Warsaw isn’t high on many travel wish lists. Poland doesn’t even make a lot of top 10 lists, but it’s a great country with all the European charm you’re looking for at a fraction of the cost of western Europe. When Andy and I decided we needed a quick getaway, Warsaw won out mostly based on distance. It’s about as far from Berlin as we’re willing to go by train for the three night time frame we had.
Much of Warsaw was rebuilt in modern styles after World War II, though there is a small Old Town section. I like cities, so the modern architecture is interesting to me, and it was nice to see the mix with the older styles.
Here are some Warsaw photos to inspire you to visit this overlooked city.
Warsaw from above – the new
One of our favorite things to do is find high points, usually observation towers or churches, where we can view the city from above. We started with the Palace of Culture and Science, which is in the new section of the city, near the tourism office and just a short walk from the main train station. The viewing terrace is on the 30th floor and can be reached by an elevator. Entrance is 20PLN (about US$4.75) per person.
Warsaw from above – the old
The next day we explored Warsaw’s Old Town and went to the top of the tower at St. Anne’s Church. It was only 150 stairs, so not particularly high, but it was still a nice view. Entrance was 5PLN (about US$1.20) per person.
Warsaw Old Town
Much of Warsaw was damaged during World War II. The Old Town was eventually rebuilt to look like it did hundreds of years ago, but it’s very bright and polished, so it’s pretty clear that it’s not original. Still, it attempts to preserve history in one section of the city while allowing other sections to embrace the future.
We spent a few hours simply wandering through the streets, checking out the city walls and towers and all the old buildings and squares. It’s not a huge area, but worth some time.
Warsaw food and festivals
One thing we read about when researching our trip was something called a milk bar. Milk bars are restaurants serving simple, traditional Polish food. They gained popularity after World War II because the government subsidized them, making prices cheap. These restaurants aren’t anything fancy, but it’s an interesting way to experience the culture.
We ended up at one that is sort of a modern version of a traditional milk bar. The concept is the same, simple food, low prices, basic atmosphere, but the facade and the logo were updated for a more modern feel.
There was no English menu, and we were lucky to find one person behind the counter who could muddle his way through some English with us. I ordered one of their daily specials, which was a few pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and tomato rice soup, plus a drink. Andy ordered a crepe-style dish with sweet cheese filling, and he shared my enormous chicken and potato plate.
All of this cost us 25.20PLN (about US$6) and we couldn’t even finish it all.
After lunch at the milk bar, we went in search of less touristy areas since we had only really explored the central sections of the city. We didn’t have to go far, and we stumbled into a neighborhood festival of some kind. I have no idea what they were celebrating, but we grabbed a few drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Warsaw vodka tour
Our favorite part of the whole weekend was the vodka tour we took. Prior to this trip, two different people told us how much they enjoyed taking a vodka tour in Warsaw. We love food tours, and tours about local alcohol customs fit right in, so it was a no brainer. Eat Polska runs their vodka tour in Warsaw, Krakow, and Gdansk, and we will probably take it again whenever we get around to visiting the other two cities.
The point of the tour was not to get drunk. This wasn’t a pub crawl. We learned that food is almost always served with vodka, and that there are way more varieties than I ever imagined. Our guide told us about the history of vodka in Poland and how it has evolved over the years along with the country’s changing borders and new EU laws.
We tasted seven different kinds of vodka, plus a custom-made cocktail at the end, at four different locations. While we came away with a fun buzz, we were not drunk.
This was such a fun tour, and I highly recommend it. We received a 50% discount, but I would gladly pay full price to do it again. Check out my full review of the Warsaw vodka tour on Travel Made Simple.
Warsaw was a really great city. It surprised me because so many people give it a pass in favor of Krakow, but Warsaw has its own appeal. We loved Poznan a few years ago and have since been hooked on Poland. Don’t discount Warsaw or Poland altogether. There’s a lot of history to explore, the scenery is gorgeous, and the prices are really low. It’s definitely a country I’ll keep going back to.