Split in two by the longest river in Poland, the Vistula River, Warsaw is the country’s sprawling capital city. Despite its turbulent and depressing past, Warsaw has painstakingly rebuilt itself and is now one of the top tourist destinations (and also one of the cheapest!) in Europe. Whether this is your first trip to Poland or you’ve been here a few times before, a 3-day stay in Warsaw opens up tons of new and interesting things to do. While it’s almost impossible to experience everything, even if your trip lasts a week, this itinerary is designed for first time travelers, those who are on a short layover or simply does not have longer time in Poland.
Things to remember before traveling to Warsaw, Poland:
Language – Polish language is the official language of Poland, which is spoken by majority of the population. Younger Polish in the city, especially in Warsaw and other main tourists’ spots, speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Polish language. Like other countries, speaking at least some Polish phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Money exchange – Poland’s official currency is called Złoty (pronounce as “ZWAH-tee”). Exchanging money in Warsaw is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Europe. Currency can be exchanged at the banks, as well as Bureau de Change (called Kantor) around the city and airports. Most major establishments like hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations accept credit cards. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATMs (Bankomat), which are widely available in Warsaw and other major cities.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Poland. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. For medical emergencies, dial 112; and for police services, dial 997.
Transportation – Getting around Warsaw and the rest of Poland is fairly easy. The city is quite compact so visitors can easily explore its tourist attractions on foot. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking, Warsaw has efficient bus transport network, taxis and Uber, trams and metro. You can also bike on your own or join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. Renting a car and driving on your own is not recommended because of traffic and limited parking spaces.
Accommodation – There’s a great variety of accommodation in Warsaw, ranging from small family-run pensions to five-star luxury hotels. In almost any neighborhood, there’s something for every level of comfort and budget. If its your first time in the city, it is recommended to stay in Old Town to get easy access to the city’s famous attractions and get plenty of accommodation and dining options. If you would like to be in the center of party scene, especially during summer, then the area around Vistula River is a fantastic option.
Hotels to consider in Warsaw:
Detailed day by day itinerary: 3 days in Warsaw, Poland
Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Warsaw or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. Check into your preferred accommodation and hit one the top rated restaurants in the city. There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting the Old Town Market Square (Rynek Starego Miasta), the beautifully restored Market Square surrounded by pastel-colored buildings and houses. Visit the imposing Royal Palace, the former residence of the Polish monarchs. This 14th century palace exhibits the fascinating history of the family and houses a vast collection of historical paintings and artworks.
After your old town tour, make your way to Powazki Cemetery, the oldest and largest cemetery in Warsaw. This cemetery was the final resting place of many prominent Polish individuals including the soldiers killed during the uprising. With time remaining, go for a stroll through Łazienki Park (Lazienki Krolewskie w Warszawie). In the evening, hangout at one of the al fresco bars along the Vistula River. Visitors will surely appreciate Warsaw’s unpretentious bar scene and vibrant nightlife.
If you are a catholic and your second day happens to be on a Sunday, rise early and head to St John’s the Baptist Arch-cathedral to attend a celebration of the Mass. Non-catholic visitors may also visit the cathedral to learn about the horrors of the Second World War, see the crypts of some of the most prominent personalities in Polish history, and learn how the cathedral was eventually restored to its late 14th century glory and admire its Neo-Gothic architecture.
Then, satisfy your hunger pangs with a morning visit to the Breakfast Market (Targ Śniadaniowy, Aleja Wojska Polskiego 1), open every Saturdays and Sundays. Located near the Oder River, the market is the best way to experience the city’s local cuisine. Most visitors might not know it but Warsaw offers inexplicable variety of food worth trying.
Make your way to your next destination, Warsaw Uprising Museum. This is a relevant and educational stop to create basic understanding of Warsaw under the Nazi occupation. Another well-loved museum you should definitely visit is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Located in the former Warsaw Ghetto, the latter was dedicated to the Polish Jews Community that thrived in the city until the Holocaust.
End your day with a bang by visiting the scenic University Library Rooftop Gardens while waiting for the sunrise.
For your final day in Warsaw, get a one last whirl through the Old Town to take in any museums or other attractions that you might have missed. Or you can start out early and make the most out of this day, you can do a day trip to Wilanów Palace, also known as the “ Polish Versailles”. This 17th century Baroque-style palace was the former residence of King John III Sobieski and later by the famous Polish magnates.
If time permits, you can go shopping before your flight to your next destination. For a wide range and reasonably priced locally made handicrafts, you can visit Neptunea at Krakowskie Przedmieście.
Have you been to Warsaw or anywhere else in Poland? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Central Warsaw, Poland (fotorince / Shutterstock)