Warsaw is the amazing capital of Poland. The streets and buildings of this city are infused with history and bear the unforgotten marks that communism and the World Wars have left on its fabric. Here the urban roughness of concrete blocks mingle with the grandeur of old palaces and ultra-modern glass towers.
If you are new to Warsaw, this is the list for you. Below you will find some of the most popular must-see attractions to add to your itinerary. Warsaw is a big city, with a lot of traffic and wide roads. It’s not always walking-friendly, so plan your visit ahead and make use of the many modes of transport including, trams, busses, electric scooters and bicycles to get around and make the most of your visit.
Already seen all the most popular sights? Check out our list of the Best Unusual Things To Do in Warsaw!
Palace of Culture and Science
You could say that this is THE landmark of Warsaw. Despite being synonymous with the city, not everyone is fond of it. The saying among locals goes that the observation deck at the top is the best view of the capital, because it’s the only place you can’t see this building.
If that wasn’t enough, for the past two decades the city has been working really hard to cover it up by raising skyscrapers all around it. A bit harsh, no? We are probably not selling this very well, so let’s rewind a bit.
These polarised feelings are due to the building’s connection with Stalin and communism. Brought to life in the 1950s by Soviet Russian architect Lev Rudnev it is still a stunning example of art deco architecture and Soviet Realism. It is also an important cultural hub housing institutions, cinemas, theatres and sports clubs. And yes, going up to the observation deck is definitely worth your while.
Aka Royal Baths Park is the largest park in the city filled with beautiful palaces, pavilions and countless monuments of which the most famous is an enormous art nouveau sculpture of composer Frederic Chopin. The name comes from the Palace on the Isle situated inside the park, which was initially built as a bathhouse and later converted into a residence.
You can spend the afternoon strolling around or taking a ride on the boating lake. Right next to the park you will also find a separate entrance to the Botanical Gardens, which require buying a ticket. The biggest highlight however are the tame red squirrels and birds that will come to you if you reach out your hand. Even better if that hand holds nuts or seeds.
In Polish – Stare Miasto – it’s the oldest part of Warsaw and a classic tourist sight. The focal point of this area is the old market square filled with shops and restaurants. Here you can get your portrait drawn or pick up some delicious Polish style soft serve ice cream – lody swiderki.
The old town may look newer and more polished then you’d expect and this is due to the fact that most of it was destroyed by Germans during World War II. It was rebuilt post-war with some of the salvaged materials, however reconstruction was not always faithful to the original look.
Nowy Swiat meaning New World is a pretty street with pastel coloured buildings leading up to the Old Town. Vibrant with elegant al fresco restaurants, cafes, boutiques and lively with young people attending the nearby Warsaw University.
Walking down, you will reach Krakowskie Przedmiescie featuring a lot of majestic buildings with neoclassical flair. At A.Blikle you can get a taste of traditional Polish rose jam doughnuts. Chmielna and Foksal are popular side-streets. The former is home to Galeria Bukowski stuffed teddy bear shop created by Sweden-based designer Barbara Bukowski.
During weekends when the street is closed to traffic it’s an ideal place to ride electric scooters, which you can rent pretty much anywhere from apps like Lime and Bolt.
Warsaw University Library Roof Gardens
This magical place taken right out of a dystopian / utopian film should be on your must see list. It’s a relatively new sight in town designed by landscape architect Irena Bajerska and one of the largest roof gardens in Europe.
The steel grids on the building facade, overgrown with climbing plants give an impression of a strangely wild yet inhabited place. Paths, walkways, cascading water features and pergolas will guide through this fantastical maze covering two levels. These are some of the best views of the Visula river and the city in all directions.
Dotted around the gardens are granite sculptures with a cosmological theme by Polish artist Ryszard Stryjecki.
Warsaw’s Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest in Europe. Slightly further from the centre, this place has a unique atmosphere, as you will find yourself in a wild, dense forest in the middle of a city.
Buried here are many victims from the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as notable political and cultural Polish and Jewish historic figures. Among the crowded patches of overgrown headstones you will find graves with art deco and Egyptian revival features.
The peaceful place is a welcome respite from the city’s busy streets. If you are spider spider-averse however, this is not a place for you.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
This is one of many Tombs of Unknown Soldiers erected around Europe after the First World War. Inside the tomb is an eternal flame which is kept alive at all times by the guards outside. You can also witness the changing of the guard which happens on the hour of every hour daily.
The monument faces the vast expanse of what is Pilsudski Square, a very unusual sight for this densely covered city. It is also situated at the edge of the Saxon Garden, the city’s oldest park, so take some time to have a look.
Warsaw Uprising Museum
If you wish to go deeper into the city’s trials and tribulations this interactive museum will give you a better understanding of the events that shaped Warsaw. This unique space occupies 2000 m2 of what used to be a former tram power station.
Learn about the stories of people who lived in Warsaw during Nazi and Soviet regimes. Don’t miss the City of Ruins short digital reconstruction film showing an aerial perspective of Warsaw in ruins after the destruction of 1945. For many visitors this is a very emotional experience.
From the outside it may not look like much. In fact, from the outside it looks more like a palace than a castle. But inside the Royal Castle hides some of the most opulent rooms, like the striking, red throne room and the Great Assembly Hall with a beautiful painted ceiling.
The castle was almost completely razed to the ground after World War II and later reconstructed in the 70s and 80s from salvaged rubble. You can take guided tours or an audio guide around the building and admission is free on Wednesdays.
If you enjoyed this guide, check out some of the other guides below.
Have you visited any memorable places in Warsaw? Let us know in the comments below!