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Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland, roughly 260 kilometres (160 mi) from the Baltic Sea and 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population is estimated at 1.740 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 2.666 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 9th most-populous capital city in the European Union.
Today Warsaw is considered an "Alpha–" global city, a major international tourist destination and a significant cultural, political and economic hub.
The first historical reference to Warsaw dates back to the year 1313, at a time when Kraków served as the Polish capital city.
The city is the seat of a Roman Catholic archdiocese (left bank of the Vistula) and diocese (right bank), and possesses various universities, most notably the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Warsaw, two opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries and monuments. The historic city-centre of Warsaw with its picturesque Old Town in 1980 was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|POPULATION :||City: 1,740,119 / Metro: 2,666,274|
|FOUNDED :||turn of the 12th to 13th century|
|TIME ZONE :||CET (UTC+1) Summer: CEST (UTC+2)|
|LANGUAGE :||Polish 97.8%, other and unspecified 2.2%|
|RELIGION :||Roman Catholic 89.8%, Eastern Orthodox 1.3%, Other 8.9%|
|AREA :||517.24 km2 (199.71 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||78–116 m (328 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||52°14′N 21°1′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48,28% |
• Female: 51,72%
|ETHNIC :||Polish 96%, Others (Ukraine, Vietnam, Belarus, Russia) 4%|
|AREA CODE :||+48 22|
|POSTAL CODE :||00-001 to 04–999|
|DIALING CODE :|
Today, Warsaw is a bustling metropolis and one of the European Union's fastest-developing capitals and the Union's ninth most populous urban centre. It boasts a mixture of new and old in its eclectic architectural mix, and is constantly changing.
While quite sprawling, it is quite easy to navigate for tourists thanks to a good public transit system, and most important sights are quite close to each other. There is no shortage of accommodation options and a wide choice of restaurants and bars.
Warsaw's nightlife is also on a rebound, and a reborn cafe culture has taken over the city. There is a large variety of museums, galleries and other tourist attractions, and there is always something happening throughout the year.
Main architectural attractions include the Castle Square with the Royal Castle and the iconic King Sigismund's Column, St. John's Cathedral, Market Square, palaces, churches and mansions all displaying a richness of colour and architectural detail. Buildings represent examples of nearly every European architectural style and historical period. Warsaw provides many examples of architecture from the gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical periods, and around a quarter of the city is filled with luxurious parks and royal gardens.
The Warsaw Tourist Office (Stołeczne Biuro Turystyki) is the official tourist information agency in Warsaw and can provide visitors with information regarding hotels, attractions, and events. They also have maps for travelers. They operate three locations in Warsaw:
- in the Palace of Culture and Science, close to the Warszawa Centralna train station, with an entrance from Emilii Plater Street
- in the Old Town, on the Rynek Starego Miasta (the market square and NOT the Castle Square)
- at the Chopin Airport
The City of Warsaw has a lot of useful information on its website. A popular source of practical tips, contacts, and current event information is the Warsaw Insider, available at every concierge, tourist information centre and larger newsagents. The Warsaw Voice is the city's most popular English-language weekly, and maintains a good calendar of events. Destination Warsaw has some useful information, but you need to be aware that it is run by Warsaw Destination Alliance, whose members are some of the tourist-related businesses in Warsaw, so the website obviously serves their promotional needs. Its main goal is the promotion of Warsaw as a destination abroad.
Before becoming the capital
There are records of human settlements and economic activity in the area of what is now Warsaw from the 9th century onwards, but it wasn't until the 13th century that Warsaw was founded by the Dukes of Mazovia. While developing as an administrative and economic centre, it played second fiddle to Płock within Mazovia until the 15th century, and was by no means a match for Poland's former capital, Kraków. It gained growing importance due to its economic might and strategically important central location in Poland, cemented when the Polish Sejm (parliament of nobles) relocated there permanently in the 16th century, and it became the site of royal elections.
As capital city of Poland
In 1596, it became the de factocapital of the country when King Sigismund III Vasa decided to permanently relocate to what is now the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The city started to develop rapidly beyond the what is now the Old and New Town, as noblemen started moving in and building mansions and palaces around town. In the 17th century, Praga, on the right-hand side of the river Vistula, was incorporated as a separate town (and did not become a part of Warsaw until the 19th century).
While ravaged by wars and natural disasters as many other European cities in this period, Warsaw continued to grow and modernize, with baroque residences, including Wilanów being built in the 17th century, and the Saxon kings initiating first large-scale urban planning projects in the early 1700s. The last king of independent Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski, has further modernized the city following the ideals of Enlightenment in the second half of the 18th century.
At the end of 18th century, the weakened Republic of Poland was partitioned, through a period of forced diplomacy, military actions and uprisings, and Warsaw first fell into the Prussian rule, losing most of its importance. As the French emperor Napoleon marched eastwards with his army, he reestablished a small Polish state known as the Duchy of Warsaw, after its eponymous capital, but it was short-lived and was absorbed by the Russian empire in 1815, after Napoleon's defeat.
Under Russian rule
Warsaw remained a capital city under the Russian rule, as the Kingdom of Poland was reestablished, although with Russian tsars as hereditary kings and not much political independence. Warsaw was then the westernmost of major cities of the Russian empire and enjoyed economic growth as a commercial and industrial centre. While repeated uprisings and attempts to regain independence failed, Warsaw was still enriched with the creation of many cultural and educational institutions, many surviving to this day.
Warsaw's growth was curbed by a double line of military forts, protecting the strategically important Russian outpost, which by the second half of the 19th century made Warsaw one of the most dense and overpopulated cities of its time. To aid the failing hygiene, the authorities started constructing the pioneering Warsaw waterworks (led by William Lindley), and first district heating and warm water installations were laid.
At the turn of the century, Warsaw was electrified, gaining its first electric power plant, electric tramways, and a telephone network. At the start of the First World War, Warsaw was bustling, modern city of almost 1 million inhabitants, rife with opulent, belle-epoque architecture adapted to its density.
Between the World Wars
As Poland regained independence, Warsaw became the capital city of an independent country again. It suffered heavily during the war, and was soon threatened by the advancing Soviet forces, who were only repelled at the borders in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw. While political instability and struggles ensued, Poland enjoyed economic growth, optimism and proper attention to planning and urbanism in that period, and Warsaw benefited from that greatly, especially under its last interwar President, Stefan Starzyński.
Warsaw gained a state-of-the-art airport in Okęcie, a central railway through station connecting all major railway links that used to go through or terminate in the city, and an experimental TV broadcasting station. Modern and attractive planned residential districts were created outside of the historic forts line, most notably northwards in Żoliborz and Bielany. Warsaw continued to mix the new and old and many modern buildings filled in gaps between or replaced older buildings across the city, providing for the eclectic look Warsaw for which is known today.
The developments of that time, while later destroyed to a large extent in the Second World War, were instrumental to shaping Warsaw in many ways to how it was known today. Most were either rebuilt verbatim or in a similar form and place, while some survived.
Second World War
For most of the Second World War, Warsaw was occupied by Nazi Germany, but it did not surrender without major fights that affected the city - over 10% of the buildings were destroyed, with the infrastructure and many other buildings damaged. The German authorities treated Warsaw as expendable and had grand plans of totally rebuilding it as a planned city, with Germanic and Nazi symbolism replacing all of the Polish heritage. This did not come into fruition, but explained why little heed was paid to preserving the city, which was also periodically bombed by the Soviet forces after 1941.
It was an especially tragic period for the Jewish population of Warsaw, which had been a significant part of the general population over pretty much all of Warsaw's history. The Nazi forces confined Jews to the Warsaw Ghetto, sprawling over much of the district of Wola, and proceeded with their plans to annihilate them. This eventually led to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
In the final period of the War, the dramatic and tragic Warsaw Uprising took place in 1944 in the wake of the German defeat and Soviet march on Warsaw. (The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 are entirely separate historic events.) It led to the destruction of most of the remaining buildings in Warsaw and further staggering loss of life, while not achieving its goal of liberating Warsaw from the German forces before the Soviets marched in. The Red Army then captured the crippled and all but razed city cementing Poland's fate as a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union.
