I loved, loved, loved Warsaw. It’s hard to pick a favorite city that I went to in Poland because they’re all so different and amazing and have loads of history in each of them, but if i had to, I think I would’ve chosen Warsaw. There was so much to do and see there and 4 days/3 nights was hardly enough. I could’ve easily have done a week there and not seen it all.
That being said, I did see a TON and these were my favorite things:
- The Walking Tours: I’ve mentioned before that there’s an organization call the Free Walking Tour Foundation that gives free (donation-based) walking tours and they have many different kinds. I did the Old Town and Jewish Warsaw (Muranow) tours. They also had a tour (for a small fee) of Praga, across the river, called “Alternative Warsaw” that sounded really interesting. Praga is apparently like the Bushwick (Brooklyn) of Warsaw. The parent’s of the kids who live there now are astonished that they’d step foot there (hah). Anyways: both tours were unimaginably informative, filled with history and insights that you could only get from locals in Warsaw. A+.
- Warsaw Rising Museum: You MUST go to this museum if you are in Warsaw. Located south of the Old Town in the Wola district of Warsaw is this extraordinary museum that opened in 2004 and is dedicated to the Polish Underground State that fought back against the Nazis in World War II. The uprising is said to be nothing that the world has ever seen. Army generals were coordinated all over the city; children, who could easily scoot by the SS guards, were carrying letters on streets and through sewers; people were getting married daily because they didn’t know how much time they had left, and on August 1st, 1944, the city fought back against the Nazis as a united symbol of Poland’s devotion to being a free state. After 63 days of fighting, the Polish Underground started retreating through the sewers out of the Old Town and the Nazis started killing any Polish citizen they could. It was after the uprising was over that Hitler ordered the Old Town of Warsaw to be completely destroyed and anyone they captured was the be killed. I could go on and on about this (and I probably should in a separate post), but this museum is thorough and awesome. You can get more information about the museum here.
- Tara’s Widokowy: This is a tower located feet from the Royal Palace which has a great view. For a small fee you can climb a bunch of stairs (safe stairs, btw) and get a view of the whole area around the Royal Palace. It’s really pretty. I’d say the view was better than the view from the top of the top of the Palace of Science and Culture, but it was also cloudy when I went up there. It’s probably worth just SEEING the Palace because it’s so aesthetically horrifying.
- Stroll Down Nowy Swiat: Start at Sigmund’s Column in front of the Royal Palace (the street is actually called Krakowskie Przedmiescie but it turns into Nowy Swiat) and walk down this long stretch of road and you’ll see Kosciol Akademicki, the Presidential Palace, Bristol Hotel (where the Nazis stayed during their occupation), Staszic Palace, the monument of Prince Józef Poniatowski, the University of Warsaw, and all the way when you reach the end of the busy shopping thoroughfare, you’ll see The Palm, a golden palm tree. It was part of an art installation called “Greetings From Jerusalem.” It was supposed to be a limited-time art installation, but after it was revealed in December 2012, the residents around the three liked it so much that they decided to keep it permanently. There were meant to be multiple palm trees, but it ended up just being one. (Presidential Palace (left), Bristol Hotel (right))
- Museums: Go to the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (this is ALL the history – going back hundreds and hundreds of years), Warsaw City Museum (it was closed while I was there), visit the Palace on the Isle, the Museum of the Polish Army, or the Chopin Museum. Or you could always go to the Warsaw Zoo (I’m SO disappointed I didn’t go while I was there!). (Above: the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews)
- Visit All of the Uprising Memorial Statues: There are so many dedications and monuments dedicated to those who died during World War II and it’s worth going to all of them. There’s the Littler Uprising Monument (dedicated to all the children who died helping the resistance), Jewish Ghetto Memorial (in front of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, which is also where the Jewish Warsaw walking tour ends!), Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw, Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East, Memorial at Mila 18 (where the Jews who planned an uprising in the Jewish ghetto gathered), and Monument to the Uprising Fighters. You should also pay a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
(The Littler Uprising Monument, left, and the Jewish Ghetto Memorial, right)
There’s so, so much to see and do and learn in Warsaw and I only touched the surface. If you have favorite things that you’ve done in Warsaw that I didn’t talk about, I’d love to hear about them!