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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWarsaw is country’s largest city and one of the cheapest capitals in the European Union. The city is divided into 18 district on both sides of the Vistula river. Warsaw has experienced many difficult periods of history. In 1772 Poland’s neighbouring Republics of Russia, Prussia and Austria seized control of the country and partitioned the land. And although, most of the city was utterly destroyed in World War II, today’s Warsaw is developing and offers a fascinating insight into Poland’s communist past and metropolitan future.
The birthplace of the famous Polish composer, Chopin has plenty of attractions to offer visitors. Explore the cobbled streets of the fairly 'new' Old Town and have a look at the famous Warsaw Mermaid, or simply lose yourself in buzzing Śródmieście, the heart of the capital. Not to be missed are the Royal Castle, Old Town Square, National Museum, Palace of Culture and Science, and the Łazienki Park. If time allows, be sure to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum and learn about the history of Warsaw. The Chopin Museum and Wilanow Palace are well-worth a visit too. If you like quirky museum stop by the Neon Museum to see the unique collection of postwar neon advertising. The city also possesses a wide variety of architectural monuments, whether as replicas or originals. For a great view over the Old Town, climb St. Anne's bell tower on Castle square. If you feel like spending a lazy day at the beach you won't have to travel far from the city. The locals love spending sunny days on the Vistula beaches. The city also boasts a vibrant nightlife with a great selection of restaurants, bars and clubs.
Warsaw's seasons vary from quite hot in the summer to bitterly cold in the winter. Mid-summer is the most popular time to travel to the city as there are many International festivals and musical events. However, the best time to visit Warsaw is spring or autumn, when the weather is pleasantly mild and the city see far fewer tourists than in summer and winter. Note that the currency in Poland is the Polish złoty, abbreviated as “PLN” or “zł”.
Old TownThe greatest attraction in Warsaw is the charming, historic Old Town district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, lined with brightly painted Renaissance and Baroque style buildings. Stare Miasto is a vibrant place full of cobblestone lanes, squares, galleries, cosy cafés and restaurants. While the largest part of the Old Town was destroyed in World War II, it was later carefully restored to its original appearance in the 17th and the 18th centuries. At the centre of the Old Town Square Market stands the Mermaid Statue, which became the official symbol of the city in 1938. It is easy to get lost for a day strolling along the Royal Route, roaming through churches, enjoying a lunch at one of the many cafes or simply taking in the views.
Royal CastleThe Warsaw's iconic red-brick Royal Castle, known locally as Zamek Królewski, is located at the entrance to Warsaw’s historic Old Town. It once served the Russian tsars and, in 1918, after Poland regained independence, became the residence of the president. Today's Castle, a copy of the original, as the original was destroyed during World War II on Hitler’s orders, houses astonishing pieces of art, like sculptures, paintings and tapestries. Lots of original details can still be seen today as they had been kept at a secure location during the war. The absolute highlight is the Grand Assembly Hall which has been restored to its former 1781 glory with a magnificent painted ceiling. Another highlight is the Lanckoroński Collection housing Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Girl in a Picture Frame.
Warsaw Rising MuseumThe touching Warsaw Rising Museum showcases the history of the city's heroic uprising against the German occupation. A multimedia exhibition, packed with approximately 1500 photographs, films and sound recordings, presents the everyday struggles of Warsaw’s citizens before and during the Uprising, the horror of occupation and the post-war Communist terror. Be sure to see a short 3D film "The City of Ruins" taking a flight over the devastated Warsaw. One of the museum’s main highlights is a replica of a B-24J Liberator bomber, used by the allies to drop supplies. During your visit, you can take a break in a pleasant old cafe. It is free on Sunday, but can get very crowded. Go early, so you don't have to wait in line to enter.
