City Guide to Warsaw

Modern city of Warsaw

OVERVIEW

Ditch all your black and white images of a city devastated under heaps of smoldering rubble and marching jackboots – Warsaw has arisen from the ashes of war into a bustling metropolis of skyscrapers, pulsing energy, and Polish pride.

The wounds of war, Holocaust, and Communist occupation still lie just beneath the surface and for any good citizen of history, it bears remembering. Take the time to visit the new Warsaw Uprising Museum with crowds of Polish schoolchildren, wander through the former Jewish ghetto and silently ponder the monuments to an incomprehensible horror, and seek out the remaining visible scars of Communism. As any Pole will remind you, their history is an epic of sorrow and tragedy, war and occupation. If you’re lucky, as I was, a local will guide you through this past.

The scars of the 20th century still smart. But the Varsovians have rebuilt their beloved city and are striving into a hopeful future. This vitality of hope infuses everything – the well-healed young shoppers ducking into boutiques on Nowy Świat, the university students crowding cozy cafes, the ever-changing foodie scene, the cleanly swept streets and grandly restored landmarks of the Royal Way, and the forest of cranes erecting glass skyscrapers across the city. Warsaw has been reborn.

With a rebuilt Old Town, a lively downtown core of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores, a distinctly university town feel as the home of Warsaw University, and doses of Old World splendor in the architecture, Warsaw is a smorgasbord of sensations and experiences. Expect the unexpected – a violinist suddenly performing Jewish klezmer music on a packed tram, a fake palm tree amidst a dizzying swirl of traffic, and the heart of composer Chopin entombed in the walls of a church. Welcome to modern Warsaw.

ARCHIVES

Photo Gallery: Warsaw October 2009

Blog Posts About Warsaw:

HISTORY

Warsaw, as the beating heart of Poland since 1596, has seen its share of destruction and travesty. With the move of the royal seat of power from Krakow, Warsaw became the epicenter of Poland’s tragic drama, as the kings became weaker and weaker pawns to the power and greed of the nobility. The nobles elected the king, often choosing foreign leaders whom they could easily control. The Sejm, Poland’s parliament, held the real power, but began to dissolve into political ineffectiveness with the introduction of “liberum veto”. A single member of the Sejm could veto any legislation, resulting in governmental deadlock.

At the same time, Poland was hit by famine and plague. Poland’s powerful neighbors, Sweden, Russia, and Prussia, began to circle her borders speculatively. In 1772, they struck, gobbling up Polish lands in what Poles refer to as the “First Partition”. For the next two decades, the Poles fought back desperately, rebelling under encroaching occupation as the Swedes, Russians and Prussians laid waste to their homeland. In 1795, Poland disappeared from the map during the “Third Partition”.

Throughout the following century of occupation, the Poles continued to resist their foreign rulers, regardless of who they might be, and the Varsovians were no exception. Secret societies, specializing in resistance and violent attacks on foreign leaders, flourished in Warsaw.

Ghetto Heroes Square

This long tradition of resistance in the face of overwhelming odds informs Warsaw’s recent historic chapter of Nazi and Soviet occupation. Germany’s occupation of Poland during World War II is one of Warsaw’s darkest hours. The Nazis rounded up the large Jewish population and forced them into the cramped confines of a few city blocks. The Jewish ghetto became a breeding ground of disease and malnutrition under these conditions. When the Nazis began to clear out the ghetto and send hundreds of trains full of people towards concentration camps, a small band refused to cooperate and staged a heroic resistance, what we remember today as the Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Ultimately, they all paid with their lives. A year later, the larger population of Warsaw also rose up, succeeding in pushing the Nazis out of Warsaw’s core for almost a month as the Polish Home Army, with 30,000 resistance fighters, led the charge. They had the element of surprise, springing from the sewers on August 1, 1944. As the fighting raged around the city, the Nazis slaughtered civilian bystanders along with the resistance fighters. Estimates total the dead among 18,000 of the Home Army, as well as almost 200,000 civilians. In response, an enraged Hitler ordered the systematic destruction of Warsaw. Demolition teams went building by building, reducing Warsaw to a pile of rubble.

During the entire uprising, the Soviet Army parked just across the river, watching the fighting unfold. Their failure to descend upon Warsaw and help her inhabitants fight the Germans continues to be topic of historical speculation. Why didn’t the Russians help? Some argue Stalin wanted to install a Communist government, but knew the Polish Home Army was sympathetic to the Polish government-in-exile in London, so he allowed the Germans to do his dirty work. In any case, the Soviet Army occupied Warsaw at the end of the war, installing a local Communist government and ensuring Poland’s place in the Soviet bloc for much of the 20th century.

