Warsaw

Warsaw is an interesting place. Spread out over quite some distance along the Vistula River the middle of the city is alive with restaurants but with older parts (though none much older than the second world war due to the havoc wrecked by the Germans) and a young population that is determined to look forward rather than dwell in the past.

Part of the Jewish Ghettos of the 2nd World War

This is obviously an eastern European country if you look around at the buildings and try the food. The people here speak Polish but often they will understand basic English…just do not assume they will.

Weather

The weather in the summer can be quite pleasant but the winters are often very cold (-20°C not being too unusual) though not a lot of snow.

Things to See and Do

I had a bit of a guided tour that took in much of the centre of the city…though in the winter, then, later an abbreviated late night visit to the old town but in the summer. A good place to start is walking along “Nowy Swat” from the middle of the city, near a famous local landmark, a palm tree in the middle of a roundabout (put there as an art installation some years ago that the locals have taken into their hearts)…

Palm Tree

…then north passing the presidential palace (see below) then eventually get to “Castle Square” where you can head to the left and visit the “Old Town”…

Old City Walls

Muzeum Warszawy ("Museum of Warsaw")

Located on the north side of “Old Town Market Square” (Rynek Starego Miasta) behind the false frontage of old buildings, I am told the Museum of Warsaw is well worth a visit.

Pałac Prezydencki ("Presidential Palace")

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Ok, you can't go in but the Pałac Prezydencki is an impressive site off of “Nowy Swat”.

Plac Zamkowy ("Castle Square")

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The heart of the city. This square leads directly to the “Old Town” (see below) but is also generally home to various markets and community events.

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Palac Kultury i Nauki ("Palace of Culture and Science")

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The Palac Kultury i Nauki is home to various exhibitions but is also striking with it's tall tower that offers tremendous views of the city. The tower is the tallest in Poland and was given as a “gift from the Soviet people to the Polish nation” - a smack in the face to the Polish after the devastation the Soviets caused.

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Ogród Saski ("Saxon Garden")

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This park is the oldest in the city with a “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” that is regularly guarded…in any weather. There are a number of sculptures and a magnificent fountain in the middle.

Old Town

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The “old town” has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in the second world war exactly as it was though seems a bit sterile, perhaps the weight of history is too much for it. In the winter the square is generally used for ice skating and markets but in the summer it has a number of restaurants with tables on the cobbles (with staff beckoning you in).

Christmas in Warsaw

As Poland is quite a religious country Christmas is an important time of year. In Warsaw you can look forward to decorations throughout as well as a market in and around the walls of the Old Town.

Visiting in 2019, the entire tourist district was closed to traffic (Nowy Swiat from the famous roundabout palm tree all the way to the old town and including that whole area also) meaning it was easy to get around and simply enjoyed the Christmas lights.

There are traditional snacks around the Christmas period including, wait for it, a grilled smoked cheese called “Oscypek” that is typically served with cranberry sauce. A bit heavy but quite tasty.

Eating Out

Having lived in a city with a number of Ukrainians over the years I have developed a taste for “pierogi” which are simply small dough dumplings often stuffed with mashed potato and cheese…but that can vary. Give this I made an effort to try them in Poland so visited Zapiecek (see below), perhaps not the fanciest but it offers a great assortment of pierogis - both steamed and fried, as well as savoury and sweet. I did also try some rather up-market establishments including Biala Ges (“White Goose”) which has, unfortunately, recently closed - It had some amazing Polish food and it was like you were eating in someone's house.

Being a large cosmopolitan city there are lots of different choices for eating including it's fair share of European (East AND West), Asian and American food. I have tried a few such places including:

  • Der Elefant (January 2018) Plac Bankowy 1, 00-144 Warszawa - A short distance from the Old Town this stylish-looking restaurant supposedly serves fresh seafood but those options were quite limited and mostly fried. Best to stick to the good selection of steaks. Staff were quite attentive and spoke good English.

  • Restaurancja Lotos (January 2019) ul. Belwederska 2, 00-762 Warsaw - Though many of my dining companions are not huge fans, I really like the good, simple, honest Polish food served in this rather popular local restaurant. The interior is reminiscent of the Soviet era but the food is fresh and tasty though don't expect any allowances for tourist tastes. Partuclarly recommended are the potato pancakes, tripe soup (yeah, I know, perhaps an acquired taste) and their perogies. Prices are VERY reasonable and everything is cooked from scratch. Lotos also has a good sized bar area where vodka is most definitely the tipple of choice.

Tripe Soup (Flaki wołowe)

Potato Pancakes

Interior

  • Rusiko Restaurant (June 2018) Al. Ujazdowskie 22, 00-478 Warszawa - Located near to the centre of the city (and the tourist areas) “Rusiko” serves Georgian food which I found simple but very interesting with some interesting spices which may not to be everyone's liking and service was not great but it is well worth a try.

  • Talerzyki (January 2019) Mokotowska 33/35, Warsaw 00-560, Poland - Also near the tourist centre of the city, Talerzyki (“Plates” in English) is a small bistro serving small, wouldn't you know it, plates of simple, but well prepared, Polish food. We tried the “To Share” option to have a bit of everything (5 plates for 99 PLN/10 plates for 199 PLN which includes a glass of vodka or wine for everyone in the group). Delicious and recommended.

  • Zapiecek (Polskie Pierogarnie) (January 2014) al. Jerozolimskie 28, 02-024 Warszawa, Poland - There are a number of restaurants from this chain around the city which specialize in polish dumplings, “pierogi” both in savoury and sweet forms, though they do offer a number of other traditional Polish dishes. Though a bit touristy, and often busy, the meals are quite good if a bit expensive.

Getting Around

There is a fairly limited metro/underground service (which is in the process of expanding), trams and also buses that cover pretty much the whole of the city. Timed tickets are available that are good on any transport within a set period of time - Remember when using transport to validate these tickets on entry. Taxis are plentiful but do not expect cabbies to speak English - have someone write out your destination and, if staying in a hotel, remember to bring one of their cards so you can get home.

Further Information

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