Warsaw has much to offer the short break seeker.
Unquestionably Krakow tops the polls when it comes to city breaks in Poland and yet, the country’s capital offers a myriad of charms to make a short stay in Warsaw thoroughly worthwhile. In fact, no-one puts it quite as succinctly as Lonely Planet who aptly surmises “Krakow may have the beauty and Gdansk the seashore, but Warsaw has the culture, energy and the action”.
Though the city was largely razed to the ground during World War II, Warsaw still has much to offer in terms of the classic city break destination. Painstakingly reconstructed following the Warsaw uprising in 1944, the Old Town is the classic and indeed symbolic starting point on any sightseeing itinerary, an evocative labyrinth of winding cobbled streets, ornate facades and atmospheric squares abuzz with street sellers and cafes. Tick box essentials include the Royal Castle, a replica of the original 14-century Mazovian stronghold overlooking the Vistula River; St John’s Cathedral, considered the oldest of Warsaw’s churches; and the Citadel, not to mention the Historical Museum of Warsaw, dominating the northern perimeter of Old Town Square. Be sure, too, to pause for a photo opportunity under King Sigismund’s Column, built in honour of the man who made Warsaw Poland’s capital city.
New Town meanwhile is the area to the north of the city’s Barbakan walls. Home originally to Warsaw’s artisans and tradesmen, New Town witnessed some of the most ferocious fighting during the Warsaw Uprising however today, the wide streets and elegant buildings make for a pleasant diversion from the intimacy of Old Town. Here, amidst the art galleries and antique stores, you’ll also find Marie Curie’s birthplace, today a museum dedicated to her life.
City of Chopin, Warsaw makes much of its status as the home of this revered composer and to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, in 2010 the city launched a fabulous all-singing, all-dancing high-tech Chopin Museum set amidst the grandeur of a 17th-century Baroque palace. From a museum perspective, take time also to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum, one of the city’s most popular museums devoted to sharing the haunting story of life under Nazi rule.
Whilst exploring the city, you won’t fail to spot the awesome Palace of Culture and Science, situated amidst Warsaw’s financial district. Gifted to Warsaw by Stalin and completed in 1955, this rather controversial building is the largest and tallest structure in Poland and visitors to the viewing platform on the 30th floor can take in far-reaching views over the city in every direction.
No mention of Warsaw would be complete without a word on the stunning royal gardens of Lazienki Park, a verdant city-centre haven of tranquillity where peacocks roam and the atmospheric sounds of Chopin fill the air during the Sunday afternoon alfresco concerts held here from May to September. And finally, 10km further south along the Royal Route, you’ll find the jewel in Warsaw’s crown, the majestic Wilanów Palace, a sumptuous 17th-century summer royal residence nicknamed the Polish Versailles.
A short-break city in its own right or an easy dual-centre destination alongside Krakow just a mere three hours by train, Warsaw’s wonders await you.