- For other places with the same name, see Warsaw (disambiguation).
Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa) is both the capital of Poland and, with 1.7 million inhabitants, its largest city. It's on the River Vistula (Polish: Wisła), roughly equidistant (350 km, 217 mi) from the Baltic Sea (Bałtyk) in the north and the Carpathian Mountains (Karpaty) in the south.
Warsaw's history of rapid development after many wars that ravaged and destroyed the city has earned it a reputation as a "phoenix city", able to recreate itself from the ruins and regain its erstwhile glory every time. During the Second World War, it has suffered a fate similar to Rotterdam or Dresden in that it was almost completely razed, although in the case of Warsaw it was a much more tragic story of successive destruction and defeat. Due to the great efforts of its surviving inhabitants and, indeed the entire nation, it was rebuilt from a field of rubble, with its historic core recreated, but much of its heritage was lost. Warsaw has also had one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe, which for the most part perished during the war, making Warsaw an important place of Holocaust remembrance.
Today, Warsaw is a bustling metropolis and one of the European Union's fastest-developing capitals and the Union's ninth most populous urban centre. It boasts a mixture of new and old in its eclectic architectural mix, and is constantly changing. While quite sprawling, it is quite easy to navigate for tourists thanks to a good public transit system, and most important sights are quite close to each other. There is no shortage of accommodation options and a wide choice of restaurants and bars. Warsaw's nightlife is also on a rebound, and a reborn cafe culture has taken over the city. There is a large variety of museums, galleries and other tourist attractions, and there is always something happening throughout the year.
|Central Warsaw (Śródmieście, Wola, Mokotów, Żoliborz, Ochota, Praga Północ, Praga Południe)
The Centrum area, which also comprises the famous Warsaw Old Town. It's made up of six diverse districts and is a mixture of industrial areas and prestigious residential neighborhoods. It will be here that most travelers will spend their time in Warsaw, as most major attractions and hotels are primarily located in Śródmieście, Wola, and Mokotów.
|Northern Warsaw (Bielany, Białołęka)
|Western Warsaw (Bemowo, Włochy, Ursus)
|Eastern Warsaw (Targówek, Rembertów, Wawer, and Wesoła)
|Southern Warsaw (Ursynów, Wilanów)
The southern terminal of the Royal Route, Wilanów is home to the Wilanów Palace. Ursynów is home to the historic Natolin park and nature reserve, which hosts the College of Europe Natolin in the Potocki Palace. The area saw intense activity on the part of the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising.
Before becoming the capital
There are records of human settlements and economic activity in the area of what is now Warsaw from the 9th century onwards, but it wasn't until the 13th century that Warsaw was officially founded by the Dukes of Mazovia. While developing as an administrative and economic centre, it played second fiddle to Płock within Mazovia until the 15th century, and was by no means a match for Poland's erstwhile capital, Kraków. It has, however, gained growing importance due to its economic might and strategically important central location in Poland, cemented when the Polish Sejm (parliament of nobles) relocated there permanently in the 16th century, and it became the site of royal elections.
As capital city of Poland
It was not until 1596, when it became the de facto capital of the country when King Sigismund III Vasa, decided to permanently relocate to what is now the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The city started to develop rapidly beyond the what is now the Old and New Town, as noblemen started moving in and building mansions and palaces around town. In the 17th century, Praga, on the right-hand side of the river Vistula, was incorporated as a separate town (and did not become a part of Warsaw until the 19th century).
While ravaged by wars and natural disasters as many other European cities in this period, Warsaw continued to grow and modernize, with baroque residences, including Wilanów being built in the 17th century, and the Saxon kings initiating first large-scale urban planning projects in the early 1700s. The last king of independent Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski, has further modernized the city following the ideals of Enlightenment in the second half of the 18th century.
At the end of 18th century, the weakened Republic of Poland has been partitioned, through a period of forced diplomacy, military actions and uprisings, and Warsaw first fell into the Prussian rule, losing most of its importance. As the French emperor Napoleon marched eastwards with his army, he reestablished a small Polish state known as the Duchy of Warsaw, after its eponymous capital, but it was short lived and was absorbed by the Russian empire in 1815, after Napoleon's defeat.
Under Russian rule
Warsaw indeed remained a capital city under the Russian rule, as the Kingdom of Poland was reestablished, although with Russian tsars as hereditary kings and not much political independence. Warsaw was then the westernmost of major cities of the Russian empire and thus enjoyed economic growth as a commercial and industrial centre. While repeated uprisings and attempts to regain independence failed, Warsaw was still enriched with the creation of many cultural and educational institutions, many surviving to this day.
Warsaw's growth was curbed by a double line of military forts, protecting the strategically important Russian outpost, which by the second half of the 19th century made Warsaw one of the most dense and overpopulated cities of its time. To aid the failing hygiene, the authorities started constructing the pioneering Warsaw waterworks (led by William Lindley), and first district heating and warm water installations were laid.
At the turn of the century, Warsaw was electrified, gaining its first electric power plant and electric tramways, as well as a telephone network. At the start of the First World War, Warsaw was bustling, modern city of almost 1 million inhabitants, rife with opulent, belle-epoque architecture adapted to its density.
Between the World Wars
As Poland regained independence, Warsaw became the capital city of an independent country again. It not only suffered heavily during the war, but was soon threatened by the advancing Soviet forces, who were only repelled at the borders in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw. While political instability and struggles ensued, Poland enjoyed economic growth, optimism and proper attention to planning and urbanism in that period, and Warsaw benefited from that greatly, especially under its last interwar President, Stefan Starzyński.
Warsaw gained a state-of-the-art airport in Okęcie, a central railway through station connecting all major railway links that previously went through or terminated in the city, and even an experimental TV broadcasting station. Modern and attractive planned residential districts were created outside of the historic forts line, most notably northwards in Żoliborz and Bielany. Warsaw continued to mix the new and old and many modern buildings filled in gaps between or replaced older buildings across the city, providing for the eclectic look Warsaw is known for also today.
The developments of that time, while later destroyed to a large extent in the Second World War, were instrumental to shaping Warsaw in many ways to how it was known today. Most were either rebuilt verbatim or in a similar form and place, while some survived.
Second World War
For most of the Second World War, Warsaw was occupied by Nazi Germany, but did not surrender without major fights that affected the city - over 10% of the buildings were destroyed, while many other and the infrastructure were damaged. The German authorities treated Warsaw as expendable and had grand plans of eventually totally rebuilding it as a planned city, with Germanic and Nazi symbolism replacing all of the Polish heritage. This did not come into fruition in any form, but explained why little heed was paid to preserving the city, which was also periodically bombed by the Soviet forces after 1941.
It was an especially tragic period for the Jewish population of Warsaw, which had been a significant part of the general population over pretty much all of Warsaw's history. The Nazi forces confined Jews to the Warsaw Ghetto, sprawling over much of the district of Wola, and proceeded with their plans to annihilate them. This eventually led to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
In the final period of the War, the dramatic and tragic Warsaw Uprising took place in 1944 in the wake of the German defeat and Soviet march on Warsaw. It eventually led to the destruction of most of the remaining buildings in Warsaw and further staggering loss of life, while not achieving its goal of liberating Warsaw from the German forces before the Soviets would march in. The Red Army then captured the crippled and all but razed city cementing Poland's fate as a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union.
It is important to note that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 are entirely separate historic events.
Post-World War II - rebuilding the city
In 1945, Warsaw stood almost completely destroyed. It is estimated that over 80% of the city was destroyed, including almost the entire city centre and most historic and significant buildings. Of almost 1.4 million inhabitants, half died during the war (including the vast majority of the Jewish population), others were forcibly removed or escaped voluntarily, and only about 10% of the initial population was found inhabiting the ruins of the city.
To rebuild the city was thus an enormous task, but there was no hesitation in the resolve to achieve it. A special committee of architects and urban planners conducted the efforts. Their paradigms shaped the city as it is known today. On the one hand, there was meticulous effort to restore the oldest and most important historic buildings using extant documentation, but also old photos and even paintings. On the other, the communist ideology ran very much against the character of pre-war Warsaw, and practical reasons and urban planning opportunities dictated planning on a larger scale, envisaging an expansive, much lower-density city.
