Your session has expired, please log in again.
Please choose a location
Please choose a check-in date
Please choose a check-out date
World > Poland > Warsaw
City Guide Warsaw
General Information
Warsaw is the capital of Poland, located on the Vistula River. It is the country’s largest city, with a population of approximately 1.7 million, and has overall the feeling of a bustling major city, yet retains a quaint, small town atmosphere in the old centre. Warsaw was first settled in the 13th century, and has had a long and interesting history. The city first came into its own as a centre for culture in the 1700s, where it was the focal point of the Polish Enlightenment. Since then it faced more difficult times, being divided again and again by its neighbouring countries. After 1989, when Poland became independent from the Soviet Union, Warsaw has been flourishing as never before. It is now not only the commercial and industrial hub of Poland, but also the heart of the country’s cultural and intellectual life. The city offers a vast array of musuems, theatres, concert halls, and other institutions, as well as beautiful parks, ancient buildings, churches, and many other sights.
Warsaw has a temperate and humid climate, with cold winters and fairly hot summers. The coldest weather generally comes in February, and temperatures in the winter can be as low as -20° C, though they average closer to -2° C. The wettest months are usually June and July, and the warmest weather comes in July and August. It is not uncommon to have 30° C temperatures in these months. Spring and fall are usually beautiful seasons, the former crisp and sunny and full of blooms and the latter alternately sunny and misty, and cool but not cold.
The language spoken in Warsaw is Polish. German and English are common second languages, and in the city you will find many people who can speak both.
The religious population of Poland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, with between 90-96% of Poles baptised Catholic. Of these, about 80% practice the religion, but only 55% of adults declare themselves fully identified with the Catholic faith. The main religious minorities in Poland are Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, and Jehovah’s Witness. At least 6% of Poles do not believe in any religion.
The currency used in Poland is the zloty. One zloty is divided into 100 groszy. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 grosz and 1, 2 and 5 zlotys. Notes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 zlotys. 1 euro is equivalent to approximately 3.4 zlotys.
There aren’t so many hard and fast rules about tipping in Warsaw. In general, people here expect fewer tips than most other European countries, but it is the norm to give them in several circumstances when you are satisfied with the service. Service charges are not included in any restaurant bills in Warsaw, so it is good to leave some change or round up the bill. Tips are also much appreciated by hairdressers and hotel staffs, but are not considered strictly necessary. Even taxis do not necessarily expect tips, unless they go out of their way to help you in some way. Basically, you can get by with minimal tipping in Warsaw, but it is always nice to reward people for good service.
The value added tax, or VAT, in Poland ranges from 3 - 22% depending on what you are buying, and is included in the prices of almost all goods and services. It is 3% for unprocessed foods, 7% for other foods and necessary items (health and child care goods, transportation, etc), and 22% for everything else. Tourists from outside of the EU can get the money they spend on tax reimbursed upon leaving the country. There are some conditions, such as you have to take the goods out of the country within three months. Ask if you can get a tax free shopping form whenever you spend a significant amount in one shop. Then present these forms to a customs official in the airport when you are leaving, and you will receive your refund there.
Public telephones in Warsaw are called TP phones, and they accept prepaid cards which you can buy at “telepoints,” news kiosks and post offices. There are three kinds of phones, and two kinds of cards, which don’t work on all phones. The blue telephones only accept the cards with a magnetic strip, the silver rectangular phones accept both magnetic cards and cards with a chip, and the yellow phones only accept chip cards. At the yellow TP phones you can also send emails and SMS messages.
Warsaw has many internet cafés and locations where wifi is available throughout town, and it is also often provided by hotels. If you don’t have a laptop, it is easy to recognize the internet cafés, which are plentiful in the centre of the city.
Emergency Numbers
All Emergencies: 112 Ambulance: 999 Fire Brigade: 998 Police: 997
Opening times
The opening times for small shops and other businesses vary, but the norm is weekdays from 9 am - 6 pm and Saturday from 10 am - 5 pm. Large department stores are generally open from 10 am - 10 pm, and supermarkets even longer, from 8.30 am - 11 pm. Banks are open weekdays from 10 am - 6 pm, and some also open on Saturday from 10 am - 1 pm. Post offices are open weekdays from 7 am - 8 pm, and Saturday from 7 am - 2 pm. If you need to buy something in the wee hours, your best bet is to go to a petrol station shop. These are open 24 hours every day, even on holidays, and sell basic necessities such as sandwiches and other basic food items, drinks, and hygienic products.