Varsovians, with all the grit and fortitude that has guided them through centuries of war and famine, have masterfully rebuilt their city into a thriving modern metropolis with a youthful vitality and thriving cultural scene. They still pay homage to their recent tragic past, as can be seen in the popularity with local graffiti artists tagging the symbol of the Home Army around the city, but Varsovians continue to stride forward, their eyes upon their future.

LODGING

Hostel Helvetia – ulica Sewerynow 7, located a couple blocks off the Royal Way in central Warsaw.

The central location of this quiet, but spacious hostel cannot be beat. A short walk from Warsaw’s pulsing vein of nightlife and sightseeing, yet tucked into a quiet residential street. The hostel itself is a breath of fresh air for backpackers used to cramped and noisy hostels. The walls are brightly painted, the dorm rooms spacious and equipped with real beds, and a multigenerational crowd more interested in authentic conversation than parties. I met a range of fascinating people, from a young Polish woman studying in Warsaw to an older couple from Israel who served up a mean Turkish coffee. The breakfast room is well-equipped, with a large fridge and lots of pots and pans for self-caterers. Showers are spotless and security is excellent, with a door code provided to guests that changes every day. If you’re traveling with a chronic medical condition, this hostel was one of the most friendly to our needs. The beds are comfortable and the staff helpful. The only downside is the lack of elevator – be prepared to hike up a short, but steep, staircase to the front desk.

FOOD

If you have already traveled extensively in Poland and are beginning to crave something other than meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut, than Warsaw will be a culinary vacation. Of course, there is plenty of hearty, fresh pierogi, but the variety of restaurants is enough to rival any major city. Within a short 24 hour span, I sampled Polish pierogi, Asian fusion, American-style subs, and Parisian-style crepes. The restaurant scene is constantly in flux – seek out your own recommendations from locals.

Dining out in Warsaw is very much a see-and-be-seen scene, and the higher prices reflect this. If you have become used to dining out for less than US$5, be prepared for some sticker shock. I found that the best food value was still in simple Polish fare.

To save money, book accommodations with a kitchen and cook for yourself. My grocery standbys are bananas, fresh fruit, muesli mixed with a drinkable yogurt for breakfast, freshly baked bread, pasta and tomato sauce. Another budget option is to act like a Varsovian student and locate one of the ubiquitous milk bars. (For more on milk bars, see my country guide for Poland.) A number of milk bars line the Royal Way, including one near the university.

Zgoda Grill Bar – Sounding more exotic than it really is, this restaurant serves not only typical Polish fare, but includes a real salad bar! If you are craving greens, which I was after weeks in the land of sauerkraut, Zgoda is a change of pace. The salad bar comes with dinner, so I loaded up on leafy greens, as well as a spicy shredded beet salad that had me going back for seconds. Zgoda focuses on simple Polish food, with an extensive section of their menu devoted to pierogi, served up in seemingly endless variations. I took a chance and ordered one at random and ended up with fresh pierogi stuffed with sausage, cheese, and a strangely sweet sauce. The prices are inexpensive, the food hot and filling. With a Polish-only menu and a crowd of locals, you can’t go wrong. (Ulica Zgoda 4, central Warsaw, two blocks from Nowy Świat. Meals 18-35 zł.)

Pierogarnia na Bednarskiej – A cozy little homage to pierogi filled with locals in the know. If you have become a fan of the versatile pierogi, seek out this atmospheric and inexpensive restaurant near Old Town. The décor is monastic, with vaulted ceilings and long wood benches at simple tables. Order at the counter, find a seat in the back room, and wait for your order to be called for pick-up. The portions are small, with 3 pierogi to a dish, and the prices low, so order a couple different varieties and sample. I tried “Grandma’s Pierogi” and it was hands-down the best pierogi of my entire trip. (Ulica Bednarska 28/30, on a side street just off the Royal Way near St. Anne’s Church. Pierogi 10-12 zł. Website in Polish.)

CAFES

If you crave a caffeine fix, Warsaw has no shortage of options. The city seems to be in the midst of an American-style coffee shop boom, with competing Polish coffee shops as well as Costa Coffee, the European version of Starbucks. If you’re looking for something a little different, in an Old World Varsovian setting, head to the former residence of Emil Wedel.

