I will not tell you, that to get to know Warsaw right you need more time than 48 hours because that can be said about every city. But if you have only 2 days and are looking for practical information or inspiration, you’re in the right place.
And if someone doesn’t want to read, I suggest you watch the video (my first video – I know what I need to improve, so please do not criticize 😉 ).
The plan can be arranged on the following proposals.
I also encourage you to take a look at my list of the museums and institutions available for free of charge on specific days. Many of them happen on a Sunday, but not everyone comes to Warsaw for a weekend, right? 😉
Below the following program is a map with the marked places I mentioned in this post.
Note: If your stay in Warsaw starts in the evening (e.g. on Friday evening), I recommend to start with a look at the city from the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science. During the summer it is open until 11 pm (Fridays and Saturdays), every day until 8 pm, and in low season until 6 pm.
Day 1 in Warsaw
11:00 am [duration: 3h] – I suggest to start with visiting the Zygmunt’s Column near the Royal Castle. Every day of the year right here at 11 am, you can find a guide with an orange umbrella. Sightseeing in English is organised by Orange Umbrella Free Tour Warsaw (# 1 on TripAdvisor). It is free (later you can leave a tip) and lasts 3 hours. You could say that this is the history of the city in a nutshell, and it’s a good idea to start your adventure with Warsaw with quick learning about its past.
As an amateur historian and professional tour guide, I can say that the level of knowledge our guide Gosia had, was at a very high level and she spoke in a very interesting and understandable way. In addition, guides present presented the photos of Warsaw during the war are a great help for tourists who do not realize the scale of the devastation.
And as a supporter of promoting Polish culture in the world and a big fan of our traditions – especially those connected with cuisine – I was delighted that at the end of the tour the whole group got the sandwich with lard and pickled cucumber (one of the best lard I ate!) and a glass of perfectly frozen vodka. 😉
2:00 pm [duraton: 1-2 hours] – after a guided tour you can stay a bit longer in the Old Town. Visit the Cellars of the Old Town under the tenement buildings that house the former Historical Museum of the Capital City of Warsaw (it is closed until 2016/2017 due to complete renovation, after which it will be called simply the Museum of Warsaw – and I already cannot wait to see it in the new version!). You can also visit the Royal Castle or simply enjoy a cheap lunch at a milk bar called the Barbican, which is – as the name suggests – near the Barbican. 😉
Before leaving the Old Town you can once again visit the St. John’s Cathedral (I say “again” because the guide also tells a bit about Poland inside the cathedral) and take a look at the Baroque Baryczka’s Chapel, which is on the left of the main altar. It is the best-preserved fragment of the temple destroyed in 1944, where you can see the Gothic crucifix from the 16th century with real human hair. It was hidden before the uprising and today is the most important place of cult for Varsovians.
3:00 / 4:00 pm [duration: 1h] – then go down the street called Krakowskie Przedmieście – one of the most historic streets in Warsaw. Along the way, you can take a look of the Baroque interior of St. Anna’s Church (this particular church I recommend to EVERYONE – it is really beautiful!).
And note – following the Krakowskie Przedmieście search for black benches that play the Chopin’s music. I’m a huge fan of those benches (however they are more like bench-looking tables with maps and info than benches to sit) because they are really ingenious tourist attraction, which not only gives the Krakowskie Przedmieście even more unique character but also allows pedestrians to find out how the place with the bench is related with Frederic Chopin.
Benches are scattered from the beginning of the Krakowskie Przedmieście to the Royal Baths Park (Łazienki Park). (At the time of writing this post they’ve been taken away for conservation for two months, but in December they should be back).
When you reach the monument of Adam Mickiewicz, turn right to the Grand Theatre (you will be at its back, so you have to walk around to see the façade), and then to the Saxon Gardens with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. From here you can go back to the Krakowskie Przedmieście.
