Warsaw has been the capital of Poland for over 400 years, yet it reinvents itself year after year. With a population of around 1.7 million and a huge area stretching left and right of the Vistula, it is not at all easy to select the what to do in Warsaw. There are countless Warsaw sights to see. On almost every street corner you can feel the spirit of old Warsaw with its rich history, which also had its dark sides. In the past, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world lived here, whose traces can still be found in the city today. Unfortunately, this world was lost forever with the German occupation in the Second World War and the Holocaust.
But Warsaw also presents itself as young and modern and has many creative districts. The following list should give you a first overview of the city and help you to plan your trip. Practical tips for your visit to Warsaw can be found here.
Warsaw sights to see – These places you should visit while in Warsaw
During the Second World War the Nazis destroyed the entire city center. Thanks to laborious reconstruction work, however, the historic center now shines again in its old glory and almost looks as if the war had never happened. Here alone, one could name countless Warsaw sights. But also the suburbs, where not so many tourists are yet to be found, offer many exciting discoveries.
Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmieście
The long splendor avenue is also called royal way, which stretches over approximately 2 kilometers straight from the modern center to the old part of town. When Warsaw was already the capital, this promenade was built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Here you will find not only the most representative buildings of the city, such as the presidential palace, but also countless churches and green areas to the left and right of the street. Especially shopping fans get their money’s worth here, the number of original boutiques is unbelievable. It is especially beautiful here in December, when the street is illuminated before Christmas.
From the Royal Way it is only a few meters to the small district of Marienztat, which has hardly been noticed by tourists until now and which still bears its old German name. Classic Warsaw sights to see are hardly to be found here, but every alleyway here breathes the flair of old Warsaw, as it must have been at the turn of the 20th century. Small cafés and Pod Baryłką, the oldest pub in the city, offer an original setting for an authentic Warsaw experience.
The Royal Castle also fell victim to the madness of the German occupiers. After World War II, the entire old town was reconstructed, but the new communist rulers deliberately refused from rebuilding the castle, as for them it was a symbol of “old” Poland. In the 1980s, the citizens of Warsaw collected donations to rebuild their castle. No wonder, that the people of Warsaw are particularly proud of “their” castle. Representative halls, royal private rooms and countless art exhibitions make it easy to forget time and make a visit to the castle a real experience.
Those who see Warsaw’s Market Square for the first time often stand with open mouths in front of the beautiful town houses and the statue of the Siren in its center, one of the city’s landmarks. On the one hand one is almost blinded by the beauty of this place, on the other hand one can hardly believe that all the houses are only a few decades old and have been reconstructed in painstaking work. They were destroyed in 1944, when the Poles dared to revolt against the Germans in the Warsaw Uprising. The Germans retaliated by razing Warsaw to the ground. Today there is no trace of any of this. The many cafés, restaurants and the street musicians give the place a very special flair, which unfolds its full magic especially in the evening.
Warsaw Cultural Palace
People from Warsaw either hate or love it, but nobody really gets past it for sure. At 237 meters, the Palace of Culture in Warsaw may not be the most beautiful, but it is still the highest building in Poland – even though one skyscraper after another is being built right next to it. The Palace of Culture was a “gift” to Poland by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and today, as then, there are countless museums, concert halls, cafés and even a swimming pool inside.
Therefore, the Palace of Culture is naturally one of the top 10 Warsaw sights to see. Probably nobody has ever seen all of the more than 3000 rooms. So it’s the right time to take a look at some of them. And for just a few Zloty you can take the lift to the 30th floor and enjoy the most beautiful view of Warsaw from a height of over 100 meters. Soon a separate article on the Palace of Culture will follow here, so stay tuned!
Museum of the History of Polish Jews – POLIN
Where the Nazis established a ghetto during the Second World War and brought unbelievable suffering to the Jewish population, one of the most spectacular museums in the country was created a few years ago. POLIN’s main aim is to show the rich Jewish past and not just to focus on the horrors of the Holocaust.
The moving exhibition, which also includes a reconstructed synagogue, is located in a spectacular building designed by the Finnish star architect Rainer Mahlamäki directly opposite the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which became world-famous, when German chancellor Willy Brandt kneeled down in front of it to honour those who his countrymen had murdered.
For a long time the people of Warsaw had little love for the Vistula. It meandered with dirt water through the city and only a few people were fishing in what probably wasn’t their most healthy idea. This has changed completely in recent years. Beautiful promenades, terraces and even a brightly colored fountains have been built here. Especially in summer, people now flock to the waterfront. Even some beach clubs have opened and give the city an almost Mediterranean feel. And with the so-called water tram or on a mini-cruise you can easily travel back and forth between the two sides.
While the center of Warsaw is modern and chic, the outskirts sometimes look a little different. Praga on the other side of the Vistula used to have a very bad reputation. In the meantime, however, the quarter has become a hotspot of the creative scene and attracts hipsters from all over the world. Especially the contrast between old and new makes the district so special.
The chic Polish national stadium and rededicated creative areas, such as the former Koneser vodka factory, stand for the new Warsaw, while the quaint street ulica Ząbkowska and the legendary Różycki bazaar represent the old Warsaw. In short: Praga is above all a quarter for explorers who want to make exciting discoveries off the beaten tourist track. It’s therefore one of the best Warsaw sights to see. This week we will publish our own article about Praga here, so check it out soon!
Warsaw can sometimes be hectic and loud. It’s good that there is such place as Łazienki park, Warsaw’s most beautiful green spot. Here you can not only take a wonderful walk, in summer there are always free concerts at the Chopin Monument right at the parks entrance. But the park does not only impress with its beautiful landscaping art. Around the ponds with their swans and exotic looking boats you can also find royal palaces with exciting exhibitions and even an amphitheater, which seems to have come directly from ancient Greece to Poland.
Poland’s most famous king Jan III Sobieski had a huge castle complex built for his French wife outside the city gates, surrounded by a romantic park. The castle is one of the most popular sights in the country and is worth a visit any time of the year. But not only the interior of Wilanów Castle is interesting, right next to it there is also the Polish Poster Museum, the first of its kind in Europe. On the way to Wilanów you will pass the Temple of Divine Providence, a curious Catholic national sanctuary, which has been under construction for almost 20 years now.
Still not enough of Poland? Check our Poland country page regularly, where we always publish new articles!