20 Things to do in Warsaw, Poland (for a cultural experience!)

Rachel HannahJune 10, 2023

Planning a trip to Poland’s capital city and wondering what the best things to do in Warsaw are?

Warsaw is a city with a dark and dramatic history, and while not much of the original city remains (around 85% of it was destroyed by the Nazis in WW2), the aftermath of its 5-year resurrection from 1945 to 1951 has allowed Warsaw to be what it is today – a symbol of hope and pride.

The aspect I loved learning about was that the Poles wouldn’t allow their city to be erased from history. The community compiled old paintings, photographs, memories, etc to rebuild places such as Old Town to be exactly how it was before – even down to the colors of the buildings!

While walking all throughout the city during my 3 days in Warsaw it was hard to believe that everything I saw had been rebuilt. This is just a testament to how strong the people of Warsaw had to have been.

In this guide, I’m sharing all of the best things to see in Warsaw and while there is a lot of sad history to uncover here the city also has many large beautiful parks, unique foods to try, incredible architecture to photograph, and a whacky modern art culture to explore. Let’s get into it!

About Warsaw FAQ

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20 Things to do in Warsaw

1. See the architecture in Old Town Market Square

seeing the architecture in old town market square is one of the best things to do in warsaw

First up on this list, we have the famous Old Town Market Square in Warsaw’s Old Town!

As mentioned in the intro of the blog, this square along with the rest of Old Town has been completely rebuilt to look exactly how it did before it was bombed completely in 1944 by the Nazi regime. It’s so pretty just to walk around on the cobblestone streets and look at the detailed architecture of the vibrantly colored buildings.

In the middle of the square, you’ll notice a fountain and the statue that rests on top of it is of a mermaid (Syrenka in Polish) which is actually the mascot of Warsaw. According to the legend she swam out of the Baltic Sea and up the Vistula River where she then decided to stay in Old Town to be the protector of the city.

The buildings along the edges of the square are compromised of restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, and museums so there are quite a few things you could do here if you wanted to. I recommend looking for a vendor who takes pictures with an old vintage camera to look like you’re on the cover of a newspaper. It’s quite touristy but honestly, it’s a fun and cheap souvenir to leave Warsaw with!

I definitely felt a mix of emotions when I thought about the contrast of the evil that took place here versus the livelihood it has to this day but it is not one of the Warsaw attractions to miss out on!

If you want to learn about Old Town while visiting the different landmarks I would recommend considering a city tour. There are all different types but this Private Warsaw Sightseeing by Retro Fiat has to be one of the coolest options! I mean the reviews speak for themselves but in short, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven around in a communist-era Fiat 125p to eight of the most popular things to see in Warsaw including the spots I mentioned above. It costs $75 USD and lasts 4 hours.

For a much cheaper option, you can’t go wrong with a guided walking tour such as this one. It is only $16 USD and strictly covers Old Town.

2. Explore the Royal Castle in Warsaw

royal castle warsaw

Not far from Old Town Market Square is the Royal Castle in the Royal Castle Square. It was originally where kings and queens lived along with being offices for royal administrative staff.

All that survived the WW2 attacks were a few walls, cellars, the Kubicki Arcades, and the Tin-Roof Palace (Pałac Pod Blachą) which is located next to the castle. Halfway through the Royal Castle being completely rebuilt it became a UNSECO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Admission to the Royal Route of the castle is 50 PLN for adults and 40 PLN for children. There’s also The Gallery of Masterpieces on the ground floor which costs 40 PLN for adults and 30 PLN for children.

The Tin-Roofed Palace can also be toured for 30 PLN for adults and 20 PLN for children.

If you want to use the audioguide or GTS headset it is an additional fee of 5 PLN. You can purchase your tickets online here.

I decided to enjoy direct views of the Royal Castle straight from the patio at Restauracja Przy Zamku! The prices were a little higher being on the main square but nothing too crazy and I was super impressed with how good my wild boar and deer burger tasted! They also serve a lot of other traditional Polish dishes in unique ways so I would definitely recommend eating here.

