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A Complete Guide to Warsaw

Updated: Apr 1

Old town square Warsaw

My husband lived in Poland for 2 years. Ever since we were married he had been trying to get me to visit Poland. I was always resistant, thinking there were so many other places higher on my list. When I finally went, I was kicking myself that it took me so long to get there. I fell in love right away with the delicious food, fascinating history, cute towns and impressive architecture.

Hopefully it hasn't taken you 25 years to decide to go to Poland. If you are headed to Warsaw but have so many questions on where to go, what to see and all the logistics that go along with traveling to a new city, I’ve got you covered. In this complete guide to Warsaw, I am going to go over everything you need to know about your trip to the amazing Warsaw.  

Warsaw is the capital  and largest city of Poland. The official population is about 1.86 million with the greater area being more like 3.2 million.  On the banks of the Vistula River, Warsaw is a city teeming with history, culture, and vibrant energy.

Warsaw old town walls

Getting there:

Warsaw is served by two airports. The main one is Chopin international airport. This is the one you will most likely fly into. The second one is called Warsaw Modlin. You will only fly into this one if you are arriving on low cost carriers such as Ryanair. 

From Chopin airport it is easy to get into the city center.

By Bus: The 175 and 188 buses connect the airport to downtown Warsaw and take 30 minutes.

By train: The S2 train takes 25 minutes to get to the city center. This train runs from 6 AM to 10 PM so if you are getting in late you will need to find another way. The train is direct from the airport station to the city center. You can buy tickets at kiosks, which have English as an option. 

Taxi and Uber: Both taxies and Ubers are available at the airport. They are found outside Arrivals on the first level and take about 20 minutes to get into the city center.

Warsaw buildings

Getting around:

Public transportation - Warsaw has extensive public transportation with a metro, buses and trams. You can buy timed tickets, short term or long term tickets. If you are only in Warsaw for a couple days you will want either the timed tickets or the short term tickets.The timed tickets are good for unlimited journeys within the allotted time. You can get 20 min, 75 min or 90 min. Short term tickets are good for one day, three days or a weekend. Children from 7 to 16 are reduced price and children under 7 and those over 70 are free. The tickets are good for any of the types of transportation. So they cover the metro, buses and trams. If you think you are going to use a lot of public transportation, I would go ahead and buy the 1 or 3 day tickets, so you don’t have to worry about getting new tickets every time you need transportation. If you are only going to use it once or twice, buy timed, single tickets. 

You can buy your tickets at kiosks or on the bus or tram. There are machines on the vehicles. You can use cash or card. 

Renting a car - We always rent a car when in Europe. We just like having the freedom to go wherever we want whenever we want. Most of the time in big cities we park it and then walk or use public transportation. When in Warsaw though, we do use it a little more. Driving in Warsaw is pretty comparable to driving in a city in the US. It is busy, but the roads are well maintained and the other drivers are not too aggressive. 

Warsaw castle


I don’t say specific prices in this post because they are always changing but here are some estimates. The museums and palaces are usually around $10 to get in, a concert is around $25 -$40, cooking class around $50, a trip on public transportation is 1 or 2 dollars, food at a fancier restaurant will be around $15-25 but you can certainly get cheaper, and taxis from the airport will be around $10

Things to do and see:

Old Town - You are going to want to start in Old town, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. During WWII, Nazi Germany bombed the city. The people of Warsaw organized an uprising in 1944. This uprising was ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in widespread destruction. The Nazis systematically razed large parts of the city, including its historic Old Town. After the war, the city began the long process of reconstruction, painstakingly rebuilding its monuments, churches, and neighborhoods.  Today the old town feels as though it has never seen war. It is charming, beautiful and a wonderful place to wander with colorful buildings, quaint cafes, and pretty boutiques. 

Old town Warsaw

Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) is the picturesque and historic square in front of the Royal castle, which was the former residence of the Polish monarchs. No cars are allowed in the area. It is a really delightful area to wander and people watch. There are usually street performers, kids playing and tenagers hanging out. The Royal Castle is now a museum. You do have to pay to go in but it is pretty inexpensive. 

