Warsaw should be visited for many reasons – even out of respect for the city, and Poland as a whole, seeing as it’s the capital of the country. It’s therefore an important scientific, cultural, political and economic centre. As early as primary school education, children learn why Warsaw is considered the most important city in Poland, perhaps on par with Krakow. They learn its tragic history, gain knowledge about the most important monuments, historical sites, government buildings, and cultural institutions. Warsaw, in the end has a lot of history and vast historical events had taken place there through time – most of which are now commemorated in museums and memorial places. Warsaw’s bountiful, rich and tragic history is thus one of the main reasons for a trip to there. But that’s not the end of it. Let’s break down all the others:
Why is it worth coming to Warsaw? We have 15 solid answers!
Warsaw’s Old Town
When you plan a trip to Warsaw, you cannot skip the Old Town. This label is used to describe the oldest urban centre of Warsaw i.e. the area and buildings renowned for a vibrant tourist location, abundant in elements that are preserved historical records: cobbled streets, beautiful medieval buildings that have been renovated after the destruction of World War II, stalls, churches etc.
The Old Town Square in particular is most noteworthy. It’s surrounded by 18th & 19th century tenement houses made by former citizens, elegant restaurants serving delicious food, bars that can treat you to flavoursome local beer, market stalls that sell ornaments, so on and so forth. The bustling, charming square, colourful tenements and narrow, atmospheric streets and their curious nooks create a unique atmosphere that is adored by both local Warsaw residents and tourists alike. Those who would like to stay here longer can book their accommodation in our comfy hotel apartments that are located nearby.
Let’s not forget: in the bang centre of the Old Town Square stands the monument to a famed Mermaid, who became the emblem and protector of Warsaw. There’s a lot of rich folk/mythical history associated with the Mermaid. Her origin and role are distinct and automatically associated with Warsaw by every Polish native . . . but that’s a topic for another blog!
The Castle Square should also be mentioned – it’s an important feature of the Old Town. Its eastern frontage holds the entry to the Royal Castle itself.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw
The castle is made in a Baroque-Classicist style. It was once the primary seat of Polish rulers, today it contains a museum and holds vast representative functions. In the past, it was plundered and devastated on vast occasions. In fact, in 1944 it was almost completely destroyed. The surviving fragments of the castle and the building of the Royal Library, the Pod Blachą (Under the Metal Sheet) Palace and Kubicki Arcades were entered in the register of landmarked/listed buildings 1965, and the reconstruction of the whole building began six years later. The reconstruction carried out in 1971–1984 was managed by the Citizens’ Committee for Reconstruction of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. In the meantime, a museum was created inside the castle, opening up to the public in 1979.
Visiting the Royal Castle in Warsaw is a prime opportunity to admire the royal apartments, as well as the Throne Room and the Senator’s Room, in which the Constitution was adopted on May 3rd, 1791. And without a shadow of a doubt, The Gardens, located on Castle grounds, are also worth a visit (in the warmer seasons i.e. May-September they can be entered between the hours of 10am to 8pm, whereas for the rest of the year 10am to 6pm), the same goes for the lower Castle Garden.
The Royal Baths Museum is composed of classical monuments and historical gardens. You can relax here, but also develop your knowledge about the era of Enlightenment (for in days of yore this place was the summer residence of King Stanisław August). When it comes to architectural monuments, the Palace on the Island, the Old Orangery and the Myśliwiecki Palace have to find themselves on your sightseeing list.
Within the Royal Baths, apart from the buildings, pavilions and free-standing sculptures, you can also find four themed gardens: Royal, Romantic, Modernist and Chinese. You can walk along paths and alleys, among the trees, flowers and styled bushes and relax – breathe in some fresh air and absorb the tranquillity. These attributes are probably why these gardens are one of the favourite destinations of local residents. Sometimes you can even stumble into peacocks, squirrels and singing birds! The gardens are open every day from morning to evening – the gates close at 9pm. The aforementioned architectural buildings are available for visit 6 days a week (Friday is free admission).
