11 Best Things to Do in Warsaw: Guide to Sights and Activities    

Are you looking for things to do in Warsaw? Though you can spend much of your time sightseeing, you’ll find more things to do in Warsaw than only looking at attractions. In fact, in Warsaw, it’s easy to find hands-on activities, unique experiences, and educational opportunities that you can fill your Warsaw itinerary with no matter your length of stay.

As Poland’s capital city – and one of the best Polish cities to visit – Warsaw will introduce you to Polish culture, art, food, and history.

That said, here are some of the best things to do in Warsaw.

Aerial view of old town - things to do in Warsaw
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Things to Do in Warsaw Table of Contents

1. Warsaw Old Town

The heart of Warsaw is its old town. While not as large as other cities’ old towns – even Old Town Vilnius of relatively small neighboring Lithuania is larger – seeing Warsaw’s old town is essential. It’s one of the top things to do in Warsaw because it illustrates how the city looked in the past and how it’s grown and developed over the centuries.

The medieval part of Warsaw is also a symbol of an enduring spirit and the love locals have for their city. Though upwards of 80% of Warsaw was decimated during WWII, the people living there used historic documents and paintings as reference to build back the historic center brick by brick.

Aerial view of Old Town Warsaw
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Some people overlook Warsaw as a destination because it was rebuilt and is no longer in original, preserved state like Krakow, which escaped the war undamaged. But it’s the dedication of people rebuilding after what seemed like the end of the world, in part, that makes Warsaw’s old town important to visit.

Without them, modern buildings would have gone up in the historic center, eradicating the memory of that era of Warsaw’s development.

Castle Square and Warsaw Castle

You’ll often enter Warsaw’s old town via Castle Square. Restaurants, shops, and accommodation can be found on the square facing the reconstructed Royal Castle, which is now a museum.

The Royal Castle museum brings to life beautiful interiors in which visitors can see weaponry, painting (including those by Rembrandt), and an exhibition about the castle’s reconstruction. Visitors can also stroll the castle gardens with its fountains, hedges, and various kinds of flowers.

In the middle of the square is the monument to King Sigismund III perched upon a column.

Castle Square in Warsaw at night with Royal Castle
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Every day at 11:15 am, a trumpeter plays from Warsaw Castle. The tune is played three times, each from a different direction. Why 11:15? This is when the clock stopped on the castle tower when German planes bombed the city on September 17, 1939.

During Christmas in Poland, a large Christmas tree is also placed on Castle Square in Warsaw.

Old Town Market Place

The Old Town Market Place, or Old Town Square, in Warsaw’s old town is the next square over from Castle Square. It’s also surrounded by shops, restaurants, and hotels. The current buildings, though reconstructed after WWII, reflect their 17th-century appearance. However, the square dates to several centuries before that.

If you look around Warsaw, you’ll see several mermaids as statues or worked into heraldic emblems or other décor. The most famous of these is the Syrenka, or Siren. She is at the center of the square, a replica of the statue that stood there as early as the mid-19th century. The original statue is now kept safe in the Museum of Warsaw.

Historic building facades in Warsaw
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The Museum of Warsaw, found on the square, tells the history of the city through historic objects, archeological finds, maps, and information.

A Christmas market pops up here during the holiday season. The square is festooned with lights, vendors sell warming foods, gifts, and souvenirs, and a tree glows with decorations.

New Town

New Town, adjacent to Old Town Warsaw, is not really new. In fact, it dates to the 1400s! Also destroyed and reconstructed, as a visitor you may not be able to differentiate it from the old town area.

The Barbican is the most notable sight of this part of Warsaw. Though the old part of the city was once surrounded by walls and towers, it is the Barbican that remains as a reminder of the defensive structures. Bricks were taken from other cities in Poland to rebuild the Barbican after WWII.

