For a city that was almost entirely rebuilt after the war, you might be surprised to see that there are so many unique things to do in Warsaw.
Sure, Warsaw has its old town and beautiful old buildings like many many European capitals, but there are also some unique experiences to be had that only locals know about – so read on!
In this article, you’ll see:
- Things to do in Warsaw to truly get to know Poland’s capital
- Places to visit in Warsaw that only locals know about
- The best time of year to visit Warsaw
Now let’s jump right in and see what to do in Warsaw!
1) Palace of Science and Culture (Pałac Kultury i Nauki/PKiN)
You’ll know this building when you see it. It’s the most striking building in Warsaw’s skyline and makes an incredible impression when you first see it.
‘Gifted’ to Warsaw by Stalin, it’s both loved and hated by locals and Poles alike.
The older generation see it as a sign of Soviet oppression, but many younger generations have come to accept it as theirs – there’s no arguing that Warsaw would be different if it weren’t around.
So what can you do in the Palace of Science and Culture?
- Take in the 360 views from 30 levels up in the viewing terrace
- Check out a play in TeatrStudio
- Take a look at the Museum of Evolution
- Have a drink at Bar Studio
- See a Polish film (with English subtitles) in Kintoteka
- Hang out with the 11 cats that hunt mice around the entrances, peregrine falcons & kestrels that nest in the spire and the bee apiary on the 6th floor
2) Check out a movie in an old theatre
Sure, Warsaw is home to multiple cinema complexes in shopping malls, but you can only really experience the grittiness that is Polish cinema but seeing a film in an old cinema.
If you’re a film buff, be sure to check out:
- Kino Atlantic
- Kino Elektronic
- Kino Muranow
- Kino Luna
As you can probably tell, ‘Kino’ means cinema in Polish!
The world ‘Hala’ translates to ‘hall’ but in Polish means more of a market or a bazaar. And Hala Koszyiki (Kosh-ee-kee) is a modern take on that.
Before the war, Koszyiki was a massive food market for all of Warsaw. Farmers from all Poland would migrate to Koszyiki to sell their goods in the nation’s capital.
During the war, it was severely damaged, but in 2015 was restored – but with a twist.
Hala Koszyiki has been rebuilt, with some of the original materials, and is now home to small eateries and high-class restaurants from all over the world. Indian, Cuban, Mexican, Italian, it’s all here.
With a large, communal seating area in the middle, it’s a great place to go and try meals from all over the world – not to mention the generously stocked bar that’s bang in the middle!
4) Pub Crawl
Warsaw has an insane variety of bars, clubs and drinking establishments. And of course, being in Warsaw, they’re a lot cheaper than cities further west.
But why bother buying individual drinks when you can buy a €12.5/£10 Pub Crawl ticket, and get unlimited drinks and free shots at some of the best bars in Warsaw?
No lining up, no cover charge, your host just takes you straight in to enjoy a few more drinks and mix with the locals! Not to mention the professional photographer that’s there to capture all the fun!
5) Warsaw Museum
Fallen in love with Warsaw already? Then you’ll want to check out the Warsaw Museum.
Located bang in the middle of the Old market square, the Warsaw museum showcases all things Warsaw, both pre and post-war. From Medieval decorations from when the city was first settled, to an entire room dedicated to all things about the Syrenka (or mermaid) of Warsaw, this museum has it all.
6) Warsaw Uprising Museum
Warsaw was the only Nazi-occupied city during WW2 to have an uprising and fight for its freedom.
For 63 days from August 1, 1944, the Warsaw Home Army fought its Nazi occupiers to regain its freedom. The Warsaw Uprising Museum contains hundreds of artefacts and stories from this time.
One simply cannot experience Warsaw without visiting the Uprising Museum.
Nowy Świat, which translates to the new world, is a kilometre long road that connects modern Warsaw to the old town.
Lined with stunning buildings and full of cafes, bars and high-end retail stores, Nowy Świat is the best way to get to and from Warsaw’s Old Town.
8) Plać Zamkowy
Once you get to the end of Nowy Świat, you’ll find yourself standing on what you might not know to be an overpass, with a large column in front of you and a large, castle-looking like building to your right.
You’re in Plać Zamkowy.
The guy on top of the column is King Sigismund III Vasa, former king of Poland who moved the nation’s capital from Krakow to Warsaw in 1596.
As a bit of a local hero, his face can be seen on many beer brands, and when the local football club (Legia Warsaw) win the Polish Championships, fans will climb the column and put a team scarf on him.
The Castle to your right of Sigismund is, in fact, the Royal Castle. It’s here that Polish monarchs sat, and was levelled once by the Swedes in the 17th century and again by the Nazis.
It’s in this building where the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was founded, and Poland implemented the first constitution in Europe.
9) The Old Town
Warsaw’s Old Town is one of the most unique in all of Europe.
It was built in 1962.
