[Weekend Trip Series]
In August I spent a quick weekend in Warsaw, Poland. Although my desire had been to visit Krakow as my first introduction to Poland and its history, I ended up in Warsaw which was just as fine.
Most of Warsaw is reconstructed as the city was essentially obliterated during WWII. However, the old-town still looks beautiful and exudes the vibes of what Warsaw once was.
The people I met and came across in my short time here were friendly and welcoming but certainly an underlying resilience and strength is in them. Based on the history I learned at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, I can understand why, especially all the hardships the country went through in the 20th century.
Getting around Warsaw is easy. Most of the key sites and old-town is walkable, otherwise call a uber. Most uber rides are under USD$10.
Warsaw, like much of Eastern Europe, is relatively lower cost. My private room with ensuite bathroom at a hostel cost USD$55. All meals fell under USD$30, and that was at the top range of food in the city.
Warsaw has many options for accommodations, with many international chains. Few in the luxury category. However, one does not need that in this city. Plenty of great hostels that offer shared or private rooms with shared or ensuite bathrooms in wonderful locations. I stayed at the Oki Doki Hostel Old Town, right outside the walls and gates of Old-Town.
I enjoyed my very shot time in Warsaw and my small taste of Poland. But I definitely want to visit Krakow, which most people (Polish and otherwise) have told me is more culturally significant and rich than Warsaw.
- I arrived just after noon at Warsaw Chopin International Airport. From there I got an Uber and headed to the hostel.
- Arrived at Oki Doki Hostel Old Town and checked in. The front desk helped me pin point key places to see and walk around given my very short time in Warsaw.
- Having not eaten all day, I first had lunch at a popular local chain, Zapiecek, famous for their Pierogi, the famed Polish dumplings! The chain has plenty of outposts across the city, with multiple in old-town alone. I ordered a sample of 9 savory and 9 sweet pierogi, filled with cheeses, mushroom and meat, as well as strawberry, cream and blackberry and of course Polish beer and a hearty and warm sour rye soup.
- After lunch I walked into old-town. I walked by the Mermaid Statue, which is apparently a symbol of the city. Then on to the main Old-Town Plaza with the Royal Palace and Sigismund’s Column.
- Next I purchased the minimal costing entry-fee (6 polish dollars) to climb up the winding steps to the top of Widokowy Tower by St. Anne’s Church, offering brilliant panorama views of the city from Old-Town to the modern Downtown (home to the stunning Soviet Stalinist building, The Palace of Culture and Science).
- I walked down Krakowskie Street, a main street near old-town. Walked by Monument of Adam Mickiewicz, and the Presidential Palace, also the Palace on Poland’s finest Vodka: Belvedere.
- From there I walked a couple minutes across town to the State Park, home to Warsaw’s Unknown Soldiers’ Grave. I walked through the beautiful and quaint park filled with locals going about their Saturday leisure.
- From the park was a 20 odd minute walk to the Palace of Culture and Science. You can buy tickets to go up to the observation deck, and there are many event spaces, theaters and museums at the bottom as well. Given my shorter time, I chose not to do any of these but rather just look in awe at the magnificent yet slightly haunting/ intimidating Stalinist building.
- I then ordered an uber to take me to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. This museum is absolutely worth the time and money to check out. I spent about 2 hours here, and one can easily spend upwards of three. I would recommend doing the audio-guide if you have the extra time, though there are plenty of wall descriptions to read up on if you choose not to. The museum explains the history of Warsaw during WWII and the failed attempt of Polish underground forces to reclaim the city from the Nazis. But it also walks you through Warsaw and Poland’s suffering during WWII and what it had to go through. Many Eastern European countries went through similar histories during this time with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and while the general story is the same, each country experienced it differently and came out of it differently as well.
- After learning about the city I was in, I ubered back to old-town and walked around a bit before dinner.
- I walked by the Monument to the Little Insurgent, which held a deeper meaning having visited the uprising museum.
- Right along the old-town wall is Podwale 25, a popular Polish restaurant amongst both locals and tourists. You might want to head here earlier if you have a larger group as it fills up fast. Here I had Beer, homemade Lemon Vodka: Cytrynowka, with cabbage and pickles. One of the key Traditional Polish dishes: Bigos: fried and stewed cabbage tossed with mushroom, bacon, stewed pork, and sausage. A traditional Polish dish: Gołąbki, meat stuffed cabbage. And traditional Warsaw Chocolate Cake, WUZETKA – WZ CIASTO, two chocolate sponge cakes with cream in between. All superbly hearty, warm and delicious.
- Afterwards, I walked around old-town as the sun set and the city lights came on. Before ending the night with an excellent cocktail at Podwale Bar and Books bar, a great cocktail/whisky and cigar bar right on the old-town wall.
- I decided to call it a night and went to bed before my early morning departure the next day.