Warsaw, Poland surprised us. When we decided to take a long layover in the city, we anticipated spending time working. However, we quickly became enamored by Warsaw and pushed our work aside to make the most of our stay in the city. The resilient history – from royal to uprising to rebuilding – provided an engaging storyline for our visit. By the end of our trip, we were completely dazzled by the city and already devising a plan for a return trip. To help other travelers enjoy the city like we did, we created a 3-Day Warsaw Itinerary that includes the highlights of the city – as well as few hidden gems.
Day-by-Day 3-Day Warsaw Itinerary
Get the lay of the land by exploring the city on foot – and then ride to the top of Warsaw’s tallest tower for an elevated view.
Start your day by wandering the cobblestone lanes of Warsaw’s Old Town. Enter the Old Town from the north through the Barbican, remnants of the wall that once encircled the city. Make your way into the Old Town Market Square, which dates to the 13th century and features a statue of Warsaw’s unique guardian: A sword-wielding mermaid. (Take note of how many times her image appears in the city throughout the remainder of your stay…she’s quite popular!)
As you are walking through the Old Town, marvel at how the city center was completely reconstructed after being demolished by the Nazis. Explore the lanes around the square and then stroll down Swietojanska and stop into two side-by-side churches, St. John’s Cathedral and Church of the Gracious Mother of God, then continue walking into Castle Square.
Tip: Pop into the Warsaw Tourist Information Center on Market Square to obtain maps and useful guidebooks for your stay in Warsaw.
The vast Castle Square is dominated by the Royal Castle. The castle was the royal residence from the 16th century and where the country’s constitution was signed in 1791. The castle, which was rebuilt after the war, houses an art museum that includes works by Rembrandt. In the center of Castle Square is the towering Sigismund’s Column. The column was first erected in 1644 in honor of King Sigismund III Vasa, who relocated the country’s capital from Krakow to Warsaw.
From Castle Square embark on a journey down the Royal Route – which has been a main thoroughfare through Warsaw since the 15th century. The path links three royal residences – Royal Castle, Lazienki Royal Park and Wilanow Palace – and is 7 miles long (but we’ll only be walking the two-mile stretch between the Old Town and Lazienki Royal Park).
Walk past St. Anne’s Church and continue south on Krakowskie Przedmiescie, a wide boulevard lined with grand architecture. Along the way, you will pass many monuments, churches, the Presidential Palace, the luxurious Hotel Bristol and the University of Warsaw.
At Staszic Palace, where a statue of Nicholas Copernicus stands, the street name changes to Nowy Swiat. Along this section of the Royal Route are uniform and colorful buildings. Occupying the ground floor of the buildings are boutique shops, cafés and restaurants, including a cafe, A. Blikle, that has been selling confections from the same location since 1869.
In the center of Three Crosses Square is St. Alexander’s Church (which resembles the Pantheon) – and in the area around the square are several high-end stores (In the market for a Ferrari? There’s a shop down the street!). Continue walking through the square to the south onto Aleje Ujazdowskie. This stretch of the Royal Route is home to many foreign embassies, gardens and opulent estates.
Lunch at a Milk Bar
If you’re hungry for lunch (and managed to resist the temptation of the chic cafes on Nowy Swiat) consider eating at one of Warsaw’s classic milk bars. The cafeteria-esque restaurants are a throwback to the days under Soviet communist rule – and Prasowy is said to be a favorite of locals. Just a short detour off the Royal Route, Prasowy serves up quick meals and a local experience.
The daily menu is posted on the wall and non-Polish speakers can use the handy English translation guides at the counter to help decipher what’s available. The traditional Polish menu items range from soup and salad to hearty meat-and-potato dishes – with each meal only costing a few dollars. To get served, place an order with the cashier and take the receipt to the window to get your tray of food then find a seat.
Tip: The pierogies are made fresh, so they take longer to prepare. All other menu items are ready in a flash.
Lazienki Royal Park
Take a stroll on one of the many paths through Lazienki Royal Park, Warsaw’s largest city park (encompassing 190 acres), where squirrels and peacocks roam the grounds. The park’s origins date to the 17th century, when a private bathhouse was built on the land. In 1766, King Stanislaw II Augustus (Poland’s last king), bought the bathhouse and transformed it into his summer residence. While at the park, visit the Baroque palace, Palace on the Isle (now a museum), as well as the Statue of Fryderyk Chopin, Warsaw’s famous composer.
Tip: If not interested in making the long walk from the Old Town to Lazienki Royal Park, hop on a public bus – #116 and #180 follow the Royal Route!
Palace of Culture and Science
Built in 1955 at the height of 778 feet, the Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Warsaw. The landmark building was not erected without controversy, as it was a ‘gift’ from Russia and originally named the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science. Although Stalin’s name was long ago removed, many still detest the art deco building, as it serves as a reminder of communist rule. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue with the phenomenal views from the 30th floor observation deck that allows for 360 degree views of the city.
Tip: In addition to visiting the observation deck, the iconic building can be explored on a guided tour.