Most architects and historians held much the late 19th century architecture in low regard and thus many of the historic buildings and areas were rebuilt to resemble their shape in the 18th century or earlier, while ideological and practical reasons limited the restoration of ornamentation to less important buildings, and centralized urban planning provided for a much more harmonious look of the rebuilt historic sections of the city than could be witnessed from before the war. The restoration was mostly completed in the 1940s and early 1950s, but it took until the 1974 to rebuild the Royal Castle. After the Royal Castle, not many other buildings were restored - among notable exceptions are the buildings of the northern side of Plac Teatralny, only recreated in late 1990s.
Apart from historic restoration, in the 1950s Warsaw has also gained a fair share of socialist-realistic architecture, which was all about monumentalism and ideologically-themed decoration. Its most prominent example is the controversial Palace of Culture and Science, which grew to become one of Warsaw's symbols. The emphasis, however, was on housing the returning and rapidly growing population, and thus Warsaw also gained many nondescript, gray residential buildings. As population continued to grow and means were scarce in the centrally-planned socialist economy, the authorities turned to prefabricated concerte, creating sprawling Plattenbau estates around Warsaw.
Since the fall of communism in 1989, Warsaw has been developing much more rapidly than Poland as a whole. You wouldn't recognize the city if you saw it ten years ago, and more changes are constantly taking place. Warsaw has long been the easiest place in Poland to find employment, and for this reason many of the Polish inhabitants of the city are first or second generation, originating from all over the country.
The building at Nowy Świat 6/12 served as the headquarters for the Central Committee of the Polish Communist party until 1991 when some creative anti-communists decided to make the Communist Headquarters the home for the Warsaw Stock Exchange and The Banking Finance Center. The Warsaw Stock Exchange has since moved to the building directly behind the communist HQ, but the irony remains.
Even though much of Warsaw seems to imitate western cities, there are many peculiarities to be found here that you will not find in western capitals. Examples include the communist-era bar mleczny (lit. 'milk bar') that remain in operation (essentially cheap cafeterias for no-frills, working-class traditional Polish dining, which have remained incredibly popular in the face of westernization). Europe's largest outdoor marketplace, once located around the old stadium, has disappeared as the new National Stadium has arisen for the Euro 2012 football championships.
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Summers in Warsaw can vary from mild to exhaustingly hot. In most residences and some hotels, there is no air conditioning, which means the days and nights can be hot to the point of interrupting one's sleep. Travelers should bring light, summer clothes for the day, but bring an extra jacket for evenings, which can sometimes get a little chilly.
The winters, on the other hand, are brutally cold. Weather can often force the city to come to a standstill. When it snows, it may take up to an hour's time just to travel a few city blocks with traffic at a standstill and road crews seemingly caught off guard (despite warnings from meteorologists in several days in advance). Public transportation will also be utter chaos with buses and trams running late. On the first day of snow in 2010, it took upwards of three hours to travel from Warsaw's Wola district to the northern tip of Warsaw's Mokotów district; a trip that should take no more than 30–45 minutes. Travelers would best be advised to bring heavy, water-resistant shoes with them when traveling in Poland in late Autumn to early Spring.
The Warsaw Tourist Office (Stołeczne Biuro Turystyki) is the official tourist information agency in Warsaw and can provide visitors with information regarding hotels, attractions, and events. They also have maps for travelers. They operate three locations in Warsaw:
- in the Palace of Culture and Science, close to the Warszawa Centralna train station, with an entrance from Emilii Plater Street
- in the Old Town, on the Rynek Starego Miasta (the market square and NOT the Castle Square)
- at the Chopin Airport
The City of Warsaw itself has a lot of useful information on its website. A popular source of practical tips, contacts, and current event information is the Warsaw Insider, available at every concierge, tourist information centre and larger newsagents. The Warsaw Voice is the city's most popular English-language weekly, and maintains a good calendar of events. Destination Warsaw has some useful information, but you need to be aware that it is run by Warsaw Destination Alliance, whose members are some of the tourist-related businesses in Warsaw, so the website obviously serves their promotional needs. Its main goal is the promotion of Warsaw as a destination abroad.
Warsaw and the Vistula
As is the case with most major cities, Warsaw is situated on a river. The river's name is Vistula (Polish: Wisła) and it crosses the city on a north-south axis, dividing it into two parts. The western part is usually referred to as the left bank (Polish: lewy brzeg adj. lewobrzeżna Warszawa) and the eastern part as the right bank (Polish: prawy brzeg adj. prawobrzeżna Warszawa). Warsaw as such has been founded on the left bank, while the right bank was a separate municipality, called Praga, which was incorporated into Warsaw only in the 19th century. Therefore, many would refer to the right bank as "Praga", even if Praga proper is only two districts of the right bank.
Vistula in Warsaw is a broad, sprawling and unregulated river, which flooded the surrounding areas often in the past and continues to be somewhat of a threat today. Therefore, Warsaw is not really on the river in the sense many cities like London or Paris are, but rather near to the river, as Vienna is. The historic parts of left-bank Warsaw are a certain distance apart from the river, on an elevation called Warsaw escarpment. The part of left-bank Warsaw closer to the river (and less elevated with regard to it) called Powiśle was, until recently, of rather secondary importance and stature. The right bank is less elevated and most of the development there is separated from the river by a wide belt of shrubbery and natural beaches, allowing for flooding in periods of high tide. It is therefore visually and physically removed from the left bank.
There is a total of nine bridges crossing the Vistula within the boundaries of Warsaw. They are, starting from south:
- Średnicowy (railway bridge only)
Warsaw's left bank, or western part of the city is the dominant part, and the part deemed the city centre lies therein.
Historically, the right bank was the first one to become populated, during the 9th or 10th century. However, is its Warsaw's left bank or the western part of the city, is the dominant one, and the present city's central district, called Śródmieście lies on the left bank. The Old Town is fully contained within the borders of the city center.
The central point of the city is located at the intersection of Al. Jerozolimskie and ul. Marszałkowska, near the entrance to the Metro Centrum subway station. The main railway station, Warszawa Centralna, is also close by. It is good to know that the Palace of Culture is a landmark visible from almost any location in Warsaw. Should you ever get lost in the city, just walk toward the Palace of Culture and Science.
Traditionally, streets parallel with Vistula are numbered along the river current, i.e. the buildings with the lowest numbers are the southernmost. Streets roughly perpendicular to the Vistula are numbered from the river upwards, i.e. the lowest numbers are the closest to the river, while streets roughly parallel with Vistula. One side of the street always has even numbers, while the other has odd ones (so if you are looking for number 8 and you see number 7, look at the opposite side of the street). There are several exceptions to those rules, e.g. the Puławska street in southern Warsaw has building numbers starting from the north, while some housing estates have sprawling areas with buildings sharing the same street name, with building numbers assigned in various ways.
City Information System - MSI
The City Information System (MSI - Miejski System Informacji) can be of further aid to visitors to Warsaw. The MSI divides every district into several neighbourhoods (with informative purposes, no administrative or other role), with the neighbourhoods indicated in red on signage throughout the city. You can find the name of the MSI neighbourhood you are in on the red stripes of the building number and street signs. They are also indicated in red on directional signage, showing the way to get to a given neighbourhood. A rundown of the MSI neighbourhoods and helpful schematic maps can be found here:  (the website is in Polish, but the schematics are of universal informative value, just click on the district for the rundown of the areas therein)
The districts as such are indicated on signposts with white background, while streets and other POIs with blue background, except for the Old Town and Royal Road areas, where the background is brown and a different font is used to indicate their historic character. The building number signs also often feature a small arrow pointing to the direction the building numbers in a street ascend. Street signs at intersection indicate the building numbers to be found within the block it is in (i.e. until the next intersection). On some signposts you can also find small signs showing the relation of the street they're on to the Vistula.
Other elements that can be of interest to visitors are pylons with neighbourhood maps and transparent boards on historic and significant buildings, which explain briefly their history and significance. Similar boards under street signs explain the origin of the name of the street - in case of streets named after people, they contain a short bio and usually a small portrait. An increasing number of those boards contain descriptions in both Polish and English, while others are in Polish only.