Post-World War II - rebuilding the city
By 1945, Warsaw was almost completely destroyed. It is estimated that over 80% of the city was destroyed, including almost the entire city centre and most historic and significant buildings. Of almost 1.4 million inhabitants, half died during the war (including the vast majority of the Jewish population), others were forcibly removed or escaped voluntarily, and only about 10% of the initial population was found inhabiting the ruins of the city.
To rebuild the city was thus an enormous task, but there was no hesitation in the resolve to achieve it. A special committee of architects and urban planners conducted the efforts. Their paradigms shaped the city as it is known today. On the one hand, there was meticulous effort to restore the oldest and most important historic buildings using extant documentation, but also old photos and even paintings. On the other, the communist ideology ran very much against the character of pre-war Warsaw, and practical reasons and urban planning opportunities dictated planning on a larger scale, envisaging an expansive, much lower-density city.
Most architects and historians held much the late 19th century architecture in low regard and thus many of the historic buildings and areas were rebuilt to resemble their shape in the 18th century or earlier, while ideological and practical reasons limited the restoration of ornamentation to less important buildings, and centralized urban planning provided for a much more harmonious look of the rebuilt historic sections of the city than could be witnessed from before the war. The restoration was mostly completed in the 1940s and early 1950s, but it took until the 1974 to rebuild the Royal Castle. After the Royal Castle, not many other buildings were restored - among notable exceptions are the buildings of the northern side of Plac Teatralny, only recreated in late 1990s.
Apart from historic restoration, in the 1950s Warsaw has also gained a fair share of socialist-realistic architecture, which was all about monumentalism and ideologically-themed decoration. Its most prominent example is the controversial Palace of Culture and Science, which grew to become one of Warsaw's symbols. The emphasis, however, was on housing the returning and rapidly growing population, and thus Warsaw also gained many nondescript, gray residential buildings. As population continued to grow and means were scarce in the centrally-planned socialist economy, the authorities turned to prefabricated concerte, creating sprawling Plattenbau estates around Warsaw.
Since the fall of communism in 1989, Warsaw has been developing much more rapidly than Poland as a whole. You wouldn't recognize the city if you saw it ten years ago, and more changes are constantly taking place. Warsaw has long been the easiest place in Poland to find employment, and for this reason many of the Polish inhabitants of the city are first or second generation, originating from all over the country.
Even though much of Warsaw seems to imitate western cities, there are many peculiarities to be found here that you will not find in western capitals. Examples include the communist-era bar mleczny (lit. 'milk bar') that remain in operation (essentially cheap cafeterias for no-frills, working-class traditional Polish dining, which have remained incredibly popular in the face of westernization). Europe's largest outdoor marketplace, once located around the old stadium, has disappeared as the new National Stadium has arisen for the Euro 2012 football championships.
Summers in Warsaw can vary from mild to exhaustingly hot. In most residences and some hotels, there is no air conditioning, which means the days and nights can be hot to the point of interrupting one's sleep. Travelers should bring light, summer clothes for the day, but bring an extra jacket for evenings, which can sometimes get a little chilly.
The winters, on the other hand, are brutally cold. Weather can often force the city to come to a standstill. When it snows, it may take up to an hour's time just to travel a few city blocks with traffic at a standstill and road crews seemingly caught off guard (despite warnings from meteorologists in several days in advance). Public transportation will also be utter chaos with buses and trams running late. On the first day of snow in 2010, it took upwards of three hours to travel from Warsaw's Wola district to the northern tip of Warsaw's Mokotów district; a trip that should take no more than 30–45 minutes. Travelers would best be advised to bring heavy, water-resistant shoes with them when traveling in Poland in late Autumn to early Spring.
|Daily highs (°C)||-1||2||7||13||19||22||23||23||20||13||6||-1|
|Nightly lows (°C)||-6||-5||-2||3||8||11||12||13||10||4||1||-3|
Warsaw lies in east-central Poland about 300 km (190 mi) from the Carpathian Mountains and about 260 km (160 mi) from the Baltic Sea, 523 km (325 mi) east of Berlin, Germany.
The city straddles the Vistula River. It is located in the heartland of the Masovian Plain, and its average elevation is 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level. The highest point on the left side of the city lies at a height of 115.7 metres (379.6 ft) ("Redutowa" bus depot, district of Wola), on the right side – 122.1 metres (400.6 ft) ("Groszówka" estate, district of Wesoła, by the eastern border). The lowest point lies at a height 75.6 metres (248.0 ft) (at the right bank of the Vistula, by the eastern border of Warsaw).
Warsaw is located on two main geomorphologic formations: the plain moraine plateau and the Vistula Valley with its asymmetrical pattern of different terraces. The Vistula River is the specific axis of Warsaw, which divides the city into two parts, left and right. The left one is situated both on the moraine plateau (10 to 25 m (32.8 to 82.0 ft) above Vistula level) and on the Vistula terraces (max. 6.5 m (21.3 ft) above Vistula level).
In 2011, Warsaw was ranked the world's 46th most expensive city to live in. It was classified as an Alpha- world city (also known as a "major world city") by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group and Network fromLoughborough University, placing it on a par with cities such as Washington,San Francisco, Seoul or New Delhi. The city also ranked 8th out of 65 cities on MasterCard's Emerging Markets Index (2008).
Business and commerce
Warsaw, especially its city centre (Śródmieście), is home not only to many national institutions and government agencies, but also to many domestic and international companies. In 2006, 304,016 companies were registered in the city. Warsaw's ever-growing business community has been noticed globally, regionally, and nationally. MasterCard Emerging Market Index has noted Warsaw's economic strength and commercial center. Moreover, Warsaw was ranked as the 7th greatest emerging market. Foreign investors' financial participation in the city's development was estimated in 2002 at over 650 million euro. Warsaw produces 12% of Poland's national income, which in 2008 was 305.1% of the Polish average, per capita (or 160% of the European Union average). The GDP per capita in Warsaw amounted to PLN 94 000 in 2008 (c. EUR 23 800, USD 33 000). Total nominal GDP of the city in 2010 amounted to 191.766 billion PLN, 111696 PLN per capita, which was 301,1 % of Polish average. Warsaw leads the region of East-Central Europe in foreign investment and in 2006, GDP growth met expectations with a level of 6.1%. It also has one of the fastest growing economies, with GDP growth at 6.5 percent in 2007 and 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2008.
At the same time the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Poland. According to the official figures it was around 4% in February 2015. The city itself collects around 8,740,882,000 złotys in taxes and direct government grants.
Warsaw Stock Exchange
Warsaw's first stock exchange was established in 1817 and continued trading until World War II. It was re-established in April 1991, following the end of the post-war communist control of the country and the reintroduction of a free-market economy. Today, the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) is, according to many indicators, the largest market in the region, with 374 companies listed and total capitalization of 162 584 mln EUR as of 31 August 2009. From 1991 until 2000, the stock exchange was, ironically, located in the building previously used as the headquarters of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR).
Warsaw is divided into 18 districts:
|Old and New Town|
The historic core of Warsaw that was contained in its erstwhile city walls in the times it was still a small town, before it became the country's capital in the late 16th century. The New Town, directly to its north, was the first expansion of Warsaw beyond those city walls, which compliments the historic core with more 16th/17th century buildings. Both were almost completely destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt.
|Western Centre (Wola, Ochota, Żoliborz)|
The districts directly to the west of Śródmieście contain many historic buildings and significant points of interest. Most of the district of Wola has an industrial past, while having been a large part of the Jewish ghetto during the Second World War, it also contains the oldest of Warsaw's cemeteries. Żoliborz and Ochota have always had a more residential character, but are not without their attractions.
|Praga (Praga Północ, Praga Południe)|
The eastern bank of the river was a separate city until the 19th century, and contains its fair share of history and attractions as well. Historically less affluent and considered inattractive or borderline dangerous for decades, it started to develop rapidly into a trendy part of the city in the 21st century.
|Southern Warsaw (Mokotów, Ursynów, Wilanów)|
The Southern part of Warsaw is one of the most intensely developing following the Second World War until today. The dense, yet peaceful districts of Mokotów and Ursynów have some interesting gems hidden between the apartment buildings. The southern terminal of the Royal Route, Wilanów is home to the Wilanów Palace.
|Northern Warsaw (Bielany, Białołęka, Targówek)|
The northern districts of Warsaw are residential "bedrooms of the city", with few if any reasons for a traveler to go there.
|Western Warsaw (Bemowo, Włochy, Ursus)|
Apart from the Warsaw Chopin Airport, there is not much for a tourist to go there for either.
|Eastern Warsaw (Rembertów, Wawer, and Wesoła)|
The sprawling green residential districts remain in contrast with the otherwise dense, highrise apartment complexes of other districts, but has few tourist attractions.