You’ll go out somewhere to the right of the Bristol Hotel, the most expensive and most luxurious hotel in Warsaw. On its left there is the Presidential Palace with the copy of the statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski by the Dane Bertel Thorvaldsen in the 19th century – the original was blown up by the Nazis in 1944, and his pieces can be seen today in the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The copy was a gift from the Kingdom of Denmark.
Going to the right of the Hotel Bristol you pass the Warsaw University and the statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, also by Thorvaldsen. It is original, however, it was destroyed during the war and restored later.
Krakowskie Przedmieście changes into the Nowy Świat. On the crossing with Świętokrzyska street go left and after a few hundred meters you’ll reach the Frederic Chopin’s Museum, and if you go straight to the end of the street (and a roundabout with fake palm), you’ll finish the walk next to the National Museum. If you want to visit the museum, remember that ticket offices are closed from 5:15 pm from Tuesday to Sunday, and on Thursday at 8:15 pm.
6:00 pm – in the end of the first day it is good to see Warsaw at dusk, e.g. the Center area, the Constitution Square, the Old Town and the New Town. During summer go to the boulevards by the Vistula river and to the Multimedia Fountain Park, where on Fridays and Saturdays from May to September at 9 pm (9:30 pm June-August), you can view the show with water, light and sound.
Day 2 in Warsaw
10:30 am [duration: 3h] – the second day of sightseeing, you can start from the Palace Museum of the King John III Sobieski in Wilanów. Definitely one of the most important and beautiful monuments in Warsaw and even in whole Poland.
Wilanów Palace was lucky to survive the war and today you can see the original and beautiful royal interiors and admire the architecture, which combines European baroque art with Polish building traditions.
An alternative option is to visit the modern Warsaw Uprising Museum, where the exposure affects all the senses of the viewer (e.g. you can hear the sounds of the city from 1944 from the speakers). [duration of visit: 2h]
2:00 pm [duration: 1h] – if the weather permits, I encourage you to visit the Royal Baths Park (Łazienki Park) – a park with numerous classicist monuments, founded in the 18th century by the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. I recommend visiting the Palace on the Water, which was the summer residence of the king, and the White House, where the future king of France Louis XVIII spent some time.
Next to the Palace on the Water is one of the oldest court theatres in Europe – the Theatre on Island from 1790 (still in use during summer!). [Although when I was in the park at the beginning of October, I heard a girl who told her friend that she was amazed how quickly they had built the decoration because previously she hadn’t seen it. Well…]
Palace on the Water was burned down during the WW2 and rebuilt immediately afterwards. In contrast, the Theatre on the Island is original, as German soldiers thought that if the decoration was destroyed already (it was not – it was designed specifically as ancient ruins), it makes no sense to waste energy on destroying it again. Also, the White House, the first building in the Baths built on request of the last Polish king, escaped the devastation and today you can admire the interior of the 18th century, which retained its original decor.
4:00 pm [duration: 30 minutes] – at the end you can go on the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science, where you can see the entire Warsaw from. The panorama may not be too exciting, but in the summer the viewpoint is open longer and you can enjoy the view of the city at dusk when it is beautifully lit up.
If you have already seen the city from the Palace, I suggest to visit one of the museums of Warsaw, for instance, Frederick Chopin’s Museum or the Museum of the History of Polish Jews or take a walk around the historic Powązki cemetery.
What else to see in Warsaw?
Warsaw is really much more than places I provided.
For example, it’s good to see the Praga district with its pre-war buildings and see the orthodox church of St. Mary Magdalene (visiting until 4 pm), the pre-war architecture is also in the area of the Warsaw University of Technology.
Highly recommended is the New Town with Freta street or located nearby Bonifraterska street and Miodowa street.
Those who are interested in the history of the 20th century, especially the period of World War II can also go to the site of the former ghetto and the Museum of the Prison Pawiak.
I came to the conclusion that the more I read about Warsaw and I sightsee it, the more I fall in love with this city. 🙂 I hope I will convince you to the capital of Poland and you will get to know it with passion, too! And maybe you’ll come here for longer than 48 hours? 🙂