3. Admire the red brick of the Warsaw Barbican

girl along red brick wall of warsaw barbican

Follow the red-bricked wall! That’s all you’ll need to do to get to the Warsaw Barbican from Royal Castle Square. And as you’re walking, keep a lookout for a few historical monuments that are on the way.

These historic walls and 4-story tower barbican were originally built to protect the city although they were only ever used once during the Swedish invasion of Poland in 1656. They too were greatly damaged in WW2 but not completely and have since been restored by using the bricks from demolished buildings in both Nysa and Wroclaw.

This is a very unique Warsaw attraction and unlike anything I’ve seen before! It also makes for an excellent background in pictures so don’t forget your camera.

If you do want to learn more information on the Barbican, the Royal Castle, and the Old Town Market Square I recommend checking out this particular Old Town tour that includes those three stops along with several other places with historical significance in the area.

I usually tend to spend more of my travel budget on attractions/experiences versus tours however, I should’ve checked the price of this tour beforehand as it only costs 161 PLN ($38 USD) which I think is a great value considering that it includes transport, a guide, and lasts for 3 hours!

4. Climb Taras Widokowy at St Anne’s Church for the best city views

I don’t know about you but I love getting a bird’s eye view of any city that I am visiting. The 360-degree views of Old Town and New Town from Taras Widokowy’s bell tower are absolutely breathtaking and I spent well over an hour up here just taking in the views, photographing the city, and enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

I was up here for so long that I noticed most people didn’t spend longer than 10 to 15 minutes here as there really is no need to unless you are looking to chill out.

To find the entrance I just followed a sign’s direction that was on the main street but if that’s not the case you will enter through the courtyard that is in between the tower and the church, then go left through the little market that is typically set up here and inside where you’ll find a small gift shop to purchase tickets.

Admission is just 10 PLN (CASH ONLY) to gain access to the steep and narrow 150-ish steps.

Without a doubt, Taras Widokowy was one of my favorite places to visit in Warsaw!

5. Enjoy a freshly made Pączki

If you’re wondering what to eat in Warsaw you must try Poland’s most famous treat, the Paczki! These deep-fried dough balls are filled with various flavors of jelly or cream and are topped with powdered sugar.

Unlike our overwhelmingly sweet version of the Paczki in the U.S., I found the ones in Poland to have just the right level of sweetness. I wasn’t shocked as it is Europe after all!

You can find Pawlowicz shops all over Warsaw and there much debate about which place is the best. Personally, I got my grab-and-go order from the window at Cukiernia Pawlowicz which has been in business since 1917.

I wasn’t much of a fan of the cherry flavor but the one with rosewater jam filling was especially good!

The cost was ridiculously low at around 4.5 PLN ($1 USD) per paczki so it’s one of the cheapest things to do in Warsaw!

6. Ujazdów Castle

girl in front of ujazdow castle

One of the coolest Warsaw attractions is Ujazdow Castle! It is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture and has been standing since the 17th century that served as a royal residence for many years.

The castle has since been restored to its former glory after the damage done during the Warsaw Uprsing and is now open to the public.

When walking up to the castle I noticed the property was split into upper and lower parts. The lower section features a long canal of water that is perfectly centered in front of Ujazdow Castle. Climbing up the stairs to the upper section will lead to the ground level of the castle.

I was perfectly content to photograph the castle from the lower section but you can pay 10 PLN to enter the contemporary art museum inside of the castle. There is also a bookstore and the Qchnia restaurant where you could grab a bite to eat at.

Ujazdów Castle is such an iconic landmark and one of the best historic places to visit in Warsaw.

7. The Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw

holy cross church warsaw

Walking through the Botanical Garden of the University of Warsaw is one of the best cheap things to do in Warsaw. Priced at just 20 PLN every day except for Mondays (March – October) when tickets are half-priced.

While the gardens are technically on the northern side of Łazienki Park (mentioned below) they feel separate because there is an admission fee (unlike the rest of Lazienki Park), so I’ve decided to give this spot its own place on the list!

Inside you will find a wide variety of plants and flowers and on the weekends (Fri – Sun) your ticket will include admission into the greenhouse! I visited at the beginning of October and while there were only a few flowers remaining that hadn’t died yet the star of the show was the bright orange leaves on the trees!

