From a charming old town to an amazing pierogi, Warsaw is filled with culture and is perhaps one of the most underrated cities in Europe. I had the opportunity to visit Warsaw this past summer and it now holds a special place in my heart. Here are a few key things you should know before traveling to Poland:
The Polish Language
The official language of Poland is Polish, but about 37% of Polish speakers use English as a second language. Traveling around the touristy parts of Warsaw, pretty much everyone spoke at least some English, but outside of those areas, it became a bit rarer. It’s good to learn a few key Polish phrases, like “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “bathroom,” and of course, “I don’t speak Polish.” If all else fails, Google Translate will be your best friend! When traveling around Warsaw, I used Google Translate in the grocery store and at restaurants to figure out what things were.
The currency used in Poland is called a złoty, abbreviated as PLN. One USD is equal to 3.85 PLN, so Poland is very affordable to travel from the United States. At one point I stayed in a luxury 5-star Polish hotel for only $138 USD, and ate at fancy restaurants, including drinks and two or three courses, for about $25. I also went into an H&M in Warsaw and bought 5 articles of clothing for $50! When shopping, keep Google handy or a currency app to translate PLN to USD to keep track of how much you’re spending.
Transportation around Warsaw
In my opinion, the best and safest way around the city as a tourist is Uber. It’s very cheap compared to Ubers in the United States, about 5-10 USD to travel across the city. The metro is even cheaper, at under $2 for a standard ticket. The only downfall is that as an English-speaking tourist, reading the Polish signs and navigating on the metro and trams can definitely be difficult.
Everyone traveling to Poland needs to try pierogi! They’re little dumplings, often filled with minced meat and/or vegetables, but you can get them sweet as well. You can find these anywhere, but challenge yourself to get outside the touristy areas a bit. That’s where you’ll find the most delicious and authentic pierogi!
Things to do in Warsaw
- The Old Town Square
The Old Town in Warsaw has been rebuilt, but it is beautiful all the same. This was due to the city being attacked and destroyed during WWII, but today it has been rebuilt according to historical documents and pre-war photos and plans. The Old Town is filled with life, restaurants, and shops, and the culture is absolutely amazing! Don’t forget to see one of the daily Frédéric Chopin concerts here either, Poland’s famous pianist and composer. The music is beautiful and will allow you to step into Polish culture a little deeper.
2. The Royal Castle
The Royal Castle is in The Old Town and was also rebuilt. Today it serves as a museum telling the history of Mazovian princes, showing beautiful architecture and lavish furnishings. It is also the home to two Rembrandt paintings and other famous works of art.
3. The Palace of Culture and Science
In the city center of Warsaw, The Palace of Culture and Science is the second tallest building in Poland and the sixth tallest in the European Union, at 778ft. The building was gifted to the poles by Joseph Stalin and the Soviets in 1955. Today, you can go to the top of the building and see a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
4. POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
This museum represents 1,000 years of Jews living in Poland, through artifacts, storytelling, interactive displays, and reconstructions. There are 8 galleries to help you delve into and better understand Jewish history. Learn about the legends and first settlements of Jews in Poland, diversity in life, the Holocaust, and Jews in the present day.
There are many more attractions in Warsaw, so this list is part of a much, much, longer one. I truly believe that this city is worth traveling to, so if this article intrigued you, do some more research and take a trip to Poland! You won’t be disappointed once you see the beauty and culture here.