Direction table at a road in Ochota
Warsaw (all airports code: WRW) has two airports: Chopin Airport (IATA: WAW) (also known as 'Okęcie') for major airlines and Modlin Airport (IATA: WMI), opened in July 2012 to handle the low-fare traffic and currently only used by Ryanair. The Chopin Airport is within the city limits, some 8 km south of the city centre, while Modlin is in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, almost 40 km north of Warsaw city centre.
Warsaw Frédéric Chopin Airport
The Chopin Airport (IATA: WAW) is located in the area of Okęcie in Włochy, some 10 km . For many years the airport used to be called just Okęcie, but this reportedly caused confusion and it was renamed. When asking for directions or talking to a taxi driver, always ask for the airport (lotnisko in Polish) to avoid confusion.
The Warsaw Chopin Airport is by far the largest airport in Poland by passenger volumes and number of flights operated or connections. It is an intercontinental airport, with the flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines offering direct flights to New York City, Chicago, Toronto and Beijing aboard their all-new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The Chopin airport is also served by almost every major European airline, providing a dense network of connections across the region.
While the low-cost Modlin Airport remained closed, the low-fare flights with Ryanair and Wizzair were also handled there. Ryanair chose to move back to Modlin starting September 30, 2013, as the only airline to operate from that airport. Wizzair and all other carriers, including other low-fare airlines and holiday charter operators, will continue to use the Chopin Airport.
All passenger operations at the Chopin Airport have now been consolidated in one building, called Terminal A, which replaced the previous Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 designations. Please note that Terminal A is now undergoing a major expansion, including a new Renaissance hotel being built on-site, and therefore you can encounter minor disruptions to traffic or be forced to make a detour when getting to or out of the terminal.
To get from the airport to other areas in the city, you have two public transportation options - local trains and buses, as well as taking the taxi.
To/from Chopin Airport by train
The airport train station, Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina, opened on 1 June 2012. Trains depart every 10–12 minutes during peak times and every 15 minutes otherwise. Both the Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM; Warsaw's S-Bahn-like suburban railway system) and Koleje Mazowieckie (Mazovian Railways or KML; the provincial local train operator) operate trains to and from the airport.
The SKM offers the following connections from Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina:
- Line S2 through Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Śródmieście (walking distance to Warszawa Centralna), Warszawa Stadion and Warszawa Wschodnia to Sulejówek Miłosna
- Line S3S through Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Śródmieście (walking distance to Warszawa Centralna), Warszawa Stadion and Warszawa Wschodnia to Legionowo Piaski
- Line S3C through Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia to Legionowo Piaski. This is an "express" train which skips the local train stations between Warszawa Zachodnia and Warszawa Wschodnia, including Warszawa Stadion.
Koleje Mazowieckie offers connections ending at Warszawa Wschodnia, calling at Warszawa Zachodnia and Warszawa Centralna. These trains are less frequent than SKM services.
Please note that due to the construction works at Terminal A, the entrance to the train station is not immediately accessible from the terminal. Follow the signage on the airport grounds to find it should you choose to use the train.
To/from Chopin Airport by bus
Four bus lines operate to and from the airport from 4:40AM to 11PM. At all other times, night bus N32 runs between the city center and the airport.
- Bus 148 operates between the airport and Rondo Wiatraczna in Praga Południe, on the eastern side of Warsaw. This bus passes by Metro Imielin.
- Bus 175 operates between the airport and Plac Piłsudskiego near the Old Town, crossing through the city center and stopping at the Warszawa Centralna railway station and Metro Centrum, including Nowy Świat and the University of Warsaw. The entire trip takes 30–45 minutes, depending on traffic, and buses depart every ten minutes. Caution against pickpockets is advised.
- Bus 188 operates between the airport and Gocławek Wschodni in Praga Południe, passing through to the south of the city center, stopping in al. at the Politechnika metro station.
- Bus 331 operates during peak hours only between the airport and the Wilanowska metro station in Mokotów, where many intercity buses stop.
To/from Chopin Airport by taxi
Avoid the taxi drivers soliciting customers inside the terminal, as they severely overcharge. Instead, use one of the companies recommended by the airport authorities (Merc Taxi, MPT Radio Taxi, Ele, or Sawa Taxi). They are slightly above market average in terms of prices and stop near the exit from terminal. You can also order a taxi from another corporation by phone (there is no surcharge). A typical fare to a hotel near Warszawa Centralna station is around 40 zł at night, less in the daytime.
In any case, the most you should pay is 3.00 zł (up to 4.50 zł on Sundays), but typically no more than 2.40 zł per km in the daytime plus an initial fee of no more than 8 zł. You are entitled to a receipt upon request. The Polish word for receipt is rachunek. There is no obligation to tip the taxi drivers, but most won't refuse if you offer. See the Taxis section for a more in-depth explanation of taxi fares.
Warsaw Modlin International Airport
The Modlin Airport (IATA: WMI) was opened in June 2012, but has been closed for runway repairs in December 2012 and reopened in July 2013, with Ryanair the only carrier that decided to return to Modlin on September 30, 2013 (all Ryanair flights from that date will be operated to and from Modlin Airport, regardless of how they were sold).
Modlin Airport is located in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, some 40 km north from Warsaw, and is neither as close nor as conveniently accessible as the Chopin Airport. When choosing your flight, make sure you check which airport will it be operated to/from and factor in the increased time and cost of transportation between Warsaw and Modlin should you choose to use this airport.
Getting to/from Modlin Airport (WMI)
Koleje Mazowieckie operates connections between Modlin and Warszawa Centralna. From the airport terminal you need to take shuttle bus to the railway station and get on a train to Warsaw. A combined ticket for bus and train costs 15 PLN. The combined travel time may be up to 1.5 hours between airport and city centre, including the waiting time at the airport and the railway station.
Modlinbus resumed direct bus transfers between Warsaw and Modlin Airport on September 30, 2013, with stops at Metro Młociny and Metro Centrum and a schedule matching the Ryanair flights. The bus takes 60 minutes to get from Modlin to Metro Centrum or back, and the regular fare is 33 PLN when you purchase the ticket on the bus, and can be much lower when you purchase online in advance.
Warsaw has three stations for long-distance trains:
- Dworzec Centralny or Warszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) ul. Emilii Plater
- Dworzec Wschodni or Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw East) between ul. Kijowska and ul. Lubelska (on the right bank)
- Dworzec Zachodni or Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) Al. Jerozolimskie near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich
Unless you really know what you're doing, the best option is Dworzec Centralny (Warszawa Centralna) station, as it has best connections with all the places in the city. All long-distance trains pass through this station and all stop there. It is the only long-distance station underground. It isn't the last station on the route!
Trains running eastwards start at Warszawa Zachodnia, stop at Warszawa Centralna and then at Warszawa Wschodnia, while trains heading westwards make the same trip in the opposite direction (except that they don't always stop at Warszawa Zachodnia). The same is true for arriving trains. Tourists often find it confusing that the main train station (Warszawa Centralna) is not the last station on the route.
The Berlin-Warszawa Express runs from Berlin to Warsaw daily and is quite inexpensive if booked in advance. Students get discounts as well. It's a fairly comfortable six hour trip. Schedule are available on Intercity's website and tickets can be booked through Polrail Service or on the Deutsche Bahn website.
There're also trains to Russia - Moscow, Saint Petersburg and even direct cars to Saratov or Irkutsk, Belarus - Minsk, Ukraine - Kiev and direct cars to Simferopol or even Astana in Kazakhstan. There are many direct connections to central and western European cities too.
In domestic trains, reservation is obligatory only on EC, EIC or Ex trains. In the most popular TLK (cheap, sometimes only a little slower than expensive EIC) seat reservation is possible (but not obligatory!) only in 1st class.
There are also some IR (InterRegio) trains, operated by Przewozy Regionalne. These are the cheap, but often not very comfortable and slow. Only IR Warsaw-Szczecin-Warsaw (called "Mewa") and Warsaw-Rzeszów-Warsaw (called "WOŚP") are equipped with air-conditioning, CCTV, power sockets for every seat and free wi-fi connection, and the price is low. Seat reservation is possible, but only when purchasing Internet ticket on website .
If you don't have a reservation, you may get a better seat by boarding the train at its point of origination. During peak season, you may not be able to get a seat at all.