Emil Wedel Pijalnia Czekolady – This classy 19th century café is a chocolate lover’s dream. Step beneath the crystal chandeliers, stroll up to the polished counters and buy a decadent Wedel chocolate bar or two from the tuxedoed cashier. Poles brag about their Wedel chocolate and rightly so. Smooth and luscious, this is how chocolate was crafted before the advent of industrialized chocolate for the masses. Buy a few bars and bring them home as gifts or souvenirs. Before you go, take a seat at the Parisian style tables and order one of their hot “drinking chocolates” (czekolada do picia). This is the real deal – thick, melted chocolate served in fancy glasses with a variety of flavors. I splurged on a decadent orange hot chocolate that puts every powdered grocery store cocoa mix to shame and still haunts my dreams. (Ulica Szpitalna 1, located halfway between Nowy Świat and the Palace of Culture and Science. Drinking chocolate 8-10zł.)

MY SIGHTSEEING MUST-SEES

Stroll Warsaw’s Royal Way – Like most European cities born in a time of feudalism, rising nation-states, castles and kings, Warsaw’s medieval street-grid still informs the layout of the city center. Today, surrounded by skyscrapers, modern cars and trams, and window-displays of mannequins swathed in swanky clothes, you can walk in the footsteps of Poland’s kings. The medieval Royal Way was the road the king would take from his massive summer estate at Wilanów to reach his castle in the heart of Warsaw. Today, you can follow a portion of that route along the main axis of Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmieście, right up to the steps of the reconstructed Baroque castle. Allow yourself to slowly amble and savor the sights of both the bold modern city and the echoes of her history. This is a very walk able 1 ½ miles, with numerous opportunities to sit down and rest.

Start at the intersection of al. Jerozolimskie with Nowy Świat, marked by the incongruous sight of a fake palm tree in the center of all that dizzying traffic. Here you’ll find a statue honoring French General Charles DeGaulle, a gift from the French government in honor of DeGaulle’s efforts to protect Warsaw from the Red Army after World War I. Stand in the shadow of the menacing former headquarters of Poland’s Communist Party. The architecture is almost suffocating in how it inhabits space. Maybe that was the aesthetic point?

An evening jaunt on the Royal Way

Stroll north up Nowy Świat. This is the hip section of Warsaw, brimming with new restaurants, youthful clubs and bars, a non-stop nightlife and fashionable boutiques catering to the well-heeled. Seamlessly, without your knowledge, Nowy Świat turns into Krakowskie Przedmieście. The transition is marked by the large plaza in front of the Polish Academy of Science and a statue of Copernicus, a Polish native son and world-renowned scientist excommunicated by the Catholic Church for his theory of a heliocentric universe, in which the planets revolved around the sun.

The sidewalks are stately and broad, lined with flowerpots hanging from the lampposts, brimming over in waterfalls of exuberant color. As you walk towards the rebuilt Old Town, peek into the corners of Warsaw’s past. Find the Church of the Holy Cross, under renovation when I was there, but still open enough to allow visitors to pay their respects to the heart of Polish composer Frederic Chopin. Find the tomb marker on the second pillar on the left.

As you continue down the Royal Way, pass under the black and gold iron-wrought gate of Warsaw University and mingle with students, ducking into the dusty little bookshops and cafes. Once you’ve had your fill of student life, head back to the main drag to gaze at the elegant mansions of bygone aristocratic families, many now government or university buildings. The brooding bronze statue with the large pointed cap Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, revered by Poles for his stand against the Communists that led to his imprisonment in 1953. Further up is Radziwiłł Palace, now the home of the President of Poland and guarded by soldiers and sculpted lions. Here the Soviets and their satellite states, including Poland, signed the Warsaw Pact in 1955 in response to the formation of NATO by the United States and her Western European allies.

Your walk terminates at the broad square in front of the pink and frilly Baroque palace of Old Town, Warsaw’s Castle Square.

