Miraculously, Warsaw is one of the minority of European cities that has yet to be hit by an invasion of British tourists and perhaps for this reason alone, Poland’s capital is well worthy of a visit. Described as a city that, like a phoenix has repeatedly risen out of the ashes, Warsaw is most notable for its vast wealth of culture, that is all the more outstanding given that the city was virtually destroyed during the Second World War.

Whilst Warsaw bears witness to both the Communist and Nazi ruling that has existed in Poland in the last century, and particularly to the fate it suffered during the war, it is a thriving bustling city that is a world away from the bleak communism that once dominated its culture and architecture. In recent years, UNESCO has paid tribute to the history and culture that is refracted through Warsaw’s wealth of museums and monuments, and the city is now an official historic centre featuring on the world heritage list.


Like many Eastern European cities, Warsaw has a New Town and an Old Town, but with the vast number of historical sites and cultural attractions existing within both sectors, it is hard to know which part of the magnificent city to explore first.

Established in the thirteenth century, the Old Town is a fusion of cobbled streets, inviting shops and quaint café bars, housed around an attractive market square. Mostly pedestrianised, the Old Town begs to be taken in at leisure and with its city walls, ancient architecture and romantic views, it is easy to forget that Warsaw is also a modern energetic city with services and industries to match any other Western capital. Of particular note in the Old Town is the Barbican, St Johns Cathedral and the Warsaw museum which, with its wealth of historical objects, could easily captivate visitors for hours. There are plenty of picnic spots and picturesque landscapes around the Old Town and, during the summer months, artists and street entertainers fill the winding streets and market square adding to the cultural tone that vibrates throughout the city.

Warsaw’s New Town developed slightly later than the Old Town, emerging in the fourteenth century when it was granted separate status, until 1791 when the New Town became incorporated into the city of Warsaw. The New Town also has many of its streets closed off from the traffic, and, as the more glamorous part of Warsaw, boasts the citadel museum, Potocki Palace and Warsaw university that all serve to exemplify the cities magnificent architectural achievements.

Set in between the Old and New towns is the Jewish Ghetto where, during the Second World War, over 40, 000 jews were sent to live and work under Nazi occupation. During the six years of the war, most of the Jews were killed within the walls of the ghetto, or sent to concentration camps in 1945, when Hitler ordered that the Ghetto be liquadated as part of his ‘final solution.’ At that time Jewish fighters launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which, whilst being heavily outnumbered, the fighters managed to hold the ghetto for over a month, until being overpowered and subsequently massacred. The Warsaw uprising monument bears tribute to the bravery of the Polish Jews who lived in the ghetto during the last months of Hitler’s rule and, whilst the Jewish community barely exists in the city today, their presence lives on in Warsaw through means of the Jewish historic museum, the Nozyk Synagogue and the Jewish national theatre.

Warsaw is a city renound for its magnificent collection of art and cultural objects and its variety of galleries and museums is testimony to the wealth of collections the city boasts. The national museum , housed at the Royal Castle in Wilanow is well worth visiting, showing a vast display of historic art as is the Palace on the Water in Lazienki which also owns a magnificent collection of polish and international art. Additionally, the Zacheta Gallery exhibits a fascinating array of contemporary art, as does the Centre of Contemporary art housed in Ujazdow Castle.


Shopping in Warsaw today serves to remind the visitor that the city is as far removed from its communist days as any western city. Since its privatisation in 1989, Warsaw has acquired an increasing number of shopping arcades and department stores, alongside its traditional markets and bazaars. Whilst Poland is now renound for its high fashion, it still remains significantly cheaper than its western European counterparts, so it is well worth taking a break from culture for an afternoon to pickup a bargain in Warsaw’s New Town.

Nightlife and Eating Out

In tribute to the polish proverb, ‘Eat, drink and loosen your belt,’ Warsaw has a wide variety of restaurants serving high quality international and traditional cuisine, many of which have made it into the European top ten lists of best restaurants. During high season the Old Town’s market square is filled with umbrellared tables, serving a wealth of cafes, and bars around the square and it is well worth stopping for a drink or some traditional perogi whilst taking time to soak up the beautiful architecture and cultural charm that pervades the city.

Warsaw is most famous for hosting a wide variety of prestigious cultural events, in particular its Frederic Chopin piano competition, the international contemporary music festival, the Mozart festival and its summer jazz days, to name but a few. Its cultural heritage should certainly not go unappreciated on any visit to Warsaw and any number of entertaining evenings can be had in the national and Jewish theatres, the international philharmonic hall or at one of Warsaw’s grand opera halls.

Tourist Information

  • Frederic Chopin Airport, 1 Zwirki, Wigury Street, Warsaw
  • Central Railway Station (in the Main Hall), 54, Jerozolumskie Street, Warsaw


The Frederick Chopin international airport is located 10 km outside Warsaw and is easily accessible by public transport from the city centre. It is served by most international airlines.