There is no central station for suburban trains, but the most important one is Warszawa Śródmieście (close to Warszawa Centralna and Metro Centrum). Some destinations you can reach from there are Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Łowicz, Milanówek, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Otwock, Piława, Pruszków, Radom, Siedlce, Skierniewice, Sochaczew, Sulejówek, Terespol, Tłuszcz, Wołomin, Żyrardów.
Warsaw Commuter Railway
WKD (Polish: Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa) is separate train service that runs from a distinct platform at Warszawa Śródmieście WKD to Grodzisk Mazowiecki, a city some 50 km west of Warsaw through Pruszków, Milanówek, and Podkowa Leśna.
Regional and long-distance bus companies in Poland are traditionally called PKS, but most are completely unrelated. In Warsaw, the local PKS is PKS Polonus but PKSes from various other cities also operate. Most PKS buses arrive and depart from either of two major terminals:
- Dworzec PKS Warszawa Zachodnia, Al. Jerozolimskie (near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich). The bigger of the two, next to the railway station by the same name. Most buses arrive here. International buses like Eurolines, Ecolines, Simple Express have their main stop here.
The easiest way to get to the centre is a short train ride from the railway platforms. If you prefer to use the city buses, walk to the other side of Al. Jerozolimskie and take one of those central-bound buses: 517, E-5 (peak hours only), 127 , or 130. During the night, the N35 and N85 buses run to Dw. Centralny every 30 minutes beginning at 23:52.
- Dworzec Autobusowy Metro Wilanowska. This station in the south of Warsaw is co-located with a city bus terminus and the Metro Wilanowska metro station. Several bus companies serving towns located south of Warsaw stop here. Polski Bus buses from biggest Polish cities, as well as Berlin, Vienna, Bratislava and Prague stop here.
Unlike most European capitals, Warsaw has no real bypass, so all transit traffic is routed through the city streets. The following streets, which constitute a circle with the radius of some 10 km (six mi) from the city centre, can be considered an ersatz ringroad: Trasa Toruńska-Trasa Armii Krajowej-al. Prymasa Tysiąclecia-Al. Jerozolimskie-ul. Łopuszańska-ul. Hynka-ul. Sasanki-ul. Marynarska-ul. Rzymowskiego-ul. Dolinka Służewiecka-ul. Sikorskiego-al. Witosa-Trasa Siekierkowska-ul. Marsa-ul. Żołnierska.
Four European "E-roads" lead to Warsaw: E30 (A2), E77 (7), E67 under the unofficial name of Via Baltica, (A8), and E372 (17). The E-numbers are usually displayed on signs but it is best to know the national road numbers too, which are the numbers in parentheses.
What follows is a list of streets you will find yourself on when approaching the city from different directions:
- North-West: Wyb. Gdyńskie or "Wisłostrada" in Bielany and then in Żoliborz (along the left bank): 7- E77 Gdańsk (DK) (RU) (S)
- North-East: ul. Radzymińska in Targówek and then al. Solidarności in Praga Północ 8- E67 Białystok (BY) (LT)
- South-West: al. Krakowska in Włochy and then ul. Grójecka in Ochota 7 - E77-Kraków (SK) 8 - E67 Katowice (CZ)
The cities listed above are the ones displayed on signs in the city. The abbreviations in (parentheses) show you which neighboring countries can be reached with a road. If you are coming to the city, follow the blue-on-white Centrum signs. One exception is when you are coming from the north-east: follow the Praga sign unless you are driving a lorry.
Driving distances to other cities:
In Poland - Białystok 190 km (118 mi); Gdańsk 390 km (242 mi); Kielce 180 km (112 mi); Kraków 290 km (180 mi); Olsztyn 210 km (130 mi); Poznań 310 km (193 mi); Siedlce 100 km (62 mi); Toruń 210 km (130 mi)
Car hire. Most international car rental companies (including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty) are present in Warsaw, there are also many local companies. The usual pick-up / return places are the airport, the Warszawa Centralna railway station or major hotels in the city centre, most companies offer to arrange for pick-up and return at other locations at a fee. The regular caveats and requirements as in other European Union countries apply.
It is a legal requirement for you to carry your driving license, insurance documents and the vehicle registration documents at all times when driving the car. If the Police stop you without any of them, they are likely to impose a fine.
The public transport system in Warsaw is generally well-developed, with some 200 bus routes and 30 tram lines. The route descriptions on the tram stops are easy to follow (although bus stop notices are more complex) but it can be painfully slow, however, to travel between destinations far from the city center. As far as rapid transit is concerned, Warsaw has a singular underground Metro line going from south to north on the left bank, and a regional urban rail service (Polish: Szybka Kolej Miejska or SKM).
All of the abovementioned means of public transit share a single fare and ticketing system, operated by ZTM, a unit within the City of Warsaw responsible for the organization of all public transit.
Warsaw's subway system, called Metro, opened in 1995 and is one of the newest underground railway systems in Europe. Operated by Metro Warszawskie sp. z o.o. it runs daily from early morning until midnight at 3-10 minute intervals. On Friday and Saturday, Metro runs until 3AM. Trains and stations are clean and neat. The system currently consists of only one line, which was designed to carry commuters from the densely populated new districts at the northern and southern outskirts into the city center. As a result, the subway does not go to many tourist destinations, however several stations will take you in a general vicinity of some attractions. A second route is under construction, which will link the center with the right bank of the river Vistula (i.e. Praga) with a segment containing 7 stations now expected to be completed in 2013 at the earliest.
Szybka Kolej Miejska
Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM) runs on the railway tracks shared with other regional and long-distance trains. SKM trains can be distinguished by their white and ecru livery. SKM reaches many suburban locations outside of the boundaries of Warsaw, as well as the Chopin Airport. SKM stations are quite far from each other, so the trains are best used to traverse longer distances or travel to remote locations within the Warsaw metropolis.
As of 2013, there are four SKM lines, all stopping at the Warszawa Śródmieście station in the city centre or the Warszawa Centralna, which is connected to the former by an underground passageway. Except for S9, all of the lines share the same stretch route through central Warsaw between Warszawa Zachodnia and Warszawa Wschodnia, connecting the Śródmieście district to Wola, Ochota and Praga, as well as stopping at Warszawa Stadion station, which serves Stadion Narodowy.
- Line S1 runs between Pruszków and Otwock, through Piastów, Ursus, Włochy, Włochy
- Line S2 runs between the Chopin Airport and Sulejówek, through Rembertów and Wesoła.
- Line S3 runs between the Chopin Airport and Legionowo along the same central rail stretch as most other lines, stopping at Warszawa Centralna instead of Warszawa Śródmieście, as well as at Warszawa Stadion and in Białołęka
- Line S9 runs between Wieliszew and Legionowo through Białołęka, Praga, Żoliborz and Wola to Warszawa Zachodnia. It is the only SKM line that will take you to the Warsaw ZOO, but do note that this line does not stop at any station within the core city centre
Bus route numbers consist of three digits. Only the first digit has any meaning, the latter being merely ordinal. Here's the key to understanding Warsaw bus route numbers:
Normal Expedited Suburban All-Day Service 1xx 5xx 7xx Certain Hours Only (Usually Peak) 3xx 4xx 8xx
Other than that:
- Nxx are night routes.
- 2xx are local routes.
- 9xx are special routes, which operate only a few days in a year.
- E-x are express routes, which link the farthest districts to the city centre, call at very few stops and operate during peak hours only.
- Z-x are replacement routes for trams or metro should any line be disabled by maintenance, accident or some other special conditions
Most bus lines operate from around 5.00 to 23.00 (but do make sure to check the schedule for your particular connection), outside of those hours you need to resort to night buses (see below). The running intervals can be anything from as little as 5 minutes (major routes during peak hours) to nearly 2 hours (certain suburban routes). Usually, you will wait 20 minutes at most.
There are a few routes that are of certain interest to tourists:
- 148, 175 and 188 operate to and from the airport.
- 180, the Warsaw Sightseeing Route between the Powązki Cemetery and Wilanów.
A map of the tourist routes is available here: .
Requesting a stop - certain bus stops are request-only (Polish: na żądanie):
- If you want to get off, press the stop (red) button. In certain older buses, the button is located above the door (and may not be red).