Castle Square

Warsaw Uprising Museum – This fairly new museum, dedicated to the extraordinary summer of 1944 when the Polish Home Army sprang up in widespread resistance to the German occupation, is a must-see. Whether you are a casual tourist or a serious student of history, you will come away from this well-designed and evocative museum with a newfound appreciation for the horror Poland endured during World War II and the courage of the Varsovians. The displays are poignant, informative, with a mix of photos, video, artifacts, and tactile and visual experiences that impart young and old, Polish school children and foreign tourists, with a profound emotional experience. Tools used to spread messages within the resistance. Actual concrete bunkers used by the Germans to defend strategic points throughout the city. A working printing press that a museum staffer still uses to print actual resistance newspapers. A working café set up as an interactive museum display of daily life under occupation. At times, the flow of the exhibits feels disjointed and chaotic, which only adds to the impact. The quality of the information is top-notch – I extensively studied World War II and Eastern Europe as an undergraduate history major and I came away mulling over how much I learned. (Ulica Przyokopawa 28, between Prosta and Grzybowska. Take trams #22, 24, 32 or bus #105. See “Public Transportation” section for further directions. 10 zl. Sunday free. Closed Tuesday.)

World War II Monuments

If you left the Warsaw Uprising Museum with a desire to find more of Warsaw’s remnants of the past, the central city is peppered with memorials and buildings with stories to tell.

Ghetto Uprising Memorial – Located in Ghetto Heroes Square in the former Jewish ghetto and now rebuilt residential neighborhood. The memorial is simple, evocative, and often layered with candles and flowers at the base, left by descendants of the survivors of Warsaw’s Jewish population, visiting from all over the world. An easy bus ride from the Warsaw Uprising Museum and a good starting point to a self-guided walking tour of the former Jewish ghetto, called the “Path of Remembrance.” (From Solidarności Street in Muranów neighborhood, walk north 3 blocks on Karmelicka. Monument is on the left. See Public Transportation section below for bus information.)

Path of Remembrance – The memorial path follows Zamenhofa Street, lined by simple stone markers detailing the events of the ghetto uprising in April 1943. I was most affected by the bunker memorial, appearing at first glance as an unexceptional grassy hill surrounded by apartment buildings, but is the tomb of the organizers of the ghetto resistance. In the bunker they planned and executed the uprising, hid from the Nazis, and eventually died. Today this tomb is marked by a simple stone inscribed in Hebrew.  (From Ghetto Uprising Monument, walk one block north on Karmelicka, turn right on Anielewicza, walk one block to Zamenhofa and turn left to begin the Path.)

Umschlagplatz – This concrete memorial stands at the former train station where the Jewish community of Warsaw boarded the trains to Treblinka, one of Poland’s many concentration camps run by the Nazis. The silhouette of the memorial mimics a box car, its door cracked slightly open. Just down the street is another reminder of the past – one of the few surviving buildings from the war. It was the Jewish hospital where the doctors poisoned their patients and then themselves to avoid the brutality of the German SS during the liquidation of the ghetto; today it is a school. When I walked past, the notes of the school band wafted out the open windows. An everyday building that proved more emotional for me than any of the monuments – for here is a building that has seen so much horror, now pulsing with life. (From Zamenhofa Street/Dubois, turn left onto Stawki. Memorial is one block up on the right.)

Warsaw Uprising Monument – Nestled into the courtyard of the Polish Supreme Court, this dramatic monument tells the story of the Home Army’s resistance against the Germans in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The life-size figures leap out of the jagged rock, infused with energy and determination. Nearby a smaller sculpture depicts the soldiers diving into the sewers to evade the Germans. Set against the rusted green copper of the Polish Supreme Court façade, this monument is a moving piece of story-telling. (Located at the intersection of ulica Długa and Miodawa, a short walk from New Town.)

Other Monuments Worth a Look

Monument for the Fallen and Murdered in the East – Recently built in 1995, this memorial commemorates the thousands of Poles who were taken east into Soviet Russia to the gulags and work camps while Poland was under Communist rule and never returned. It is a metal train car, with an unfinished, rough quality, as if the metal itself were groaning, and filled to the brim with crosses. Each of the train track rail ties holds the name of a Polish town, heading east towards Russia. (Short walk from Umschlagplatz memorial – walk east along Stawki towards Vistula River. Stawki becomes Muranowska Street, with memorial located in center of road.)

