Warsaw city guide

Warsaw, the capital of a country that just can’t give anything up, and constantly blames everything on the past. It’s like a city full of entitled millennials. Personally, as someone born and raised in Warsaw, I believe that the capital should have remained in Kraków (Cracow). But it’s not for me to decide and tourists seem to love this city, so it’s probably a matter of perspective. Truth be told, there isn’t much to see in Warsaw, everyone blames the wars but in my humble opinion- it’s just an unwelcoming and obnoxious city. Everything there is to see in the capital can be seen in one day. Actually, there’s not much to see at all, apart from the Old Town, Wilanów Palace, and the Warsaw Uprising Museum (for a healthy dose of that famous, polish misery). Old Town Square, Old Town Royal Palace, Old Town rip off restaurants feeding overpriced pierogis to tourists: everything is “Old Town” because Warsaw doesn’t have anything else to offer. Apart from the nightlife and women, those two are probably the only reasons why people come back to this god-forsaken city.

Royal Castle in Warsaw against the sunset sky

The Royal Castle is a symbol of modern Warsaw; built at the beginning of the 17th century, it was completely destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt according to old drawings and photographs

All right, let’s settle down a bit. I suppose I should be a bit more of a welcoming host. Let me walk you through the basics; things the locals go for when visited by distant cousins from the countryside. Let’s cover two variants: one with kids and one only with adults. They’re basically the same but I’d take the kids to the Zoo first to tire them out, so they don’t have the endurance to walk further into the day. The Zoo is great, especially during summer when it’s warm outside; there is also a bit of history behind it. The owners used to smuggle Jews out of the nearby ghetto and hide them in the basement of their onsite villa. A remarkable story, you can learn more about it from The Zookeeper’s Wife, a movie with redhead beauty Jessica Chastain. Check it out on Netflix: it’s pretty good. Next stop: Old Town! I’d just walk there from the Zoo; it’s maybe a half an hour walk, taking the water tram across the Vistula (Wisła in Polish) river is a good alternative during summer. Once there I’d go check the Royal Castle but only from the outside, the inside takes hours to explore, and frankly, it’s nothing exciting. Chill around the medieval Old Town Square, take the mandatory photo next to the mermaid statue, a symbol of Warsaw and depending on the time of the day have a meal at U Fukiera Restaurant. It is a bit pricey but the food is great and the old basement-like interior does leave an impression.

Sufficiently fed and rested, you’re ready to continue down the Royal Route, it used to connect the Royal Castle with the Wilanów Palace. There are amazing churches left and right, including the Holy Cross Church that contains Chopin’s actual heart, pickled in a jar, encased in a wall. From there you can walk straight on to Łazienki Park, also known as Royal Baths Park. You could also turn left and walk down Tamka Street and visit the interactive Chopin Museum, or the Kopernik Science Centre. That pretty much covers the area, the controversial Palace of Science and Culture is to the right of the Royal Route, you should be able to see it clearly. I’d pass on that one and visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum instead. I have my opinion about the Uprising and I’m not a huge fan of museums altogether but that one is a must-see.

Swietokrzyski Bridge overspanning the Wisła River in Warsaw and city view

Swietokrzyski bridge: the first cable-stayed bridge in Warsaw, built in 2000, replaced the old wooden bridge over the Vistula or Wisła River, Poland's longest river

Polish people party long and hard, maybe a bit too hard, if I do say so myself. How do we go about our weekends? We usually start on Fridays, gather up, do a bit of a pre-game and head out to town. Most often we go to the recently rebuilt Vistula Boulevards, it’s one of few spots in Warsaw where you can legally drink outside of bars and pubs. Speaking of which, there are dozens of those along the Vistula: dance clubs, jazz bars, food trucks, whatever you want. The boulevards are so popular that some spots downtown close up for the season and move their businesses there. Tourists usually hang around clubs on Mazowiecka street and those around Marszałkowska are also very popular. If you’re in a mood for an adventure, a dash of risk, you could check out the Praga district out. It’s on the opposite side of the river; the part of town where people don’t really go to after dark. Some of the buildings still have bullet holes from the time of war. But it’s being reintroduced to a new life and becoming a bit of a hipster area with an alternative club scene. They’re also reopening the old Koneser Vodka factory, building lofts, and art galleries and stuff like that. I have a good feeling about it.

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