European countries with stringent COVID-19 requirements, go through Poland as I did (Poland is considered a Safe Zone). One can enter countries such as the Netherlands through Poland without being checked, unvaccinated, or with a negative test result.
3. Before arrival to Poland, one must have a record locator. Go on to the Polish website klp.gov.pl to fill out the 'passenger locator form' with all the pertinent details needed prior to your departure date. You will need your name, date of birth, flight information, hotel or accomodation details, as well as your arrival date. One would not be allowed to board their flight without producing a copy of your record locator form which houses a verification code.
4. An excellent resource is the U.S. State Departments detailed website travel.state.gov or copy and paste this link for country specific COVID-19 requirements.
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/requirements-for-air-travelers-to-the-us.html or https://www.afar.com/magazine/when-will-we-be-able-to-travel-to-europe
5. Fully vaccinated travelers (meaning it has been at least 14 days since their second dose if two doses were required) entering Poland, including those from the U.S., are exempt from an otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine. Visit www.gov.pl or copy and paste https://www.gov.pl/web/coronavirus/travel on your url browser for full details on requirements before embarking on your trip to Poland.
6. Getting to Auschwitz is best from Warsaw. Take a private guide on visit one of the websites that offer guided tours. I happen to like viator.com. Visit this site to reserve a day trip to Auschwitz concentration camps.
7. When visiting Warsaw, Poland, or other countries, remember to have credit cards with no foreign transaction fees in your possession such as American Express or a credit card that garners points; particularly, if you are a points junkie like me. Saving on all those fees goes a very long way. Credit cards are accepted everywhere, such as hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. When visiting open air markets or private shops, be sure to have plenty of cash.
8. Download maps.me and rome2rio.com to offer directions in and around the city with or without WIFI connection.
9. Get a SIM card for international calls to stay connected with family and friends abroad when free WIFI isn't available.
10. The currency of choice in Poland is the Polish Zloty (PLN). Always remember to withdraw a country's currency at the ATM machine located INSIDE the airport upon arrival or at the baggage claim area. This will help eliminate any fraudlent attempts or prevent you from utilizing an ATM machine that has been compromised. Also, you'll get better exchange rates from your bank, a much lower bank fee in exchange, and you'll save some money while eliminating Bureau de change fees, commisions and/or questionable exchange rates.
11. Always have a copy of your passport on you. It's imperative to have this on hand for any unforeseen circumstances, especially when changing your countries currency to Euros.
12. Try to take advantage of any cities or countries near the country you are visiting. For instance, consider taking the ferry to Hel which is roughly 2.5 hours from Gdańsk by Ferry. Gdynia and Sopot are only 20 minutes away from the resort town of Gdańsk, so these should definitely be added on to your itinerary. They can be explored by day for a few hours. Krakow, Auschwitz and Warsaw are train rides away - roughly 3.5 hours away. Take advantage of this. Some of these cities or countries nearby can be crossed off your life or bucket list on one trip. This translates to savings. Carpe diem (always seize the moment).
13. Depending on what country you are visiting, and/or when you are visiting, you'd need an umbrella, sunblock, sunglasses, sweater, a jacket, the usuals. So bring these items with you depending on the season and time of year you'd be visiting Poland. Try to ignore the inconvenience of having them in your luggage. For instance, in Europe, you just never know. Chances are you may and/or definitely need them.
14. As always while visiting other countries or cities, wear comfortable shoes, choose appropriate clothing for the climate, weather and/or region. Be mindful, be modest, be aware, be alert, and be kind. Always try to adapt to each countries ideals and requirements in-lieu of imposing your own.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WARSAW, POLAND:
Poland was amazing in many ways,but also disheartening. Walking through Auschwitz concentration camp was no easy task. Seeing what humans went through or where put through made my trip a bitter sweet experience. No visit to Poland is complete without seeing the injustice meted out on humans by their fellow humans. Be that as it may, Warsaw held many healing and fascinating moments for me. The Be Happy Museum for one, was one of those moments. There is no denying its charm and beauty. There are a tremendous amounts of things to do in Warsaw, such as sites to see and restaurants to indulge in. The food was phenomenal, the atmosphere right, the weather was co-operative and life will be good again. Visiting Poland should be on every Travel Enthusiast's list.