- If you want to get on a bus, wave your hand when you see the bus approaching to indicate your intention to the driver
The doors will not open automatically in air-conditioned buses and trams, and in all of them in the winter. To open it, locate the button labelled drzwi (blue) and press it. Then you have 15 seconds until the door closes back.
Note that not all bus stops that have Centrum in their name are in the city center. For example, there is a bus route 525 that goes from Centrum (the actual city center) through Centrum Optyki in Praga Południe to Centrum Zdrowia Dziecka in Wawer. This is always clear from the route map so please read it carefully.
In the night when regular buses, as well as trams, the metro and SKM do not run, a system of night bus lines will take you basically to every part of city. Most buses start and finish at the back of Central Railway Station (Dworzec Centralny). All buses operate at 30-minute intervals and depart from their central stop at Dw. Centralny 15 and 45 minutes after the hour, which facilitates changing. For a map of all the night bus lines visit . Do note that lines operate from different stops within the Dworzec Centralny area - consult the schematic at the bottom of the map to make sure you are waiting at the right stop.
All night bus stops (except for Dw. Centralny and Centrum) are request stops. Signal well in advance to give the bus drivers time to slow down and pull up at the stop.
Trams in Warsaw have the obvious appeal to tourists in that it is easier to predict where they are going - they usually go straight ahead and only rarely turn, as there are not many tramway junctions in Warsaw. The trams will also have the speed advantage over buses in the city centre during rush hours.
Tram lines have single- and double-digit numbers. Trams with numbers above 40 operate during peak hours only. A map of tram routes is available to assist you in planning your journey: . The tram services can end as early as at 10PM, but most routes are served until midnight.
Between June and August, a special tourist line T is operated using historic cars from pl. Narutowicza .
Public transportation tickets are issued and controlled by the single Public Transport Authority of Warsaw (Polish: Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego or ZTM)  and are valid for all city buses, trams, the metro and SKM. Some tickets are also valid in the suburban trains (Koleje Mazowieckie' and WKD).
There are only two ticket zones in Warsaw - Zone 1, which covers the entirety of the City of Warsaw within its city limits (including the Warsaw Chopin Airport), and Zone 2, which covers the surrounding municipalities covered by ZTM's common ticketing scheme. It is safe to say that most tourists will never wander outside of Zone 1, unless they have a specific interest in one of the municipalities neighbouring Warsaw. As almost all ticket types exist in two variants - for Zone 1 and for Zones 1+2 - it is worthwhile to remember you only need Zone 1 tickets.
Ticket types and pricing
Prices are for 1st Jan 2013 - 31st Dec 2013. The next pricing change is scheduled for 1st January 2014. Prices will rise a bit, but the structure will probably remain the same.
There are many different ticket options and quirks in Warsaw, but do not get overwhelmed - most of them will not be of interest to a casual tourist. The regular ticket tariff is actually quite simple, with a selection of tickets available:
- Short-term time-limit tickets allow you to travel with unlimited transfers for a limited time. There are three types of those tickets:
- 20-minute - PLN 3.40
- 40-minute - PLN 4.60
- 60-minute - PLN 6.40
- Single-fare tickets allow you to travel on one vehicle for as long as you like, but not more than 120 minutes. They are good if you are unsure of how long your journey will take, and are also the type of ticket you can always buy on board of a vehicle. The cost is PLN 4.40. A subtype called "single vehicle-and-fare ticket" is
- Single day (24h) and three-day tickets, confusingly also called "short term tickets" or '"travelcards" by ZTM, even though they come in the same form and size as other tickets.
- The 24h ticket costs PLN 15.00 and is, quite obviously, valid for 24 hours since its first validation (and not from the moment of sale, so you can purchase one in advance)
- The 3-day tickets costs PLN 30.00, and less obviously, it is only valid until midnight of the third day since its validation. So it is not a 72-hour ticket, if validated late in the night it may turn out to be a little more than 48-hour ticket.
Note that the tickets and prices above are for travel within Warsaw (zone 1). For suburban travel outside Warsaw, a more expensive ticket covering zones 1 & 2 is required, and there is an equivalent for every ticket type listed above. This does not concern the short-term time-limit tickets (20, 40 and 60-minute), which always allow for travel within zone 2 as well.
There are reduced-fare tickets for every ticket type, at 50% of the fare price. There is a long list of those entitled to travel on reduced-fare tickets available at the ZTM website (), but for the most part it does not concern foreign tourists, except for children under the age of 7 and students under the age of 26 in possession of an International Student Identity Card (ISIC).
Where to buy?
Tickets can be purchased in automated ticket machines that are abundant across the city, especially at major transit hubs. They are either red and gray or blue and yellow, and rather conspicuous, even if they can be mistaken for an ATM or vice-versa. There are such machines at every metro station and at railway stations within the city centre, as well as at some of the more busy bus stops (e.g. at the Warsaw Chopin Airport). The ticket machines have a multi-lingual menu and are pretty easy to operate if you know what ticket type you want to buy. They accept credit and debit cards, as well as Polish zloty coins and bank notes. Do note some machines can be quite slow, so take your time and be patient for the machine to respond to your query.
ZTM has a network of service points where you can also purchase tickets. Those are the only places where you can have your personal travelcard made, which you would need if you intend to use a 30- or 90-day ticket.
Many kiosks, shops and post offices also have tickets on sale - it is indicated by a sticker saying Sprzedaż biletów ZTM. Do note, however, that an increasing number of shops and kiosks surrounding the major transit hubs do NOT sell tickets if there are ticket machines nearby.
In some buses and trams, there are ticket machines which can sell you tickets for the ride on that particular vehicle. They are different from other ticket types in that they have a printed QR code, and that they do not require validation. There are standard ticket machines in SKM trains as well. In case of ticket machine failure, you can purchase your ticket from the train attendant on board the train.
In case there is no ticket machine in the vehicle, or it is inoperable, the single-ride ticket can also be bought on board from the driver. You are advised to have the correct change ready. There is no extra charge for buying tickets from drivers, though they can refuse to sell you a ticket if they are over 3 minutes late. Do note that bus and tram drivers may not speak English at all, so tourists are better advised not to exercise this option.
Ticket validation and inspection
Immediately validate your ticket after boarding the bus or tram (in a yellow validator). If one validator is out of order, look for another. A steady yellow light means that only the plastic card reader is working. If all the validators in a bus glow red - they may be locked, likely because an inspection is underway (and it is too late for you) or driver forgot to turn them on (and you need to remind him or her). If you buy a ticket from a driver, you still have to activate it. If you buy vehicle-and-fare ticket (with the QR code) in special ticket machine inside a bus or tram, you don't need to validate it.
When entering the metro, you will need to validate or present your ticket to open the gate. There are other ways to access the platform for people with special needs (wheelchairs, strollers, large luggage etc.), such as elevators and open gates, so if you are intending on using those, make sure you find a yellow ticket validator before you descend to the platform - they should be next to elevators. Exit gates open without a ticket. Possession of a valid ticket is compulsory for everybody at the metro platform regardless of whether they intend to ride a train or not, even if just using it as an underground passage or accompanying someone.
Timed tickets only need to be activated once, on your first journey. In case of carton tickets, the ticket validator will print the time limit until which the ticket is valid.
Tickets are not checked by the drivers. They may be randomly inspected in a station or in a bus/tram by plain-clothes inspectors with portable ticket/card readers, so it is up to you to have a valid (activated) ticket. The ticket inspectors in Warsaw are paid a commission on the number of fare-dodgers they catch, so they are rarely lenient and generally rather harsh to deal with. Being caught without a valid ticket might be one of the least pleasant experiences possible in Warsaw, so do your best to avoid it.
There is a paid-parking zone in the center of the city. This applies Mon-Fri 8AM-6PM. Parking costs 3.00 zł for the first hour. Subsequent hours cost more although there is no hour limit. 0.60 zł is the minimum payment. You can pay with coins (10 groszy upwards and you will be given the exact time you have paid for after you have paid the minimum charge) or with the Warsaw City Card (not the tourist card).
