Things to do in Warsaw

Must-see Warsaw sights

With its mish-mash of architecture, Warsaw often bewilders visitors, but it sure does reward them, too. North of the lively centre is the meticulously reconstructed Old Town; to the south are two of Central Europe’s finest urban parks; and in the east lie reminders of the rich Jewish heritage extinguished by the Nazis.

  1. Get regal at the Royal Castle

  2. Old and New Town squares

  3. Take in the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews

  4. Laze around in Lazienki Park

  5. Gaze around Wilanow Palace

  6. Drink by the riverside

  7. Go to market, to market

  8. Pay homage at the Chopin Museum

The main sights are on the western bank of the Wisła (Vistula) River where you’ll find the central business and shopping district, Śródmieście, grouped around Centralna station and the nearby Palace of Culture. The more picturesque Old Town (Stare Miasto) is just to the north; head to Warsaw to experience the city at every angle

1. Get regal at the Royal Castle

Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square), on the south side of the Old Town, is dominated by the 13th-century Royal Castle, now home to the Royal Castle in Warsaw Museum. Though the structure is a replica, many of its furnishings are originals. After passing the lavish Royal Apartments of King Stanisław August, check out the Ballroom with its allegorical ceiling paintings symbolizing the Apotheosis of the Genius of Poland.

Best for: Ticking off one of the most grandiose things to do in Warsaw.

While you’re there: Stroll around the UNESCO-listed Gardens.

2. Old and New Town Squares

On Świętojańska street, north of the Royal Castle, stands St John’s Cathedral, the oldest church in Warsaw. A few metres away, the Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta) is one of the most remarkable bits of postwar reconstruction anywhere in Europe. Cross the ramparts heading north to reach the New Town Square (Rynek Nowego Miasta), which is at the heart of the so-called New Town (Nowe Miasto). This was the town’s commercial hub in the 15th century but is now a lovely, quiet spot to escape the bustling Old Town.

Best for: Taking in an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While you’re there: Be entertained by street performers and local festivals.

3. Take in the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews

Located in the former ghetto area at Anielewicza 6, the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews is worth visiting for the building alone – a futuristic glassy slab filled with organic, curvy surfaces. The display pays tribute to the rich Jewish civilization that flourished on the soil of Poland, until all but snuffed out by the Holocaust. Make sure you check out the painted wooden ceiling of the 17th century Gwozdziec synagogue.

Best for: History and heritage enthusiasts. 

 While you’re there: Opposite the museum is the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

4. Laze around in Lazienki Park

About 2km south of the centre, on the eastern side of al. Ujazdowskie, is the much-loved Łazienki Park. Once a hunting ground, the area was bought in the 1760s by King Stanisław August, who turned it into a park and built the Neoclassical Łazienki Palace across the lake. But the park itself is the real attraction, with its oak-lined paths alive with peacocks and red squirrels. If you’re considering what cheap holidays to Warsaw might consist of, Lazienki Park is a gentler, greener addition to your trip.

Best for: Making the most of the sunshine. 

While you’re there: Take bus  #116, #180 or #195 from Nowy Świat, one of the main streets in Warsaw where a lot of the action takes places.

5. Gaze around Wilanow Palace

The grandest of Warsaw’s palaces, Palace at Wilanow is an easy excursion from the centre - you just need to take bus #180 south from Krakowskie Przedmieście or Nowy Świat to its terminus. Converted in the 17th century from a small manor house into the “Polish Versailles”, the palace displays an incredible range of decorative styles, a mixture that’s mirrored in the splendid palace gardens.

Best for: Honey-coloured architecture. 

While you’re there: The gardens are free to visit on Thursdays, otherwise it’s 5zl entry.

6. Drink by the riverside

The bar scene in Warsaw has really taken off over the last decade, and the city now provides a great night out that rivals Prague, and nor will it blow your budget. Praga, across the river, boasts a lively, bohemian bar scene, which is an interesting alternative to the more glitzy hangouts you’ll find downtown. Between June and September, nightlife migrates to the banks of the Wisła, home to a variety of al-fresco bars and clubs; for one of the best things to do in Warsaw, soak up the atmosphere of these summer-only riverside bars.

Best for: Nursing a vodka or beer with a view. 

While you’re there: Pomost 511, on the riverside, offers open-air theatre with a cold beer. 

7. Go to market, to market

For mainstream fashion brands, first explore the gleaming Złote Terasy shopping centre, behind Centralna train station, before passing through to the mainly pedestrianized streets of ul. Chmielna and ul. Nowy Świat. The daily Hala Mirowska market on al. Jana Pawła II is the place to go for fresh fruits and vegetables, while antique hunters should head for the Kolo Antique Market on ul. Obozowa, where you’ll find everything from war medals to old Christian icons.

Best for:  Markets and malls
While you’re there: Take a respite along the main cafe strip.

8. Pay homage at the Chopin Museum

If you’re wondering what to do in Warsaw that brings traditional and contemporary art under one roof, that’s where the Fryderyk Chopin Museum comes into its own. Warsaw’s most lavish tribute to its favourite son is achingly modern, with interactive handsets to guide visitors through exhibits on the musician’s life. It’s a must-see for Chopin enthusiasts, although only a hundred people are allowed into the museum at a time, so tickets must be reserved in advance.

Best for: Understanding more about one of Poland’s leading legends.

While you’re there: About a five-min walk away is the scenic Vistula, with riverside statues like the Warsaw Mermaid.

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