Piłsudski Square – An absolutely huge, vast, and achingly empty square only a couple blocks from the Royal Way. This uninspiring space feels like a massive parking lot without the cars. Once called Adolf-Hitler-Square under Nazi occupation, then Victory Square under the Communists, it is now named after a Polish hero who served as Poland’s president between the world wars. A statue of Piłsudski at one end of the square is almost invisible unless you know to look for it, his face bowed and his hands clasped in humility. Nearby is a giant cross. It was here in 1981 that Varsovians filled the square with a giant cross made of flowers in protest of the Communist government declaring martial law. Across the square is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If it looks awkward and unfinished, that is because was once part of a palace that was destroyed in World War II. Today, its walls are covered in plaques commemorating the numerous wars Poland has faced over the centuries. The sheer number of plaques is humbling – a reminder of the realities of Poland’s flat geography and position between powerful empires and nation-states such as Prussia, Germany, and Russia. Two stern, stock-still soldiers guard the eternal flame. The tomb itself is set against the lush backdrop of the Saxon Gardens. Once the extensive palace gardens, the grounds are now open to the public. An inviting place to sit and people-watch, especially in the midst of a vibrant autumn season.

TOURIST TRAPS

Explore Old Town – Wandering the atmospheric streets of Warsaw’s Old Town is a must to experience the resilience of the Varsovians. This section of the city was completely destroyed in World War II – what little escaped the German Army’s systematic demolition was pounded into rubble by the heavy fighting as the Soviet Army took over the city. After the war, the Varsovians completely rebuilt their Old Town brick by brick in a painstaking process completed by 1956. Today the atmosphere is charming, although almost too perfect. There are no must-sees sights here, just a charming town fun for a short stroll. Explore the streets without a map, find a bench in the main square, watch local children play amid the flocks of pigeons, but don’t spend all your time here. The restaurants are touristy and overpriced, and the streets feel almost void of those unspeakable layers of time found in other historic Old Towns. Warsaw should be proud of their revived medieval core, but tragically, that quality of historic depth of time and place cannot be so easily rebuilt.

Castle Square & the Royal Castle – Quite honestly, the castle is no longer a castle, but a Baroque palace standing atop the former location of the castle. Only slight echoes of the castle’s structure still exist, much of it rebuilt after World War II: the perfectly smooth walls of the ramparts, the bright red brick of the Barbican guarding the north entrance to the Old Town, and the medieval street grid. Everything, including even the castle palace, has been rebuilt. Definitely take the time to stand in the middle of Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square). Ignore the too-perfect surroundings and imagine yourself back into the past, for this is a place of supreme importance to Polish history. Here the nobility exercised their power through the election of their king and the functioning of the Sejm, the Polish parliament, in the waning days of the Polish kingdom. The tall pillar in the middle of the square is topped by King Sigismund III, a foreign-elected king of Poland. A noble from Sweden, he moved Poland’s capitol from Krakow to Warsaw. If you have an interest in Polish history, join the school groups inside the Royal Castle. Otherwise, move on to Warsaw’s other sights.

Palace of Science & Culture – Sure, you could take an elevator to the observation deck of this skyscraper, but the view really isn’t all that grand for the price. You’ll be able to see the massiveness of the city and the dozens of new skyscrapers going up, but the memorable landmarks of Warsaw are blocked behind the building frenzy. Instead, I prefer to take in the view of the building itself, all lit-up at night. While aesthetically the building is considered controversial, I actually liked its neo-Gothic decorative frills and the symmetrical solidness and heft. It’s what the skyscraper symbolizes that upsets Varsovians – the building was paid for by Soviet Russia as a gift from Stalin. For a good laugh, ask a local Varsovian what they have nicknamed such a magnanimous gift from the brutal dictator. (Across the street from central train station.)

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Population – (2010) ~ 1.7 million

Useful Map Terms

Warszawa – Warsaw               New Town – Nowe Miasto                Old Town – Stare Miasto

Royal Way – Szłak Królewski            Castle Square – Plac Zamkowy

Old Town Market Square – Rynek Starego Miasta                Vistula River – Wisła

Public Transportation

Warsaw is a sprawling metropolitan area of connecting suburbs and well-connected by bus and tram lines. As a tourist, you will most likely stay within the center of Warsaw, concentrating on the main artery of Nowy Świat and the Old Town area, all easily walk able. However, you may find Warsaw’s public transit system useful upon arrival in the city or to reach some of the sites outside the Royal Way.

Most intercity trains arrive at Warsaw’s main train station, Warszawa Centralna. This is a massive labyrinth of a station located a 30 minute walk from Nowy Świat. Be prepared for confusion – there does not seem to be a rhyme or reason to the layout of train platforms, subterranean corridors or stairwells up to the surface. Your senses will be assaulted by the crowds, echoing noise, smells of food vendors and crush of stores, newsstands, and people. If you need to find the main arrival hall, look for the signs labeled “Hala Głowna”. Here you can purchase train tickets for onward travel, though expect long lines. Otherwise, you can be like me, go with the flow, find a staircase up to the street, and orient yourself using the nearby Palace of Science and Culture as your landmark.

