Authored by Aleksandra Milewicz
An affordable European capital with a huge range of things to do and direct flights to most European cities sounds like a dream city break, right?
Growing up in Warsaw, I was convinced that my hometown was anything but a coveted tourist destination. Most people I met abroad had only been to Cracow, and the few who visited Warsaw usually came for business.
But after having moved to the UK for university, I now have a different perspective on things. Several friends have visited me over the years and they all absolutely loved it here. I slowly realised that Warsaw is, in fact, a pretty great destination.
For those willing to give Warsaw a chance, the following is an itinerary for a two-day city break, complete with sightseeing highlights and locals’ favourites for things to do.
Accommodation in Warsaw is pretty affordable by European standards, so you’ll be spoiled for choice! My personal recommendation is Sen Pszczoly: a good introduction to the city’s quirky vibe located right in the center.
Things to do in Warsaw Poland: The Best Sightseeing on a 2 Day City Break
Image credit: xiquinhosilva
Things to do in Warsaw on Day 1
Start by learning the essential history facts about Warsaw at the Warsaw Rising Museum (open every day except Tuesdays).
The exhibition is devoted not only to the fighting and everyday life during the uprising of 1944 but also to the post-war fate of Poland and the rule of the Communist regime. Make sure to watch The City of Ruins during your visit – an incredible 3D animation of the city after the bombardment.
If you prefer a more light-hearted museum, head to Fryderyk Chopin Museum (open every day except Mondays) and learn about Poland’s most famous classical music composer.
In the afternoon, head to the historic part of the city.
Start at de Gaulle’s roundabout and have a leisurely stroll along the streets of Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmieście. You’ll pass by such landmarks as the University of Warsaw and the Presidential Palace.
At the end of Krakowskie Przedmieście, you’ll reach the oldest part of the city, the Warsaw Old Town. Make sure to find the charming little Old Town Market Square with its iconic colourful buildings.
Pro tip: Make a quick detour to Chmielna street (off Nowy Świat) for best doughnuts in town from a hole-in-the-wall bakery called Cukiernia Pawłowicz (you want to get the rose and almond, trust me).
Image credit: xiquinhosilva
Things to do in Warsaw at Night
If you want to try traditional Polish cuisine (and you should!), I recommend Zapiecek. Yes, it does look pretty touristy with its country house décor but their pierogi (Polish dumplings) are some of the best you can find!
If you’re visiting Warsaw in summer, definitely see the fountain show in the New Town (Fridays and Saturdays).
From autumn to spring, I recommend the Great Theatre – National Opera for world-class operas and ballets at reasonable prices (but do book in advance because the shows are in high demand).
In summer, Warsaw’s nightlife migrates to the river bank where you’ll find countless pop up bars with live music. Start at Pomost 511 and make your way along the river.
Alternatively, head to Nowy Świat Pavilions – a secret backstreet filled with dive bars, each uniquely decorated and with its own atmosphere.
Things to do in Warsaw on Day 2
Start the day slowly with a walk around Łazienki Park, the largest park in Warsaw.
This park and palace complex dates back to 17th century and features some stunning architecture like the fairy-tale Palace on the Isle. Łazienki is also home to red squirrel so bring nuts and seeds if you want to feed them.
For lunch check out Hala Koszyki, a newly opened upscale food court, or Krowarzywa for vegan burgers with seasonal ingredients. The most classic lunch staple is kotlet schabowy (a pork breaded cutlet) with a side of mashed potatoes and salads.
If you still haven’t satisfied your craving for Polish cuisine, you can opt for a truly old-fashioned experience of going to a milk bar (Bar Prasowy is the closest to Łazienki). Milk bars are cheap cafeterias serving homemade style food.
Image credit: Neil Williamson
In the afternoon, pay a visit to POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews (open everyday except Tuesdays). Opened in 2013, it’s a very engaging museum that makes extensive use of multimedia storytelling to take you on a journey through 1000 years of the history of Polish Jews.
Even the building itself deserves a mention having won multiple architecture awards. Keep in mind that this museum is very popular so buying tickets in advance is recommended.
Alternatively, have a relaxing afternoon by the river on the Vistulan Boulevards. You can make a short detour to the Warsaw University Library which has a delightful rooftop garden overlooking Vistula river.
Things to do in Warsaw at Night
Finally, no trip to Warsaw is complete without visiting the most iconic landmark of the city, the Palace of Culture and Science.
Residents of Warsaw either love it or hate it but hardly anyone feels indifferent about it. Constructed in 1955, the Palace was a gift from the Soviet Union built in the style of Moscow’s Seven Sisters. Today it houses several theatres, museums, offices, a cinema and even a swimming pool.
There are many ways to enjoy this unique building but my favourite thing to do is going up to the observation deck on the 30th floor for a beautiful sunset panorama of Warsaw.
Palac Kultury i Nauki by Night (featured image) by Enrico Strocchi
Hipster Warsaw Dining
Now that you’ve already tried pierogi, you can explore the more hipster side of Warsaw dining, and afterwards aim to find a hidden speakeasy bar.
Zorza, Pink Lobster and Silk & Spice are three fashionable eateries on Żurawia street with designer interiors and signature cocktails. For more relaxed atmosphere, try Poznańska Street: Tel Aviv and Beirut are known for great Middle Eastern bites.
In summer, the undoubtedly most hip place to be is the Night Market – a food court on an abandoned train platform serving international street food and drinks. The night market is scheduled to close in 2019 after a decision by the city to reopen the train, so get there while you can! It may reopen, but if it does, it will be in a different location.
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