Warsaw was my last stop on my adventures through Poland. Maybe it was for the best, because had it been my first, I might have spent all two weeks in this unique and lively city. As soon as I set foot here, I began to regret allotting only three nights here. This city was diverse and had a personality unlike any other I’d been to in Poland. Warsaw was a great mix of new and old, historic and modern, and the variety of vibrant neighborhoods will guarantee that you’re never bored in this city.
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Table of Contents
- Things To Know Before Going to Warsaw
- How To Get to Warsaw
- How To Get Around Warsaw
- Where To Stay in Warsaw
- The Best Things To Do in Warsaw
- Nightlife in Warsaw
Things To Know Before Going to Warsaw
Poland is an interesting European destination. At times, it feels akin to Western Europe. Other times, the cultural differences present themselves in bold ways. Poland and Warsaw are very unique destinations, and a great place to visit if you want to dip your toes into Eastern Europe. Here’s a few things to know before going.
Currency and Money
The currency of Poland is the zloty. Despite being part of the European Union, they have yet to adopt the Euro as the official currency. There are money exchanges throughout the city if you’d like to switch your dollars or Euros into Polish zloty. Otherwise, ATMs are abundant and you should have no issue withdrawing money.
The official language of Poland is Polish, although English is widely spoken, especially in Warsaw. The capital is modern with a young population. Most young people in Poland will speak English. Tourist establishments and attractions will almost always cater to English-speaking tourists. In lesser-traveled parts of Poland, you might have issues with a language barrier. In Warsaw, you will have no problem at all.
Safety in Warsaw
Is Warsaw safe? Absolutely. I found Warsaw to be a very safe city, even at night. It’s a lively, vibrant city that takes on a life of its own once the sun goes down. I visited many neighborhoods of Warsaw and felt safe in all of them. Of course, exercise your normal caution and common sense should get you by just fine.
Refugee Situation in Poland
I visited Warsaw and other parts of Poland the summer after Putin’s war started. Since Poland is bordering Ukraine, many refugees fled to Poland. I was reluctant at first to visit, but the general sentiment I received from Polish people was that tourists and travelers are very much welcome. The money brought in by tourism can go a long way to helping Poland and Ukrainian refugees, so if you are planning to visit Poland, please do.
How To Get To Warsaw
The fastest way to get to Warsaw is by flight. As a backpacker on a budget, use Skiplagged to find the cheapest flights possible. It’s free to use and I’ve saved thousands of dollars on flights since I started using it religiously. If you’re already backpacking through Europe and Poland, then a bus or train will do just fine. The rail system in Poland is efficient, reliable, and affordable. Warsaw, being the capital and largest city in Poland, is very easily accessible by public transportation. The best website for looking up train schedules in Poland is PKP. Another option to get to Warsaw is by bus. It’s a little slower, but can be a cheaper if you book far enough in advance. Most backpackers use Flixbus for budget-friendly bus travel throughout Europe. It’s an essential app to have if you’re traveling through Europe.
Oh, and before you head out, make sure to have good travel insurance handy while you’re off adventuring across the world. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $40 a month.
How To Get Around Warsaw
Whether you prefer to wander aimlessly by foot or get to your destination as fast as possible, Warsaw has a plethora of transportation options.
Walking in Warsaw is totally safe. Some neighborhoods are more walkable than others, like Downtown Warsaw and the historic Old Town. In other situations, you might need some wheels. One of my favorite parts of Warsaw is how easy and affordable it is to get around. If you download the bike-sharing app, you can rent a bike for almost nothing. The first 20 minutes are free, followed by 1 zloty ($.20) for the first hour. It gets more expensive with each successive hour, but for how much ground you can cover, it is easily the cheapest and best way to explore Warsaw.
Unless you happen to be in a heatwave, then you might want to retreat to the comforts of an underground train. A 3-day pass for all public transportation in Warsaw cost me 36 zloty, or about $8 USD.
As long as you’re close to public transportation or a bike-share station, then it doesn’t really matter what neighborhood of Warsaw you stay in. The attractions are quite spread out, so there’s no one perfect neighborhood for sightseeing. The Old Town would be the best, but even then, you’ll likely run out of things to see there after a day.
Where To Stay in Warsaw
Warsaw has several districts. As a tourist, you’ll likely be drawn to the charming Old Town of Warsaw. I stayed close to the towering Palace of Culture, putting me within walking distance to many of Warsaw’s neighborhoods. I was minutes away from public transportation, allowing me to explore the city quickly and efficiently.
Warsaw Old Town
Safestay Warsaw is perfectly located within minutes of the Old Town. It’s right on the main street of Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of the liveliest streets in Warsaw. There is a bus stop right at the doorstep of Safestay Warsaw, connecting you with the rest of the city. Safestay is a big hostel chain throughout Europe, but they’re always a safe and reliable bet.
OkiDoki is another great hostel with a great location in Warsaw’s Old Town.
The Best Things To Do in Warsaw
Warsaw’s got enough museums, historical locations, cultural attractions, and nightlife spots to keep you busy for weeks.
Wander Through the Old Town
Warsaw’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but not for the typical reason that Old Towns get this designation. It’s actually the youngest Old Town in the world, being rebuilt completely after World War II. It’s been rebuilt in its original style, so while the buildings themselves are new, they look quite old. It’s easily the most charming and picturesque part of Warsaw, but definitely don’t limit yourself to just this neighborhood.
This park is home to palaces, museums, and more. It’s one of the best places in Warsaw to chill out and get away from the city. This park is home to a lot of history because it was mostly spared during the German ransacking of Warsaw. Many of Warsaw’s oldest and most beautiful structures can be found in this park. Lazienki Park will give you a glimpse of why Warsaw was often referred to as the Paris of the East before the war.