Public Holidays
January 1, New Year’s Day Easter Sunday and Monday (dates vary) May 1, State Holiday May 3, Constitution Day Pentecost (7th Sunday after Easter) Corpus Christi (9th Thursday after Easter) August 15, Assumption Day November 1, All Saints’ Day November 11, Independence Day December 25 and 26, Christmas
Warsaw is safer than the average European city, and it is unlikely that you will become the victim of a crime or scam while visiting here. Ordinary caution should be exercised, however, as petty crimes are not uncommon. Pickpockets can be a problem on trams and busses and at crowded, touristy locations, for example, so make sure your wallet and other valuables are in a secure place. And make sure when taking taxis to only get into clearly marked, official vehicles, to avoid being cheated. Also, the right bank of the city and the area around Wschodnia train station is the seedier area of Warsaw, best avoided at night.
Royal Castle
This grand, Gothic castle was adapted during the Baroque period, and the façade is primarily in the 18th century style. Lke most of the Old Town, the castle was all but destroyed during the second world war, but was carefully rebuilt between 1971 and 1977. Visitors can tour the inside of the castle, where there are many different rooms decorated in fascinating historical detail. There is much period furniture, as well as some beautiful tapestries and other works of art. Opening times: Tues - Sat 10 am - 4 pm, Sun 11 am - 4 pm Entrance price: 18 zl
Warsaw is a city full of variety, with ancient and modern architecture, beautiful parks, historic cemetaries, interesting musuems, and a diverse array of other attractions. Most of the sites of interest to tourists are located on the left bank of the river, where the Old Town (Stare Miasto) is situated, as well as the New Town, home to many cultural events and modern attractions. The Old Town is a great place to start exploring Warsaw, as it gives you a nice feel for the city’s history with its charming architecture, beautiful squares and romantic cobblestone streets. It is also full of a lovely assortment of bars, cafés, restaurants and little shops. The Old Town is remarkable because much of it had to be painstakingly rebuilt, stone by stone, after World War II. Warsaw is also a city with many parks in both the old and new districts, all of which offer peaceful green spaces, little walkways, and lots of trees and flowers. Some even have lakes where you can go boating.
Krasinski Palace
This palace is one of Warsaw’s most famous landmarks, as it is the most beautiful Baroque building in the city, built during the 1690s. In its heyday it was one of the most lavish palaces in Poland, second only to the king’s residence. Now visitors can tour the rooms and visit the gallery where paintings by many old masters are hung, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Durer and Correggio, as well as a collection of prints. Arrangements to view the inside of the palace and these collections must be made in advance, however.
Temple of Sybille
This is a small temple designed in classical ancient Greek style, situated in a large wooded park. The temple is made out of wood rather than stone, and the interior is beautifully decorated with paintings of flowers and fruit in the Grecian style. The entrance is flanked by two grand cast iron lions. It is a charming and peaceful place to visit, where you will feel transported to another time and place.
Palace of Culture
A controversial and impressive structure, the Palace of Culture was a gift to the city of Warsaw from Stalin, built in the 1950s. Some people think of this famous structure as the symbol of Warsaw, while others hate it for being an eyesore and a monument to the Communist days. Regardless, the 234-metre tower offers the best view possible over the city, and within it is a complex including three theatres, a swimming pool, a musuem, a congress hall, and much more. The viewing deck is located on the 30th floor, to which express lifts are running continuously. The tower is also an impressive sight at night, lit up from top to bottom. Opening times: Daily 9 am - 6 pm
The word ‘belvedere’ in Polish means a palace with a beautiful view, and this royal residence from the 18th century is the epitome of the term. It is located at the top of a hill over the river, and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding park. The building was redesigned in the 1920s at the request of the governor of Warsaw, and it has been the property of the state ever since. Now the palace houses a musuem dedicated to Józej Pilsudski, the revered Polish president who was in office between the world wars.