St. John’s archcathedral was founded in the 14th century. It had been rebuilt a few times during its history but during WWII it was almost completely destroyed. After the war it was rebuilt based on the 14th century church’s appearance. King Stanislaw, the last King of Poland, is buried here. To see his burial place you have to pay a small fee to go into the crypt but you can wander the church for free. There are concerts held here in the Summer months so look those up if you are interested. 

Warsaw presidential palace

Nowy Swiat or New World street leads from Old Town south. It historically was a street that lead from Old Town to aristocratic palaces and villas. It is  full of restaurants and boutiques and is known as the longest restaurant because of all the places to eat. Nowy Swiat is part of the larger Royal Route that goes from Old town to Wilinow Palace and passes by numerous historical monuments and palaces such as Krasiński Palace, the presidential palace, Piłsudski square with the tomb of the unknown soldier and others. 

tomb of the unknown soldier warsaw

The palace of culture and science is noticeable from all over the area. This building has been controversial since it was built. It was given to Warsaw by Stalin in 1955 and is a kind of symbol of Soviet influence. It houses some museums, such as the science museum and also has theaters. There is a movie theater, a performing arts theater and concert hall. There is an observation deck on the 30th floor if you want to have a view of the city.

Wilanów Palace is often referred to as the "Polish Versailles." To get there from old town, you can take the 116 or the 180 bus to the Wilinow stop, which will take about 50 minutes  and then it is about a 10 min walk. This magnificent Baroque palace is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. It was built in the late 1600s and was a former royal residence. In the palace, you will see the king’s apartments and the suites of Queen Maria Kazimiera, which include the Chinese, Dutch and Antiquities rooms and the Potocki Museum. The gardens are beautiful with sculptures, fountains, a lake and stream.

Wilinow Palace Warsaw

The palace is only open from 10:00 until 4:00 but the gardens are open later. The palace is closed on Tuesdays. On Thursdays you can get in for free but there are a limited number of tickets and they are handed out on a first come first serve basis. Tickets for all other days are timed. You will probably need around 3 hours to see the palace and explore the gardens.

Wilinow Palace Gardens

Lazienki Park is a beautiful park and somewhere you will definitely want to spend some time. From old town, it is about an hour walk or you can take bus 222 or tram 4. This expansive park is often called the "Royal Baths Park" and is the largest park in Warsaw. You will want to at least walk around the Palace on the Isle and maybe buy a ticket to go inside if you are interested. This palace was originally a Baroque bath house for a nobleman. In 1766 the King bought it and converted it into a summer residence with an English garden.  The gardens are free. To visit inside the palace, the old orangery and riding stables you have to buy a ticket. Those tickets are not available online so you just get them when you arrive. Fridays are free. 

park in Warsaw

Expert tip: During the Summer there are free Chopin concerts at the Chopin Monument in the park. They are every Sunday at 12:00 and 4:00 starting in May and going through September. 

Warsaw Uprising Museum, which chronicles the heroic struggle of Warsaw’s residents against Nazi occupation during World War II is a fascinating museum. Gain insight into one of the city’s darkest chapters through immersive exhibits and firsthand accounts. To get there from old town you take bus 190 or 106. You will need at least 2 hours to explore everything.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. is located on the site of the Jewish Ghetto and showcases the 1000 year history of the Polish Jew. There are interactive displays and reconstructions. To get there from Old town, it is just a 20 minute walk or you can take the 111 or 180 bus. 

There are a few other activities that I think are worthwhile when you are in Warsaw.

Warsaw old town

Concerts - Chopin was born about an hour west of Warsaw and he is very much celebrated in the area. There are Chopin concerts throughout the city. There are the free ones in the park that I mentioned but there are others if you would like a more formal concert. The Fryderyk concert hall, for example is a neoclassical concert hall that has concerts everyday. This is a great way to spend an evening.

Classes - When we are in Europe, we like to take some kind of class or workshop such as an art class or a cooking class. This helps us feel more connected to the culture. It is great for kids too as it is hands on. We did a pierogi making class in Warsaw and it was so fun. Of course, you get to eat what you create. Poland is a nice place to do something like this because it is reasonably priced. It was about ⅓ of the price of a cooking class in Italy or France. 

pierogi class

Foods to try

Poland is full of delicious food. Of course, make sure to try the pierogi and kiabasa. Also, try the placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), golabki (cabbage rolls with tomato sauce) and paczki (jelly stuffed donuts).

Polish food

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