Palace of Culture and Science
The construction of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science began on May 1st, 1952. The construction of the impressive building (possessing an area of 123,084m2 & height of 237m tall) took over three years to build. The skyscraper was built as a ‘gift’ of the Soviet nations to the Polish nation, and the commissioner of the project was no other than Joseph Stalin. The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland and although many consider it a blemish, worthy of demolishing (because the building evokes negative connotation of Polish communist era), it is nonetheless one of the most recognisable symbols of Warsaw. It has been a listed building under protection since 2007.
Currently, the palace is the seat of many public enterprises and institutions: theatres, museums, cinema, Collegium Civitas, authorities of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Central Commission for Degrees and Titles. The magnificent edifice hosts various types of exhibitions and fairs each year. In fact, within the building you can find a conference and entertainment hall which hosts up to 3,000 people. It is commonly known as the Congress Hall in Warsaw. The Youth Palace is also very prominent and for those interested, it contains a swimming pool. Tourists who visit the capital often begin their journey with a trip up to the PKiN observation deck, from they can behold a wonderful panorama of Warsaw.
The observation deck on the 30th floor of the building is open daily. When it comes to visits of the interior palace, tickets can be purchased at the ticket office, even right before the trip starts. The mandatory reservation of places applies only to tours of the underground.
National Museum in Warsaw
The Warsaw Art Museum is one of the oldest institutions of this type in Poland. It was founded in 1862, initially as a Museum of Fine Arts. It is currently the largest museum in Warsaw and one of the largest in the whole of Poland. The museum contains a collection of ancient art (Egyptian, Greek, Roman), Polish paintings from 13th century onwards, a gallery of foreign painting, numismatic collections and a multitude of artistic crafts, drawings, graphics and photographs are exhibited. Everything is shared and displayed to public, unless hidden for curation.
In the building located at Aleje Jerozolimskie 3 street, you can admire both permanent galleries and numerous temporary exhibitions. The huge thematic scope of the collections allows for an endless pleasing of the eye, because the plethora of artefacts is enormous. It’s possible to visit the National Museum of Warsaw everyday, except for Mondays. Admission to permanent exhibitions is free on Tuesdays.
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
In the past, the presence of Jews in Poland has raised a lot of emotions. During the Jewish history there were both long periods of religious tolerance and the complete opposite – hatred, manifested through extermination carried out by the Nazi Germany during the occupation of Poland. The POLIN Museum doesn’t just hold collections referring to the times of Holocaust – it dedicates whole galleries to present a 1,000 year history of Polish Jews, covering a wide subject matter e.g. culture and heritage.
The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a relatively new cultural institution, founded only in 2005. Since then, it has been a place of meetings and discussions for all those ‘who want to familiarise themselves with the past and contemporary Jewish culture, who want to draw conclusions from the Polish-Jewish history, who want to battle the stereotypes and contemporary threats such as xenophobia and nationalistic prejudices.’ (This is a direct quote from the POLIN Museum’s website). The museum is open every day except Tuesdays. On Thursdays, admission to the permanent and temporary exhibitions is free. The ticket office, museum shop and the restaurant are open during the museum’s opening hours.
Government buildings and Presidential Palace
Warsaw is certainly worth visiting just to explore the places where the most important decisions regarding our country are made. The building complex of the Polish parliament is located at 4/6/8 Wiejska Street, as well as Wiejska 1. This building is used by both the ‘Sejm’ and the Senate. The construction of the complex was conducted by Chancellery of the Sejm in 1918. Currently, after pre-booked reservation, it is possible to enter the building in organised groups during weekdays between 9am – 3:20pm. Groups can have from 15 to 55 members. In some situations, individual visits to the parliament and Senate buildings are also possible, e.g. during special open days and Long Night of the Museums.
The Presidential Palace in Warsaw, located at Krakowskie Przedmieście 46/48 Street, is the official seat of the President of Poland. It is the largest palace in Warsaw, consisting of four-storey main body buildings and two two-storey side wings. In the past, it was frequently rebuilt and renovated. In fact, the palace has an interesting history: once it was the seat of the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister (1918-1939). Finally, in 1994 it became the official seat of the Polish President. It’s possible to go on a tour of the Presidential Palace once an appointment is made. The place is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm. You will undergo the tour with a guide and the whole thing will lasts approx. 60 minutes. But most importantly – it is completely free.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Warsaw’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to commemorate those who died during the fight for country’s independence across time. It was unveiled on November 2nd, 1925 under the colonnade of the Saxon Palace – on that day the remains of an unknown soldier were brought there and buried in a special ceremony commemorating the defenders of Lviv. During World War II, the tomb of the unknown soldier was severely damaged, albeit as soon as the war ended the Poles began the reparations. In 1946 the tomb was fully rebuilt and unveiled again. Since then, its decor was slightly altered in 1990-1991.