New Town Market Square is a pretty square with a well in the center. The well bears the symbol of the New Town neighborhood – the woman and a unicorn – which was once considered a separate district

2. Royal Route

Warsaw’s Royal Route is an 11 km historic route linking royal residences, starting from Warsaw Castle, passing by the Palace on the Island in Lazienki Park, and ending at Wilanow Palace. If you follow the route, you’ll see many historic buildings and notable landmarks along the way. One of the best ways to explore this route is via a guided tour.

Old house facades in Warsaw
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From Warsaw Castle, Krakowskie Przedmieście turns into Nowy Swiat – these two streets are also central to any visit to Warsaw, and in addition to sights, you’ll find plenty of places to eat, shop, and stay.

For example, the Hotel Bristol, an Art Nouveau construction, is as much historic landmark as it is accommodation. The first prime minister of newly independent Poland held his first session of government here in 1919. It’s also seen a slew of famous guests in its long life, among them Elizabeth II, Marlene Dietrich, Margot Fonteyn, John F. Kennedy, Pablo Picasso, and Tina Turner.

Another notable building along the Royal Route is the Presidential Palace, the official residence of the President of Poland. Guarded and gated, visitors can do little but pass by. However, it should be noted that Europe’s first constitution was signed here in the late 18th century by Stanisław II August Poniatowski.

The Lazienki Palace is an excellent attraction for a warm day with a strollable palace park and botanical gardens. A ticket will get you entry to the palace, the orangery, and the pavilion, but note that the botanical garden and the Museum of Hunting and Horsemanship require a separate entry fee.

The Wilanow Palace consists of royal apartments and a portrait gallery. Though owned by the nobility for centuries, the Wilanow Palace was one of the first museums in Poland and opened its doors to visitors in the early 19th century.

Including sites along the route is one of the best things to do in Warsaw to learn more about its history.

3. Chopin-related Sights

Fryderyc Chopin, one of Poland’s most belove composers, left his mark on Warsaw, where he grew up. Warsaw in turn has dedicated spaces and monuments to this composer, which can be found throughout the city. If you love Chopin or music history, discovering Chopin-related sights may be one of your favorite things to do in Warsaw.

The Fryderic Chopin monument is found in Lazienki Park, surrounded by a rose garden. Free concerts dedicated to Chopin’s work take place here on Sundays during the warm months.

The Fryderic Chopin Museum is an excellent place to visit whether you know anything about Chopin or not. Discover his life and music through multi-media, interactive exhibits. His original manuscripts, personal belongings, and pianos from the period Chopin was working are included in the museum’s collection.

Chopin Museum in a former palace, Warsaw
Photo 246909812 / Chopin Warsaw © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

The Holy Cross Church is also an essential visit for lovers of Chopin. Upon his death in France, Chopin was buried in Paris. However, his heart was returned to Poland, where it was interred in a church pillar. It may be one of the most unusual things to do in Warsaw!

4. Green Spaces

Warsaw is known as one of Europe’s greenest cities, with almost 25% of its territory dedicated to parks, gardens, and other green spaces. If you need a moment of respite from the city, want to enjoy the weather outdoors, or need to recharge among trees and flowers, you should seek out green spaces as one of your potential things to do in Warsaw.

One of the most centrally located parks is the Saxon Garden. Sculptures, an elegant fountain, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, along with shady paths and places to sit, replace what used to be fortifications and a palace. The Saxon Garden is one of the world’s first public parks.

Fountain in a park in Warsaw
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The clever roof garden of the University of Warsaw is an example of sustainability that dates to 2002. The roof garden offers, in addition to places to sit and read or study, panoramas of the city. The university also maintains a botanic garden at a different location.

Another centrally located park is the Świętokrzyski Park, located near the Stalinist Palace of Culture and Science. Developed in the 1950s, it contains a monument to Janusz Korczak, who headed an orphanage in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto during WWII. He was offered sanctuary multiple times but refused to leave his children, and he went with them when they were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. All died there.