The maximum base fare (taryfa 1) is 3.00 zł/km and applies to journeys within the city (zone 1) on weekdays. The cheapest companies charge between 1.40 zł/km and 2.00 zł/km. Taxi drivers can charge 150% of the base fare (taryfa 2) at night or on weekends and public holidays, and 200% of the base fare (taryfa 3) for journeys into the suburbs. Watch out for blue rectangular signs saying taxi 2 strefa (Taxi Zone 2), they can charge 300% of the base fare (taryfa 4) at night and in the suburbs or on weekends and public holidays).
In addition, they can also charge you 8 zł initial fee (closing the door), 40.00 zł an hour for waiting for you if you you are not in the first zone, and for getting back to the boundary of the first zone if you left in zone 2. There are no surcharges for additional passengers (normally up to 4 should fit), or for luggage.
They cannot charge you for anything else. There is no obligation or custom of tipping the drivers. The driver is required to give you a receipt on request. The full route must be written on the receipt. If the route was suboptimal, the fare can then be challenged. Call the City Guard (Polish: Straż Miejska) at 986 (+48 22 986 from a mobile phone) should there be any problems.
The aforementioned prices apply only to officially registered taxis. Others (non-taxi carriers) may charge you whatever they feel like, so they are best avoided.
A legal taxi will have its number displayed on the front door under the window (black digits on white), on a TAXI sign (not TAX1 or TAKI), on a sticker with the base fare displayed on the passenger (rear) door window, and on the driver's ID card visible inside the cab.
Warsaw isn't an especially bike-friendly city, with a fragmented bike path network that does not cover many of the important streets. You may find yourself forced to ride on the pavement or the street itself at some points, neither of which is really comfortable or advisable - or indeed, can be deemed illegal.
That said, Warsaw started warming up to bicycles, and even has a bike-sharing scheme similar to other cities around the world, called Veturilo. You need a credit card and a mobile phone to pre-register at the website, and to pay 10 PLN initial fee, which is credited to your account. To rent a bike, you need to type in your code and the code of the bike you want to rent at the station, and there you go. The first twenty minutes are free, the first hour is 1 PLN and the fees increase every hour, because Veturilo bikes are meant for very short trips. Whenever you completed your trip, just lock your bike in the nearest station and check yourself out. There are maps of nearest points and the surroundings provided at every Veturilo station.
Most of the major sightseeing attractions are concentrated in Śródmieście, with some more in surrounding districts, the exception park and palace in Wilanów. That said, every district has something to offer if you have the time and want to research more, so do refer to district articles for details.
That said, most tourists will probably:
- Visit the Old and New Town, the (recreated) oldest part of the city of Warsaw with the Royal Castle
- From there, stroll down Krakowskie Przedmieście and Nowy Świat streets (the '"'Royal Road")
- See "'Łazienki Park with the Chopin Monument (and attend one of the free open-air concerts in the summertime)
- Take the elevator to the top of Palace of Culture and Science for a panoramic view of the city, or at least take a photo of this modern-day symbol of Warsaw
- The Royal Road (Trakt Królewski) was originally a track linking the Royal Castle to the Royal Palace in Wilanów (Pałac Królewski w Wilanowie), some 10 km farther. There are many points of interest along the route, and there's a Poster Museum (Muzeum Plakatu) in Wilanów as well.
Go on a Tour of Warsaw - the Old Town and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Concerts and performances
Warsaw is home to several professional musical and play companies. Being the capital city means the Polish National Opera and the Warsaw Philharmonic (also, National Philharmonic) call Warsaw home. There are a number of other companies, including play companies and theaters that will likely be of interest to travellers.
- The Cross-Culture Warsaw Festival (Festiwal Skrzyżowanie Kultur). World music festival. Concerts and music workshops, documentary screenings, exhibitions.
- Jewish Culture Festival - The Singer's Warsaw (Festiwal Kultury Żydowskiej - Warszawa Singera), e-mail: email@example.com. August.
- Warsaw Film Festival (Warszawski Festiwal Filmowy). October.
- Planete+ Doc Film Festival. Documentary films. May.
- Burn Selector Festival. Electronic & Alternative Music Festival. September. 250 zł for two-day pass.
- Orange Warsaw Festival. Big pop music festival on the national stadium. May. 300 - 1000 zł for two-day pass.
- Warsaw Summer Jazz Days. July.
- Warsaw Autumn (Warszawska Jesień). International Festival of Contemporary Music. September.
- Long Night of Museums (Noc Muzeów). A great opportunity to wander around with your date or friends and grab an ice cream cone from one of the many cafes that stay open late. Most museums and galleries will stay open past midnight. Noc Muzeów usually occurs around mid-May. Free.
Despite Poland's failure to score a major success in many years, football (soccer) remain the "national sport" in the country, and Warsaw as well. Warsaw has two major football stadiums - the Stadion Narodowy (National Stadium) built for the European Football Championship in 2012 on the right bank, and the Pepsi Arena, which is the home field of Warsaw's Legia Warszawa football team. Football teams based in Warsaw include:
- Legia Warszawa. Ul. Łazienkowska 3, football team from Warsaw.
- Polonia Warszawa. Ul. Konwiktorska 6, football team from Warsaw.
- Warsaw Eagles. An American football team in Warsaw.
Despite all the emphasis on football, there are many different sport venues, teams and events in Warsaw. Please refer to district articles for more information on the venues and their accessibility.
- University of Warsaw (Uniwersytet Warszawski), ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, ☎ (+48) 22 552 00 00. The University of Warsaw is Poland's largest university and offers a large variety of courses and programs to choose from. University of Warsaw currently has some 50,000 students enrolled.
- Warsaw University of Technology (Politechnika Warszawska), Pl. Politechniki 1, ☎ (+48) 22 234 72 11. The biggest Polish technical university.
- Warsaw School of Economics (Szkoła Główna Handlowa), Al. Niepodległości 162, ☎ (+48) 22 564 60 00, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Poland's largest economics school.
- Szkoła Główna Gospodarstwa Wiejskiego. Originally an agricultural school, this is now a rapidly expanding university.
- Collegium Civitas, Plac Kultury i Nauki, 12th floor, Plac Defilad 1, ☎ (+48) 22 656 71 87. This is a private school located inside the Palace of Culture of Science. Majors include Sociology, Political Science, American Studies, International Relations, and Human Rights and Genocide Studies. For those interested, some programs are conducted in English.
- Warszawski Uniwersytet Medyczny (Medical University of Warsaw). A medical college.
- The Academy of Arts (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych).
- Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego, ul. Dewajtis 5, ☎ (+48) 22 561 88 00, e-mail: email@example.com. This is a well-known Catholic university.
- Leon Kozminski Academy, ul. Jagiellońska 59 (Located in the Praga Połnoc district), ☎ (+48) 22 519 21 00, fax: (+48) 22 814 11 56, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a private school specializing in law and business management majors.
- Institute of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 32, ☎ (+48) 22 5521530. Part of the Warsaw University. 1200 zł for a standard course or 1800 zł for an intensive one.
- Edu & More Polish Language School for Foreigners, ul. Marszałkowska 87/81, ☎ (+48) 22 622 14 41. 599 zł for a group course. It's also e-learning platform for learning Polish online.
Home to many international companies, Warsaw has an excellent job market for potential expats. Of course there are several immigration hurdles, but landing a job should not be overly difficult if you have the right skill sets.
If you're a backpacker who is not an EU citizen and looking for short-term employment this may be somewhat more difficult, as you are legally required to have a work permit. You could possibly find short-term work in the hospitality industry, or possibly as a tutor or an ESL teacher.
If you'd like to work in Warsaw, or Poland for that matter, but don't want to go through the hassle of finding a job opportunity, there are some employment recruiting agencies you can use in your search for a job. Just a few are:
- Adecco Poland, Al. Jerozolimskie 123A, ☎ (+48) 22 529 76 40.
- Randstad, Al. Jerozolimskie 56c, ☎ (+48) 22 462 25 00.
Touts Handing Out Flyers
Warsaw has many touts, who mainly congregate at the subway station "Centrum", near the southeastern corner of the Palace of Culture and Science. They pass out fliers and brochures for all kinds of imaginable and useless services. If you don't want to start a collection of fliers, a simple and easy way to beat the touts at their own game is to simply make a gesture indicating stop with your hand while stating in English "No, thank you" or "I can't understand Polish". This works surprisingly well, especially on touts who pass out fliers for English language instruction schools.