If you want to sit and take in the views there were several benches scatted throughout the gardens.

I highly recommend visiting the rest of Lazienki Park while you are here because it is a 20-minute drive from central Warsaw and the gardens are small and won’t take much time on their own.

The hours for the Botanical Garden vary on the month and day of the week so make sure to check before your visit.

8. Explore the history inside Łazienki Park

Right next to the Botanical Garden is the main section of Lazienki Park. It is a massive 76 hectares making it the largest park in Warsaw!

With that being said I’m sure you would imagine there to be a lot of things to do and see inside the park and there are! Before you go, I’d recommend checking out this map so you don’t get lost. I did and it definitely wasted time retracing my steps to get where I wanted to go.

I suggest coming from the Botanical Gardens first because there is a Northwest entrance to Lazienki Park that is very close by but if not there are several other entrances around the perimeter you can choose from too.

While you’re here, try and see all of the main sites inside the park because they’re all pretty cool! I’ve listed them for you below.

  • The Royal Theatre and the Old Oranger – The Oranger was built to house exotic trees for the winter season. The Royal Theater located inside the Oranger is one of the few remaining 18th-century court theatres in Europe and it could hold up to 200 people.
  • The White Pavilion – Originally planned to be the home of Prince Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski but instead became the home for his closest relatives.
  • Palace on the Isle – Also owned by Prince Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski who had planned for the building to serve as a bathhouse. However, it was sold to King Stanislaus Augustus in 1766 and he converted the bathhouse into a summer residence complete with an English garden.
  • The Myslewicki Palace – What began with the vision to become the King’s primary residence ended up being a place for the Polish government to have discussions among themselves and meetings with foreign guests.
  • Chopin Monument – Large bronze statue of Frédéric Chopin sitting under a weeping willow tree. Chopin was known to have spent a lot of time at Lazienki Park as a kid. In the spring and summer, there are often live concerts held here.

My personal favorite was Palace on the Isle, it was absolutely stunning! Most of my time inside the park was spent here taking pictures and enjoying the architecture. I got lucky with a nice autumn day and I loved the contrast the orange leaves had against the white buildings.

As one of the best Warsaw attractions you just have to plan some time on your itinerary to enjoy all that Lazienki Park has to offer!

9. Visit a milk bar

polish food at a milk bar

If you are looking to try some of the most authentic homestyle Polish food then visiting one of the city’s cafeteria-style milk bars is one of the best things to do in Warsaw

The best part is how cheap everything is! No matter how much food you order it will be almost impossible to spend over $10 USD and you can get a decent-sized meal for around $4 USD.

Historically speaking, milk bars (bar mleczny) were especially popular throughout the wars and during the communist era because they were a super affordable option (subsidized by the government) for low-wage workers. As the name suggests, the menu has a lot of milk-based dishes but there are also a lot of potato dishes, protein, and vegetarian options.

I chose to visit Bar mleczny familijny and it was a bit intimidating to order because the entire menu is in Polish! I was thinking, how will I even know what to order?? Thankfully, from the pictures on Google reviews, I was able to show the lady exactly what I wanted to try!

I ended up going for a little bit of everything including beef pierogis, chunky mashed potatoes with dill, bean soup with potatoes, and the fried savory potato pancakes. I really did enjoy everything!

Tour Option: Speaking of pierogis, you can actually learn how to make them in Warsaw with the help of a local chef! This Polish Dumpling Cooking Class only costs $50 USD and is one of the most highly-rated things to do in Warsaw. Before you know it you’ll have created an entire plate of them to enjoy!

10. Try Polish Vodka

moscow mule with polish vodka

The official drink of Poland is none other than Vodka or wódka as they say in Polish!

Whether vodka is your spirit or choice or not, this is the place to try some! You could also learn the history and how it was created on a guided vodka tour or a visit to the Vodka Museum.

Now obviously the most straightforward way to try some of the local vodka is to hit the town and order some craft cocktails. A few of the coolest settings to check out include Steam Bar for a steampunk-themed atmosphere and a super unique cocktail menu, Woda Ognista for a menu-free experience where the bartenders will create something for you based on your preferences, or The Roots Cocktail Bar & More which is a local’s favorite because they create delicious signature drinks along with typical cocktails with a Polish twist!

