1. If you use only one word to describe Warsaw what would that be?
After II World War 90% of Warsaw was totally destroyed (you can see more on this movie: http://youtu.be/
twDouTqS4c8 ). The governement back then decided that the city has to be rebuild and workers from all over the country came to help. Warsaw looks now so much different than before the war, when you compare old and new maps it’s like a brand new place. The picturesque old town people fall for is no older than 50 years! The royal castle was re-opened in 1984. But still the (new) old town is based of the one from before the war.
Yet now Warsaw is a modern, busy capital city that can’t be boring. You won’t be able to find that many marks of the terrible destructions. Sadly the city lost most from its pre-war charm but now it built a new new identity that isn’t that bad either
When you think all of that happened less than 70 years ago it’s kind of hard to believe.
2. What are the three best reasons to include Warsaw on our travel list?
Variety. The city is such a mix of styles! You can walk around the pretty (new) old town, you can explore the bohemian district of Praga that until the end of XVIII century was a seperate city, you can discover great examples of soviet style buildings and wide alleys, you can enjoy lovely parks. Anything you wish for can be found in Warsaw
Food. Who hasn’t heard about the delicious Polish food? Pierogi, bigos, gołąbki, żurek… That’s already the reason to visit Poland. The best places to eat well and cheap are milk bars – canteen alike places that are made mostly for local people, serve big portions of almost home made food and a typical lunch shouldn’t cost you more than 3€. A really good milk bar, “Familijny”, can be found on Nowy Świat street that you would certainly pass when exploring the city. If you want to try some typical street food go for zapiekanka – a warm baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese, sometimes you can find also ones with ham, salami or vegetables. Zapiakanka is the Polish answer of cold war times for pizza and well, we did some pretty good job with that
Nature. While in any other city the riverside is used for promenades, in Warsaw the right bank is still wild. There’s a walking path (with a total lenght of 10kms) that is a perfect place if you want to escape the city chaos. It also gives you the perfect views of the city with its skyscrapers and the old town. Another interesting place in Kampinoski National Park, located in the Warsaw’s outskirts. It makes a great daytrip if you want to be close to the nature. If you’re lucky you can even meet a moose there!
3. Do you consider Warsaw as your home? How long have you been living there?
Well, that’s a tough question. I come from a medium size town in eastern part of Poland, called Puławy, and well, I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of Warsaw. I’ve never considered living there yet I accidentaly got kind of my dream job here and 4 years ago I found myself living in the city. And since then things changed. I re-discovered the city, found “my” places around and now I really enjoy living there. Just few months ago I realized I slowly consider it my home but I’m not fully there yet 😉
4. Who would you invite to travel Warsaw with you, if you can choose anyone in the history / present / future. Who would like Warsaw best?
When travelling I’ve heard so many times how people are scared of Eastern Europe, they still believe all these stereotypes that it’s grey, ugly, dangerous and there’s just nothing to see and do here. I’d gladly invite every single person who thinks that and prove them how wrong they are!
5. For you, when it’s the best season to travel to Warsaw? And why?
I’d avoid winters. It can get really cold, days are short so it’s hard to make the best from your stay here. Spring, from April on, can be nice. It’s already warm and sunny, it’s getting greener and greener, flowers bloom. It’s really pretty then! Then, in summer, there’re so many things going on around the city. Each day all over the city there’s a free open air cinema, there’s the Jazz Festival in the old town, you can spend a really pleasant evening sitting outside the cafe/pub, often on a deckchair, and enjoy the laid back atmosphere of the city life. Early autumn (until mid October) can be nice for a beautiful indian summer with colourful leaves.
6. What are three foods that you would say “You can’t leave Warsaw without trying these!”?
If I only have to pick three I’d say pierogi (with different stuffing: cabbage+mushrooms, meat, potatos and cheese, fruits, spinach…), zapiekanka (I always try to eat street food when I travel and I recommend that to everyone) and for the dessert a cake called “wuzetka” (cake with jam, cream and chocolate, the name comes from one of the streets in Warsaw where the first cake shop that made these was located).
7. Tell us about your favourite and the least favourite thing about Warsaw.
I kind of hate how busy the city is, especially in the center. People don’t walk but just run around and it takes some time to get used to that. Unfortunately I find myself doing this too but I don’t really support it. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to get through the flow od people…Also it’s hard to ride a bike around the city – there’re not enough bike paths, drivers are not used to that as well and can be pretty mean. Just this summer the new city bikes system was introduced so hopefully from now on things will get better.
My favourite thing is how the city is alive, there’s always something to do, often for free, so if only you feel like doing something interesting – most likely there’s an event you’d enjoy, let it be a concert, an art exhibition, a city game or a travelling slide show.