ATMs (Polish: bankomat) are plentiful around Warsaw. Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, and Maestro are widely accepted at most establishments. AmEx and Diners' Club are not as commonly accepted. Some establishments require minimum purchases of 10-50zł for credit card purchases.
Indoor shopping malls (Polish: centrum handlowe pl. centra ~, often abbreviated CH) are also plentiful in Warsaw. Usually open until 8-10PM, most malls will have a food court, restaurants, cinema, and some may have a sports hall with billiards tables or a bowling alley.
Tesco and Carrefour are the largest stores in Europe, and carry just about everything, including groceries, at low prices.
Warsaw is not globally renowned for its culinary scene, but it lacks nothing compared to other European capitals with regard to it. There is a wide choice of eateries from the most basic and cheapest to very sophisticated, and many different types of food are available throughout the city. Finding a unique dining experience is feasible daily.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Budget||30 zł or less|
|Mid-range||31 zł - 60 zł|
|Splurge||61 zł and up|
For those on a budget, there are many kebab shops sprinkled around Warsaw, especially in Śródmieście, which offer decent food and portions for the fair price of 7-13 zł a kebab. Other cheap alternatives are milk bars, which are discussed later in the section, and Vietnamese restaurants.
If you are looking for a premium dining experience, your best chances are in Śródmieście, especially close to the Royal Route. In Praga, head for Saska Kępa, and you will also find a fair share of upscale restaurants in Wilanów. That said, new and innovative places crop up in the most unexpected locations, so do acquaint yourself with the district guides for the latest tips.
The new trend in Warsaw are food fairs, where fresh foodstuffs can be bought directly from producers, both for further processing and preparation at home and ready dishes for consumption on site. Usually, some space for communal meals is provided. This can be a very nice option for breakfast or lunch. Some of the options are:
- Targ Śniadaniowy in Żoliborz
- Soho Food Factory in Praga
Tourists will be happy to know there's no shortage of fast food in Warsaw. The city is rife with McDonald's and Subway outlets, there are also many KFCs and Pizza Huts, and a growing number of Burger King restaurants (the latter mostly in shopping centres). For a quick bit, chain cafes that are around every corner in the city centre, the shopping centres and many office buildings will offer you pre-made sandwiches and salads. Some more sophisticated cafes will make salads, ciabattas and sandwiches on site.
There is no particular Polish kind of fast food, as the traditional Polish cuisine does not really lend itself well to quick preparation or quick eating. Therefore, apart from the above international chain places, that niche in Warsaw is filled with kebab places and cheap pizzerias, similar to ones that you would find in most other European cities. Pizzerias are often chain places as well, and many do telephone deliveries, takeaways as well as offer tables to eat on the premises. Kebabs can often only do takeaway, and are often open all night long, much to the delight of taxi drivers and partygoers.
Remnant of the communist era, milk bars (Polish: bar mleczny, bary mleczne) were originally created in the sixties to serve cheap meals based on milk products. After the fall of communism, most of them closed down but some survived and still bear the climate from the old days. Almost everything inside looks, feels and smells like in the 1980s. Milk bars attract students and senior citizens, because of the low prices (soup and the main course together may cost as little as 10.00 zł). The food served by milk bars can actually be quite palatable. Even if you can afford more expensive meals, milk bars are interesting because they offer somewhat a view of life before democratization in Poland.
Old Town and areas like pl. Trzech Krzyży, ul. Nowy Świat, ul. Chmielna, Krakowskie Przedmieście in Śródmieście are saturated with cafés. Coffee typically costs about 10.00 zł. Beer can cost anywhere from 5.00 zł to 15.00 zł for half a liter (the supermarket price being about 2.50-3 zł). Drink prices in clubs can go up to 50.00 zł (and possibly more). Drinking alcoholic beverages in public places is prohibited, but this is often ignored by locals with regard to public drinking in parks.
If you're looking to mingle with real Varsovians, there's a well-kept, secret row of nameless, dark bars located off of Nowy Świat. They are reportedly good for those wishing to participate in the more decadent side of Varsovian night life. In truth, the places attract a younger crowd who want to socialize over a beer (usually a relatively low 6 zł for a half liter). If you'd like to give one of these bars a try, walk through the gateway at Nowy Świat 24. You'll find a few small buildings with bars tucked away. The number one tip about visiting one of these bars is go early if you want find a seat. You won't be able to find one after 10PM.
Clubs are plentiful in Warsaw and are a very popular way to spend nearly every night out.
The most popular nice and chic clubs are on ul. Mazowiecka in Śródmieście. Note that you will definitely be denied entrance if you wear sport shoes, no matter how expensive they are. Inconspicuous black shoes will normally do the trick.
Student clubs are popular and usually moderately priced, but can be hit or miss. Normally, the centrally located Hybrydy is a good option for night out. Other student clubs, like Stodoła or Remont in Śródmieście, and Park in Mokotów, are less predictable and quality isn't necessarily a concern for these clubs' patrons. If the point is to get drunk, then these are the place to go for a cheap drink. Beware of certain bouncers (for example in Park), they are not the talkative kind if they suspect you of something.
Warsaw's music scene can sometimes be disappointing, but it's a matter of knowing where to look because Warsaw has an abundance of musical delights, they just need to be ferretted out. Headline acts perform at the Bemowo airport in the Bemowo district and at the Stadion Narodowy (National Stadium) in the Praga Południe district of Warsaw. Smaller acts are hosted at clubs and concert halls around the city, but primarily in the center of Warsaw.
Tea and coffee
Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not wódka or beer, but rather tea and coffee. As such, you're likely come across dozens and dozens of cafés. Chain-wise, Coffee Heaven and W Biegu Cafe are the big players. Starbucks just setup shop in Poland, opening its first store in Warsaw in April 2009. The real treat of Warsaw, however, are small cafés that are littered about Warsaw. For the most part, a good cup of tea or coffee can be had for 5-10 zł a cup. A small tea kettle is between 20-30 zł.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Warsaw at all budget levels. The most accommodation options are located in Śródmieście, Wola, and Mokotów. There are also many business travel hotels in Włochy, near the airport.
Warsaw has an oversupply of high-standard hotel rooms, as many luxury hotels were built in Warsaw post-1989. Almost every global upscale chain has at least one property, a few hundred rooms each. Therefore, you can easily snatch room at a modern four- or five-star hotel in the €50-70 range. Warsaw still sees more business than leisure travel, so your best bet to get a great rate are weekend stays. Look for offers and special rates in booking sites and hotel web pages.
If you are on a budget, do not assume that hostels are your only option. Booking in advance at 3/4 star hotels can yield prices only slightly higher than backpacker hostels, for far greater comfort. Do your research in any case before booking to make sure you do not miss out on a great offer.
Do note that breakfast is not included in the room price in most hotels in Poland. Expect steep charges for breakfast, especially if you book a premium hotel at a low price. If you are staying in the city centre, you might find many other breakfast options around your hotel though.
- Central Post Office (Poczta Główna), ul. Świętokrzyska 31/33. Open 24/7.
Free wi-fi is available in most of the Old Town, as well as in several cafés and restaurants, including McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Coffee Heaven, and W Biegu.
Computers / Internet Cafes
Internet cafés (Polish: kawiarenka internetowa) are rare in Warsaw.
- Tourist Information Center (Palace of Culture and Science Building, just opposite the Central Train Station). You can use the computers with Internet for 30 minutes for free.
- Arena, Booth 2001D, Centrum metro station building (500m north from Central Train Station at ul. Marszałkowska, across hotel Novotel), ☎ . 7AM-12PM. 20+ machines. 5 zl/hour, pay as you go.
- Cafe NET, Booth 2010C, Centrum metro station building (500m north from Central Train Station at ul. Marszałkowska, across hotel Novotel). 7AM-12PM. 20+ machines. 6 zl/hour, prepay.
- Verso, Freta 17 (Stare Miasto - Old Town). Photo and printing shop in which there are 3 computers for public Internet access. 5zl/hour; 1zl/5 minutes.
The area code for Warsaw is 22, and it must be dialed even when making local calls. When calling internationally to Warsaw, dial the country code, +48, followed by the rest of the number. There is no necessity to use "0" at the beginning of the telephone number. When dialing from a mobile phone, you must dial any number as if it was an international number.
