Things to Do in Warsaw for First-Timers
On first impressions, Warsaw is a large and impersonal city. In fact with close to 2 million residents, it’s the largest city in Poland. Warsaw was completely destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, but the Polish capital has been carefully restored. It’s a fascinating and rewarding place to visit on any European rail adventure. Here are the best things to do in Warsaw for first-timers.
Things to do in Warsaw
1. Explore the Old Town
Warsaw’s Old Town is a fascinating place to explore on foot. Free from the hustle and bustle of big city life, this quaint district is full to the brim with quiet alleyways, vibrant squares, welcoming cafés and a palpable sense of history – despite the fact that it was completely rebuilt after WWII. In the warmer months of the year, the town squares are also home to regular events and even open-air art galleries.
Good to know: Part of what makes this part of Warsaw so interesting is the history, and you can learn more about this on a free walking tour – there are several companies and varieties to choose from.
2. Take a stroll through Łazienki Park
On a good day there are few parks in Europe that can rival the serene beauty of Łazienki Park. The park has everything you’d expect from a first-class city park, including a pristine lake, various stately residences, the Palace on the Water, and even an orangery.
Good to know: There are free Chopin concerts during the summer in the Park – check the Łazienki website for updates.
3. Visit the Warsaw Rising Museum
The uprising of 1944 is one of the most pivotal events in Polish and European history, and nowhere is this better explained than in the Warsaw Rising Museum. The rebellion was the biggest of its kind. While sobering, a visit to the museum puts much of the city’s past and present into context.
Good to know: Admission to the museum is free on Sundays.
4.Walk the Royal Route
The Warsaw Royal Route starts at the Royal Castle. It follows a cobblestone pathway that allows you to absorb Warsaw’s surprisingly regal atmosphere. Head towards the Presidential Palace, have a look inside the glitzy Hotel Bristol, and continue down Nowy Świat (New World Street) for an interesting mix of old and new. If you’re looking for high-end shops, head to Plac Trzech Krzyży. Continue on until you reach the controversial plastic palm tree sculpture and eventually, the Royal Palace.
Good to know: If you’re looking for a mid-Royal Route coffee break, head to Foksal Street for a wide selection of popular cafés.
5. Enter the Royal Palace
Reward yourself for walking the Royal Route with a visit to the elaborate Royal Palace, Wilanów. The palace has changed hands many times over the years and has also drawn influence from many different eras, adding to its intriguing design and appeal. There’s a large poster museum inside which is worth exploring, as well as the gardens outside.
Good to know: If you don’t have time to enter the museum, you can simply pay 5 Zloty to enter the park.
6. Head to the vibrant Praga District
Warsaw’s Praga District was once considered off-limits by many locals and visitors. But these days it’s a vibrant, rapidly gentrifying hub of creativity and activity. This part of the city was relatively untouched during the war, and many classic buildings are now intriguing clubs, bars, cafés, and museums. Don’t miss the Soho Factory and the Bazar Różyckiego – the city’s oldest market.
Good to know: During the warmer summer months you can head to Praski and Skaryszewski parks for open air concerts.
7. Get your science fix
The Copernicus Science Center is one of Warsaw’s newest attractions. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle of the city to learn more about all things science. The intriguing building sits on the picturesque Vistula river, and it offers an enthralling way to spend half a day for children and adults alike.
Good to know: Don’t miss a trip to the museum’s planetarium. There are regular two- and three-dimensional shows that offer a fascinating insight into the solar system. Check the museum website for updates on current shows.
8. Experience Chopin’s Warsaw
Warsaw is the birthplace of world-famous composer and pianist Frédéric François Chopin. You’ll be reminded of this frequently throughout your trip, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth immersing yourself in the history of this famous musician. There’s a fascinating Chopin Museum that walks you through the composer’s life. It showcases original photographs, manuscripts, and some of his early recordings.
Good to know: Are you a truly dedicated fan of Chopin? You can track down the resting place of his heart at the Holy Cross Church.
9. Eat in a milk bar
These days Warsaw is a vibrant, captivating city, but it wasn’t always this way. Poland has a bleak and macabre past. If you’re looking for insight into an altogether distant time, head to one of the city’s numerous bar mleczny, or milk bars. There you’ll find a cheap, no-frills meal in a truly unique setting.
Good to know: Many milk bars don’t have English menus or English speaking assistants. Don’t let this stop you – pointing at items on the large menu display boards usually yields surprising results.
The Polish capital is an absorbing city that has worked hard to shrug off its sombre history. Thanks to a new wave of enthusiastic young residents and hard work from local tourism officials, it’s easy to spend several days soaking up all the things to do in Warsaw. There’s good accessibility via rail from nearby cities and neighboring countries – therefore a Global Pass will get you there with ease.
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