If you need to take a bus from the train station into central Warsaw or Old Town, look for bus #175. (Double-check with the driver that you have the right bus, as bus routes are subject to change.) Find the bus stop across the street from the station on aleja Jerozolimskie. To find your way to the right street, follow the Al. Jerozolimskie signs inside the station.

Warsaw has a Metro subway system, but I did not find it useful as a tourist – unless you are staying in the outer metropolitan area, the Metro is not convenient for sightseeing. Instead, use the network of buses and trams. When I was in Warsaw in 2009, a single ride ticket without transfer cost 2,40 zł (bilet jednorazowy) and a 24 hour day ticket cost 7,20 zł (bilet dobowy). You can purchase tickets at street kiosks labeled with a “Ruch” sign and validate it when you board your bus or tram at a little yellow box by the driver.

The routes I found the most useful connected the Royal Way with the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the former Jewish Ghetto. For an easy-to-navigate sightseeing loop, catch trams #22 or #24 at the intersection of Nowy Świat and aleja Jerozolimskie, marked by the fake palm tree. Just after the tram turns right onto Towarowa, get off at the Grzybowska stop. The museum is a short walk away (Turn left onto Grzybowska, left onto ulica Przyokopowa. Museum is on the left). When you are done at the museum, walk back out to the tram lines on Towarowa. You can either hop a tram or walk three blocks north to Solidarności and take a right. The bus stop is on Solidarności. Catch bus #125, 171 or 190 towards Old Town and get off after a few blocks near Karmelicka for a walking tour of the former Jewish Ghetto. From here you can either catch a bus back to Old Town or walk back, making a stop at the Warsaw Uprising Monument.

ADVICE FOR FIBROMITES

Warsaw is a modern European city – great public transportation, a wide array of lodging options, and a varied restaurant scene. However, if you are struggling with fibromyalgia or another chronic condition like I am, I have some advice to help make your visit to Warsaw easier and more enjoyable.

If you need to carefully monitor your diet, try to arrange lodging that provides you access to a kitchen. A number of small family-run hotels, as well as independent hostels with private rooms among their dorms, are good options. Cooking for yourself gives you more control over your health.

When researching lodging, do not assume there is an elevator. Most European budget accommodations are in older buildings. Be prepared to carry your luggage up stairs or look for a place with an elevator. If you would like to try a hostel, my lodgings in Warsaw at Helvetia Hostel were some of the best I found in managing my fibromyalgia. The staircase at the entrance was not ideal, but the hostel itself was clean, comfortable, with small spacious dorms, comfortable beds, large shower rooms, and a well-stocked kitchen.

If you are hostelling, always ask if they have real beds or bunk beds. I found that I often slept better in a real bed. If bunk beds are unavoidable, try to snag a bottom bunk. If all this talk of hostelling sounds exhausting, then you probably should allow yourself to spend a little more money and find a more comfortable hotel.

To pace yourself (especially important with fibro), relax the way the locals do and make your rest a part of the experience. Find a bench in the Saxon Gardens to journal or people-watch. Sip coffee or tea in a café for the afternoon. Mimic the students and spend the afternoon browsing in a bookstore. Treat yourself to a melted chocolate drink at Wedel’s.

Warsaw is huge, but the majority of your sightseeing will be in the walk able area around the Royal Way. Buses ply the Royal Way constantly should you begin to weary. Distances on maps are deceptive – what looks like an easy walk between the Royal Way and the former Jewish Ghetto is a bit of a hike. Give your feet a rest and use public transportation.

TO BE CONTINUED

The 24 hours I spent in Warsaw were only a brief, seductive taste of a complex city full of history and pulsing modern life. I glimpsed a tiny piece of Varsovian life and yearn for more. I have yet to stroll the streets of “New Town”, the 15th century neighborhood north of Old Town, with a museum dedicated to Marie Curie (Polish by birth, French by marriage), known for her work discovering radioactive radium, which later led to her declining health. Another piece of Warsaw’s history, the expansive Łazienki Park, awaits my discovery at the southern end of the Royal Way. Once the private grounds of the royal family’s hunting estate, it is now a grand public park full of relaxing Varsovian families. I have also just scratched the surface of Warsaw’s nightlife. In a city this fast-paced and ever-changing, I can only imagine what awaits my next visit.

Polish Supreme Court (foreground)

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