In 2013, the craft beer scene exploded in Warsaw, resulting in the birth of ‘multitap’ bars. Since then, many more trendy pubs dedicated to Polish craft beer have opened their doors to please the palates of craft beer enthusiasts. The area immediately east of the Palace of Culture and Science is home to a bevy of multitap bars. Our favorites in the area include: Kufle I Kapsle, Jabeerwocky, Drugie Dno, Cuda na Kiju and Piw PawWarsaw Piw Paw.
On Day 2, discover three of Warsaw’s neighborhoods: the Jewish Quarter, New Town and Praga. Google Maps Link to Sights on Day 2.
Start your day with a history lesson on Polish Jews at the POLIN Museum. The multimedia museum, which opened in 2014, is located in Poland’s former Jewish Ghetto and is both educational and engaging. The museum exhibits tell the 1000-year-long story from how Jews came to live in Poland to what a typical 18th century Jewish town was like to the horrors of the Jewish Ghetto and Holocaust.
Tip: While the displays include information in English, we recommend renting an audioguide to enhance your visit to the museum.
Few pre-war buildings remain in the Jewish Quarter (most of it was demolished in 1943 when the Warsaw Ghetto was razed to the ground), but a walk through the neighborhood will reveal a few bits and pieces from the past. Remnants include a row of homes, Poland’s only Jewish theater, a pre-war synagogue, the Jewish Cemetery, monuments, historical sites and fragments of the 10-foot high wall that surrounded the Ghetto in the 1940s.
Tip: Want to tour the Jewish Quarter in a unique way? Take a private tour of Warsaw’s Jewish Quarter in a Fiat.
Just outside of the Old Town, north of the Barbican gate, is Warsaw’s New Town…which dates to the 15th century. (The New Town, however, had to be completely reconstructed after World War II, just like the rest of Warsaw.) There are many churches in the New Town, including Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Hyacinth’s Church, Church of St. Francis, Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary and Field Cathedral. Also in the New Town is the childhood home of two-time Nobel Prize winner Maria Sklodowska-Curie – discoverer of polonium and radium – which is now a museum. Her statue stands at a platform overlooking the Vistula River and Multimedia Fountain Park.
Bike along the Waterfront
Hop on a Veturilo bike (Warsaw’s public bike program) and pedal along the Vistula River waterfront path. Ride to the north, where the path becomes enveloped in a riverside forest with plenty of places to stop and rest by the water. Turn back south and ride the long stretch of paved path back into the city center.
Cross under the cable-stayed Swietokrzyski Bridge and stop at the Mermaid Statue. The statue on the bank of the Vistula River was sculpted by Louise Nitschowa in 1939. Krystyna Krahelska, a Varsovian poet – and also a nurse – posed for the piece. On August 1, 1944 – the first day of the Warsaw Uprising – she was shot and died the following day from the injuries. She had penned several poems, including “Towers,” which became the song of the Polish soldiers and the Uprising.
Across the river is the unmissable National Stadium. The stadium was built in 2011, can seat 58,000 fans and has a retractable roof.
Tip: Renting a Veturilo bike is incredibly affordable – about 25 cents USD per hour. However, to rent a bike, you must first create an account online (and a small, minimum deposit must be kept on your account). Don’t worry – the instructions are all in English and they keep it super simple! It’s so easy, in fact, that you may want to use the Veturilo bike as your mode of transportation for your entire time in Warsaw (it’s cheaper than the bus!).
Lock up the Veturilo bike at the Centrum Nauki Kopernik Metro Station and then head down into the M2 underground. Warsaw’s Metro system consists of two lines: M1 (north-south) and M2 (east-west). The M1 opened in 1995 – and 20 years later, the M2 opened in 2015. Being brand-new, the stations are all modern with unique design elements…and are incredibly clean. Catch a train and ride two stops to Dworzec Wilenski in the Praga neighborhood.
Tip: Both lines of the Metro are efficient and affordable. We considered buying a long-term ticket, just so we could ride the length of each line and check out each station (but the springtime weather was just too nice!). However, if you would rather stay above ground, you can walk, bike or take a bus or tram to Praga.
On the east bank of the Vistula River – directly across from the Old Town – is the edgy-and-soon-to-be-hipster Praga neighborhood. Praga has a long history of being filled with factories and block apartments, attracting Warsaw’s working-class. However, since the end of communist rule, the district has seen some changes. Artists have moved into the hood – leaving their mark in the form of wall murals – and shabby chic cafes and alternative museums have opened.
Take a walk through Praga and search for street art while making your way to the Neon Museum – an awesome collection of vintage neon signs from around the city – located in SOHO Factory. Before catching Tram #13 or #26 back to the Old Town, stop into the popular W Oparach Absurdu bar for a drink.
Old Town at Night
Retrace your steps through the Old Town – but this time, at night. The historic center is beautiful in daylight, but even more so under the glow of streetlamps. Choose a traditional restaurant for a meal of pierogies (we recommend Pierogarnia na Bednarskiej – no table service, no alcohol, only open until 8:00pm, but incredibly delicious and local), then end the night with a craft beer at Same Krafty.
