Warsaw is one of Poland’s most well-known cities and it was my home for three years. I go back fairly regularly and when I do, I love doing the ‘touristy’ things. Here are some of my favourite places in Warsaw.
1. Feed peacocks in the Lazienki Park. Built during the second half of the eighteenth century, the park features a beautiful neoclassical Palace on the Water (Lazienki Palace) surrounded by gardens, canals and ponds. My favourite thing about Lazienki are the colourful peacocks walking around. They are friendly, you can easily feed them (only vegetables). Also, there are loads of red squirrels about so bring some peanuts.
2. Enjoy ice-cream in Starowka. The Old Town is stunning: cobblestone Gothic alleys, baroque palaces, colourful blocks of flats. The atmosphere there has a unique sense of history and there is nothing better to do in the summer than to pop in the Hodun‘s ice cream shop (best ice cream in Warsaw, ask anyone) and have a stroll.
3. Climb up the Palace of Culture and Science. Not literally, just take the lift to the top – the view is impressive. The Palace, the tallest building in Poland, was completed in 1955 as a ‘gift from the Soviet people’ and it is the embodiment of Socialist Realist architecture.
4. Try every filling of pierogi, the Polish dumplings. Personal favourite: mushroom & cabbage, and cottage cheese for dessert. Not only to indulge in when travelling to Warsaw but it’s as good an excuse as any!
5. Learn something new in Copernicus Science Centre. It’s a kingdom of experiments and a heaven for those interested in the world. The exhibits are in both English and Polish.
6. Wave to Nike. The giant cast iron statue of Nike (the Greek Goddess of Victory, not the shoe brand) is there with her sword watching over the city. Her official name is ‘Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw 1939-1945’ as she remembers the thousands of locals who fought against – and died under – the Nazi rule. Nike has always been my favourite, although Warsaw’s sweetheart is Syrenka Warszawska, the Warsaw Mermaid.
7. Go out for a drink in Nowy Świat. Until the 16th century, it was the main road leading to numerous palaces and villages of the Warsaw’s nobility which then steadily developed, to be destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising. At the end of the war, they decided to rebuild it, reverting the street to its early 19th-century appearance. Today, it’s one of the buzziest spots in Warsaw, full of bars, restaurants and shops.
8. Take half a day to go to the Masurian Lake District. For a quick trip, there are some lovely spots only an hour away from Warsaw. If you have a more time, go wild and visit Mikolajki.
9. Get merry in Powisle. Set in a former ticket hall, the PRL-era concrete rotunda has been Warsaw’s favourite summer gathering point since it transformed into a bar.
10. Indulge yourself in history and culture. Warsaw breathes history and the opportunities are endless. Visit one of the museums (The Warsaw Uprising Museum is absolutely one of a kind), explore a church (St John’s Cathedral has been listed by UNESCO as one of the key places of cultural significance) or have a tour around the Royal Castle.