As a female traveling solo for the first time, I didn’t want to adventure after it got dark but lucky for me the bar at my hotel had an awesome aesthetic and incredible vodka-based cocktails!

However, if you feel comfortable going out a great alternative would be this Warsaw Bar Crawl where you’re bound to meet other travelers at 4 different bars and clubs. The $22 USD cost includes a 1-hour open bar to begin the night and a free shot at the following bars.

If you’re more interested in learning why vodka is so popular in Warsaw then you’re going to love this Warsaw Vodka and Culture Tour. Not only does it include a complete explanation of how vodka is made and enjoy but you will also sample 7 different vodka samples while nibbling on traditional Polish snacks from four different restaurants and pubs all for just $85 USD a person! For its inclusions I find this to be a very great deal.

A cheaper alternative that is just as thorough with the facts is a trip to the Vodka Museum where admission is just $13 USD. You will get a 70-minute tour with a qualified guide who will explain the history of vodka while showing you 5 different interactive galleries in the museum. You can easily purchase your tickets in person or online in advance to guarantee a time slot.

Trying Polish Vodka is one of the best things to do in Warsaw, which way will you choose to do so?

12. Roam the Warsaw University Library Gardens

If an ideal afternoon to you sounds like leisurely exploring beautiful gardens while simultaneously getting city and river views then the Library Garden at Warsaw Univerity should be one of your top things to see in Warsaw.

I still think about these gardens often because they were unbelievably beautiful and manicured to a T! The mix of modern glass and steel buildings with pops of pink and teal contrasting against the lush mosses, plants, trees, and flowers was a sight to take in!

The entrance is located at ground level and as you make your way around them it won’t take long to discover the stairs next to a cascading fountain where the garden continues up onto the roof. This is where you will find views of Warsaw, the Praga neighborhood, and the Vistula River.

From above you’ll also have a view through the glass of the students studying inside the Student Libary down below.

I wish I would’ve brought lunch with me because this would’ve been the perfect place to enjoy a picnic. The best part though is that admission to the Warsaw University Library Garden is FREE!

The lower portion of the gardens is open year-round but the top half is only open to the public from April to October. The hours change often so make sure you check them before you go.

13. Walk along the Vistula River

view of vistula river and Świętokrzyski Bridge

The Vistula River is the body of water that flows through Warsaw so at some point make sure to walk over to the riverwalk. It pretty much spans the entire length of the city so you’ll have no problem finding an access point.

I ended up doing this right after I was finished checking out the Warsaw University Public Gardens before continuing my walk back into central Warsaw. However, if you wanted to check out the Praga neighborhood the walk from here wouldn’t be too far, around 25 minutes.

Praga is where you could do some upscale shopping or enjoy a meal from one of several great options. Once you’ve rested for a while you could continue another 20 minutes walk to Praga’s famous Neon Museum which has a quirky collection of vintage neon signs. It is another one of the Warsaw Attractions with a cheaper entrance fee of only $4 USD but there are also guided tours available in English for $36 USD.

My Finding’s Tip: If you want to spend time out on the water there is an option to ride in a traditional Polish boat on this Discover Vistula River Tour for just $15 USD. Over the course of an hour, you will cruise past several famous Warsaw attractions including the Copernicus Science Center, Warsaw Mermaid, Old and New Town, and the National Stadium.

14. Learn at the Warsaw Uprising Museum

One of the places to visit in Warsaw that will have a lot of impact is the Warsaw Uprising Museum. It focuses on the evil events that took place during WW2 and continue on to show you how the ordinary people of Poland would band together to rebel against the Nazi dictatorship (Warsaw Uprising).

Even if you aren’t a big fan of history, the exhibits here will help you grasp the key aspects of Poland’s history. There are also personal accounts from witnesses and objects from the war. I would recommend allowing a minimum of 2 hours here but it is massive so you will likely need more time if you want to get through the entire museum.

General admission is 25 PLN but you can get free admission if you visit on a Monday. To get here you can either Uber, take public transport, or purchase this private one-way transport to the museum that includes admission tickets for $73 USD.