Palace of Science and CultureThe impressive Palace of Culture and Science, completed in 1955, is the tallest building in Poland. It was a gift of Joseph Stalin to the Polish people and has since become one of the symbols of Warsaw. You can still see where Stalin’s name was scratched out of the stonework as you enter the building. Inside, the palace charms with marble floors, endless staircases and corridors with their weighty glass chandeliers. Today, the 231m high palace is home to congress hall, museums, popular multiplex cinema, and several chic bars and theatres. Be sure not to miss the observation deck on the 30th floor, which provides epic views of the city. The entrance is on the side of the large complex opposite the Tourist Information office. The palace is also an excellent landmark for orientation, being visible from almost every part of the city.
National MuseumThe National Museum, originally founded in 1862 as the Museum of Fine Arts, boasts several collections, including the impressive ancient art collection, coin collection, valuable Polish and foreign paintings, by renowned artists like Botticelli, Rubens, Matejko and Chelmonski and even paintings from Adolf Hitler's private collection, given to the museum by American authorities after the World War II. Admission to the permanent galleries is free on Tuesdays. The building also houses the Museum of Polish Military Forces.
Fryderyk Chopin MuseumIf you love music or music history, the interactive Fryderyk Chopin Museum should be on your to-do list. Located in the Ostrogski Palace, the museum is spread over 4 floors and tells the story of one of the most gifted classical composers. The exhibits on display in the museum include original manuscripts of compositions, letters, photographs, documents written by the composer, sculptures and piano recitals. Each visitor is provided with a magnetic card which is keyed to your language, so when the card is swiped at an exhibit, the info touch screen is set to your language. Limited visitation is allowed each hour; so be sure to book your visit in advance.
St John's CathedralSt. John's Cathedral is located in Warsaw's Old Town. The stunning Gothic cathedral was originally built in the 14th century, but it was completely destroyed during World War II. However, like much of the Old Town, it was reconstructed after the war. The cathedral houses the beautiful red marble tombs of many Mazovian dukes and the remains of Nobel Prize-winning writer Henryk Sienkiewicz. In the summer, organ concerts are held in the cathedral.
Copernicus Science CentreIf you're interested in science, the interactive and engaging Copernicus Science Centre should not to be missed. The Center is spread over two floors and boasts six areas: Roots of Civilisation, Bzzz! for preschool children, RE:generation for young adults, Humans and the Environment, LightZone and On the Move. It offers visitors over 350 hands-on activities that challenge, stimulate, and excite the mind and body. The Centre also features the only Robotic Theatre in the world. During summer months be sure to book online or go early to avoid queues. Attached to the building is a Planetarium but booking is advisable and comes at an extra cost.
Łazienki ParkThe Łazienki Park, situated at the centre of the city, between the Aleje Ujazdowskie and Czerniakowska streets. The park features beautiful gardens, Palace on the Water, White House, Fryderyk Chopin Monument, Roman style amphitheatre, and the Old and New Orangery. From May to September, the park gathers big crowds especially on Sundays when at noon and 4 p.m. talented pianists play Chopin at the square next to the monument of the renowned Polish composer.
The Palace on the Water
The Palace on the Water, a beautiful neoclassical palace built on an islet in the middle of a lake, is well-worth visiting. It was the summer residence of the last King of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, in the late 18th century. The palace now houses a museum and highlights include the Ballroom, designed by Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer, and the Rotunda with the figures of the Polish kings.
Prague DistrictIt is worth crossing the Vistula River to explore the atmospheric streets of Warsaw's genuine and hip district of Prague. For decades, it was home to the poor Warsaw's citizens. Today it is the home to many hipsters and artists, and it’s considered one of Warsaw’s trendiest neighborhoods. The renovated post-industrial factories and warehouses now houses bars, clubs, cinemas, art galleries and restaurants. Other than that, Prague also has a Zoo, Soho Factory and a quirky Neon museum.
Wilanów PalaceThe stunning Wilanów Palace, located on the outskirts of Warsaw, is one of the rare city's sights that survived both World Wars. A Baroque royal residence set in glorious French-styled gardens was built in the 17th century by the royal designer Augustyn Locci. It was rebuilt through the centuries by the subsequent owners. In addition to its aristocratic exterior the palace is also home to a priceless art collection. Behind the palace, you’ll find a lovely natural lake and a man-made pond. The surrounding grounds are well kept and beautiful too. While the park is open year-round until dusk, the palace itself changes hours of operation depending on the season.