- Central Post Office (Poczta Główna), ul. Świętokrzyska 31/33. Open 24/7.
Free wi-fi is available in most of the Old Town, as well as in several cafés and restaurants, including McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Coffee Heaven, and W Biegu.
Computers / Internet Cafes
Internet cafés (Polish: kawiarenka internetowa) are rare in Warsaw.
- Tourist Information Center (Palace of Culture and Science Building, just opposite the Central Train Station). You can use the computers with Internet for 30 minutes for free.
- Arena, Booth 2001D, Centrum metro station building (500m north from Central Train Station at ul. Marszałkowska, across hotel Novotel), . 7AM-12PM. 20+ machines. 5 zl/hour, pay as you go.
- Cafe NET, Booth 2010C, Centrum metro station building (500m north from Central Train Station at ul. Marszałkowska, across hotel Novotel). 7AM-12PM. 20+ machines. 6 zl/hour, prepay.
- Verso, Freta 17 (Stare Miasto - Old Town). Photo and printing shop in which there are 3 computers for public Internet access. 5zl/hour; 1zl/5 minutes.
The area code for Warsaw is 22, and it must be dialed even when making local calls. When calling internationally to Warsaw, dial the country code, +48, followed by the rest of the number. There is no necessity to use "0" at the beginning of the telephone number. When dialing from a mobile phone, you must dial any number as if it was an international number.
Pay phones are very rare and it is therefore best to rely on other means of communication. Pay phones are only operable using calling cards that can be bought at post offices.
Pre-paid SIM cards with Polish phone numbers cost as little as 5 zł and can be purchased from just about any major carrier. Many kiosks sell them.
Prices in Warsaw
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€0.75|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€5.70|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€16.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€23.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€34.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€3.90|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€1.90|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.80|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€5.50|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€10.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.07|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€3.30|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€1.08|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€62.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€34.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€64.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.00|
36 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
103 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Warsaw (all airports code: WRW) has two airports: Chopin Airport (IATA: WAW) (also known as 'Okęcie') for major airlines and Modlin Airport (IATA: WMI) is only used by Ryanair. The Chopin Airport is within the city limits, some 8 km south of the city centre, while Modlin is in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, almost 40 km north of Warsaw city centre.
Łódź Airport (IATA: LCJ) is within a 90 minutes drive from Warsaw.
Warsaw Frédéric Chopin Airport
The Chopin Airport (IATA:WAW) is by far the largest airport in Poland by passenger volumes and number of flights operated or connections. It is located in the area of Okęcie in Włochy, some 8 km south of the city centre. For many years the airport was called just Okęcie, but this reportedly caused confusion and it was renamed. When asking for directions or talking to a taxi driver, always ask for the airport (lotnisko in Polish) to avoid confusion.
Warsaw-Chopin is remarkably close to the city centre among airports serving European capitals, and it also has a very efficient terminal easily handling the 10 million passengers it gets per year. Therefore, you will probably find it easy and quick to use it and can count the time needed from gate to your destination within the city at as little as 45 minutes - even if the airport advises longer and you may want to heed this advice on early mornings and late evenings when the security queues grow longer.
The Warsaw Chopin Airport has the distinction of being one of the most-connected airports within Europe, with direct connections to every EU capital but Bratislava, as well as many non-EU capitals ranging from Chișinău to Reykjavik, and on top of that to many other cities across the continent. The Chopin airport is also served by almost every major European airline, be it flag carriers or low-fare airlines.
The largest selection of connections is offered by the flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines, a member of Star Alliance, who share the Miles&More frequent flier programme with many other alliance partners. They are mostly geared towards business travellers and tend to be expensive, but you can get a much lower rate if you book in advance a return flight with a stay that includes a weekend (the night from Saturday to Sunday) or at least 3 nights in Warsaw. This also applies to flights with a different origin and return destination, as long as the above rules are kept. LOT faces direct competition from other flag carriers on routes from their bases, and indirect from low-fare carriers. Do check the rates using online comparison tools as you may get a better offer.
LOT has limited its complimentary on-board service on European routes to still water and a small wafer, Prince Polo, which became something of a symbol of Poland abroad (and the minimal on-board service became also an object of widespread ridicule). Coffee and tea, as well as a range of cold and warm snacks, can be ordered on board at reasonable prices. Do note that coffee and tea are not pre-prepared, and specifically the coffee is provided as instant powder with a cup of hot water (and not brewed during flight).
The major low-fare carriers serving Warsaw Chopin include Wizz Air, who has a base there and flies mostly to secondary airports across Europe (rarely competing with LOT at the same airports), and Norwegian Air Shuttle, who despite the name fly not only from Oslo, but also London and many destinations in Spain. Germanwings offers three flights daily to Düsseldorf, and Vueling flies daily to Barcelona.
The intercontinental offerings are mostly limited to North America, with LOT Polish Airlines offering direct flights to New York City, Chicago, Toronto and Beijing aboard their all-new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Two major Gulf carriers, Emirates and Qatar Airways, fly to Warsaw Chopin from their hubs, where you can connect to their intercontinental network. As Warsaw is around 2 hours from most major airports in Europe, you can also easily connect to the intercontinental networks of other carriers.
All passenger operations at the Chopin Airport have now been consolidated in one building, called Terminal A, which replaced the previous Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 designations. Please note that Terminal A is now undergoing a major expansion, including a new Renaissance hotel being built on-site, and therefore you can encounter minor disruptions to traffic or be forced to make a detour when getting to or out of the terminal.
To get from the airport to other areas in the city, you have two public transportation options - local trains and buses, as well as taking the taxi.
To/from Chopin Airport by train
Trains depart every 15 minutes. The Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM; Warsaw's S-Bahn-like suburban railway system) and Koleje Mazowieckie (Mazovian Railways, the provincial local train operator) operate trains to and from the Chopin Airport.
The SKM offers the following connections from Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina:
- Line S2 through Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Śródmieście (walking distance to Warszawa Centralna), Warszawa Stadion and Warszawa Wschodnia to Sulejówek Miłosna
- Line S3 through Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia to Wieliszew. This is an "express" train which skips the local train stations between Warszawa Zachodnia and Warszawa Wschodnia, including Warszawa Stadion.
Koleje Mazowieckie offers connections between airports (KML line) ending near the Modlin Airport, at the Modlin station (train tickets to Modlin are valid on bus transfer route to Modlin Airport).
To/from Chopin Airport by bus
Four bus lines operate to and from the airport from 4:40AM to 11PM. At all other times, night bus N32 runs between the city center and the airport.
- Bus 148 operates between the airport and Rondo Wiatraczna in Praga Południe, on the eastern side of Warsaw. This bus passes by Metro Imielin.
- Bus 175 operates between the airport and Plac Piłsudskiego near the Old Town, crossing through the city center and stopping at the Warszawa Centralna railway station and Metro Centrum, including Nowy Świat and the University of Warsaw. The entire trip takes 30–45 minutes, depending on traffic, and buses depart every ten minutes. Caution against pickpockets is advised.
- Bus 188 operates between the airport and Gocławek Wschodni in Praga Południe, passing through to the south of the city center, stopping in al. at the Politechnika metro station.
- Bus 331 operates during peak hours only between the airport and the Wilanowska metro station in Mokotów, where many intercity buses stop.