You can’t simply pass by this place indifferently. An eternal candle burns at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw. The 24-hour and year-round service is performed outside of it by honorary guards from the Representative Battalion of the Polish Army. Two soldiers stand there, stationed for an hour, followed by a change, and so on. On public holidays (May 3rd, August 15th and November 11th) a ceremonial change of the honorary guard takes place, this time with the participation of the highest state authorities and all types of Polish Army troops.
National Stadium in Warsaw
The official name of this stadium (ever since 2015) is ‘PGE Narodowy’. The sports stadium was built in between 2008–2011 to replace the 10th-Anniversary Stadium that stood there from 1955 onwards. The stadium was closely connected with preparations that were undergone before the European Football Championships of 2012. The stadium was officially opened on January 29th, 2012. The facility is constructed with two rings – lower and upper, upon which 58,500 seats are found. Other seats are located on the structural separation of the rings. The stadium has a partially transparent, closed roof. Although, special attention should be drawn to the façade of the building, which evokes Polish national colours (white and red) and the whole thing resembles a waving flag.
But despite the stadium being predominantly a sports facility, many other events take place there throughout the year: music concerts, numerous cultural events, fairs and meetings. Not to mention that in the vicinity, offices, commercial rooms, a hotel and gastronomic functions can be found. The National Stadium is open to visitors 7 days a week. Individual tours do not require prior reservation, but any group visits (of maximum 55 people can still participate in the trip) must be pre-planned and a reservation booked in advance.
The National Philharmonic
The National Philharmonic is located on the Jasna 5 Street. The building was erected in 1900-1901, and the ceremonial inauguration took place on November 5th, 1901. The building received a very rich eclectic décor, influenced by neo-renaissance and European neo-baroque style – one that’s similar to other 19th century European philharmonics. Unfortunately, during the German siege of Warsaw in 1939, a fire broke out in the building, thus severely damaging its structure. Then during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 it was bombed and destroyed even further.
A thorough reconstruction of the facility was commissioned in 1955. The new, rebuilt concert building was opened on February 21st, 1955. In that same day, the inauguration of the 5th International Piano Competition named after Frederic Chopin took place, and the Warsaw Philharmonic was honoured with a new, more prestigious name: The National Philharmonic.
Today, auditions for the Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition are still taking place at The National Philharmonic. The competition is organised every 5 years, and always in October. The next edition will take place from October 2nd-23rd, 2020. Any pianists at the professional level, born in the years 1990–2004, who meet the conditions described in the regulations, can participate in the 18th Chopin Competition. Pianists who will come to Warsaw for the Preliminaries, and then the proper Chopin Competition, are invited to stay in our hotel apartments, located only a short distance from the National Philharmonic.
In addition to the Chopin Competition, the Philharmonic hosts numerous concerts, musicals and other music competitions. The institution also implements various educational projects. However, when organised events are taking place, it’s unfortunately impossible to visit the Philharmonic interiors. However, if the stage is free, the Philharmonic can normally be accessed during each day of the week (for further information please access their website). Trips for organised groups can be arranged on weekdays.
The Warsaw Stock Exchange
The headquarters of the Warsaw Stock Exchange are located at Książęca 4 Street. The institution is a symbol of the success of Polish economic changes. The stock exchange’s history is very interesting. It started off very modestly, the primary equipment consisted of borrowed computers, and only five companies were listed. Today, several hundred companies are listed on the WSE, where above many traded resources, even electricity and gas play a big role. The institution provides the possibility of stock exchange trading with vast financial instruments.
The ‘Stock Exchange Centre’ complex is a frequent destination for local, national and even international school trips as part of young entrepreneurship programme. The headquarters of the Warsaw Stock Exchange can also be visited individually, without prior booking, but then no assistance of a WSE employee will be provided. Individual tours are open every day from 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays and non-working days. The sites that may be visited are as follows: The Lobby of the Stock Exchange Centre (where a statue of the iconic stock exchange charging bull is located), a view of the Auditorium where a characteristic stock market bell hangs.
