It was a surprise for me to revisit Warsaw after some years and to be there right on their national day. Although it was an odd experience, very serious and frightening when seeing the right extremists marching with torches.
Beside that a WOW factor for the cleanliness of the city, the airport, the surroundings, the newly renovated buildings, no ugly graffiti made by drunks, no extra
So let’s get started:
- don’t visit on their national day as everything is closed and things are taken pretty seriously in Poland. It is very explicable when understanding their history and the meaning of the national day.
- don’t visit Warsaw if first time in Poland, as Krakow is more authentic.
- don’t joke about religion and about them being more EU or Eastern Europeans than polish. Really …… it is nothing to joke about, also about Jews. Plus that they are not in general a country with a developed sense of humor but quite serious (the most productive from the formal Eastern European communist countries and this says it all).
- therefore don’t miss vodka and you can finally see them quite relaxed. And partying hard late night.
- don’t eat traditional if you’re more of a Mediterranean style. Polish diet is heavy especially in winter. Eat once and then avoid if you want to feel fresh. Personally I do not like pirogi. But bakeries and pastries are a plus. Wawel polish chocolate is a must (in any supermarket).
- the lactobars are not so cheap and not a great value for money. Try instead a normal restaurant and for a more local feeling go to Praga neighborhood or Mokotow. It is a very affordable country for tourists no matter the things to do – restaurant, tours, museums….so you can spoil yourself a little bit.
- don’t feel bad if you have the impression of a movie set when in the old town. The city is rebuild after WWII and some of the old charm is obviously lost.
- don’t go to museums but rather parks and churches which are a cultural treasure. Modern art museum especially is to avoid as it has the feeling of a small art gallery.
- don’t underestimate the weather in winter….so check the apps and pack accordingly.
- don’t forget the basics: a travel insurance….always, copies of papers to use when out in the city, some cash to exchange in the city not at airport, umbrella. A big plus – they speak foreign languages, especially English and German…Russian also.
- don’t book out of the city center. the prices are good and the major touristic objectives are compacted and in walking distance.
- don’t over-plan. in 2 days you cannot see all but choose your real favorites. When visiting a museum choose the masterpieces you want to see and to fully enjoy.
- don’t forget your swimwear in summer. They have a great beach.
What I enjoyed, some of them hidden gems – clean, safe, affordable, the memorial of Jewish ghetto (makes you remember), market Hala Mirowska, Keret house, notional library roof garden, Praga neighborhood, MDM communist quarter, souvenir shop Pan Tu Nie Stal, main buiding of Polytechnics University, Lazienki park and palace, graffiti in Brzeska street and Praga, Jewish Cemetery, souvenirs in ceramics ( little bells), shops in Krakowskie Przedmiescie, old town, Church of All Saints, and Chopin benches.
Also in any city I would recommend some interesting experiences f you feel like having one. From my point of view this are the ones that stays with you forever. This would be: local markets (not the one in the guides), free city tours by locals, local taverns, museums for contemporary arts, parks, cooking classes by locals, classes of your own interest, public transport, inspiring souvenirs like maybe sending a physical postcard, and sometimes staying with locals although not always a great experience for me.
Overall I would rate Warsaw a 4 stars city, considering one star for overrated and 5 stars for exceeding any expectations. A big plus – safe, clean and extremely affordable.