CSN Szczesliwice
This is the only ski slope in Warsaw, and is open year-round! The slope is covered with a material that makes skiing and snowboarding possible even in the middle of summer. In the winter there is plenty of real snow to enjoy, however. There is also an Alpine Coaster located on the same hill which gives you a fun ride and shows you a beautiful view. Opening times: Tues - Fri 12 pm - 8 pm, Sat 10 am - 9 pm, Sun 10 am - 8 pm
One of the landmark beautiful old structures in Warsaw, the Barbykan is a semi-circular Gothic structure located between the Old Town and New Town. It was built in 1548 and designed by the prestigious Venetian architect Giovanni Battista. In the summer the area around the Barbykan is a popular place for buskers and other open-air performers.
Capuchin Church of the Transfi
An old and modest church built in the 1680s, the Capuchin Church was commissioned by King Jan III Sobieski to celebrate his victory over the Turks in Vienna in 1683. The interior of the church is simply decorated, but contains a noteworthy 19th century sarcophagus where the heart of King Jan rests. And in the Christmas season, this church has a famous mechanical nativity scene that all the local children love to watch.
Church of the Saviour (Kosciol
This is one of the largest churches in Warsaw, though it is not a cathedral. More modern than most of the churches in the city, it was built between 1901-1911. It has many old-fashioned, classic elements, however, as the design and inteior decoration were inspired by different aspects of the Gothic, Polish Renaissance and Baroque styles.
St. John''s Cathedral
This is the oldest church in Warsaw, built in the so-called “Vistula Gothic” style, though nothing of the original structure actually survives. Like so much of Warsaw’s Old Town, the church had to be rebuilt after World War II. Highlights inside the church include the Baryczkowski Crucifix, famous for the expressiveness of Christ’s face, and the red marble tombs of the Renaissance Masowian dukes. Many people also come to the church just to see the crypts, where many famous people are buried as well as many unknown ones, from as long ago as the 1500s. Opening times: Daily 10 am - 1 pm and 3 pm - 5.30 pm
Church of the Nuns of the Holy
This is an unusual and beautiful green-domed church, constructed in the form of a Greek cross. It was built to house the “sisters of the blessed sacrament” who came to Poland from France in 1687. The church was tragically bombed during World War II and almost a thousand people were killed. It was rebuilt soon after, however, and restored to its former tranquility.
Lazienki Royal Park
A lovely park near to the centre of town, Lazienki Royal Park has beautiful paths for walking, a rose garden, many other flowers and trees, a palace, and an amphitheater for open-air performances. In the summer, many concerts and other shows can be seen here. The park is at its most beautiful in the spring and summer, when it is awash with blooms. Opening times: Daily until dusk
Pole Mokotowskie
A large park near to the city centre, Pole Mokotowskie is a beautiful, restful place popular for all kinds of recreational activities such as jogging, biking, and rollerblading, and is also full of picknickers in nice weather. There is a large grassy area as well as many trees and some nice ponds. In the weekends during the summer the park is home to many festivals and other events.
Morskie Oko
This is a small park located between ul. Pulawska and ul. Jan Sobieskiego. It is a charming place to go for a stroll or to relax on a bench, and you can also go fishing in the lake. There are some good restaurants and pubs nearby as well.
Jewish Cemetary (Cmentarz Zydo
This beautiful historic cemetary was established in 1799 and has many old, interesting, ornately carved monuments from marble and sandstone. Much of the cemetary is now covered in ivy and undergrowth, giving it a romantic atmosphere. The cemetary is the resting place of many Jews who died in the second world war, including the famous Janusz Korczak, a Polish writer who cared for many Jewish orphans before he died at Aushwitz. Opening times: Sun - Fri 9 am - 3 pm
Powazki Cemetary
This is the oldest cemetary in Warsaw, established shortly before the Jewish one in 1790. It is a very beautiful cemetary that like a park at the same time, with lots of old trees and little winding paths. There are some very interesting tombs and monuments, in classicist, neo-gothic, and art deco styles. There are also some catacombs, where the last Polish king, August Poniatowski, is buried along with many family members.