Over 90% of Warsaw was destroyed during WW2, so the city was rebuilt from the ground up, and is relatively new compared to many other European Old Towns. That’s not to say it’s not without its charm – it is earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
A little less than 70 years ago, everything in the above picture was just a pile of rubble. Start your Warsaw experience in the Old Town to see how far this amazing city has come, so quickly.
10) Old Town Market Place
If you’re an architecture fan (and even if you’re not) the Old Town Market Place is a beautiful sight to behold. A zany mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture, it shows off how diverse the city was in the 17th and 18th century.
In summer, it’s bustling restaurants are a great place to sit and take in Warsaw. In winter, it’s the best place to get some mulled wine and warm up.
11) Cemetary /Cmentarzy
Warsaw is home to some stunning cemeteries. Cmentarz Powąski is one of the biggest in Poland and is home to famous authors, artists, politicians and religious figures.
Just to the south of it, is Cmentarz Żydowski, the Jewish Cemetary. This cemetery is a place that can simultaneously send chills down your spine but leave you speechless with beauty. A little more overgrown and unkept than it’s northern neighbour, but just as beautiful in its own way.
To the north is Cmentarz Tatarski, the Muslim cemetery. Yes, Polish Muslims are a thing, and some graves here date back over 700 years to when Muslims fought alongside the Poles.
12) Hala Mirowska
Earlier, you read about Hala Koszyiki. Hala Mirowska and Koszyiki both have a lot in common.
Before the war, they were trading hubs where farmers would go and sell their goods to the general public. Hala Koszyiki evolved into an eating gallery with trendy restaurants and Hala Mirowska…well, stayed the same as it has for the last 200 years.
Nowadays, you’ll see Hala Mirowska full of sellers of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dry goods, and just about anything you’d ever need.
If you want to experience Warsaw the way people living in Warsaw do, you simply cannot go past Hala Mirowska.
WARNING: Hala Mirowska is not for the faint of heart. If you’re ok with butchers handling your money with the same hand they handled your raw meat, then you’ll be right at home.
13) Bemowo airport
Are you a bit of an aviator nerd or a thrill-seeker? Take a scenic helicopter ride over Warsaw! Take in the Palace of Science and Culture from above, a sight that not many have seen!
Whether it’s at the beginning of your time here or toward the end, a scenic flight over the entire Warsaw area will give you a great idea about the size of it, but also how diverse the city is.
14) Walk down Powiśle
Powiśle is the area of Warsaw that’s built along the river. And on a nice evening in the summer, nearly half of Warsaw’s population can be found there, sipping some cheeky drinks, enjoying themselves.
Freshly renovated, it’s also a beautiful place to have a casual stroll down. With nearly 4km of recently renovated shorefront, teaming with pubs, restaurants and other places to kick back and relax, Powiśle is a great way to spend an evening on a budget.
And it’s also home to:
15) Warsaw Boat Party
The evenings are long in Warsaw during the summer, and the best way to spend them is on a boat.
With free alcohol.
And a professional photographer.
And then go to 2 of the most popular nightclubs afterwards.
That’s exactly what an evening on Warsaw Boat Party is like.
If the free alcohol isn’t to your liking, there’s no better place to watch the sunset over the Warsaw skyline than the middle of the Wisła river.
16) Pole Mokotowski
Sometimes after spending a whole lot of time walking the concrete jungle, you just need a decent walk in a quality park. And Pole Mokotowskie, while having nothing but wide open space, can be just what you need.
Doubling as a dog park, with many water features, open spaces and even a handful of bars, Pole Mokotowskie is a great place to spend a spring afternoon getting your daily dose of Vitamin D.
17) Coffee Culture
Need a good coffee? Well, you’re in luck. As the younger generation starts to shy away from the garbage that is Starbucks and other franchised coffee stores, more and more one-off ‘hipster’ coffee shops are starting to arise. Call them what you will, good coffee is good coffee.
Some of the best coffee shops to go and spend a morning in?
18) POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
On the grounds of the pre-war Jewish ghetto is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Known for some of the most incredible modern architecture in Poland, the museum carries you through a Millenium of Jewish history in Poland.
No stone is left untouched, as you learn about Poland and its Jewish residents, as it was once the home to Europe’s largest Jewish community.
Not as heavy as a visit to Auschwitz, but the museum also doesn’t shy away from the atrocities of WW2.
Fotoplastikon is a unique experience, but one that’s worth doing. In a tiny room that’s 80% taken up by a giant ‘machine’, you’re taken back in time by songs from yesteryear as you sit down and push your eyes up to a viewfinder that can only be described as ‘old-timey’.
Next, a seemingly endless carousel of vintage 3D photos pop out at you, and you’re truly taken back to a time long ago.
This is a stereoscopic machine, and you’re looking at pictures from all over the world, taken by Polish journalists to bring parts of the world too far away back to Warsaw.
Check out their website for more info.
20) Łazienki park & Palac
Łazienki park is the largest park in Warsaw and absolutely breathtaking.
Nearly 80 hectares of beautiful manicured gardens sprawl out in the middle of Warsaw, where you can see a monument to Chopin, many squirrels and even the resident deer if you’re really lucky!