5. The Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science is not a classic palace built by Polish kings. Instead, it was built by Stalin as a “gift” to the Polish people in an architecture style named for him. Dominating the Polish skyline, it is somewhat controversial given its origins. However, many feel it’s too integral to Warsaw to consider tearing down. The Palace of Science and Culture has indeed become one of Warsaw’s symbols – for this reason, you should include it in your list of things to do in Warsaw.

The huge building contains cinemas, museums, offices, bookstores, and even a swimming pool and university.

Stalinist-era architecture in Warsaw
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Visitors can take the elevator to the 30th-floor viewing platform for panoramic views of the city and check out the sculptures in the socialist realist style.

The concrete area in front of the building is a place for concerts and open-air film screenings, and in December, a Christmas market is set up here.

Visiting the Palace of Culture and Science is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Warsaw.

6. Recommended Museums

If you’re looking to learn more about Poland or its capital city, its various museums will be one of the best things you can do in Warsaw. Museums make an excellent rainy-day activity or serve to get you out of the cold if you’re visiting during the winter months.

Some museums even have free admission once a week – check the museum of your choice to see if and when it admits guests at no cost.

The glass building of the Copernicus Science Center
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Consider visiting the following museums during your stay in Warsaw.

  • The Copernicus Science Center: Like science centers around the world, the Copernicus Science Center dedicates itself to cultivating curiosity and providing hands-on experimentation. Great for a family trip.
  • The POLIN Museum of History of the Polish Jews: Learn more than you ever thought possible about the history, traditions, and notable figures of the Jewish population in Poland as well as about how the Holocaust tragically played out in the country.
  • The Warsaw Rising Museum: Learn about the Warsaw Uprising, which saw inhabitants of the city rebel against Nazi occupation, through multimedia and interactive exhibits.
  • The Royal Castle: Important to the history of Warsaw and Poland, the Royal Castle makes an essential stop in your exploration of Warsaw’s old town.
  • The Fryderic Chopin Museum: Whether or not you’re a Chopin fan, you’ll be impressed with the Chopin Museum. Its treatment of the composer makes for a memorable experience through exhibits that use light, sound, and objects to tell the story of Chopin and his music.
  • The Katyn Museum: The Katyn Museum tells the story of the Katyn Massacre, when Soviets killed 22,000 Polish officers.
  • Lazienki Park: Various buildings on the grounds contain exhibits related to the palace’s royal inhabitants and aspects of Polish history.
  • Wilanow Palace: A portrait gallery and royal apartments await visitors to the Wilanow Palace.
  • The Museum of Warsaw: Learn about the Polish capital city’s history and development as you access the museums’ various floors.
  • The National Museum of Warsaw: Curious about Polish art through the ages? The National Museum of Warsaw is for you.
  • The Neon Museum: This fun niche museum is dedicated to preserving 20th-century neon signs formerly found gracing the exteriors of buildings.
  • The Polish Vodka Museum: Located in a former vodka factory, the museum familiarizes visitors with the history of vodka distillation and consumption in Poland. End your tour of the museum with a vodka tasting.
  • The Praga Museum of Warsaw: A former residential building has been turned into a museum devoted to the community and life in the Praga neighborhood of the city. It offers an intimate look into the lives of the inhabitants.
  • The National Ethnographic Museum: If you love folk culture, visit the National Ethnographic Museum. See Polish traditional costumes and learn about folk life and traditions.
  • The Museum of Life Under Communism: An analogue to the Museum of Life Under Communism may be Berlin’s DDR Museum. You’ll find everyday objects, propaganda posters, and purchase vouchers that people today remember from only a few decades ago, when Poland was a very different place.

7. Sample Polish Food

Polish food is, no doubt, one of Eastern Europe’s great cuisines, and it’s only made strides as the 21st century progresses. It makes the best of local and seasonal ingredients, takes pride in regional variations, and never leaves you hungry.

