As the commercial and urban hub of Poland, Warsaw is the nation’s capital and also its largest city. With a sombre history, Warsaw’s darkest chapter was written during the Third Reich’s destruction of the city during the Second World War.
The capital then endured being colonised by the Soviet Union, and has been rebuilding ever since. The Warsaw of today bears a spirit of survival and triumph. A vibrant city abuzz with culture and change within its concrete, Warsaw is fast becoming a prime destination for a European city break.
Old Town stands at the epicentre of the historical district, and has been lovingly and meticulously rebuilt, providing a great starting point for a city tour. St. John’s Archcathedral and the Royal Castle are well worth checking out, and the viewing platform at the top of St. Anne’s Church will give your camera a solid workout. Given its history, the city is inevitably home to some gripping museums.
For a glimpse into Warsaw’s dramatic past, the Warsaw Uprising Museum is a must-visit, as well as the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The remaining piece of the Ghetto Wall serves as a monument to the city’s suffering, and the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery leaves a deep mark on all visitors.
Umschlagplatz provides a memorial to where the loading ramp to Treblinka once stood, and the ultra-socialist-style building of the Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest structure in Poland, and one of the city’s most defining landmarks.
Eat and Drink
While Warsaw serves up the country’s culinary classics by the bucketload, it’s also home to a vast and vibrant selection of international restaurants. Traditional, must-try Polish favourites include: pierogi, crescent shaped parcels stuffed with a variety of sweet or savoury fillings; bigos, a traditional stew usually accompanied with rye bread or potatoes; and borscht, the popular, hearty soup.
If your tastebuds are tingling for something a little less traditional, Warsaw has you covered with sushi bars, hidden trattorias and Asian-fusion restaurants, all of which are common features of the city’s dining scene. Old Town is home to a plethora of cafés and bars that are well worth checking out for a slice of Warsaw’s nightlife. For bigger clubs, check out the city centre and the Praga district, which are hotspots for students and cheaper drink prices.
Where to Stay
Accommodation options in Warsaw are plentiful and cater to all budgets. Srodmiescie (the inner city) is the ideal base as it encompasses both the Old and New Towns and will ensure you are centrally located for your visit. Prices tend to be very reasonable in Warsaw, so if you’re travelling on a budget, you may well be able to set your standards a little higher than your usual budget hostel.
Being Poland’s capital, big international brands have flocked to Warsaw, all eager for a slice of the city’s resurgent economy. Zara, Esprit, Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste have made a beeline to set up shop in Warsaw’s Arkadia Mall, one of Central Europe’s biggest shopping malls.
There’s also an abundance of boutique stores tucked away in the cobbled alleyways of Old Town that provide ample options for gifts and souvenirs in a stunning, old-world setting.
Warsaw Like a Local
Born during the communist era, the milk bar is a cost-effective concept that allows you to experience Warsaw like a true local. Serving up traditional Polish food at rock-bottom prices, milk bars have been feeding the population since the country experienced severe food shortages 50 years ago.
The Praga district and Srodmiescie offer both traditional and modern takes on the milk bar, and are a great way to mingle with locals while helping yourself to a cheap feed.