POLIN Museum of History of the Polish JewsWarsaw’s recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews showcases the thousand-year history of Polish Jews, Although, constructed on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, this new museum refuses to let the tragedies of the 20th century overshadow the great achievements of the country’s Jewish community over the previous millennium. The design of the museum and the quality of the exhibits is superb. Highlights include early Jewish manuscripts, vintage photographs and films, and histories of Polish-born movements from Hasidism to Zionism. Make sure you get the audio guide, which adds a lot of information to the exhibits.
Food & DrinkMany of the city’s restaurants are located around the Old Town area. You can choose between various restaurants that offer traditional Polish food such as Pierogi; dumplings stuffed with a whole range of fillings, served fried or boiled and Bigos; also known as hunters stew, made of meat, cabbage, onion and sauerkraut or you can let your culinary needs be catered at food places that offer different world cuisines like Italian, Chinese, African, Thai, Indian and many more. Treat yourself with a typical Polish lunch at a local 'bar mleczny' milk bar. These extremely affordable eateries, serving authentic Polish food, are a remnant of the old Soviet times. If you have a sweet tooth be sure to sample Polish cheesecake Sernik. Poland is also famous for its Pączki or doughnuts, apple pies and warm pancakes filled with hot cream cheese.
Although Poland is famous for its vodka, there are some popular Polish beers like Tyskie, Zywiec, Okocim or Lech. For all the coffee lovers Warsaw should be a treat too. Polish tap water is officially regarded as safe for drinking, but as you will hardly ever see locals drinking from the tap, it’s a good idea to follow suit and buy your water bottled
ShoppingThere's a huge variety of shops in Warsaw, as a walk between the Palace of Culture and Science and Ulica Nowy Świat, will prove. Warsaw’s Old Town is the place to head if you’re looking for souvenirs, vintage items, or quality Polish trinkets. For high quality Polish ceramics, wood carving and folk art, try the well-established Cepelia in Plac Konstytucji. Another much-loved item available widely is amber from the Baltic Sea. High end shops can be found at Galeria Mokotow and Three Crosses Square, while Mokotowska Street is perfect for boutique lovers. The hippest shopping mall in the city is the new Zlote Tarasy, a visually stunning commercial complex, which houses more than 200 shops. Arkadia, situated at Rondo Radoslawa Babka, is by far the largest shopping mall in Warsaw.
AccommodationsWarsaw as the capital offers variety of great accommodation, from modern hotels in the city center, boutique hotels in the Old Town to homely apartment in the creative district of Prague and vibrant youth hostels, located mainly in Środmieście. The best option is to find accommodation in the very center of the city, located in a close proximity to the most important attractions.
Getting AroundAlthough Warsaw is quite a large city it relatively easy to get around. A lot of the main tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other, especially in Old Town. Warsaw’s public buses, trams and subways are just easy to use and inexpensive. Be sure to stamp your ticket straight after entering the bus or tram at a special stamping machine. Note that, as in many other big cities, Warsaw’s traffic can be quite heavy especially during the rush hours, hence your travel time can be much longer than usual. Taxis in Warsaw are best ordered by phone, and generally arrive very promptly. A City Hop-on Hop-off tour can save you some time if you want to quickly visit the sights. From March to November you can also use the city bikes to explore the capital on two wheels.
SafetyWarsaw is considered relatively safe. Although, as in all capital cities, pickpockets do exist. As anywhere in the world, it is important to keep an eye on your belongings, particularly when on public transport or in areas where there are large crowds, such as train and bus stations. You should avoid walking alone in Praga district at night. Alcohol consumption is quite high, so as a precaution try to explore the nightlife in a group rather than alone. It's important to be alert and sensible but if you take the same precautions in Warsaw that you take in any other city, you should have a safe, enjoyable, crime free experience.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Oct 10, 2015