Warsaw has its own specialties, such as Warsaw-style herring and wuzetka cake, which layers cream and chocolate in a decadent combo. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to specifically local dishes. Polish cuisine includes hearty soups, filling pork dishes, and of course, pierogi stuffed either with traditional fillings such as mushrooms or more inventive ingredients.

A dish of Polish dumplings with cherries and sour cream
Photo 249637572 © Natalia Hanin | Dreamstime.com

Polish Restaurants

Of course, one of the easiest ways to sample Polish food while you’re in Warsaw is by seeking out restaurants serving Polish food. Some restaurants kitsch up the folk theme, while others provide a more modern-style dining experience – if you’re exploring the historic center and along the Royal Route, you’ll notice a variety of these restaurants to choose from. And if you explore even further, you won’t have any trouble finding a Polish food restaurant to suit your tastes in décor and service expectations.

Cooking Classes

You may want to consider taking a cooking class. Polish pierogi cooking classes are the most popular, but you can also take courses in classic Polish cuisine or how to make Polish liqueurs.

Food Tours

If you’re not interested in being as hands on as a cooking class requires, a food tour may be for you. Food tours expose you to the best of Polish cuisine as well as offer a niche way to get to know Warsaw.

Beer and distillery tours or vodka tours may also be an option if you would like to know more about locally produced beer and spirits.

Cookbooks

A great souvenir or gift for a foodie is an English-language Polish cookbook.

Look for these in souvenir shops or bookstores with an English-language section.

8. Shop for Souvenirs

Shopping for souvenirs from Poland is one of the best things you can do in Warsaw if you love finding gifts and souvenir items that are unique and beautiful.

Artisans in Poland excel at turning Baltic amber into jewelry. This beautiful yellow, golden, cherry-colored, or green stone has been used in trading since prehistoric times. Today, it’s a wearable jewel that makes for an heirloom-quality souvenir of your trip to Warsaw.

Colorful mugs hanging in a souvenir shop in Poland
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Folk art from Poland is another excellent option. Local pottery styles, wooden figurines, papercuts, or decorated eggs are only some of the types of Polish folk art available. Try Dom Sztuki Ludowej on Old Town Market Square, where two floors of Polish handmade art will have you buying an extra suitcase full of gifts. Or try Artis Folk on ul. Emilii Plater 47, which also has a wide selection of beautiful folk art pieces.

9. Seasonal Events

When you plan your trip to Warsaw, you may want to see what season events are taking place during your visit. Seasonal events are one of the best things to do in Warsaw to enjoy local culture, and Polish holidays and festivals are beautifully celebrated.

Christmas

Discover Christmas in Poland throughout the month of December. Warsaw has some of Poland’s best Christmas markets. You’ll be able to enjoy the city bedecked in lights, Christmas trees on historic squares, and the scent of mulled wine and hearty winter dishes. Christmas markets are also an excellent place to shop for souvenirs. Check concert venues for Christmas-related performances during this time.           

Christmas tree at night in Old Town Warsaw
Photo 236533438 / Warsaw © Tokarsky | Dreamstime.com

Fat Thursday

On Fat Thursday, which takes place the week before Fat Tuesday (February or March), all of Poland eats donuts. It’s such an important part of the holiday that the best bakeries see lines of customers waiting to buy fresh-baked paczki.

On Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, people also celebrate Carnival with parties, food, and drink.

If you’re in Warsaw during this time, be sure to take part!

Easter

Easter in Poland is another festive time of year. Though Krakow’s Easter markets are the best known, Easter markets also pop up in Warsaw. It’s important to check events calendars to see exactly when they are taking place.

The Way of the Cross procession sees participants carrying a 100 kg cross. It stops at important points along the way, such as sites associated with Pope John Paul II.

The Ludwig von Beethoven Easter Festival takes place this time of year.

Midsummer

Midsummer’s Eve takes place in June and connects Poles to their pagan origins. Celebrating the summer solstice, it means making wreaths out of wildflowers and floating them on the river, Renaissance-style festivals, and even a Midsummer market.

