Being the largest city in the country and Poland’s capital, Warsaw possesses a turbulent history filled with the destruction during the German invasion, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the general Warsaw Uprising from 1939 to 1944.
By 1945, at least 85% of the city was devastated. The country was under Communist rule up until 1989 where many of the capital’s streets and buildings were restored. Since then, the city has taken a turn for the better.
With a bright and bold future ahead, there are many exciting things to do in Warsaw, including popular attractions and sites such as Old Town, Castle Square, Wilanów Palace, and Łazienki Park.
Best time to visit Warsaw
The best time to explore all that Warsaw offers is during the Summer months of June and August, when the weather is at its prime temperatures ranging from the 50s to 70s.
Popular Things to do in Warsaw
Warsaw is a neat little city that embraces the new while still cherishing its rich history. For one of a kind experience, this list highlights what to do in Warsaw and its most popular attractions.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
The Warsaw Uprising Museum serves as a tribute to Warsaw’s residents that fought alongside soldiers, sacrificing their lives for the independence of Poland. The museum features exhibits that portray everyday life during the rising and the carnage Warsaw experienced.
With over 800 exhibits, it can take at least a whole day to explore each and every one. Regular-priced admissions start at 25 PLN per person, and the museum is closed every year on select dates, so be sure to check availability before purchasing. I recommend visiting on a Sunday when admission is entirely free. If you’re not sure what to do in Warsaw, a trip to the Warsaw Uprising Museum is a great start.
The Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science is a massive high-rise structure located in the center of Warsaw. The building reaches well over 700 feet in height, making it one of the tallest structures in Poland and one of the best historical things to do in Warsaw.
The Palace of Culture and Science has 42 floors that tell the twisted tales of Warsaw’s history in addition to a few cinemas, trendy pubs, and an observation deck on the 30th floor that features a beautiful panorama of the city.
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Poland is a country with rich history of the Jewish population. While many think of Krakow when it comes to the turbulent past suffered by the Jews, Warsaw also has lots of knowledge to offer on the Polish Jews.
The POLIN is a great place to learn about years of Jewish history in Poland in interactive way. The museum has eight galleries covering different periods of the past. From the beginnings to the Holocaust and the revival of the culture after World War II, there are engaging exhibitions to tell the stories.
Similarly, there are also various historical monument located in the city. If you want to gain more insights into the stories and significance of different structures, the Jewish Ghetto tour can be a good option.
Take a stroll down Royal Way
Royal Way is one of Poland’s capital’s most famous streets. Royal Way is divided into Nowy Swiat in the South and Krakowskie Przedmieście located at Copernicus Square.
The journey starts in the south at the eccentric Palm Tree. It leads north, passing some of Warsaw’s most sought-after attractions, and ends at the Old Town. Depending on how frequent stops are made at the shops that line the street, it can take as little as 45 minutes to walk the entire Royal Way up to at least half a day if you’re taking your time.
Fascinating sites along the way include, but are not limited to, the Copernicus Statue, Pilsudski Square and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Presidential Palace.
The Wilanòw Palace is located at the south end of the Royal Way. It is one of the only structures to have survived World War II without any detrimental damages.
The palace is hands down a rare find which is why it is one of the most unique places to visit in Warsaw. Initially intended to serve as a Summer getaway for King Jan III Sobieski during the 17th century, it reflects the detailed Baroque architecture and exquisite ornamentation along the exterior walls.
This royal residence is available for viewing starting at 35 PLN with free entry on Thursdays only. You can purchase tickets in advance online to avoid the crowds at check-in during peak season.
The stunning Royal Castle is one of Warsaw’s grandest pride and joys. As part of the Association of the Royal Residences of Europe, the Royal Castle encourages knowledge of the European heritage that took place in Poland and promotes shared experiences.
On the ground floor sits the notorious Lanckoroński Collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The collection is one of the castle’s most invaluable gifts made by Karolina Lanckorońska in the museum’s history.
The Royal Castle is closed on Mondays and open on other days from 11 am to 5 pm. Keep in mind that they stop accepting admission at least one hour before closing time, so you want to arrive at least an hour and a half before closing to ensure entry.
You can easily walk around yourself and marvel at the exhibitions on display. If you want to know more about the age of royalty, guided tours are also available to help get a clear construct of the storyline.
As a fun fact, rumor has it that some of the halls are occasionally haunted by a mysterious woman, making it not only one of the most exciting places to visit in Warsaw but potentially the spookiest.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a historical monument constructed after World War I to honor the many men and women who sacrificed their lives fighting for their country.
It is considered the most prominent monument in all of Poland and is the last surviving piece of the Saxon Palace, which was then destroyed during World War II. Today, it is located at Piłsudski Square.
The tomb features an ever-burning flame that is regularly lit and guarded by the 1st Guards Battalion. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier rests in the Saxon Gardens, a park filled with lavish greenery, perfect for picnics and relaxation.
Changing of guards happens daily and hourly on the hour mark.
Warsaw University Library Garden
Just a short walk from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the University of Warsaw, where the Warsaw University Library Garden resides.
The facade of the library is unique, with an austere stone face and a blue scaffold-like porch. However, the true gem of this library is on the roof where one of the largest gardens in Europe sits.