Pay phones are very rare and it is therefore best to rely on other means of communication. Pay phones are only operable using calling cards that can be bought at post offices.
Pre-paid SIM cards with Polish phone numbers cost as little as 5 zł and can be purchased from just about any major carrier. Many kiosks sell them.
Warsaw is generally a safe city. The city center has a strong police presence and is generally a very safe area. The Praga districts are reputed to be dangerous, but this is generally more hype than reality. Of course, it would be wise to exercise a little extra caution if you're in an area you do not know well. The bus and rail stations can be a magnet for homeless and drunkards, who, for the most part, will leave you alone.
Pickpockets can sometimes be a problem and you should be careful to hold onto your belongings when in a large crowd or on buses (Number 175, which runs from the airport to city center, is reportedly infamous for pickpockets). At bars and clubs, a good rule of thumb is the cheaper the door entry and the laxer the bouncers are about letting people in, the more likely you're going to want to keep extra care of your wallet, passport, cell phone, and camera.
Violent behavior is relatively rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related. While pubs and clubs are generally very safe, the nearby streets may be scenes of brawls, especially late at night. Try to avoid confrontations. Women and girls are generally less likely to be confronted or harassed since the Polish code of conduct strictly prohibits any type of violence (physical or verbal) against women. Nationalist groups that have staged "Independence Marches (Parades)," which naturally coincide with Poland's November 11 independence, have become violent in the past with neo-Nazis groups burning cars, attacking pedestrians, and clashing with both the police and anti-fascist demonstrators, who can become violent also, as occurred in 2011.
Visitors not knowing Polish may also be the target of "bar girls," especially in Underground off of ul. Mazowiecka on days where there isn't a cover charge. Be cautious if you encounter a girl speaking English who will offer you a drink or a cigarette. She will then ask you to walk her to her car parked outside of the club and then explain how her friend still inside of the club has her car keys. Then she will ask if you would like to share a cab back to her place for 70 zloty and then go back to the club. Doing so puts yourself in danger because it isn't known where she lives and you could be setting yourself up for possible harm or other scams.
Just like in any other major European city, football hooligans can be a problem before or after large football events. Naturally, it's best to avoid them, because they might be violent. At the same time, all major sport events are monitored and controlled by special police units, so unless you find yourself in the middle of the confrontation between hooligans and the police, you should be fine.
In case of emergencies, call emergency services. The number for the police: 997, firefighters: 998, Ambulance: 999. The common European emergency number 112 works too.
- St Paul's English Speaking Catholic Parish of Warsaw (Kaplica Niepokalanego Poczęcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny), ul. Radna Street 14, ☎ (+48) 22 826 73 95. The Holy Mass in English on Sunday at 11:30AM.
- International Christian Fellowship, ul. Puławska 326 (Corner of ul. Puławska and ul. Płaskowickiej. In the Ursynów district), ☎ (+48) 607 309 490, fax: (+48) 22 844 7996, e-mail: email@example.com. Service is held every Sunday at 10:30AM. . This is a non-denominational church with Protestant leanings. Anyone and everyone is welcome and if you're a newcomer you're likely to be greeted by people who notice a new face in the crowd. You may even be invited for coffee after the service. The congregation is made of Brits, Germans, Poles, Americans, and Aussies, and other nationalities.
- Nożyk Synagogue (Synagoga Nożyków), ul. Twarda 6, ☎ (+48) 22 652 28 05, fax: (+48) 22 652 28 05, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Erev Shabbat services begin 15 minutes before sunset. Shabbat morning services begin at 9:30AM. . This is Warsaw's only Orthodox Jewish synagogue that is still in operation.
- Warsaw International Church, ul. Miodowa 21b (Metro: Ratusz), ☎ (+48) 22 842 23 51, e-mail: email@example.com. Worship service and Sunday School every Sunday at 11AM.
- Islamic Center of Warsaw, ul. Wiertnicza 103, ☎ (+48) 22 88 56 276.
Most hotels and hostels either offer laundry services or have washers and dryers available for use by guests. Additional fees may be incurred for use of these services or machines. Otherwise, you can find a full-service laundry shop at just about any mall, however, these might be expensive. There are self-service laundromats in Warsaw:
- Blanc Lys Laundry, ul. Księcia Janusza 23, ☎ . 8:00-20:00.
- Belarus (Ambasada Białorusi), ul Wiertnicza 58, ☎ , fax: +48 22 742 0980, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8AM-4:15PM.
- Bulgaria (Ambasada Republiki Bułgarii), al Ujazdowskie 33/35, ☎ , fax: +48 628 22 71, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Canada (Ambasada Kanady), ul Jana Matejki 1/5, ☎ , fax: +48 22 584 3192, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Denmark (Ambasada Królestwa Danii), ul. Marszałkowska 142, ☎ , fax: +48 22 565 29 70, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Finland, Ul. Fr. Chopina 4/8, 00-559 Warszawa, ☎ , fax: +48 22 621 3442, 629 3442, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo-Fr 9AM-noon.
- Germany (Ambasada Niemiec), ul. Jazdów 12, ☎ , fax: +48 22 58 41 979.
- Greece (Ambasada Grecji), Górnośląska 35, ☎ , , fax: +48 22 622 9464, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Hungary (Ambasada Węgier), ul Fryderyka Chopina 2, ☎ , fax: +48 22 621 8561.
- Ireland (Ambasada Irlandii), ul Mysia 5, 6F, ☎ , fax: +48 22 849 8431. 9AM-1PM and 2PM-5PM.
- Japan (Ambasada Japonii), ul Szwoleżerów 8, ☎ , fax: +48 22 696 5001.
- Norway (Ambasada Królestwa Norwegii), ul Chopina 2A, ☎ , fax: +48 22 628 09 38, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philippines (Ambasada Filipin), ul. Stanisława Lentza 11, ☎ , fax: +48 602 541 012.
- Romania (Ambasada Rumunii), ul. Fryderyka Chopina 10, ☎ , fax: +48 22 628 5264, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 8:30AM-5PM.
- Russia (Ambasada Rosji), ul Belwederska 49, ☎ , fax: +48 22 625 3016, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spain (Ambasada Hiszpanii), ul Myśliwiecka 4, ☎ , fax: +48 22 622 5408, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Sweden (Ambasady Szwecji), Ul. Bagatela 3, ☎ , fax: +48 22 640 89 83, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United Kingdom (Ambasada Wielkiej Brytanii), ul Emilii Plater 28 (Inside the Warsaw Corporate Centre), ☎ , fax: +48 22 311 0250, e-mail: email@example.com. M Tu, Th-F 8:30AM-2PM, W 8:30AM-noon.
- United States (Ambasada Stanów Zjednoczonych), Aleje Ujazdowskie 29/31, ☎ . If you have an emergency outside of normal embassy business hours, dial the first phone number and ask to speak with an Embassy Duty Officer.
- Ukraine (Ambasada Ukrainy), Al. J.Ch. Szucha 7, ☎ , , 622-15-49 , 622-47-97 , 629-05-79fax: +48 (22) 629-81-03, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kampinos Forest (~15 km, take the 726 bus) – A wild and beautiful primeval forest, often called the green lungs of Warsaw, and an ideal choice for a day off from the noise of the city
- Konstancin-Jeziorna (~20 km, take the 700 bus) – A spa town with a spacious park. Famous for its clean air and high housing prices.
- Kraków (~300 km, in just under 3 hours by hourly IC/Ex trains) – The former capital of Poland, this was the European City of Culture in 2000.
- Lublin (~200 km) – A medieval city with a well preserved old town, it is now the largest city and main tourist attraction in eastern Poland.
- Kazimierz Dolny (~150 km, less than two hours by TLK train to Puławy, then half an hour by bus) – A Renaissance town with a picturesque marketplace, it is a hub for painters and Boheme.
- Żelazowa Wola (~50 km) – The birthplace of Frédéric Chopin.
- Brest is a city in Belarus on the border with Poland and is rich with history from both the Soviet times and before. You can see a Brest Hero Fortress, perhaps the most impressive soviet monument every built. It is 200 km away from Warsaw. You can go there by train (runs 3-4 times/day and takes 3-4 hrs. Same visa regulations as rest of Belarus.