I, unfortunately, did not have enough time on my short 3 days in Warsaw to do this but it’s something I’m keeping in mind for next time.

15. Try Zapiekanka

Zapiekanka polish street food

One of the tastiest things to do in Warsaw is to try some street food! One of the more popular street foods in Poland is Zapiekanka which essentially is an open-faced sandwich on French bread traditionally topped with sauteed white mushrooms and cheese. Sometimes it also has other toppings like ham or onions. A true Zapiekanka wouldn’t be complete without adding either ketchup or garlic sauce – or both!

Finding Zapienkanka won’t be a hard feat as I saw signs for it on shop windows all around Warsaw. I got mine from a walk-up window spot called Cafe Trakt. The taste kind of reminded me of a pizza and while it was good I could tell that it wasn’t the main focus on their menu.

I think I got suckered by their cute sign! So do yourself a favor and find a restaurant that specializes in Zapiekanaka (many of the other places I had passed by previously), I’m sure it will be a much better choice!

To be even more assured of finding delicious Zapiekanaka and get to try several more Polish dishes I’d recommend joining a food tour. This particular Warsaw Food Tasting Tour has a local guide who will show you all the best spots in town while sharing stories of the dishes and how they tie into Polish culture.

The tour includes 10-11 delicious samples that range from street foods to entrees and desserts. Another bonus you’ll also get to sample a local vodka! This experience lasts around 3 hours and costs $90 USD per person.

16. Find the musical benches

chopin musical bench in warsaw

One of the fun quirks that Warsaw has is its musical benches! You’ll find 15 Chopin Benches scattered all throughout the city!

I had no idea about this until I randomly stumbled upon a bench that started to play music when I pressed the button. Pretty neat!

So make a game out of it and count how many you find or you can cheat and look at this list here.

17. Eat or shop at Elektrownia Powiśle

Whether you’re looking to shop until you drop or are hungry and can’t decide which cuisine you’re craving Elektrownia Powiśle is the answer!

What was once a historic power plant is now functioning as a shopping mall with a food court distinctively lit up with neon signage. Even if you don’t have time to explore inside, the building is also super cool to look at from the outside!

Before my flight to London on my last day in Poland I decided to wander around here to kill time and spend my leftover Zloty. I started out with Pad Thai from VietLab and then checkout out many of the shops and ended up buying a nice perfume. I found out there was a nail salon on the top floor and I’m not lying when I say that they gave me the best manicure of my life (it lasted for a month)!

While this isn’t a super important place to visit in Warsaw it will make you envision what shopping as a local would be like!

18. Warsaw University of Technology

warsaw university of technology

The Warsaw University of Technology is the largest university in Poland and also ranks as the #1 technological university in Central and Eastern Europe and Poland.

The campus’ main building just so happens to have some outstanding Italian Renaissance and Baroque architecture so this is definitely one of the coolest places to visit in Warsaw if you’re a photographer or have an eye for architecture!

The building should be open to the public during normal class hours. This will just be a quick stop for pictures so I recommend doing this en route to other nearby Warsaw attractions.

19. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

You may not consider the history-related things to do in Warsaw fun but learning about the Jews in Poland will definitely fascinate you.

The best place to learn is at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This museum does a great job of laying out the history from the last 100+ years in an organized way and a lot of the exhibits are interactive so you are sure to keep your attention locked in.

The story you will learn here is incredible and one you will not want to miss. Unfortunately for me, I got sick during my last couple of days in Warsaw so I wasn’t able to make it here but hopefully you will be able to!

Tickets can be purchased here online for just 45 PLN ($10.75 USD) and they include a free audio guide. If you don’t want to worry about taking public transport to get there this tour option is great because it includes hotel pick up and drop off and a guide who will take you through the museum personally. It costs $60 USD and lasts 3 hours.

Some of the best Warsaw attractions truly are the historical ones!

20. Learn about pianst Fryderyk Chopin

rainbow colored neon sign of hands playing piano

Fryderyk Chopin is not just Poland’s most notable composer but his works were world-renowned and are still enjoyed to this day. Chopin created his music during the Romantic period and all of his musical creations feature the piano and were almost always done solo.