To/from Chopin Airport by taxi
Avoid the taxi drivers soliciting customers inside the terminal, as they severely overcharge. Instead, use one of the companies recommended by the airport authorities (Merc Taxi, MPT Radio Taxi, Ele, or Sawa Taxi). They are slightly above market average in terms of prices and stop near the exit from terminal. You can also order a taxi from another corporation by phone (there is no surcharge). A typical fare to a hotel near Warszawa Centralna station is around 40 zł at night, less in the daytime.
In any case, the most you should pay is 3.00 zł (up to 4.50 zł on Sundays), but typically no more than 2.40 zł per km in the daytime plus an initial fee of no more than 8 zł. You are entitled to a receipt upon request. The Polish word for receipt is rachunek. There is no obligation to tip the taxi drivers, but most won't refuse if you offer.
Warsaw Modlin International Airport
The Modlin Airport (IATA: WMI) was opened in June 2012. Ryanair is the only carrier that operates from Modlin.
Wizzair and all other carriers, including other low-fare airlines and holiday charter operators, use the Chopin Airport.
Modlin Airport is located in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, some 40 km north from Warsaw, and is neither as close nor as conveniently accessible as the Chopin Airport. When choosing your flight, make sure you check which airport will it be operated to/from and factor in the increased time and cost of transportation between Warsaw and Modlin should you choose to use this airport.
Getting to/from Modlin Airport (WMI)
Koleje Mazowieckie operates connections between Modlin and Warszawa Centralna. From the airport terminal you need to take shuttle bus to the railway station and get on a train to Warsaw. A combined ticket for bus and train costs 15 zł. The combined travel time may be up to 1.5 hours between airport and city centre, including the waiting time at the airport and the railway station.
Modlinbus resumed direct bus transfers between Warsaw and Modlin Airport on September 30, 2013, with stops at Metro Młociny and Metro Centrum and a schedule matching the Ryanair flights. The bus takes 60 minutes to get from Modlin to Metro Centrum or back, and the regular fare is 33 zł when you purchase the ticket on the bus, and can be much lower when you purchase online in advance.
Warsaw has three stations for long-distance trains:
- Dworzec Centralny or Warszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) ul. Emilii Plater
- Dworzec Wschodni or Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw East) betweenul. Kijowska and ul. Lubelska (on the right bank)
- Dworzec Zachodni or Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) Al. Jerozolimskie near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich
Unless you really know what you're doing, the best option is Dworzec Centralny (Warszawa Centralna) station, as it has best connections with all the places in the city. All long-distance trains pass through this station and all stop there. It is the only long-distance station underground. It isn't the last station on the route!
Trains running eastwards start at Warszawa Zachodnia, stop at Warszawa Centralna and then at Warszawa Wschodnia, while trains heading westwards make the same trip in the opposite direction (except that they don't always stop at Warszawa Zachodnia). The same is true for arriving trains. Tourists often find it confusing that the main train station (Warszawa Centralna) is not the last station on the route.
The Berlin-Warszawa Express runs from Berlin to Warsaw daily and is quite inexpensive if booked in advance. Students get discounts as well. It's a fairly comfortable six hour trip. Schedule are available on Intercity's website and tickets can be booked through Polrail Service or on the Deutsche Bahn website.
One train per day runs to Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania, with a change of trains near the border.
There're also trains to Russia - Moscow, Saint Petersburg and even direct cars to Saratov or Irkutsk, Belarus - Minsk, Ukraine - Kiev and direct cars to Simferopol or even Astana in Kazakhstan. There are many direct connections to central and western European cities too.
Most domestic trains, are run by PKP Intercity. Seat reservation is obligatory and free of charge. Trains of all categories, except TLK, are air-conditioned.
Central station for suburban trains is Warszawa Śródmieście (close toWarszawa Centralna and Metro Centrum). Some destinations you can reach from there are Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Łowicz, Milanówek, Mińsk Mazowiecki,Otwock, Piława, Pruszków, Radom, Siedlce, Skierniewice, Sochaczew,Sulejówek, Terespol, Tłuszcz, Wołomin, Żyrardów.
Some suburban trains go through Warszawa Gdańska (Metro Dworzec Gdański) instead of the city centre. From there, you can go to destinations like Ciechanów, Działdowo, Mława and Nasielsk.
Trains going to Wołomin, Małkinia, Tłuszcz and Zielonka depart from Warszawa Wileńska (ul. Targowa near al. Solidarności, also a metro station and a shopping mall there).
Warsaw Commuter Railway
WKD (Polish: Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa) is separate train service that runs from a distinct platform at Warszawa Śródmieście WKD to Grodzisk Mazowiecki, a city some 30 km west of Warsaw through Pruszków, Milanówek, and Podkowa Leśna.
Regional and long-distance bus companies in Poland are traditionally calledPKS, but most are completely unrelated to the company that once bore that name. In Warsaw, the local PKS is PKS Polonus but PKSes from various other cities also operate. Most PKS buses arrive and depart from either of two major terminals:
- Dworzec PKS Warszawa Zachodnia, Al. Jerozolimskie (near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich).The bigger of the two, next to the railway station by the same name. Most buses arrive here. International buses like Eurolines, Ecolines,Simple Express have their main stop here.
The easiest way to get to the centre is a short train ride from the railway platforms. If you prefer to use the city buses, walk to the other side of Al. Jerozolimskie and take one of those central-bound buses: 517, E-5 (peak hours only), 127 , or 130. During the night, the N35 and N85 buses run to Dw. Centralny every 30 minutes beginning at 23:52.
- Dworzec Autobusowy Metro Wilanowska. This station in the south of Warsaw is co-located with a city bus terminus and the Metro Wilanowskametro station. Several bus companies serving towns located south of Warsaw stop here. Polski Bus buses from biggest Polish cities, as those from Berlin, Vienna, Bratislava and Prague stop here.
There are also a number of other popular bus terminals and junctions throughout the city, notably:
- Metro Młociny. A convenient transport hub at the far north of the city, with a metro station, tram terminus (lines 2, 6, 11 and 33), and a large bus station used by both city lines, suburban buses towards Łomianki and by long-distance bus lines (among others Polski Bus).
- Dworzec Centralny. The train station itself is surrounded by bus stops on four sides. One popular stop and drop-off point for smaller buses is located on both sides of Aleje Jerozolimskie. Another, along the Chałubińskiego Str. is used by larger buses (among them Lux Express).
Four European "E-roads" lead to Warsaw: E30 (A2), E77 (7), E67 under the unofficial name of Via Baltica, (A8), and E372 (17). The E-numbers are usually displayed on signs but it is best to know the national road numbers too, which are the numbers in parentheses.
What follows is a list of streets you will find yourself on when approaching the city from different directions:
- North-West: Wyb. Gdyńskie or "Wisłostrada" in Bielany and then in Żoliborz(along the left bank): 7- E77 Gdańsk (DK) (RU) (S)
- North-East: ul. Radzymińska in Targówek and then al. Solidarności in Praga Północ 8- E67 Białystok (BY) (LT)
- East and South East: ul. Płowiecka in Praga Południe 2|E30 Terespol (BY);17-E372 Lublin (UA)
- West: ul. Wolska in Bemowo and then in Wola 2- E30 Poznań (D)
- South-West: al. Krakowska in Włochy and then ul. Grójecka in Ochota 7 - E77-Kraków (SK) 8 - E67 Katowice (CZ)
The cities listed above are the ones displayed on signs in the city. The abbreviations in (parentheses) show you which neighboring countries can be reached with a road. If you are coming to the city, follow the blue-on-whiteCentrum signs. One exception is when you are coming from the north-east: follow the Praga sign unless you are driving a lorry.
Driving distances to selected cities
In Poland - Białystok 190 km (118 mi); Gdańsk 390 km (242 mi); Kielce180 km (112 mi); Kraków 290 km (180 mi); Olsztyn 210 km (130 mi); Poznań310 km (193 mi); Siedlce 100 km (62 mi); Toruń 210 km (130 mi)
In other countries - Berlin (D) 570 km (354 mi); Budapest (H) 700 km (435 mi); Kaliningrad (RU) 350 km (217 mi)
Most international car rental companies (including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty) are present in Warsaw, there are also many local companies. The usual pick-up / return places are the airport, the Warszawa Centralna railway station or major hotels in the city centre, most companies offer to arrange for pick-up and return at other locations at a fee. The regular caveats and requirements as in other European Union countries apply.