Explore Praga Neighborhood
On the other side of the Vistula River, you’ll find the neighborhood of Praga. Some of the attractions here include a beautiful cathedral, the old zoo, the Polish Vodka Museum, street art, and several historical buildings. This was a filming location for the movie The Pianist, mainly because the old walls of the buildings haven’t been plastered over yet. It’s cool to spend a couple of hours here. There are a number of alternative bars and unique nightlife areas in Praga to check out as well.
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the Nazi ghettos during World War II. It took up a huge chunk of the city, and although most of it has been renovated and rebuilt, there are still parts of the ghetto that stand today. Walking through the Warsaw Ghetto (preferably with a knowledgeable tour guide) is an essential experience while in Warsaw.
Go Up to the Terrace of the Palace of Culture and Science
People often say this is the best view of Warsaw because it’s the only way you won’t see the Palace of Culture. This building is a controversial building. It was completed in 1955 as a “gift from the Soviets” and if you know the history of Warsaw, you’ll know that they aren’t particularly fond of the Soviets. But I’ll speak objectively for now. It is the tallest building in Poland and the best place to get some excellent panoramic views of the city. The view isn’t to die for, since there isn’t really a particularly scenic part of the city outside of the Old Town, and you can barely see the Old Town from here.
Museums in Warsaw
Warsaw is home to some of the coolest museums in all of Poland. You’ve got your typical history and war museums, but there’s so much more. Here are a few of the must-visits in Warsaw.
- The Warsaw Uprising Museum
This museum commemorates the Warsaw Uprising that took place on August 1st, 1944. It was the largest resistance effort against Nazi occupation during WorlD War II. During the two-month long uprising, about 200,000 Varsovians were killed, 90% of them civilians. After the treaty ending the uprising, Warsaw was razed to the ground and the remaining citizens were deported from the city. It’s a heartbreaking museum, although inspiring in its own way. You’ll find many stories from participants of the uprising and how it was the general attitude of the Polish people to put their freedom and independence over their own lives.
- The Polish Vodka Museum
Although Russia is most accepted as the creators of vodka, Poland actually has a strong case as the origin of vodka. You can learn all about it at the Polish Vodka Museum and follow it up with a vodka tasting at the end. This museum in the Praga neighborhood is well worth stopping by. It’s located in a repurposed factory situated in a trendy area of Praga.
- POLIN Museum History of the Jews
The POLIN Museum will take you through a millennia of history of Jews in Poland. It’s one of the best museums to visit in Warsaw, and even won the title of European Musem of the Year back in 2016.
- The Neon Museum
The privately-owned Neon Museum of Warsaw gives you a look at the neon revolution that took over Poland for a while. It’s got a big collection of Cold War era neon signs. It also serves as one of the coolest photo spots in all of Warsaw. It’s on the Praga side of the Vistula River but it’s easily accessible by public transport and worth a quick visit.
- Interactive Pinball Museum
Warsaw’s Interactive Pinball Museum can be found close to Warsaw West train station. It’s home to dozens of original pinball machines. Best of all, you can still play pinball on them. It also doubles as a bar, so you can stop by, play some pinball, and have a few drinks.
- Marie (Skłodowska) Curie’s House
Although Frydryk Chopin might be the city’s most-celebrated Pole, Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was actually born in Warsaw. You can visit her childhood house located in Warsaw’s Old Town.
These are just a few of the museums that I’d recommended. For art-lovers, you’ll find an abundance of art and music museums, including the Fryderyk Chopin Museum. Along the Vistula River, you’ll find the Copernicus Science Center and the Museum of Modern Art.
Cycle along (or have a beer by) the Vistula River
On the East Bank of the Vistula River, you’ll find museums, restaurants, bars and more. It’s one of the best spots in Warsaw to have a drink once evening rolls in. It’s perfect because you’re actually legally allowed to drink in public here. Hit up a Zabka and grab a beer and watch the sun set over the Vistula.
Nightlife in Warsaw
Warsaw’s got a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene. I didn’t go make it out clubbing, but definitely appreciated the immense amount of unique and trendy options for bars. Here are a few that I’d recommend.
Pictured above is the bar right outside the Warsaw Uprising Museum. It’s called Pokoj Na Lato and was the perfect spot for a chill beer and some sunshine. Nowy Swiat Pavilions close to the city center is where you’ll find a number of small bars. It’s got a younger crowd and is popular among university students.
Inside the repurposed electric power plant (Elektrownia Powisle), you’ll find a food hall that also has a few bars. It’s a very cool cyberpunk setting for a few drinks. It’s also right along the Vistula River so you can pop over and have a few drinks along the riverside. There are a lot of bars along the Vistula River that are perfect for having a chill drink. You’ll even find some bars on boats right on the river, like Barka. There’s also a small beach on the other side of the Vistula, although you can’t actually swim.
Zagrywki is a fun bar that will keep you busy with some games like mini golf, air hockey, and others. As mentioned earlier, the Interactive Pinball Museum is another spot if you fancy playing some games while you drink. During the summer, the Palace of Culture and Science is a popular area for people to just hang out on the big square. There are two bars there, Studio and Cafe Kulturalna, where you can go for drinks.
Warsaw is an ever-changing city. Something cool pops up dang near every week, so go exploring on your own and experience what this amazing city has to offer.
If this post helped you out, show some love and support for the blog and help keep my adventures going by buying me a beer! My adventures are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated, and allows me to keep writing helpful travel guides and creating travel content to help you all travel the world on a budget.