Chopin only lived in Poland for the first 20 years of his life before he moved to Paris, less than one month before the Polish-Russian War began.

If you are a music lover or want to learn more about the creative geniuses of Chopin then then there are a couple of places that should be on your list of things to do in Warsaw!

First is the Museum of Fryderyk Chopin which is inside a small 17th-century castle. With the interactive display boards inside you’ll find it super easy to learn about his life, work, the women in his life, and experiences. There are also preserved documents, paintings, and letters. Before you go, head inside the room that is dedicated for you to listen to Chopin’s compositions.

Tickets cost 25 PLN ($6 USD) but if you come on Wednesday admission is free!

I was staying at Motel One directly across the street from the museum but it was closed for renovations – I couldn’t have had worse luck!

The second place to check out is the Fryderyk Concert Hall in the heart of Old Town for their daily Chopin concert! Admission only costs $20 USD and your ticket includes a glass of sparkling wine at intermission! You can reserve your preferred date and time here in advance.

Where to Stay in Warsaw

motel one warsaw chopin lobby

There are plenty of accommodation options in Warsaw for all budget types and accommodation preferences! I’ve listed a variety of great options below.

Motel One Warsaw-Chopin $ – One of the highest-rated stays that you will find located in central Warsaw near Warsaw University. For a 3-star hotel, it is flashy! This is where I chose to stay and I loved everything about it. The rooms were clean, modern, and cozy with comfortable beds and only cost around $115 USD. The hotel lobby serves a delicious hot and cold breakfast spread for an additional $12 USD. If you want to relax in the evenings their elegant on-site bar and lounge were exceptional! I even got some computer work done here.

You can check dates and book Motel One on Booking.com.

ValdiArt Suites Old Town $$ – Located in between New Town and Old Town it will only be a 5-10 minute walk to either side. All apartment-style rooms have tasteful modern decor and furnishings and include a full kitchen, dining room, TV, and coffee maker. They are also priced moderately at around $150 USD a night.

You can check dates and book ValdiArtSuites Old Town on Booking.com.

Hotel Verte $$$ – A 5-star newly renovated Autograph Collection hotel situated in the center of Old Town is the perfect pair if you are after luxury and convenience. The details in the rooms and throughout the property are just breathtaking. Choose from classic, deluxe, executive king, or junior suites that start from $230 USD. Expect impeccable service from the staff and everything to be clean and tidy. You can add on their breakfast buffet for $36 USD.

You can check dates and book Hotel Verte on Booking.com.

Tips for Visiting Warsaw

polish architecture in old town warsaw

Before you go off visiting all of the different Warsaw attractions there are a few things to keep in mind before you go.

Safety – For the most part you won’t need to worry about violent crimes or theft as Warsaw is historically one of the safest cities in Europe. I traveled as a solo female to Warsaw and not once did I feel unsafe! Always be mindful and keep your guard up and if something seems off leave the area or seek help.

Language barrier – The impression I had gotten from other blogs about Warsaw made it seem like the average inner-city person would be fairly fluent in English. In my experience, I didn’t find this to be the case. Beyond knowing a couple of English words I often needed to show pictures or use Google Translate. Make sure you come prepared for this and even learn a few Polish words!

Tap water – Warsaw’s city water is safe to drink so be sure to bring your reusable water bottle to conveniently refill it around the city.

Final Word on the Best Places to Visit in Warsaw

Thanks so much for reading! If you ever have the chance to visit Warsaw it will definitely break the stereotype it has of being a gray and boring city! In fact, I love Warsaw and the story of hope it projects that I hope to visit again in the future!

If you found this guide helpful be sure to check out some of my other Europe guides below!

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Comments (2)

  • What to eat in Warsaw: 15 traditional foods in Warsaw to try

    September 25, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    […] the natural scenery, and admirning the unmissable architecture, trying the food is one of the main things to do in Warsaw. This list is a great starting point for what to eat in Warsaw but I’ve also added a section at […]

  • Jenn

    January 28, 2024 at 9:29 am

    Great guide to Warsaw! I loved my time in the city. But I had no idea about the musical benches. I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out on my next trip to Warsaw.

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