It is a legal requirement for you to carry your driving license, insurance documents and the vehicle registration documents at all times when driving the car. If the Police stop you without any of them, they are likely to impose a fine.
Transportation - Get Around
By Public Transport
The public transport system in Warsaw is generally well-developed, with some 200 bus routes and 30 tram lines. The route descriptions on the tram stops are easy to follow (although bus stop notices are more complex) but it can be painfully slow, however, to travel between destinations far from the city center. Warsaw has two underground Metro lines, one going from south to north on the left bank, and the other from the east to the west. There are also some regional urban rail services (Polish: Szybka Kolej Miejska or SKM), although they depart at most every 30 minutes only.
All of the abovementioned means of public transit share a single fare and ticketing system, operated by ZTM, a unit within the City of Warsaw responsible for the organization of all public transit.
Warsaw's subway system, called Metro, opened in 1995 and is one of the newest underground railway systems in Europe. Operated by Metro Warszawskie sp. z o.o. it runs daily from early morning until midnight at 3-10 minute intervals. On Friday and Saturday, Metro runs until 3AM. Trains and stations are clean and neat. The system consists of two lines; the M1 going from Młociny to Kabaty, and the M2 going from Rondo Daszyńskiego toDworzec Wileński. The subway does not go to many tourist destinations, however several stations will take you in a general vicinity of some attractions. The M2 is currently being extended eastwards, another expansion is planned in next few years.
Szybka Kolej Miejska
Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM) runs on the railway tracks shared with other regional and long-distance trains. SKM trains can be distinguished by their white and ecru livery. SKM reaches many suburban locations outside of the boundaries of Warsaw, as well as the Chopin Airport. SKM stations are quite far from each other, so the trains are best used to traverse longer distances or travel to remote locations within the Warsaw metropolis.
As of 2013, there are four SKM lines, most (S1 and S2) stopping at theWarszawa Śródmieście station in the city centre or the Warszawa Centralna(S3), which is connected to the former by an underground passageway. Except for S9, all of the lines share the same stretch route through central Warsaw between Warszawa Zachodnia andWarszawa Wschodnia, connecting the Śródmieście district to Wola, Ochotaand Praga, as well as stopping at Warszawa Stadion station, which servesStadion Narodowy.
- Line S1 runs between Pruszków and Otwock, through Piastów, Ursus,Włochy, Włochy
- Line S2 runs between the Chopin Airport and Sulejówek Miłosna, throughRembertów and Wesoła.
- Line S3 runs between the Chopin Airport and Wieliszew along the same central rail stretch as long-distance trains, stopping at Warszawa Centralnainstead of Warszawa Śródmieście and Warszawa Stadion and in Białołęka
- Line S9 runs between Wieliszew and Legionowo Piaski through Białołęka,Praga, Żoliborz and Wola to Warszawa Zachodnia. It is the only SKM line that will take you to the Warsaw ZOO, but do note that this line does not stop at any station within the core city centre
Bus route numbers consist of three digits. Only the first digit has any meaning, the latter being merely ordinal. Here's the key to understanding Warsaw bus route numbers:
Normal Expedited Suburban All-Day Service 1xx 5xx 7xx Certain Hours Only (Usually Peak) 3xx 4xx 8xx
Other than that:
- Nxx are night routes.
- 2xx are local routes.
- 9xx are special routes, which operate only a few days in a year.
- E-x are express routes, which link the farthest districts to the city centre, call at very few stops and operate during peak hours only.
- Z-x are replacement routes for trams or metro disabled by maintenance, accident or some other special conditions
Most bus lines operate from around 5.00 to 23.00 (but check the schedule for your particular connection), outside of those hours you need to resort to night buses (see below). The running intervals can be as few as 5 minutes (major routes during peak hours) to nearly 2 hours (certain suburban routes). Usually, you will wait 20 minutes at most.
There are a few routes that are of certain interest to tourists:
- 148, 175 and 188 operate to and from the airport.
- 180, the Warsaw Sightseeing Route between the Powązki Cemetery and Wilanów.
A map of the tourist routes is available here: [www] .
Requesting a stop - certain bus stops are request-only (Polish: na żądanie):
- If you want to get off, press thestop (red) button. In certain older buses, the button is located above the door (and may not be red).
- If you want to get on a bus, wave your hand when you see the bus approaching to indicate your intention to the driver
The doors will not open automatically in air-conditioned buses and trams, and in all of them in the winter. To open it, locate the button labelled drzwi (blue) and press it.
Not all bus stops that have Centrum in their name are in the city center.For example, there is a bus route 525 that goes from Centrum (the actual city center) through Centrum Optyki in Praga Południe to Centrum Zdrowia Dzieckain Wawer. This is always clear from the route map.
In the night when regular buses, as well as trams, the metro and SKM do not run, a system of night bus lines will take you basically to every part of city. Most buses start and finish at the back of Central Railway Station (Dworzec Centralny). All buses operate at 30-minute intervals and depart from their central stop at Dw. Centralny 15 and 45 minutes after the hour, which facilitates changing. For a map of all the night bus lines visit [www]. Lines operate from different stops within the Dworzec Centralny area - consult the schematic at the bottom of the map to make sure you are waiting at the right stop.
All night bus stops (except for Dw. Centralny and Centrum) are request stops. Signal well in advance to give the bus drivers time to slow down and pull up at the stop.
Trams in Warsaw have the obvious appeal to tourists in that it is easier to predict where they are going - they usually go straight ahead and only rarely turn, as there are not many tramway junctions in Warsaw. The trams will also have the speed advantage over buses in the city centre during rush hours.
Tram lines have single- and double-digit numbers. Trams with numbers above 40 operate in certain times only. A map of tram routes is available to assist you in planning your journey: [www]. The tram services can end as early as at 10PM, but most routes are served until midnight.
Between June and August, a special tourist line T is operated using historic cars from pl. Narutowicza [www].
Public transportation tickets are issued and controlled by the single Public Transport Authority of Warsaw (Polish: Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego or ZTM)[www] and are valid for all city buses, trams, the metro and SKM. Some tickets are also valid in the suburban trains (Koleje Mazowieckie' and WKD).
There are only two ticket zones in Warsaw - Zone 1, which covers the entirety of the City of Warsaw within its city limits (including the Warsaw Chopin Airport), and Zone 2, which covers the surrounding municipalities covered by ZTM's common ticketing scheme. It is safe to say that most tourists will never wander outside of Zone 1, unless they have a specific interest in one of the municipalities neighbouring Warsaw. Almost all ticket types exist in two variants - for Zone 1 and for Zones 1+2.
Ticket types and pricing
There are many different ticket options and quirks in Warsaw, but do not get overwhelmed - most of them will not be of interest to a casual tourist. The regular ticket tariff is actually quite simple, with a selection of tickets available. The prices below are for standard tickets in each type; most are also available as reduced price tickets (50%) or for both the 1st and 2nd tariff zones (the latter covering most of Warsaw's far suburbs), usually some 40% more expensive than 1st zone tickets.
- Short-term time-limit tickets allow you to travel with unlimited transfers for a limited time. There are three types of those tickets (all prices are for a normal fare, reduced is usually 50%):
- 20-minute - 3.40 zł
- 75-minute - 4.40 zł
- 90-minute - 7.00 zł
- The 90-minute is your safest bet if you are not sure how far your destination is, or whether it's within the city's limits. For short rides within the city centre usually a 20-minute ticket is more than enough.
