When i mentioned that i was visiting Warsaw, no one really showed any excitement except a few bloggers. Bloggers are always excited about visiting new places, because of the possibility of new content. Everyone suggested me to visit Krakow instead. But i had to go to Warsaw because my connection from India was booked and flying into Krakow was expensive. I was also intrigued to visit the city because it literally has risen from ashes after the World War II. I planned Warsaw in 24 hours and though there are many many places to see, here’s the places I visited (and missed out on many major ones) but the day was short and oh-so cold.
The Old Town of Warsaw
I am always interested in the heart of the city and the Old Town of Warsaw is the vibrant place where all the actions happen as the Old and New Towns meet. The colourful houses and cobbled streets made me reminiscence the middles ages of the country when the town was uprising.
In the middle is the water pump and Warsaw Mermaid sculpture – the symbol of Warsaw, considered to be a guardian angel. It turns into a skating rink in winter. This square has a number of street vendors, cafes, shops, museums, art galleries and restaurants. If you visit in Christmas, like I did, you will find a Christmas market which sells souvenirs and Polish food items.
The castle square locally known as Plac Zamkowy w Warszawie is located in the front of Royal Castle in old town of Warsaw. You will obviously notice the long column with figurine at the top. It is a figure of King Sigismund who made Warsaw, the capital of Poland. This square is important from the historical point of view as it was part of the many demonstrations, speeches, executions and other important public events in the past. Now it a place where locals and tourists enjoy lunch and explore the interesting attractions dotted around the square.
The Barbican is the gateway between the Old Town and the New Town and a short walk away from Old Town Market Place. The Barbican lends an artistic look to the city. It was partially demolished in the 18th century and again completely destroyed during World War II. The fortified wall and barbican were restored later in its full glory. Today, it serves as a bridge between the Old and New Town, and is also the hangout of choice for many artists selling their paintings and Polish souvenirs. If you have time, do visit the small museum on its history.
The Royal Route of Warsaw
Warsaw’s Royal Route links the city’s three Royal residences – The Royal Castle, via Lazienki Park to Wilanów Palace covering 11 km in length. This is the main route which covers most of the Warsaw’s historic buildings, churches, embassies, parks and monuments. You will now find swanky hotels, expensive restaurants and shops on this route. The entire route during Christmas is decorated with festive lights and it is a sight to behold.
Built in the 17th century this is Warsaw’s biggest palaces. Currently, the building is home to Poland’s president but in yesteryears it had various functions: public gatherings place, gala balls and theatre performances. It is said that Fryderyk Chopin, gave his first concert in the palace. The entrance to the palace is guarded by a statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski and four stone lions and it is lit up at night.
Palace of Culture and Science
The highest and most recognizable building in Warsaw can be seen from almost every part of the city and is locally known as Stalin’s Penis as it was gifted by Stalin to the city. Currently, the palace is home to theaters, cinema, museums, pubs and the Warsaw Tourist Information office. Give into the urge to go the observation deck on the 30th floor of the building and see the beautiful panorama of the city.
Lazienki means bath and it was constructed as a private bath house for the royal family. Today, it is the largest public park in Warsaw, an important venue for music and culture and a must-see for architecture and nature lovers. Once inside Lazienki Park, you will probably forget you are in the city center away from the hustle bustle of traffic. This massive park, covering about 76 hectares is also home to a variety of buildings worth visiting. The park was created within the old wild forest so the animals there are detained under their normal natural conditions.
In the Lazienki complex, there are several museums and buildings that you can visit all year around so plan a couple of hours here. Must see places here are Palace on the Water, Amphitheatre, Myślewicki Palace and Chopin Monument. Do look out for Chopin’s concerts during summer from the official website. It may seem difficult to see so much in Warsaw in 24 hours but a quick visit should do the trick.
Known as the Versailles of Poland, Wilanow Palace monument is set in 45 acres of gardens which escaped unhurt during World War II. Built by King Jan 111 Soblieski in the 17th century, the grand interiors will leave you in awe. The palace is now a museum and the Polish Portrait Gallery is not to be missed. The park is landscaped with a dual level Baroque gardens and there is also a Renaissance designed rose garden besides a classical English and a Chinese garden. This is a must for Warsaw in 24 hours.
Sustainable tips for Warsaw in 24 Hours:
- Use public transport like tram and bus, instead of calling an Uber. Most places are in walking distance from the old town.
- There are many companies who offer walking tours which start from the old square. It is best to register with before or you can also join them at last moment. They last a little over 4 hours so come with a lot of time in hand. They tell you the history and walk you through the popular places of the town. All this for a small tip at the end of the tour.
- Do tip the walking tour guides, they are generally part time students and that is the only way they earn. Ideally 5 euro per person is the least you should give.
- Respect the memorials, museums, walls and old architectural buildings by not sitting on them for photo opportunity.
- Enjoy the local food. Everywhere is Poland, I did not face a problem finding vegetarian food. There are lot of vegetarian as well as vegan food cafes in Warsaw.