On the Island in the middle of the lake, you’ll find the unmistakable Łazienki Palac. An unusual style of architecture to find in Poland, the building is a converted bathing pavilion built for a duke in the 17th century.
You can easily loose and entire day, mindlessly wandering around Łazenki park. If you’ve been busy exploring the urban jungles of Europe, Warsaw’s Łazienki Park is a great place to stop, reconnect and feel a bit of nature.
21) VIP night out
With a large expat community, and a party industry that’s geared to cater to tourists, there are many places in Warsaw that you can experience a fancy night out, but at a fraction of the cost.
>>Want to know more? Click here to see our guide on a VIP night out in Warsaw<<
If you want a drink made by bartenders who spend their life perfecting a handful of drinks, rather than being ok at many hundreds, then Warsaw’s your place to be.
South of the city centre is Wilanów Palace, and one of the few buildings steeped in grandeur to come out of WW2 completely unscathed.
Created as a summer getaway for King Jan III Sobieski in the 17th century, it’s a true relic from a bygone era.
Perfectly manicured gardens lined with marble statues and busts, and an exterior fit for a king, complimented by an interior of libraries, viewing galleries and several rooms is incredible ceiling frescoes, Wilanów palace is a little off the beaten track, but well worth the visit.
23) Polish food in the Polish capital
One of the best things about Warsaw is that it’s significantly cheaper to many other European capitals – and eating out is no exception. Traditional food even more so!
Traditional Polish food comes in all shapes and sizes.
- Pierogi – the traditional Polish dumplings with various fillings you’ve no doubt heard about. Check out Radio Cafe.
- Pącki (pon-ch-ki) – a traditional glazed doughnut, again with various fillings. Find a place called ‘Piekarnia’ or ‘Cukiernia’.
- Zapiekanki – an open-faced toasted sandwich with – surprise surprise – various toppings (see a pattern here?) Check out Senzaglutinowo
But if you want to go full Poland, you can’t go past a Bar Mleczny or Milk Bar. This is a small restaurant where you can order a massive meal, usually all traditional Polish dishes, for a tiny tiny price.
The concept comes from communist times where people had to get a lot with the little they had.
Want the traditional Bar Mlecny where grandma throws your order on a shelf and screams at you? Check out Bar Mleczny centrum.
Want a fancy Bar Mleczny? Check out Bibenda
24) The Vegan Warsaw
Poles are known for the meaty, hearty foods, so finding a decent Vegan meal in Warsaw sounds pretty difficult, right?
Oh, how wrong that is.
Vegetarian and Vegan eateries are popping up all over Warsaw, as the younger generation starts to travel the world and bring foreign culture home with them. Pizza, Indian, burgers, sushi, ramen, even the vegan pierogi is easy to come across!
Some of the best Vegan places in Warsaw:
- Mango Vegan
- Tel Aviv Food & Wine
25) National Museum
Warsaw’s National Museum is also the biggest in the country and showcases many many Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Polish pieces. There’s also loads of Polish Medieval art, hundreds of years old that’s been originally produced for Churches and Cathedrals all over Poland (and what’s now it’s neighbours).
If you’d like a more modern taste, there are also early modern pieces from the 19th century such as Rembrandt!
26) Polish Army Museum
It’s hard to miss the Polish Army Museum, as there’s almost 100 military aircraft just sitting around outside in the open, free for you to check out.
Opened in 1920, the museum is home to not just many Soviet aircraft used by the Polish Air Force, but also weapons and artefacts from the MIddle ages, 17th century and modern times.
27) Tomb of the unknown soldier (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza) & Ogród Saski
Warsaw’s Tomb of the unknown soldier is a little unique, in that it’s the remnants of a palace that once stood around it before WW2.
Inside is a solider that died fighting for Poland against Ukraine in 1918. The guard is changed every hour, on the hour, 365 days a year, rain hail or shine and the eternal flame keeps them company.
The gardens around the tomb are some of the most beautiful in Warsaw, especially in winter after a light dusting of snow.
Best time to visit Warsaw
Warsaw is beautiful all year round, no doubt about that. But the best time of year to visit Warsaw for you depends on the kind of Warsaw you want.
For the 6 months from May to September, the weather is usually it’s most warm and mild, with tops anywhere between 17 and 35 degrees (Celcius) and overnight lows sometimes dropping to single digits.
Between October and April, Warsaw’s predominant colour is grey. That being said, some of the attractions that you just learned about truly come to live under a light dusting of snow.
The Old Town, Łazenki Park and the Christmas markets are prime examples of the best things to do in a Warsaw Winter.
Over to you!
Considering that modern Warsaw is newer than a lot of other European capitals, there’s a lot to see and do in Poland’s capital.
Whether it’s getting to know the history of pre-War Warsaw, or discovering the city that it is today, there’s no shortage of things to see and do!
What are some of your favourite things to do in Warsaw? Let us know in the comments!