Warsaw: Exploring a Foreign City
January 1, 1970
Warsaw is the capital city of Poland, a city that is enriched with culture and history. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of visiting the country my Grandpa grew up in and finding out more about my Polish heritage. On the 17th of May 2016, I was finally able to make that dream come true.
I spent five days exploring the city and learning about the countries incredible history. In this article I have complied some of my favorite places that I managed to visit, and some advice on the best ways of getting around.
Things to do:
The Royal Palace:
This is located in the Old Town of Warsaw, I visited in the summer months so the opening hours were as followed: Monday – Wednesday: 10am – 6pm, Thursday: 10am – 8pm, Friday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm and Sunday: 11am – 6pm. Entry fee is roughly around 25,000pln, which is around $9AUD, however if you go on a Sunday you might be lucky enough to get in for free. There’s guided tours available, but I decided to walk around on my own, there is plenty of signage and friendly English speaking staff to help you along the way. The Palace is located in Old Town Warsaw, which has beautiful old architecture, an awesome town square which is really nice if you just want to grab a coffee or a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant and simply people watch. The address of the Royal Palace is: plac Zamkowy 4, 00-277 Warszawa, Poland, and the closest tram stop is: Stare Miasto.
(Outside the front of the Royal Palace and the Kings Suite inside).
The Palace of Science and Culture:
This is the tallest building in Poland, 42 stories high, the construction started in 1952 and finished in 1955. The Palace was a gift to the people of Poland from the Soviet Union. It is rumored that the Polish people thought the building was an eyesore, but didn’t want to be rude so didn’t turn it down. Inside of the palace is many different exhibitions, when I went there, there was one on the Titanic and one on spiders (for those of the brave nature). There was also a festival of some sort run by the energy drink “Red Bull” out the front. One of the awesome features of this building, is that you can make a trip to the very top of the palace which has a look out, which on a clear day gives you a pretty awesome view of Warsaw. I went with this option over the the exhibitions, it costs 20pln ($7AUD), at the top you can walk the the top floor and let the whole view sink in. There’s also a little gift shop where you can pick up something to remember you time in Warsaw. The address of the palace is: plac Defilad 1, 00-901 Warszawa, Poland, and is located very close to the Central Train Station. The palace is very east to get to via public transport.
(Me at the bottom of the Palace of Science and Culture)
Museum of the History of the Polish Jews:
This is a breathtaking view into the lives and history of Polish Jews, this museum will take you on a journey through time starting from way back around the 17th century and bring you right back to modern day history. It shows you how Jewish people came to be in Poland and the suffering and torment they went through for having different beliefs. Taking a walk through the exhibition based on the Holocaust was a very humbling experience, any history lover should visit the museum when visiting Warsaw. The entrance fee is 30pln ($10AUD), it is open from Monday, Thursday and Friday: 10am – 6pm and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 8pm. The museum is located at: Anielewicza 6 00-157 Warszawa, Poland, the closest public transport stop is: NAlewki-Muzeum.
There’s plenty of generic food places around like KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks, but if you are looking for something a bit more authentic you could try Prasowy, it’s a small eatery located at: Marszałkowska 10/16, 00-590 Warszawa, Poland. The menu is only in Polish, but the staff are super friendly and will translate for you. I ate there a few times as it was located almost next door to where I was staying. My favourite meal was Zeberka (Pork ribs served with rice and mustard sauce and red cabbage). I also tried some Zoupy, which is evidently soup!
(The menu board at Praswoy)
I didn’t eat here, however I did pop in for a a drink, it seems nice, staff were friendly and from what I saw of the menu it was easy to understand and looked pretty delicious!
If you are looking to do some shopping while in Warsaw, you will find shops like Sephora and H&M located across the road from the Palace of Science and Culture, on the main road Marszałkowska, around these shops you will find numerous different shops with a lot of variety.
You can travel to most of the places I have listed by walking if you are good with maps, otherwise they are also pretty easy to get to via public transport, I caught a tram almost everywhere I went and although the tram screens and voice overs are in Polish if you know the stop you are getting off at it is reasonably easy to determine,. The ticket machines are also in Polish but you can change it to English or other languages to suit. The best value for money I found was a 24hrs pass, that gave you unlimited travel on buses, trams and metro trains for about 5pln ($1.70AUD).
I tend to be a bit of a budget traveler so I stayed at a hostel called The Warsaw Center Hostel, it costs roughly $15AUD a night for a bed in a 12 bed mixed dorm, there is a communal bathroom, toilet and kitchen, however there are no laundry facilities. they advertised to have a “common area” but this was just the hallway that leads to the rooms that has a few tables and bean bags to sit on. They do however have free WIFI which is helpful as other networks sim cards don’t tend to work in Poland. There was a tram stop about 100m from the door that takes you back down to the central station which makes it easy to get a round, it wasn’t the greatest place I’ve stayed, but it was safe, quiet, clean with friendly staff.
There are other hotels that are closer to the central train station such as Hotel Mecure, Intercontinental Warsaw, Hotel Gromada, they can range from anywhere between $100-$200AUD a night, so this would of course depend on your budget.
Tips and Tricks:
A few things that I found helpful to make my time in Poland a smoother experience were:
- Grab a Polish sim card, I think I picked one up for 5pln at the airport and it gave me 1gb of data while I was there, this made it much easier to get around. You can even ask the staff in the shop to set it up for you.
- Poland works in 24 hour time, so if you try and book something for 2pm and not 1400hrs they will have no idea what you are on about.
- Most people under the age of 30 will speak English, if you get lost or need help find a teenager to translate or pop into a hotel reception desk, most people at reception will also speak English.
- If you plan on travelling interstate on the train, make sure you get your hotel staff to write in Polish where you want to go, what day and what time, then just hand this to the ticket staff at the train station, this is your best bet of getting the right ticket as most of the ticket agents don’t speak English.
Warsaw is a city full of so much history and also so much sorrow, remember to pay your respects at memorials, but also look after yourself during your travels.