Not long after coming back from a long weekend in Warsaw, a friend’s brother asked me for recommendations as he also had plans to go.
I’m pretty sure he quickly regretted that decision after I sent him a Word doc itinerary I wrote before the trip, as well as a list of places a Polish girl recommended and a breakdown of my personal highlights in an email.
I love to plan holidays, but I also love to reflect on what I did and what I learned which in the case of Warsaw was a lot! I also love to talk with people about my trips, hear about theirs and share recommendations. I’m the person who will happily listen to colleagues talk about trips they’ve taken for as long as they’re willing to talk about it.
I’ve distilled my top tips for Warsaw into this post. We went for my birthday weekend, motivated by the low costs and the fact that I’d not been to Poland before.
The highlight was learning about the city’s history and its resilience. I learnt, in particular, about the Old Town on a free walking tour with Orange Umbrella. This is my top recommendation as you get the benefit of a local person talking you through the history in an authentic way. I found that I had a lot of respect for Warsaw people after hearing about how tough their city’s history is, and how doggedly they’ve bounced back again and again.
The Old Town is really picturesque and is probably the most touristic part of the city. The rest is less aesthetic and the architecture is broadly a mix of communist blocks and modern skyscrapers. The Palace of Culture and Science is a more striking example of the Soviet style that’s worth a visit. It has a lookout point which you can pay to access, and that gives a good view of the city. The Praga district, east of the river, was bombed less than the city centre during the war, so there are more original buildings to be seen there, particularly churches.
The newly opened vodka museum is in a part of the Praga district that looks like it’s becoming gentrified – I spotted Google offices! The factory was a really fun activity which ended with a vodka tasting. You have a tour guide who takes you around and helps you to better understand local customs, as well as the history of vodka and the vodka-making process.
My boyfriend and I also visited the art gallery by Lazienki Park, which we really enjoyed as it gave us more of a feel for modern Warsaw and Poland. I had wanted to visit the park itself but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side.
A lot of what we did was visit restaurants and bars. Because of the low cost of everything – from an English perspective – we ate out for almost all our meals. I was excited to try the Polish dumplings, Pierogi, particularly since the original recipe with potatoes and sour cream is vegetarian. However, they were pretty stodgy and not really my bag. Polish food otherwise did seem to be pretty meat-based, which I expected, so although I tried what I could it’s probably not going to be my favourite cuisine. However, like London, Warsaw loves its international food, so there was lots of choice. We particularly saw a lot of Italian, South-East Asian and Latin food.
We went to an indoor food market one evening, which was great. There were stalls selling food from around the world, as well as a bar, and the mood was quite young and cool. The nearby cocktail bar, Pacyfik, was busy with a young, local crowd.
Flights and three nights in a clean, modern and centrally located one-bed Airbnb apartment cost less than £100 per person, and I spent less than £100 over three days, despite eating out and getting Ubers everywhere. The weekend worked out cheaper than a weekend away within the UK would have, so for that reason alone I would recommend Warsaw! I also enjoyed getting to know the country better, and I liked the hipster streak that it has. It ticks a lot of boxes for a weekend break, or would be great as part of a wider European trip. Verdict? Would recommend.