- There is also a variety of mid-term tickets allowing you to travel with unlimited transfers for longer periods:
- 24h ticket (Zone 1; valid for 24 hours since its validation, not from the moment of sale) - 15 zł
- 24h ticket (Zones 1 and 2) - 26 zł
- Weekend ticket (from 7:00 PM on Friday till 8:00 AM on Monday) - 24 zł
There are reduced-fare tickets for every ticket type, at 50% of the fare price. There is a long list of those entitled to travel on reduced-fare tickets available at the ZTM website ([www]), but for the most part it does not concern foreign tourists, except for children under the age of 7 and students under the age of 26 in possession of an International Student Identity Card (ISIC).
Senior Citizens: People from 65 to 69 years can get a one-year-ticket for zone 1 and 2 for 50 zł. People from 70 years and older ride for free.
Where to buy?
Tickets can be purchased in automated ticket machines that are abundant across the city, especially at major transit hubs. They are either red and gray or blue and yellow, and rather conspicuous, even if they can be mistaken for an ATM or vice-versa. There are such machines at every metro station and at railway stations within the city centre, as well as at some of the more busy bus stops (e.g. at the Warsaw Chopin Airport). The ticket machines have a multi-lingual menu and are pretty easy to operate if you know what ticket type you want to buy. They accept credit and debit cards, as well as Polish zloty coins and bank notes. Do note some machines can be quite slow, so take your time and be patient for the machine to respond to your query.
ZTM has a network of service points where you can also purchase tickets. Those are the only places where you can have your personal travelcard made, which you would need if you intend to use a 30- or 90-day ticket.
Many kiosks, shops and post offices also have tickets on sale - it is indicated by a sticker saying Sprzedaż biletów ZTM. Do note, however, that an increasing number of shops and kiosks surrounding the major transit hubs do NOT sell tickets if there are ticket machines nearby.
In some buses and trams, there are ticket machines which can sell you tickets for the ride on that particular vehicle. They are different from other ticket types in that they have a printed QR code, and that they do not require validation. There are standard ticket machines in SKM trains as well. In case of ticket machine failure, you can purchase your ticket from the train attendant on board the train.
In case there is no ticket machine in the vehicle, or it is inoperable, the single-ride ticket can also be bought on board from the driver. You are advised to have the correct change ready. There is no extra charge for buying tickets from drivers, though they can refuse to sell you a ticket if they are over 3 minutes late. Bus and tram drivers may not speak English at all, so tourists are better advised not to exercise this option.
A more convenient alternative to traditional tickets are digital tickets one can obtain through three officially-supported mobile phone apps: SkyCash, MoBilet or mPay.
Ticket validation and inspection
Immediately validate your ticket after boarding the bus or tram (in a yellow validator). If one validator is out of order, look for another. A steady yellow light means that only the plastic card reader is working. If all the validators in a bus glow red - they may be locked, likely because an inspection is underway (and it is too late for you) or driver forgot to turn them on (and you need to remind him or her). If you buy a ticket from a driver, you still have to activate it. If you buy vehicle-and-fare ticket (with the QR code) in special ticket machine inside a bus or tram, you don't need to validate it.
When entering the metro, you will need to validate or present your ticket to open the gate. There are other ways to access the platform for people with special needs (wheelchairs, strollers, large luggage etc.), such as elevators and open gates, so if you are intending on using those, make sure you find a yellow ticket validator before you descend to the platform - they should be next to elevators. Exit gates open without a ticket. Possession of a valid ticket is compulsory for everybody at the metro platform regardless of whether they intend to ride a train or not, even if just using it as an underground passage or accompanying someone.
Timed tickets only need to be activated once, on your first journey. In case of carton tickets, the ticket validator will print the time limit until which the ticket is valid.
Tickets are not checked by the drivers. They may be randomly inspected in a station or in a bus/tram by plain-clothes inspectors with portable ticket/card readers, so it is up to you to have a valid (activated) ticket. The ticket inspectors in Warsaw are paid a commission on the number of fare-dodgers they catch, so they are rarely lenient and generally rather harsh to deal with. Being caught without a valid ticket might be one of the least pleasant experiences possible in Warsaw, so do your best to avoid it.
There is a paid-parking zone in the center of the city. This applies Mon-Fri 8AM-6PM. Parking costs 3.00 zł for the first hour. Subsequent hours cost more although there is no hour limit. 0.60 zł is the minimum payment. You can pay with coins (10 groszy upwards and you will be given the exact time you have paid for after you have paid the minimum charge) or with the Warsaw City Card(not the tourist card). The parking ticket should be left under the windscreen for inspection.
Parking fees can also be paid with mobile phone apps such as moBILET and SkyCash. In that case the driver should leave a special sticker with the name of the app under the windscreen, but a handwritten note is also accepted.
The maximum base fare (taryfa 1) is 3.00 zł/km and applies to journeys within the city (zone 1) on weekdays. The cheapest companies charge between 1.40 zł/km and 2.00 zł/km. Taxi drivers can charge 150% of the base fare (taryfa 2) at night or on weekends and public holidays, and 200% of the base fare (taryfa 3) for journeys into the suburbs. Watch out for blue rectangular signs saying taxi 2 strefa (Taxi Zone 2), they can charge 300% of the base fare (taryfa 4) at night and in the suburbs or on weekends and public holidays).
In addition, they can also charge you 8 zł initial fee (closing the door), 40 zł an hour for waiting for you if you you are not in the first zone, and for getting back to the boundary of the first zone if you left in zone 2. There are no surcharges for additional passengers (normally up to 4 should fit), or for luggage.
They cannot charge you for anything else. There is no obligation or custom of tipping the drivers. The driver is required by law to give you a receipt. The full route must be written on the receipt. If the route was suboptimal, the fare can then be challenged. Call the City Guard (Polish: Straż Miejska) at 986 or +48 (22) 986 from a mobile phone should there be any problems.
The aforementioned prices apply only to officially registered taxis. Others (non-taxi carriers) may charge you whatever they feel like, so they are best avoided.
A legal taxi will have its number displayed on the front door under the window (black digits on white), on a TAXI sign (not TAX1 or TAKI), on a sticker with the base fare displayed on the passenger (rear) door window, and on the driver's ID card visible inside the cab.
Warsaw isn't an especially bike-friendly city, with a fragmented bike path network that does not cover many of the important streets. You may find yourself forced to ride on the pavement or the street itself at some points, neither of which is really comfortable or advisable - or indeed, can be deemed illegal.
That said, Warsaw started warming up to bicycles, and even has a bike-sharing scheme similar to other cities around the world, called Veturilo. It operates only betwen March and November (closing for winter). You need a credit card or a bank transfer and a mobile phone to pre-register at the website, and to pay 10 zł initial fee, which is credited to your account. To rent a bike, you need to type in your code and the code of the bike you want to rent at the station, and there you go. The first twenty minutes are free, the first hour is 1 zł and the fees increase every hour, because Veturilo bikes are meant for very short trips. Whenever you completed your trip, just lock your bike in the nearest station and check yourself out. There are maps of nearest points and the surroundings provided at every Veturilo station, the Veturilo mobile app also shows the nearest stations and the list of all available bikes on each station.
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ATMs (Polish: bankomat) are plentiful around Warsaw. Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, and Maestro are widely accepted at most establishments. AmEx and Diners' Club are not as commonly accepted. Some establishments require minimum purchases of 10-50zł for credit card purchases.
Indoor shopping malls (Polish: centrum handlowe pl. centra ~, often abbreviatedCH) are also plentiful in Warsaw. Usually open until 8-10PM, most malls will have a food court, restaurants, cinema, and some may have a sports hall with billiards tables or a bowling alley.
Tesco and Carrefour are the largest stores in Europe, and carry just about everything, including groceries, at low prices.
Warsaw is not globally renowned for its culinary scene, but it lacks nothing compared to other European capitals with regard to it. There is a wide choice of eateries from the most basic and cheapest to very sophisticated, and many different types of food are available throughout the city. Finding a unique dining experience is feasible daily.
For those on a budget, there are many kebab shops sprinkled around Warsaw, especially in Śródmieście, which offer decent food and portions for the fair price of 7-13 zł a kebab. Other cheap alternatives are milk bars, which are discussed later in the section, and Vietnamese restaurants.