The Warsaw University Library Garden is only open from March to November and is a fantastical dreamscape featuring lawns, pergolas, fountains, skylights, and various streams, designed by architect Irena Bajersaka.
Wander through Old Town
Looking at Warsaw’s infamous Old Town, you wouldn’t believe that it was almost completely demolished over 70 years ago.
The historic city center was established in the 13th century, making it one of the most famous places to visit in Warsaw. It also features an observation tower that delivers some of the most picturesque views of Warsaw.
Many consider Old Town the best place for photography due to the old-timey feel, colorful buildings, and cobblestone streets. Trendy cafes and storefronts line the alleys creating a lively atmosphere.
Old Town is also home to many of Warsaw’s greatest treasures. The Old Town Market Square at the center of Old Town is an ample, open space with a diverse selection of restaurants. The centerpiece of the market rests the iconic Statue of the Little Insurgent.
For a quick getaway from the bustling streets of Warsaw, Łazienki Park is an excellent destination for relaxation. It is a short walk from the Royal Way.
The park was created in the 18th century to serve as royal baths and is now a lovely park accessible to the public. The park is quite large and features lakes, historical structures, gardens, and hills.
Located at the center of the park is the summer home of King Stanislaw August. There are typically Chopin concerts that take place during the summer months. If you are a big fan of music, there are also daily Chopin concerts in the Royal Castle.
Castle Square is a large open square surrounded by vibrant buildings, restaurants and sits in front of the Royal Castle. It has become a prime spot for tourists and locals to meet up, mix, and mingle.
Oddly enough, Castle Square is not a complete square but somewhat triangular-shaped. At the southwest side of the square sits a bronze statue commemorating Sigismund III Vasa, the man who encouraged the switch of Poland’s capital from Kraków to Warsaw in 1596.
The Castle Square is a sight to see during any time of day. It truly reflects the flourishing life of Warsaw and all its inhabitants. Castle Square is one of the prominent places to visit in Warsaw.
Explore the Warsaw Nightlife
Warsaw offers a unique way of living both day and night. The Warsaw nightlife is filled with a dynamic and vibrant selection of clubs and bars that contribute a unique style. For this reason, Warsaw has become one of Europe’s best nightlife destinations.
If you’re not sure what to do in Warsaw at night, consider checking out one of the city’s thriving clubs for some of Poland’s modern cultural experiences. These after-dark adventures include the Opera Club, a hidden underground gem; or the Syreni Śpiew, one of Warsaw’s most famous cocktail bars.
Whether it’s an elegant nightclub to an urban vibe, Warsaw encourages an upbeat atmosphere and unforgettable experiences. If you prefer to make some new friends over drinks, pub crawl is a popular option in Europe.
For vodka fans, Warsaw has a Polish Vodka museum that might be of interest
Where to Stay in Warsaw
As one of the most modern cities in Poland, there are plenty of accommodation options for travelers with varying budgets. Here are some well rated accommodations in Warsaw to consider.
Hostels in Warsaw
Safestay Warsaw: Modern and cozy hostels very near the old town. Colorful and friendly vibe that is good for socialising with others. Comes with private rooms and dorm bed options. Each dorm bed has their own light and 2 personal power sockets, as well as privacy curtains.
Oki Doki Old Town Hostel Warsaw: Right smack in the old town, this is a modern and stylish hostel with huge common spaces including outdoor backyard. This is also a restaurant onsite where you can get food and drinks while chilling out.
Mid Range Accommodation in Warsaw
Motel One Warsaw-Chopin: Classy boutique hotel close to Warsaw city center. If you’re one for music, particularly the piano, this would be the perfect decoration. The hotel comes with a bar and option for breakfast.
Moxy Warsaw Praga: Beautiful interior design and spacious lobby that is both good for business (working) or relaxing. It is in an old district of Warsaw, but convenient with surrounding amenities. The polish vodka museum is actually onsite.
ibis Styles Warszawa Centrum: Centrally located with funky design that makes a statement, Ibis Styles is always a nice choice for a convenient stay.
Luxury Accommodation in Warsaw
InterContinental Warszawa: The international brand name needs no introduction. Spacious, modern and central location in the city. Comes with facilities like fitness centre, pool, spa etc that you expect of a five star hotel.
Hotel Bristol, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Warsaw: If you are looking for something that blends historic class with modern luxury, Hotel Bristol is in a historic building with neo-renaissance architecture and artistic interior. Location is close to city highlights and hotel is well equipped with amenities for guests.
Traveling in Warsaw and Poland
Warsaw is a relatively convenient city to travel and walk around by yourself. However, if you are in rush for time or like to learn more about specific cultural aspects, there are a variety of guided tours available.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is arguably the most prominent site in Poland and one of huge historical significance. Most travelers will visit it via Krakow but you can also get private tours from Warsaw.
That being said, Krakow is another popular destination to visit in Poland. A mix of modern and past cultures makes it a charming city to visit with lots to do.
For smaller cities with great vibes, Poznan and Wroclaw are great options. You can also get in closer touch with nature in towns like Gdańsk and Zakopane.
I find Flixbus to be a convenient transport option to use when traveling across cities in Poland. You can check bus timings and purchase tickets directly online.