Tip: Same Krafty has two locations across the street from one another. Both are fabulous, so choose based on available seating and current tap list. Bonus Tip: If you need a break from traditional Polish cuisine, try the pizza at Same Krafty, it’s as good as the beer!
On Day 3, discover the stories of Warsaw’s historic 1944 Uprising and then end the day on a high note by learning about the life of Warsaw composer, Fryderyk Chopin. Google Maps Link to Sights on Day 3.
Warsaw Rising Museum
On August 1, 1944, Poland insurgents revolted against the occupying Nazis in Warsaw. Even though the insurgents were outnumbered and ill-equipped, the clash was drawn out for two months. In the end, the Nazis prevailed, 85% of Warsaw was destroyed and the remaining Polish residents were moved into camps.
The Warsaw Rising Museum details the events of the Uprising through interactive displays. From the events that led up to the conflict to the aftermath, the captivating exhibits help visitors to understand the battle, as well as the motivations and actions of the Polish insurgents.
Tomb of Unknown Soldier
Warsaw’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located in Pilsudski Square in the Ogrod Saski (Saxon Garden).
The tomb is guarded by soldiers from the Representative Battalion of the Polish Army. On the hour, every hour – 365 days a year – there is a Changing of the Guard. The formal, ceremonious event is a sight to see, as the new guards make the long walk across the square with the heels of their shoes clicking in time.
The Saxon Garden dates to the 1730s, when King Augustus II the Strong designed the gardens in his favorite Baroque style. With crisscrossing paths lined with trees and a grand fountain, it’s a lovely spot to take a stroll.
Tip: We didn’t see it, but we heard that the Changing of the Guard is even more grandiose on Sunday at noon.
University of Warsaw Library
For a garden with a view, make your way to the rooftop of the University of Warsaw Library. The library gardens, which opened in 2002, consist of two separate parks – upper (rooftop) and lower – connected by a stream. Within the garden are a variety of plants, paths, bridges, sculptures and sometimes ducks. However, it is the panorama view of the city that makes the garden so attractive.
Tip: The garden is open to be explored by the general public, however, the rooftop garden is only open from May through October.
Fryderyk Chopin Museum
Housed in the Ostrogski Palace, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum presents a detailed account of the composer’s life and his works. In 2010, the museum was completely overhauled to create a multimedia exhibition space that includes the sounds of his works, letters and manuscripts, as well as photographs, hand sculptures and his piano.
We want to know: Is there anything you would add to our 3-Day Warsaw Itinerary? Tell us in the comments!
Top Tips for our 3-Day Warsaw Itinerary
Warsaw Sightseeing Tips
Visiting museums is not usually an activity that is high on our list when we sightsee in a new city, but we absolutely loved the museums in Warsaw! We visited five museums during our stay (as mentioned in our itinerary). The museums in Warsaw are affordable, but the cost can add up quickly so check the list of Free Museum Days to see which museums are free during your stay. You may also want to consider purchasing a Warsaw Pass.
With more time in the city, consider taking one of the many tours in Warsaw. We didn’t go on any tours during this trip, but there were many tours we were interested in for our next trip to Warsaw. We loved the food in Warsaw, so exploring more of the culinary scene with the Warsaw Food Tour sounds appealing…and delicious. Although we scouted out a number of multitap bars during our stay, joining the Craft Beer Tour Warsaw would be fun – especially as a way to meet other beer-loving travelers, like ourselves. As we were riveted by the history and horrors of war, a Treblinka 1-Day Tour from Warsaw would be a way for us to learn and better understand the realities of what happened in Warsaw during World War II.
Getting There…and around
Getting to Warsaw
We arrived to the city by plane, landing in the Warsaw Chopin Airport. On recommendation from our Airbnb hosts, we used Uber to get from the airport to the city, but you could also book a private transfer to Warsaw in advance.
Getting Around Warsaw
Warsaw is a city that can definitely be explored on foot. It’s flat and most of the city has wide sidewalks. However, we also loved getting around Warsaw using the Veturilo bikes and public transporation. The public transport network is convenient, efficient and inexpensive. With an option of buses, trams or metro, it was easy to get to our next destination! For more information, check out the official Warsaw Public Transport website.
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!). However, due to our unique circumstances (flight benefits earned from years of service with a major airline), we rarely buy airline tickets. That being said, when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub.
To get from city to city when flights are not possible, we usually rely on public transportation and take trains or buses. In Europe, we use Eurail to find train tickets and our preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.
Where To Stay in Warsaw
During our visit to Warsaw, we stayed in this awesome Airbnb Apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, often, more space. Warsaw holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which part of TripAdvisor) or VRBO.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Warsaw hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. The most famous hotel in Warsaw is Hotel Bristol – but if that is booked, check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: H15 Boutique, Hotel SixtySix or Hotel Palonia Palace. Or, find a deal on a hotel room by bidding on Priceline.
Before You Go to Warsaw
- Not everyone in Warsaw speaks English! Take interactive language learning courses with Babbel to learn Polish prior to your trip!
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and SanukSanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- Be sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook prior to arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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