You can count on more modern types of entertainment for this holiday, as well, such as concerts and fireworks.

Warsaw Autumn

The Warsaw Autumn music festival takes place throughout the city at its best concert venues, churches, museums, and universities. The lineup of concerts, speaking events, and educational events features international experts in their field and the stars of the classical music world.

Other Seasonal Events

Various other festivals also take place throughout Warsaw throughout the year. Many events are music or film themed, but you can also look forward to marathons, book fairs, and food festivals.

10. Jewish Warsaw

Jewish history is an important part of Warsaw’s and Poland’s history. You’ll find monuments and museums that will familiarize you with Jewish history, the people and events surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto, and acts of heroism during WWII.

One synagogue that survived WWII can be found at ul. Twarda 6.

Many sites are located along the Memorial Route of the Martyrdom and Struggle of Jews, and memorial stones mark this route. Here are only some of those you may wish to include in your trip to Warsaw.

Museums

The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is an excellent museum of multi-media installations, artifacts, and educational spaces that will take you through Jewish history in Poland in detail.

Plan to devote at least a morning or afternoon to this large and interesting museum. One or two hours won’t be enough. This single attraction alone is one of the best things to do in Warsaw.

Glass building of the Museum of Jewish History
Photo 251123882 / Warsaw © Przemek Omylak | Dreamstime.com

The Jewish Historical Institute maintains exhibitions about ghetto inhabitants and the objects and rituals of the synagogue.

Monuments

The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, built after WWII in 1948 and located near the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, begins the Memorial Route of the Martyrdom and Struggle of Jews. It commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.

The Umschlagplatz monument is located on the spot where Jewish prisoners were sent via cattle car to the Treblinka extermination camp. The names of hundreds of victims are engraved on the walls of the monument.

Many other monuments exist throughout Warsaw, to either people or events. You’ll also see ghetto wall fragments and the stones of the Memorial Route, which commemorate individuals, places, and events related to the Holocaust.

Cemeteries

The 18th-century Brodno Jewish Cemetery is the largest in Warsaw. An exhibition at the entrance tells about the cemetery’s history and Jewish funeral rites.

The Jewish cemetery at ul. Okopowa 49/51 is the burial place of various notable individuals. A symbolic tombstone marks the death of Janusz Korczak, who died in the Treblinka extermination camp with the orphans under his guardianship (see section on Green Spaces for information about his monument near the Palace of Culture and Science).

11. Tours

One of the best things to do in Warsaw for any visitor is to take a tour. Tours can be especially valuable if you’re visiting for the first time, if you are short on time, or if you don’t want to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Tours are mini-itineraries that pack in a lot of information, get you out and about, and come with a guide who can answer your questions.

  • Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour: Buy a ticket for 24 or 48 hours and enjoy exploring the stops on the tour at your leisure. Just pick up the bus again when you want to continue.
  • Warsaw City Tour: Learn about the most important sights of Warsaw and the events important to the city and its inhabitants.
  • Polish Food Tour: Explore Polish cuisine with a food tour that will take you from restaurant to restaurant, where you’ll sample the best Polish food has to offer.
  • Beer Tasting or Pub Crawl: Discover the best beers made in Warsaw and Poland so you’ll know what to order during the rest of your trip.
  • Warsaw Ghost Tour: Meet Warsaw’s most famous spirits on this walking tour.
  • Scooter or Bike Tours: See more of Warsaw than you would on foot by taking an alternative mode of transportation.
  • Jewish Warsaw Tours: Learn from an expert guide about Jewish life in Warsaw, the events of WWII, and its aftermath as you visit important sights and monuments.

The best things to do in Warsaw are, of course, those activities and experiences that suit your tastes and interests, enrich your travel experience, and create good memories. With a little planning, you can fill your Warsaw visit with things to do that will be so worthwhile you won’t be able to wait to recommend them to others.

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