This was my first destination in Poland and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think in my head I saw images of a still-communist country with buildings in disrepair and people that don’t speak any English.
To my delight the complete opposite was true. The people were friendly, spoke English wonderfully and so much of the city was clean (very clean) and shiny.
Warsaw is the capital of Poland as well as the largest city in Poland. The majority of the city was destroyed (you can see just how much in a video at the Warsaw Uprising Museum) and therefore you find a fair amount of newer architecture in Warsaw. But there are also remnants of communism which have been converted to office and hotels, like the Sofitel Warsaw.
Is language an issue?
Not at all. Poland is a progressive country and in Warsaw, the capital and largest city, you’ll find most people confidently speak English with no problem. Especially if they work in the service industry. Just try not to use colloquialisms and remember your humour may not translate well.
Do I need cash in Poland?
No, not really. Unless you intend to visit street markets and purchase street food you’ll be okay with a credit card. I got on fine with my Visa, but American Express seemed to not exist in most places. If you’re visiting form the USA be sure to have a 4-number pin on your card if you intend to use the chip. Tap is available at most locations as well.
If you do find yourself needing cash for a tour, or excursion as is sometimes the case. I had success using my Canadian CIBC debit card at the Citi Handlowy ATM machine, There is also a Deutsche Bank which in my experience works with the Canadian Interac system as well.
Arriving in Warsaw
While it is possible to arrive in Warsaw by train from the rest of Europe, you’ll probably want to just fly since it’s a fair distance by train. Head over to LOT Polish Airlines, the countries airline and a part of Star Alliance and find yourself a flight into Warsaw Chopin Airport.
Getting from the Airport to your hotel is simple with Uber, and very inexpensive especially if you use the Euro, Canadian or US Dollar. So hop on the wifi at the airport or enable roaming to summon what in my experience every time I used uber is a tidy, courteous and quick Uber driver.
Seeing in Warsaw
With such a rich and extensive heritage from Soviet occupation, communism and a rich Jewish history, there are a lot of things to do in Warsaw.
- Museum of the History of Polish Jews
- Warsaw Uprising Museum
- Copernicus Science Centre
- Chopin Monument
- Old Town & Royal Castle
- The Riverside Walkway (start at Copernicus Science Centre and make your way up to Old Town)
Eating in Warsaw
Warsaw has a wonderful and exciting dining scene. With restaurants everywhere of seemingly every variety and type, you’ll find no shortage of good places to eat in Warsaw. Food is reasonably inexpensive and portions tend to be smaller, as in, proper portions, not American sized. So indulge in a starter, main and a dessert – always have dessert.
- Na Lato – a European inspired restaurant with a lot of great items on the menu and a sophisticated but casual atmosphere.
- Zapiecek – a chain restaurant with many locations serving traditional Polish food in a traditional atmosphere.
Staying in Warsaw
Looking for a Warsaw Hotel? Of course you are! I can only speak to the one hotel I’ve stayed at in the city, the Sofitel Victoria Warsaw which was in a great location and served us quite well. However I did take notice of other reputable properties and their location, based on that I would recommend the following for location and brand reliability and appeal.
- Sofitel Victoria Warsaw – just a few minutes from old town, and in my opinion a very nice part of the city. Easy access to a main street to take you places as well as transportation and restaurants.
- Intercontinental Warsaw – located in the financial centre this hotel is one of the highest buildings in the city and is a reasonable distance from old town, as well as many other amenities in the area.
- Raffles Europejski Warsaw – located right in old town, this classic and well-appointed hotel will fulfil all your fantasies.
Photography by Tomas Williams