Visiting Poland has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was really little. My mom was born in Poland, and moved to Chicago with her parents when she was young. Since I’m half Polish, I grew up speaking (very limited) Polish to my grandparents. I remember visiting them in Chicago and going to a neighborhood were everyone in the stores spoke Polish. My grandmother was an amazing cook, so I’ve always been found of Polish food.
When I excitedly told my friends Warsaw was on my itinerary for my summer trip, the most common question was “why?” Even my fellow travel bloggers didn’t have the same enthusiasm as I did for visiting the city. It may not have the glamour of Paris, but it’s where my family is from and I couldn’t wait to see it.
I was finally able to spend some time in the country this summer, and started my journey in Warsaw. It struck me as such an energetic city, as there was always something going on. People were on the streets at all hours of the day, so I always felt safe. There were more young people than I anticipated too, and they all dressed fashionably. Everyone was so friendly, and anyone around my age spoke decent English.
As Poland’s capital, Warsaw had a pretty tumultuous past. Fires wiped out the city, plagues affected thousands of people, and the city was invaded numerous times. Many historic events happened here, including the Siege of Warsaw in 1939, where the Nazis invaded the capital, and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, where the Polish tried to liberate the city from the Nazis in WWII.
All that said, Warsaw has recovered well from its past and is now a thriving city. It was a little confusing to get around at first, but here’s my guide for everything I learned while I was there. At the end of my trip, I didn’t want to leave! Here’s a guide to Warsaw, Poland to help you plan your trip.
Poland uses the Polish Zloty (zł) as their currency. As of the published date of this post, the exchange rate is 1 Polish Zloty to $0.26 USD. If you’re from America, your money can go really far in Poland.
How to Get Around
The train leaves directly from the Warsaw Chopin Airport and goes into the city center. It’s easy enough to follow the signs through the airport to the train, but I got so confused trying to buy a ticket. Luckily a group of young Polish girls helped me out.
You have two options when buying a train ticket – 20 minutes or 75 minutes. Unless you’re getting off at one of the first few stops (which are really far from the city), any city center stop you want will need the 75 minute ticket. One machine is cash only, but the other two take cards so you don’t have to worry about getting cash right off the plane. The ticket only cost 4.40 zł, which comes out to ~$1 USD. There’s absolutely no reason to waste money on a taxi.
The train is an easy and inexpensive way to get around town during your stay. Warszawa Centralna is the main train station in the center of the city, and also where you’ll catch any long-distance trains. There’s maps at the station to show you how to get around, but the easiest way is to plug in your destination on Google Maps when you’re at your hotel. Put in the route you want, and switch it to the bus icon. It’ll automatically show you what train station to get on and off at.
If you’re coming/going from Warsaw from a nearby country or another city in Poland, check out the Polski Bus. It’s a really comfortable bus with free wi-fi, and super cheap when booked in advance. You can get tickets for as low as $6 USD.
Where to Stay
If you’re really on a budget, this is the city for you. Hostels can be booked for as little as 42 zł ($11 USD) per night, and are found all over the city. Hotels start at 115 zł and go up depending on the location and amenities included.
I knew I’d be staying at hostels for the rest of my trip, so decided to splurge and get own hotel room for my time there. I stayed at the Metropol Hotel, which was a little over $30 USD per night and in the city center. It came with breakfast each morning, so the price was well worth it for me.
What to Eat
Pierogis are absolutely my favorite Polish dish. These Polish dumplings are filled with meat or potatoes, and they’re more than filling. Many restaurants sell them, as well as food stands around the city. Even at a nice restaurant, you won’t pay more than $5 USD for a huge serving of them.
Speaking of street food, this is by far the cheapest way to get a meal. I ate every lunch from one, and there’s everything from pizza to kebabs for sale. I never paid more than $5 USD for each meal, which were huge. Bar Mleczny (milk bars) are another cheap way to eat delicious food. They’re essentially a Polish cafeteria that has soup, bread, and other inexpensive items.
I was really surprised to find a good amount of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Warsaw as well. Right by my hotel was a vegan pizza place, vegetarian burger joint, and a juice bar. Even though these aren’t considered cheap, I still was able to get a large vegan pizza with all the toppings and a large Polish beer for a whopping total of $12 USD.
Where to Go
Old Town is where the city originated, and may be one of the prettiest town squares I’ve ever seen. The buildings are so bright and colorful. There’s constantly something going on here, from artists selling their work to impromptu concerts. When I was here, some kind of demonstration was going on.
Old Town Market Square
Just a few minutes away from the main square in Old Town is this market square. It’s the perfect place to grab a table and order coffee while you relax. There was a musical performance going on when I was here, which was quite lovely.
The Palace of Culture and Science
This giant building can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The tallest building in all of Poland, there’s been plenty of controversy surrounding it. It was a “gift” from Stalin, built by 3,500 Soviet workers in 1952 who were put up in a special estate during its construction. During that time, the locals were living in what was left of their houses that had been bombed during WWII.
The building is currently populated with offices, multiple theaters and cinemas, a congress hall, and several museums. You can take the elevator to the top to see a pretty impressive view of the city.
Anything Related to Chopin
Frederic Chopin was a very famous Polish composer who grew up in Warsaw. There’s multiple places around the city to see where he made history. The picture above is the venue where his first concert was in 1829. There’s also a museum dedicated to him.
Warsaw has so many museums, I’m pretty sure you’d have to spend several weeks here to visit them all. The Museum of Warsaw has been open since 1936 and has various artifacts from the city through the years. If you like science, head to the Copernicus Science Centre to explore all things science. The Warsaw Uprising Museum shows an interesting look into the historic event and how it shaped the way Warsaw is today.
However long you end up being in Warsaw for, I guarantee you’ll love it. With its mix of beautiful architecture and history, you’ll have a blast exploring the city.
What else would you add to this list?
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