Image: Wilanów Palace
There’s a lot to see and do in the city. Here’s our list of the Top 10 things to do in Warsaw. Click on the links for further information or to book a tour.
1. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
This fascinating historical museum presents over 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland. It allows visitors to explore past and present Jewish culture, providing a counterpoint to the stereotypes, xenophobia, and nationalistic prejudice threatening today's societies. POLIN promotes openness, tolerance, and truth, contributing to the mutual understanding and respect between Polish and Jewish people.
2. Wilanów Palace
Wilanów Palace is a former royal palace located 10km south of the city centre. It’s managed to survive Poland’s partitions and two World Wars and is one of Poland's most important monuments. It was commissioned by King Jan III Sobieski in 1677 and serves as a reminder of the culture of the Polish state as it was before the misfortunes of the 18th century. The palace is one of Warsaw’s top tourist attractions.
3. Palace of Culture & Science
Love it or hate it, you can’t not see it. At 237m tall, it’s the second tallest building in Poland after Varso Tower. Since 1955, this socialist realist palace has dominated the city of Warsaw and today it houses various public and cultural institutions such as cinemas, theatres, libraries, sports clubs, university faculties and authorities of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Known as PKiN (the abbreviation of its full Polish name) and a lot of other less friendly names, the palace was a gift of friendship from the Soviet Union. Check out the 30th floor observation terrace for great views of the city.
4. Royal Castle
Royal Castle Warsaw is an exceptional copy of the original red-brick castle, which was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The very first version of the castle was actually a wooden stronghold dating back to the 14th century built for the dukes of Mazovia and since then it has been the residence of Polish kings in addition to being the home of the president and also the seat of parliament. Back in the 17th century Royal Castle Warsaw was one of the most splendid royal palaces in Europe and today; it is filled with authentic furniture from that period and many original works of art. The highlights of the tour are the Great Apartments, which includes the Great Assembly Hall and lavishly decorated Throne Room and the King’s Apartments.
5. Lazienki Park & Palace
Lazienki Palace is located in the beautiful Łazienki Park in Warsaw. This is the biggest and most popular park in the city, and it provides visitors with many things to explore. During a walk around the 76 hectares park, you’ll see the Art Nouveau Chopin monument, a classicist amphitheatre, summer houses, pavilions, cafes & restaurants, lakes, the English garden, an Old Orangery, palaces and much more. There’s so much to see that it is possible to spend the full day in the park. Lazienki Palace is a lovely neoclassical building originally built in the 17th century and is the former residence of King Stanisław August Poniatowski who was a great patron of the arts.
6. Historic Centre of Warsaw
The Historic Centre of Warsaw (Warsaw Old Town) is the oldest part of Warsaw. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place, which is very popular with tourists and contains many restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, St. John's Cathedral and the Barbican which links the Old Town with Warsaw New Town. In excess of 85% of the historic centre of Warsaw was deliberately destroyed during World War II by Nazi Germany. A meticulous restoration of the Old Town took place after the war and this included its important religious buildings, the Royal Castle, Old Town Market, townhouses, and the circuit of the city walls. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
7. Żabińskis' Villa
The story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski is one of extraordinary bravery, decency and humanitarian spirit at enormous personal risk in the most challenging circumstances possible. The largely accurate portrayal captured in Diane Ackerman’s book and subsequent 2017 Hollywood movie, The Zookeeper’s Wife, reached millions. But a great many more remain completely unaware of the extraordinary tale of personal heroism, bravery and human kindness that took place within the grounds of Warsaw Zoo during World War II, and their enormous legacy and lessons for wider humanity in rescuing more than 300 people, mostly Jews smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto, at enormous personal risk. Even fewer are aware that the little zookeeper’s villa at the centre of the story, in the middle of the Warsaw Zoo, still stands today. A powerful but hidden and relatively neglected symbol of human unity and shared purpose, cared for over the years by a small group of people associated with the zoo and with the Zabinski family, on something less than a shoe-string budget. The villa, where the Żabińskis lived and risked their lives by hiding Jews, is open for a guided tour, which is well worth doing.
8. Warsaw Rising Museum
The single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II happened during the Warsaw Uprising, which was fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was led by the Polish Resistance Home Army in an attempt to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. If you are ever in Warsaw, a visit to the Rising Museum is highly recommended. The museum traces the history of the doomed Uprising using personal accounts, photos, film and interactive displays. If you want to do the museum and surrounding Freedom Park justice, you’ll need to put aside a whole day.
Image: Teatr Wielki
9. Teatr Wielki
The Grand Theatre is a theatre and opera complex situated on the historic Theatre Square. It is home to the Polish National Opera and Ballet companies and is one of the largest theatrical venues in the world, with a seating capacity of over 2,000. The building was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt to the original design in 1965.
10. Copernicus Science Centre
Copernicus Science Centre is a science museum standing on the bank of the Vistula River containing over 450 interactive exhibits that enable visitors to single-handedly carry out experiments and discover the laws of science for themselves. The Centre is the largest institution of its type in Poland and one of the most advanced in Europe. In 2018, since its opening, it had been visited by over 8 million people.