If you are looking for a premium dining experience, your best chances are in Śródmieście, but away from the Royal Route. In Praga, head for Saska Kępa, and you will also find a fair share of upscale restaurants in Wilanów. That said, new and innovative places crop up in the most unexpected locations, so do acquaint yourself with the district guides for the latest tips.
Warsaw is home to both Polish restaurants to currently hold Michelin stars:
- Atelier Amaro, ul. Agrykola 1 (entrance from plac Na Rozdrożu square), +48 (22) 628 57 47; +48 607 970 000, e-mail:[email protected]. Author's cuisine restaurant of chef Wojciech Modest Amaro. The restaurant does not offer à la carte dishes, in fact it doesn't have a fixed menu at all. Smart casual dress code is expected. Menus from 260 PLN up.
- Senses, ul. Bielańska 12, , e-mail:[email protected]. A "private dining" restaurant, author's cuisine of chef Andrea Camastra. Reservation required. From 170 PLN upwards.
The new trend in Warsaw are food fairs, where fresh foodstuffs can be bought directly from producers, both for further processing and preparation at home and as ready dishes for consumption on site. Usually, some space for communal meals is provided. This can be a very nice option for breakfast or lunch. Some of the options are:
- Targ Śniadaniowy (Breakfast fair), al. Wojska Polskiego 1; Park nad Balatonem; Skwer Grupy AK Granat and other places. Sat 9AM-4PM, Sun. Organised every weekend in various parts of town, usually
Tourists will be happy to know there's no shortage of fast food in Warsaw. The city is rife with McDonald's and Subway outlets, there are also many KFCs and Pizza Huts, and a growing number of Burger King restaurants (the latter mostly in shopping centres). For a quick bit, chain cafes that are around every corner in the city centre, the shopping centres and many office buildings will offer you pre-made sandwiches and salads. Some more sophisticated cafes will make salads, ciabattas and sandwiches on site.
There is no particular Polish kind of fast food, as the traditional Polish cuisine does not really lend itself well to quick preparation or quick eating. Therefore, apart from the above international chain places, that niche in Warsaw is filled with kebab places and cheap pizzerias, similar to ones that you would find in most other European cities. Pizzerias are often chain places as well, and many do telephone deliveries, takeaways as well as offer tables to eat on the premises. Kebabs can often only do takeaway, and are often open all night long, much to the delight of taxi drivers and partygoers.
Remnant of the communist era, milk bars (Polish: bar mleczny, bary mleczne) were created in the sixties to serve cheap meals based on milk products. After the fall of communism, most of them closed down but some survived and still bear the climate from the old days. Almost everything inside looks, feels and smells like in the 1980s. Milk bars attract students and senior citizens, because of the low prices (soup and the main course together may cost as little as 10.00 zł). The food served by milk bars can actually be quite palatable. Even if you can afford more expensive meals, milk bars are interesting because they offer somewhat a view of life before democratization in Poland.
Coffe & Drink
Tea and coffee
Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not wódka or beer, but rather tea and coffee. As such, you're likely come across dozens and dozens of cafés. Chain-wise, Coffee Heaven and W Biegu Cafe are the big players. Starbucks just setup shop in Poland, opening its first store in Warsaw in April 2009. The real treat of Warsaw, however, are small cafés that are littered about Warsaw. For the most part, a good cup of tea or coffee can be had for 5-10 zł a cup. A small tea kettle is between 20-30 zł.
Sights & Landmarks
This is the city of Frederic Chopin, Maria Curie, Władysław Szpilman and Pola Negri. Warsaw Old Town is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Take a walk and explore the streets and squares which have been painstakingly rebuilt after last war. Check out tumultuous history of the metropolis located on the both sides of Vistula river. Explore special places and associated with the uprisings, especially one, which took place in the Ghetto and second, which happened in 1944. Book guided city walk across the city and discover how it has changed since the fall of communism. Most of the major sightseeing attractions are concentrated in Śródmieście, with some more in surrounding districts, the exception park and palace in Wilanów.
That said, most tourists will probably:
- Visit the Old and New Town, the (recreated) oldest part of the city of Warsaw with the Royal Castle
- From there, stroll down Krakowskie Przedmieście and Nowy Światstreets (the '"'Royal Road")
- See Łazienki Park with the Chopin Monument (and attend one of the free open-air concerts in the summertime)
- Take the elevator to the top of Palace of Culture and Science for a panoramic view of the city, or at least take a photo of this modern-day symbol of Warsaw
- The Royal Road (Trakt Królewski) began as a track linking the Royal Castle to the Royal Palace in Wilanów (Pałac Królewski w Wilanowie), some 10 km farther. There are many points of interest along the route, and there's a Poster Museum (Muzeum Plakatu) in Wilanóe.
Museums & Galleries
The levelling of Warsaw during the war has left gaping holes in the city's historic collections. Although a considerable number of treasures were spirited away to safety in 1939, a great number of collections from palaces and museums in the countryside were brought to Warsaw at that time as the capital was considered a safer place than some remote castle in the borderlands. Thus losses were heavy.
As interesting examples of expositions the most notable are: the world's first Museum of Posters boasting one of the largest collections of art posters in the world,Museum of Hunting and Riding and the Railway Museum. From among Warsaw's 60 museums, the most prestigious ones are National Museum with a collection of works whose origin ranges in time from antiquity till the present epoch as well as one of the best collections of paintings in the country including some paintings from Adolf Hitler's private collection, and Museum of the Polish Army whose set portrays the history of arms.
The collections of Łazienki and Wilanów palaces (both buildings came through the war in good shape) focus on the paintings of the "old masters", as are those of the Royal Castle which displays the Lanckoroński Collectionincluding two paintings by Rembrandt. The Palace in Natolin, a former rural residence of Duke Czartoryski, is another venue with its interiors and park accessible to tourists.
Holding Poland's largest private collection of art, the Carroll Porczyński Collection Museum displays works from such varied artists as Paris Bordone, Cornelis van Haarlem, José de Ribera, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Vincent van Gogh along with some copies of masterpieces of European painting.
A fine tribute to the fall of Warsaw and history of Poland can be found in the Warsaw Uprising Museum and in the Katyń Museum which preserves the memory of the crime. The Warsaw Uprising Museum also operates a rare preserved and operating historic stereoscopic theatre, the Warsaw Fotoplastikon. The Museum of Independence preserves patriotic and political objects connected with Poland's struggles for independence. Dating back to 1936 Warsaw Historical Museum contains 60 rooms which host a permanent exhibition of the history of Warsaw from its origins until today.
The 17th century Royal Ujazdów Castle currently houses Centre for Contemporary Art, with some permanent and temporary exhibitions, concerts, shows and creative workshops. The Centre currently realizes about 500 projects a year.Zachęta National Gallery of Art, the oldest exhibition site in Warsaw, with a tradition stretching back to the mid-19th century organises exhibitions of modern art by Polish and international artists and promotes art in many other ways. Since 2011 Warsaw Gallery Weekend is held on last weekend of September.
The city also possesses some oddities such as the Museum of Caricature, the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński, and a Motorisation Museum in Otrębusy.
- National Museum (site)
- Zachęta National Gallery of Art (site)
- Royal Castle (site)
- Warsaw Uprising Museum (site)
- Copernicus Science Centre (site)
- Centre for Contemporary Art (site)
- Museum of Modern Art (site)
- Museum of the Polish Army (site)
- Fryderyk Chopin Museum (site)
- Historical Museum of Warsaw (site)
- Museum of Polish History (site)
- Museum of Independence (site)
- Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (site)
- Museum of Sport and Tourism (site)
- Museum of Communism (site)
- Museum of Caricature (site)
- Maria Skłodowska-Curie Museum (site)
Things to do
Go on a Tour of Warsaw - the Old Town and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Concerts and performances
Warsaw is home to several professional musical and play companies. Being the capital city means the Polish National Opera and the Warsaw Philharmonic (also, National Philharmonic) call Warsaw home. There are a number of other companies, including play companies and theaters that will likely be of interest to travellers.