Polish Television Building
Polish Television is the only public television broadcaster in Poland. It broadcasts it’s content in a digital system. Polish Television, and especially its news channels, have been accused of bias and political influence upon the public, depending on which party rules over Poland at a given time. Despite this, the public broadcaster has an established position in Poland, and is met with a lot of respect, especially because it spreads a lot of significant content of great importance and worthy of national importance.
The headquarters of Polish Television are located at Woronicza 17 Street, and are frequently open to interested visitors. It is worth noting, however, that only organised groups can participate in the tour, and the size of the group (including guardians) cannot fall short of at least 10 people. During the tour around the TVP building you can observe the vast TV rooms, director’s rooms, photo halls, a props store, and explore the decorations and costume workshops. The tour guides who work there are television enthusiasts, who know all the ins and outs of television production; they possess a lot of compelling facts and trivia, and at the same time have the skills to coherently transfer their knowledge they acquired during their experience at TVP.
The Warsaw Zoo
The Warsaw Zoo is home to many animals from around the world. Its history is very long and complex, and a lot has happened since it was officially opened after World War II in 1949. Since then, the zoo has struggled many times with financial problems, but at the same time achieved many breeding successes. Thanks to the acquired investment funds in the eighties, almost 95% of the ZOO facilities were renovated and modernised. Over time, sponsors began to appear, and the Panda Foundation for the Development of the Warsaw Zoo was launched. Ever since, the Zoo has enjoyed a much favourable period.
New investments are constantly emerging in the Warsaw Zoo. Every year more and more events take place there, especially in the science and entertainment departments. And the number of visitors is systematically rising. There are over 100 species of animals in the Zoo. They can be watched every day, because the place is open each day of the week, even Sundays and national holidays, not to mention winter months. But apart from the animals, other attractions await the visitors e.g. you get an opportunity to participate in the popular field game consisting of search for hidden ‘treasures’ using GPS devices. It’s particularly a lot of fun for the youngsters who love exploring and a sense of adventure.
Studio Buffo Theater
Studio Buffo is one of the most famous music theatres in Poland. It is located in the Śródmieście district at the M. Konopnicka 6 Street. Since the 1956 opening, it has been the only private theatre in our country for many years. The current name was adopted in 1992, when Janusz Stokłosa and Janusz Józefowicz (the president and artistic director of the Studio Buffo Theatre) established an institution that aimed to protect the musical ‘Metro’ from the threat of dissolution. The musical was a great success, but from the day of the premiere it used foreign stages.
When you visit Warsaw, it is worth going to one of the performances and concerts organised in the theatre. It’s equipped with a high-quality sound system, lighting, multimedia service and, above all, excellent actors and music – the combination of these features results in an unparalleled, breath-taking performance. In their repertoire, Studio Buffo theatre team possesses over two hundred hits from the interwar period to the 1990s. What’s more, in addition to its own performances, the theatre also presents important artistic events in the field of drama, musicals, songs, jazz or comedy.
Pubs and Clubs – Warsaw’s bustling night life
One of the main reasons why you should visit Warsaw is to taste the Capital’s unique night life – even if you’re not an outgoing person or into such social atmosphere – we guarantee you’ll have a fantastic time. The pubs and clubs here are renowned across the internet. Vast celebrities praise them on social medias and they frequently gather great reviews. And although not everyone is interested in this type of entertainment, it is worth spending at least one Warsaw evening among the residents of the capital. They are fun, sociable, love a great dance and chat.
The clubs promoting alternative culture and music have been established in the old tenement houses. This is where endless fun, socialising and enjoyment emerge – not to mention that you’ll also be able to meet known television or Internet personalities promoting such events. If you’re looking to indulge in a great bar crawl, you can begin your journey at Plac Zbawiciel in the heart of Śródmieście i.e. city centre. ‘Zbawix’ can be your last stop before your take rest in one of our Residence St. Andrew’s Palace apartments (an uber ride from Zbawix takes only 5 minutes – a walk roughly 20 minutes).