Not only is this Poland’s largest city and its economic, political and cultural hub, but it is also a buzzing, thriving city that is constantly on the move.
Here, even the area known as the Old Town is actually relatively new. Even though the exteriors of the traditional burgher houses destroyed by bombing were faithfully reconstructed, the interiors were given a contemporary spin.
Even now, more than 70 years since the end of WWII, the rebuilding of the city continues. In fact, after 1989 the efforts gathered pace with central Warsaw now home to cranes and constructions sites aplenty, with the result that the city is always changing.
That movement and vibrancy can also be seen in the city’s art and culture scene. It is home to cutting edge nightclubs and bars with an annual calendar chock full of street parties, art launches and music festivals inspired by Warsaw-born composer Fryderyk Chopin.
The city is also home to a number of impressive museums that are well worth a look. Interactive and thoroughly engaging, the Warsaw Rising Museum commemorates the ill-fated uprising of 1944 in which Polish freedom fighters were massacred by the Nazis. The there is the hi-tech Museum of History of the Polish Jews which opened in 2014, tracing the 1000 years of Jewish history in the country.
Of course, much of the city’s history is evident in its historic buildings and parks such as Wilanow Park, home to the 17th century and the 18th century Saxon Gardens – also once home to a palace which was destroyed, like so many other buildings, during WWII. A quarter of the city’s terrain is actually taken up by parkland.
Places to Visit in Warsaw
- The Old Town
- The New Town
- The Vistula
- Praga District
- Lazienki Park
Unique Things to See and Do in Warsaw
- Trace the life of famous composer Fryderyk Chopin
- Munch on pierogi – Polish dumplings with a variety of fillings
- Explore the sights of the Old Town
- Go mermaid spotting – the symbol of Warsaw can be found around town
- Discover the history of the city at its museums and historic buildings
The Legend of the Mermaid of Warsaw
Legend has it that a mermaid swimming in the sea stopped on the riverbank near Warsaw’s Old Town to rest. She found the place so delightful that she decided to stay.
But local fishermen weren’t happy when they noticed something was creating waves, tangling their nets, and releasing their fish.
At first, they planned to trap the offender, but once they heard the mermaid sing, they fell in love with her.
So, when a rich merchant caught the mermaid and imprisoned her in a wooden hut, a young fisherman heard the mermaid’s cry for help. With the help of his friends, he freed her. In gratitude, she vowed to help the fishermen whenever they needed her. And ever since, the mermaid, armed with sword and shield, has been at the ready to help protect the city and its residents.
Syrenka can be seen in Warsaw’s coat of arms, but also as a statue in a number of locations around the city.
Most notably, she stands in a fountain in the centre of Old Town Square, although this is actually a copy – the original statue has been moved to the Historical Museum of Warsaw due to vandalism.
Another is located on the bank of the Vistula River near Świętokrzyski Bridge and another on Karowa Street.
Getting Around Warsaw
Warsaw has a number of methods of public transport available to visitors. These include buses, such as the 180 line which follows the Royal Route (Trakt Królewski), from the Old Town to the palace at Wilanów, and also stops at the very popular Powązki Military Cemetery (Cmentarz Wojskowy Powązki). The entire route takes about 60-70 minutes. Then there is the Metro, a train service that runs daily between 5am and midnight on weekdays and until 2.30 am on weekends.
Tourists have a number of other ways to explore the city however.
Horse-drawn cabs called dorozki which can be found at Zamkowy Square providing visitors with a glimpse of 19th century Warsaw.
Did you know…?
Warsaw is the only city in the European Union with a nature reserve (Jeziorko Czerniakowskie) located in the centre of the city.
Did you ALSO know…?
Warsaw was the site of the world’s very first official library in 1747.
Other T line vintage trams also operate this route during the summer. The hosts of these classic vehicles are members of the Public Transport Enthusiasts’ Club and will impart fascinating snippets about the city’s history during their weekend and holiday tours.
Another popular option, particularly with children, is the old town railway (Kolejka Staromiejska) which runs every day in the summer, and at the weekends during the rest of the year. This starts and ends at Plac Zamkowy for a 30-minute trip through the streets of Stare and Nowe Miasto. A guide will point out locations of interest.
Segway tours are also available, with scooter hire being another popular way of getting around the city.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Warsaw
The best time to travel to the Polish capital is the summer season when the climate is generally warm with relatively low levels of humidity.
Autumn too provides pleasant conditions for visitors, although with slightly lower temperatures.
During the winter season the city experiences extreme cold with snowfall, so it is advisable to pack lots of warm clothes.
Ready to plan your visit to Warsaw? Check out these popular guides and trips.