Despite Poland's failure to score a major success in many years, football (soccer) remain the "national sport" in the country, and in Warsaw. Warsaw has two major football stadiums - theStadion Narodowy (National Stadium) built for the European Football Championship in 2012 on the right bank, and the Pepsi Arena, which is the home field of Warsaw'sLegia Warszawa football team. Football teams based in Warsaw include:
- Legia Warszawa, Ul. Łazienkowska 3. Football team from Warsaw.
- Polonia Warszawa, Ul. Konwiktorska 6. Football team from Warsaw.
- Warsaw Eagles. An American football team in Warsaw.
Despite all the emphasis on football, there are many different sport venues, teams and events in Warsaw. Please refer to district articles for more information on the venues and their accessibility.
Festivals and events
- The Cross-Culture Warsaw Festival (Festiwal Skrzyżowanie Kultur).World music festival. Concerts and music workshops, documentary screenings, exhibitions.
- Jewish Culture Festival - The Singer's Warsaw (Festiwal Kultury Żydowskiej - Warszawa Singera), e-mail:[email protected]. August.
- Warsaw Film Festival (Warszawski Festiwal Filmowy). October.
- Planete+ Doc Film Festival. Documentary films. May.
- Burn Selector Festival. Electronic & Alternative Music Festival. September. 250 zł for two-day pass.
- Orange Warsaw Festival. Big pop music festival on the national stadium. May. 300 - 1000 zł for two-day pass.
- Warsaw Summer Jazz Days. July.
- Warsaw Autumn (Warszawska Jesień). International Festival of Contemporary Music. September.
- Long Night of Museums (Noc Muzeów). A great opportunity to wander around with your date or friends and grab an ice cream cone from one of the many cafes that stay open late. Most museums and galleries will stay open past midnight. Noc Muzeów usually occurs around mid-May. Free.
Old Town and areas like pl. Trzech Krzyży, ul. Nowy Świat, ul. Chmielna, Krakowskie Przedmieście in Śródmieście are saturated with cafés. Coffee typically costs about 10.00 zł. Beer can cost anywhere from 5.00 zł to 15.00 zł for half a liter (the supermarket price being about 2.50-3 zł). Drink prices in clubs can go up to 50.00 zł (and possibly more). Drinking alcoholic beverages in public places is prohibited, but this is often ignored by locals with regard to public drinking in parks.
If you're looking to mingle with real Varsovians, there's a well-kept, secret row of nameless, dark bars located off of Nowy Świat. They are reportedly good for those wishing to participate in the more decadent side of Varsovian night life. In truth, the places attract a younger crowd who want to socialize over a beer (usually a relatively low 6 zł for a half liter). If you'd like to give one of these bars a try, walk through the gateway at Nowy Świat 24. You'll find a few small buildings with bars tucked away. The number one tip about visiting one of these bars is go early if you want find a seat. You won't be able to find one after 10PM.
Clubs are plentiful in Warsaw and are a very popular way to spend nearly every night out.
The most popular nice and chic clubs are on ul. Mazowiecka in Śródmieście. Note that you will definitely be denied entrance if you wear sport shoes, no matter how expensive they are. Inconspicuous black shoes will normally do the trick.
Student clubs are popular and usually moderately priced, but can be hit or miss. Normally, the centrally located Hybrydy is a good option for night out. Other student clubs, like Stodoła or Remont in Śródmieście, and Park in Mokotów, are less predictable and quality isn't necessarily a concern for these clubs' patrons. If the point is to get drunk, then these are the place to go for a cheap drink.
Beware of certain bouncers (for example in Park), they are not the talkative kind if they suspect you of something.
In addition, there are clubs in Wola and Mokotów as well as several popular and down-to-earth clubs in the Praga districts.
Warsaw's music scene can sometimes be disappointing, but it's a matter of knowing where to look because Warsaw has an abundance of musical delights, they just need to be ferretted out. Headline acts perform at the Bemowo airport in the Bemowo district and at the Stadion Narodowy (National Stadium) in the Praga Południe district of Warsaw. Smaller acts are hosted at clubs and concert halls around the city, but primarily in the center of Warsaw.
Things to know
- University of Warsaw(Uniwersytet Warszawski), ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, .The University of Warsaw is Poland's largest university and offers a large variety of courses and programs to choose from. University of Warsaw has about 50,000 students enrolled.
- Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska), Pl. Politechniki 1, . The biggest Polish technical university.
- Warsaw School of Economics (Szkoła Główna Handlowa), Al. Niepodległości 162, , e-mail:[email protected]. Poland's largest economics school.
- Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego. Originally an agricultural school, this is now a rapidly expanding university.
- Collegium Civitas, Plac Kultury i Nauki, 12th floor, Plac Defilad 1, . This is a private school located inside the Palace of Culture of Science. Majors include Sociology, Political Science, American Studies, International Relations, and Human Rights and Genocide Studies. For those interested, some programs are conducted in English.
- Warszawski Uniwersytet Medyczny (Medical University of Warsaw). A medical college.
- The Academy of Arts (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych).
- Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego, ul. Dewajtis 5, , e-mail: [email protected]. This is a well-known Catholic university.
- Institute of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 32, . Part of the Warsaw University. 1200 zł for a standard course or 1800 zł for an intensive one.
- Edu & More Polish Language School for Foreigners, ul. Marszałkowska 87/81, . 599 zł for a group course. It's also e-learning platform for learning Polish online.
Home to many international companies, Warsaw has an excellent job market for potential expats. Of course there are several immigration hurdles, but landing a job should not be overly difficult if you have the right skill sets.
If you're a backpacker who is not an EU citizen and looking for short-term employment this may be somewhat more difficult, as you are legally required to have a work permit. You could possibly find short-term work in the hospitality industry, or possibly as a tutor or an ESL teacher.
If you'd like to work in Warsaw, or Poland for that matter, but don't want to go through the hassle of finding a job opportunity, there are some employment recruiting agencies you can use in your search for a job. Just a few are:
- Adecco Poland, Al. Jerozolimskie 123A, .
- Randstad, Al. Jerozolimskie 56c, .
Safety in Warsaw
Warsaw is generally a safe city. The city center has a strong police presence and is generally a very safe area. The Praga districts are reputed to be dangerous, but this is generally more hype than reality. Of course, it would be wise to exercise a little extra caution if you're in an area you do not know well. The bus and rail stations can be a magnet for homeless and drunkards, who, for the most part, will leave you alone.
Pickpockets can sometimes be a problem and you should be careful to hold onto your belongings when in a large crowd or on buses (Number 175, which runs from the airport to city center, is reportedly infamous for pickpockets). At bars and clubs, a good rule of thumb is the cheaper the door entry and the laxer the bouncers are about letting people in, the more likely you're going to want to keep extra care of your wallet, passport, cell phone, and camera.
Violent behavior is relatively rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related. While pubs and clubs are generally very safe, the nearby streets may be scenes of brawls, especially late at night. Try to avoid confrontations. Women and girls are generally less likely to be confronted or harassed since the Polish code of conduct strictly prohibits any type of violence (physical or verbal) against women. Nationalist groups that have staged "Independence Marches (Parades)," which naturally coincide with Poland's November 11 independence, have become violent in the past with neo-Nazis groups burning cars, attacking pedestrians, and clashing with both the police and anti-fascist demonstrators, who can become violent also, as occurred in 2011.
Visitors not knowing Polish may also be the target of "bar girls," especially in Underground off of ul. Mazowiecka on days where there isn't a cover charge. Be cautious if you encounter a girl speaking English who will offer you a drink or a cigarette. She will then ask you to walk her to her car parked outside of the club and then explain how her friend still inside of the club has her car keys. Then she will ask if you would like to share a cab back to her place for 70 złoty and then go back to the club. Doing so puts yourself in danger because it isn't known where she lives and you could be setting yourself up for possible harm or other scams.
Just like in any other major European city, football hooligans can be a problem before or after large football events. Naturally, it's best to avoid them, because they might be violent. At the same time, all major sport events are monitored and controlled by special police units, so unless you find yourself in the middle of the confrontation between hooligans and the police, you should be fine.
In case of emergencies, call emergency services. The number for the police:997, firefighters: 998, Ambulance: 999. The common European emergency number 112 works too.