People in Warsaw say “who asks for the road doesn't get lost”. We don’t want you to get lost in your holiday planning, so in this short article we answered ten most frequently asked questions about Poland’s capital.
1. Is Warsaw worth visiting?
Please consider the following facts: Warsaw is the biggest Polish city. It was founded 700 years ago. For the last 400 years it has been the capital of Poland. It has three royal palaces which you can visit. During World War II, Nazi-Germans established in Warsaw the biggest Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Europe. The city was a scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the WW2 - the Warsaw Uprising. It boasts three most visited Polish museums (Polin Museum, Warsaw Rising Museum, Copernicus Science Centre). It suffered extensive damage during the last war, but the historical city centre was faithfully rebuilt. It was an important place during the cold war whose memory is still present thanks to the grandiose Palace of Culture and Science - the giant Soviet skyscraper dominating the city centre. It's one of the greenest European capitals - within the city limits there are 12 nature reserves, 27 forests, 3 river beaches and endless parks.
2. Is Warsaw Old Town fake?
Warsaw Old Town was the second most destroyed district of Warsaw after the Jewish Ghetto. After the war communist authorities conducted 10 year long reconstruction, whose scale was never seen in Europe before. The reconstruction, supervised by historians of art, based on pre war photographs, blueprints and paintings proved to be so accurate that the Warsaw Old Town was recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. The information carried by details and colours of historical buildings was never altered in any place, so in our opinion Warsaw Old Town should never be labelled as fake or invented.
3. Should I visit Cracow or Warsaw?
Should I have steak or sushi? Ferrari or land rover? Warsaw and Cracow are two quite different cities each with some spectacular architecture, amazing history and great museums. While Cracow is older and has undeniably bigger Old Town and better Christmas markets, Warsaw is bigger, has beautiful historical parks and some impressive cold war era architecture which Cracow is lacking. Cracow has some interesting medieval history, Warsaw witnessed some spectacular events during ww2 and cold war whose traces are still present on the streets. Cracow attracts many tourists, perhaps too many, Warsaw with fewer tourists seems a better place to learn about Polish people and Polish way of life. The great thing in this silly comparison is that while you shouldn't combine steak and sushi during one meal, you can visit Warsaw and Cracow during one holiday trip and this is exactly our recommendation!
4. What's the best time to visit Warsaw?
In our opinion the best time to visit Warsaw is late spring (May-June) or early autumn (September-October). In each of these periods you will get great sunny and dry weather, less crowds, good hotel prices. Sightseeing in July and August may be challenging because of hot and humid weather and crowds of tourists. December-January will compensate for the cold with Christmas markets and illuminations. May-October is the right time to enjoy beautiful Warsaw parks, winter on the other hand will make you appreciate traditional Polish dishes such as pork chop, hunter's stew, or famous Polish vodka. Easter Sunday and Christmas Day can be tricky because the majority of shops and restaurants will be closed. Travelling between cities will be difficult (tickets sold out, airports and railway station crowded) when Polish families are on the way: just before Christmas and Easter, in the last week of June and in last week of August (beginning and end of school Holidays) and from October 30th to November 2nd (All Saints' Day celebrations). November and February are great for budget travellers (in November entrance to all royal residences is for free).
5. How many days should I spend in Warsaw?
2 full days (3 nights) is a minimum length to get the city's overview but won't be enough to visit any of Warsaw museums and side-attractions for which we recommend 5 day stay (6 nights).
6. What should I see in Warsaw in two days?
Start from the morning guided free tour of the Old Town (Sigismund's Column, 10 AM daily, book here). After light lunch go on your own or with a guide to explore the Warsaw Ghetto (free guided tours in English start at 1:30 PM from the Sigismund's Column, book here). Spend the summer evening on the Riverbank, in the winter head to the city centre where the best clubs and restaurants are situated. In the morning of the second day go to the viewing terrace at the top of the tallest Warsaw building - the Palace of Culture and Science (the Soviet skyscraper). At noon go to see Lazienki Park - the oldest and most beautiful Warsaw park and visit the spectacular Place on Water inside the park (one of Warsaw royal residences). Have a goodbye lunch in one of Warsaw food market halls.
7. Is Warsaw expensive?
Compared to similar cities in Western Europe, Warsaw is an unexpensive tourist destination. It has a great quality-price ratio. Consider following prices (May of 2020): double room in a mid-priced hotel - 60 EUR; large beer in a restaurant - 3 EUR; taxi ride from the Chopin airport to the Old Town area - 10 EUR, lunch with drink - 7 EUR, dinner for two in mid-priced restaurant (starters, main, dessert, drinks) - 50 EUR.
8. Is Warsaw safe?
Warsaw is as safe as any other central European city (consider Vienna, Prague, Berlin) which means that it's safer than most American cities. In practical terms this means that you can safely walk alone during the night. The biggest threat to the tourists are dishonest or fake taxi drivers waiting for tourists in the surroundings of the Central Railway Station and in the area of the Old Town and money exchange points offering extremely inconvenient rates, situated in the airport, along the Royal Route and in the Old Town area.
9. What's the best Warsaw museum?
The right answer will depend on your interests. We won't be suggesting you the Museum of the Warsaw Rising if you are mostly interested in art and want to stay away from war-related stories. We know however what are the most visited Warsaw Museums: the Polin Museum, the Warsaw Rising Museum, the Copernicus Science Centre and the Museum of the Royal Castle.
10. What's the most typical Warsaw food?
While you can get pierogi (Polish dumplings) all around Poland, the Warsaw speciality is a roasted duck (perfect for dinner) and pyzy - big round potato dumplings, empty or meat-stuffed, traditionally served in a glass jar (perfect for lunch).
In this article we have answered just some of the thousands of questions that you can ask about the capital of Poland. We encourage you to join us for one of our free walks and ask our guides anything else in person. See you in Warsaw!