8. What is the first thing you recommend us to do right after we arrive in Warsaw?
Get a public transport ticket and an up to date map of it. Warsaw is the city with one of the best public transports you’ll ever see. It’s well covered with buses, trams, trains, (one) metro line or even boats in summer time and wherever you need to get the easiest way is to take the bus/tram/train/metro. Tickets are also affordable. Most likely you’ll need a 24 hours tickets which would cost you 12PLN (=3€) or 3 days ticket for 24PLN (=6€) – and you can use any way of public transport you want to. An up to date map can be really useful these days as the second line of the metro is built and it causes some troubles, routes of the buses can be changed so better know where you’re going. But if you arrive by plane or by train there’s the public transport information point both at the central train station and at the airport so you can get all the necessary informations there.
9. What is the most famous landmark? And which one is your favourite to visit?
The most famous landmark, the symbol of the city is the Palace of Culture and Science. Build in 1955 it’s the best example of the socialist realist architecture. It’s the tallest building in Poland and you can actually go to the 30th floor to admire the view over the whole city and beyond. Inside, among other institutions, you can find a cinema, a concert hall, a museum and a theatre.
One of my favourite places is the small park at the roof of the new university library. It’s so cozy and peaceful, it gives you nice views of the city and you feel the academic atmosphere. Also it’s kind of cool to walk on the roof and see from the top how people are working hard and studying inside.
10. Where’s the secret hangout place? The place where you feel most comfortable or had the most fun?
Every time I meet with friends we first head out to a small, hiden, vodka drinking place, named “Ulubiona”. It’s located in one of the gates at Nowy Świat street and apparently this year it’s a place to be. It doesn’t look very fancy and actually if there’re more than 10 people inside it gets really crowded. But it has incredibly cheap vodka shoots! Each day one flavoured vodka shoot is 2PLN (=0.50€) and all others cost 3PLN (=0,75€). I don’t think you can find a cheaper place in the center. After two shoots there you can go and enjoy the evening out in the town. Just across the street from “Ulubiona”, hiden in the backyard, is the place called “Pawilony” with many pubs, small shops and few eating places. You can sit in one of the pubs but you can as well sit on the kerb and sip your beer there. Another hangout place is the riverside. Every evening until late night hours it’s so busy with groups of people having small parties, BBQs etc.
11. Sunny day, warm outside, and you don’t have anything on schedule. What would you do? What’s your go-to activity in Warsaw?
Most likely you’d be able to find me in one of the Vistula beaches. My favourite one is next to the new national stadium. You can play beach volleyball there, play frisbee, have a BBQ, a picnic or just read a book and relax – it’s all up to you. Also parks are nice. The closest from where I live is Park Skaryszewski (also next to the national stadium) and it’s a pretty big one, with a small waterfall or a lake where you can rent a boat and paddle around.
12. How much is for a cup of coffee?
Depends on where you go. Before Starbucks entered the Polish market we had another, very similar, brand called “Coffee Heaven”. You can find it all over the city (together with Starbucks now) and they sell a really good, but not the cheapest, coffee. The average price there is around 12-16PLN (=3-4€). There are also many other, nice places where you can get coffee, pretty good too but slightly cheaper, for less than 10PLN (2,50€). I’m sure you won’t have problems with finding a decent place to drink a cup of coffee.
13.Would you recommend us one “off the beaten path” place in Warsaw?
I’m a big fan of right side of the river, that’s where I work, where I live and where I feel the best. If you want to escape the busy city I would suggest you exploring Saska Kępa district. It’s the area with old villa houses from just before the Second World War, hidden in a small back streets, full of majestic old trees. It’s such a cozy, atmospheric area. From there it’s just a very short walk and you’re at the riverside and the mention aboved walking path alone Vistula, where not that many travelers can be found as well.
If you feel like visiting museums there’s a new Neon Museum located in the Soho Factory. It’s definitely the most interesting museum you can find in Warsaw, presenting beautiful cold war neons from the whole country. I’m sure you won’t find any other place like that during your travels!
14. Any quirky things about Warsaw that travelers should know?
Nothing I can think of. I guess it’s just your average European city, nothing should surprise you.
15. I’m a fan of souvenirs. Which one should I buy in Warsaw?
You can get here all the same souvenirs as everywhere else – tshirts, fridge magnets, cups… They can be with Polish folk motives and that’s pretty. If you want something that will remind you of Warsaw itself you can get tshirt, bags, coasters etc with the Warsaw mermaid or Palace of Culture and Science – both are symbols of the city and seem to appear on many souvenirs.
16. As a local, would you like to share your secret travel tips about Warsaw with us?
Most of the museums have a free entrance on one day. For example it’s Sundays at the Royal Castle (every other day you’d have to pay 22PLN-5,50€…). So if you’re interested in visiting certain museum it’s worth checking on the website which day you can skip the entrance fee and spend the money on something else instead.
About this week’s sister:
Kamila Napora constant travels despite the full time job, visiting almost every country in Europe (mostly more than once) and that now she’s focusing more about post-soviet countries in her travels. She found her passion for travel during her first solo trip took place before her 18th birthday when she went to Austria and came back home via Slovakia. The experience gave her the courage and confidence and pushed her to travel to more far away places. She writes her story on Kami & the rest of the world ( http://www.mywanderlust.pl ). You can also follow her journey through her Facebook page.