City Guide to Warsaw, Poland: Part 3 | Must See Attractions
Disclosure: We may receive a commission for links on our blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very appreciative when you do. Thanks again for your support, we hope you find our posts and information helpful!
As the capital of Poland, Warsaw is a large city that’s quickly becoming a popular tourist destination. If you have the chance, we highly recommend booking tickets to Warsaw and seeing everything it has to offer. Relative to many European destinations, Warsaw is fairly inexpensive to visit and it offers delicious hearty food, beautiful architecture, fantastic art and culture, tons of history, and beautiful parks! If you’re looking for the sightseeing gems in Warsaw, you’ve come to the right place! We spent just over a week in the city and explored every corner we could possibly fit in during our time there. We experienced the tried and true sights that every tourist goes to, but we also found many off the beaten path, hidden gems.
Walk, Explore, Discover!
We’re not typically your ‘tour group’ type of travelers, so we usually take the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to sightseeing. We find that because we’re not on a curated list of destinations, following a predetermined schedule and route, we end up seeing parts of the city we never would’ve otherwise. So, because we’re able to explore a bit more, we believe we end up experiencing and discovering the culture, people, and traditions of a city, and in our opinion having a more authentic experience of the places we visit. We encourage everyone visiting Warsaw to walk a bit more, explore hidden corners, and maybe you’ll discover things you wouldn’t have otherwise! Oh, and even if you’re on a tour, leave some time in your schedule to ‘do your own thing’. Maybe it means walking to dinner or having a picnic at a park or public square; there’s an endless number of ways to get off the beaten path and enrich your experience!
While most sights in Warsaw are very centric to city center and can be seen by walking from place to place, if you’re planning on seeing a wider breadth of Warsaw (we highly recommend it!), public transportation may be your best bet to getting around. The system, in our opinion is well designed, clean, and simple to use. Learn what you need to know to use the system, including detailed information and tips in our City Guide to Warsaw, Poland: Part 1 | Public Transportation.
Warsaw Sightseeing Map
Before arriving, we did our research and found as much as we could on what to see, do, and experience in Warsaw. We curated a list, marked our map, and found information on all the destinations. To possibly make your research on sightseeing in Warsaw (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? The map is inclusive of everything we set out to see in Warsaw, however, below we’ve included a select compilation of our must-see destinations with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Zolty/PLN (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Warsaw.
Warsaw Must See Attractions
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite and highly recommended sights in Warsaw.
Lazienki Park (prounounced 'wah-zhen-kee') occupies an impressive 76 hectares (187 acres) in the center of Warsaw. It’s easy to loose yourself in this park and look at your watch only to discover that you’ve spent half your day here. It’s so much more than grass and trees, as it’s full of palaces, pavilions, cafes, lakes, theaters, and much more! The park is a leisurely escape and serves as a place for culture through music and art and may we advise, fills with crowds of people on the weekends. While visiting, be sure to keep your eye out for peacocks and squirrels. We saw both on our visit, and were amused at the attention the squirrels received (they’re very common back home, but seem to be rarely seen here). We witnessed numerous people, young and old, stop and point because of seeing a squirrel, and in two separate instances actually saw groups forming!
Lazienki Park often hosts events and exhibits throughout the year, so be sure to check the park’s website for visiting information, including their calendar of events. The park is huge, but not vacant by any means. There's so much to see, that unlike most of the parks we visit where we simply set out and explore, this one we highly recommend setting a few points of interest you’d like to see within the park. We provided our map above with our chosen points, but there’s more to see, so if you’d like to personalize it, check the Lazienki Park website and map to discover every nook and cranny the park has to offer!
The Chinese Garden was opened in 2014 and was planned and designed in a Chinoiserie Style in cooperation with Chinese architects from Prince Kung’s Mansion in Bejing. We didn’t expect to see such a wonderful Chinese Garden in Poland, so it took us by surprise, but it sure was beautiful! If we let our imagination take over, it wouldn’t have been hard to think we were in a Chinese garden in China. Stone lions flanked the entrance and led us down a winding path through the garden and over the bridge. Symbolically the bridge was designed as a connection between the masculine pavilion and the feminine arbor of the garden. When visiting, make note of the hand-glazed tiles that were made in China, the traditional masonry of the marble bridge, and the eight paintings with traditional Chinese themes in the Pavilion.
During our mid-summer visit, the pathway alongside the Chinese Garden was lined with red hanging lanterns from the Chinese city of Chengdu. It made for a beautiful walk during the day, and an enchanting one in the evening!
Palace on the Island (Pałac na Wyspie)
This is the most popular part of the park and is where the name, Lazienki (baths in English), comes from. Palace on the Island, built on a manmade island, was originally built in 1683 as a private bathhouse for the adjacent Ujazdów Castle, but was later converted into a private residence in 1772. Today, this palace is a museum that can be enjoyed by visitors, and in particular, the Solomon’s Hall is particularly impressive with its extravagant Baroque design.
The Amphitheater was officially opened in 1791 with a Cleopatra ballet performance on the anniversary of King Stanislaw’s election. It was designed after ancient Roman theaters and is a semi-circular stone auditorium that features historical Roman design elements that have been artificially aged to make it look like ancient ruins. Uniquely, the stage is set in the lake, while the seating, intended for nearly 1,000 guests, is on solid ground.
The Old Orangery
The Old Orangery isn’t just a place to hold exotic trees during the winter, it’s also the home of The Royal Theater, which is a magnificent example of 18th century court theaters. Additionally, one of the biggest attractions to the Old Orangery is the Royal Sculpture Gallery that holds King Stanislaw August’s collection of marble and plaster copies of famous statues and sculptures. The Old Orangery is a beautiful building, dating back to 1785 and restored between 2012 and 2016, that shouldn’t be missed for its art and cultural experience!
The Adam Myjak Sundial
This distinctive sculpture was placed in the park in front of the New Orangery in 2012, and unfortunately, is passed by many without pause, since it was placed on one of the many walking paths that run throughout the park. Its design is simple and often overlooked, but if you like unique art pieces we think it’s worth a visit. On a sunny day, you can tell the time by the shadow of the pointer, which is symbolically shaped in a human figure to represent sundials that have been designed to have a person as the centerpiece.
The Art Nouveau monument to the Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849) was erected in 1926 and is one of the more popular destinations in the park. However, the monument of Chopin sitting next to a willow tree that you see today isn’t the original. Sadly, during World War II, the monument, along with most of the city, was destroyed. In 1958 a new monument was erected using a plaster-cast of the original, and today, visitors can enjoy the beautiful sculpture that from afar looks like a harp, but up close depicts Chopin seeking inspiration through nature. Each year, for nearly 60 years, Chopin Concerts, featuring live classical performances, have been held in the park. Taking place during the summer months at the Chopin Monument, the concert is free each Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. Be sure to pack a blanket and picnic, and consider showing up early, as this is a very popular Sunday activity for visitors and locals alike. During our visit, there seemed to be a couple thousand people in attendance!
Saxon Garden (Ogród Saski)
The Saxon Garden was opened to the public in 1727, making it the oldest public park in Warsaw, although before it was a public park, it was part of Warsaw’s fortifications built in 1666. It was originally a Baroque French Style park, but was redesigned in the 19th century in a Romantic English Style. Visitors can enjoy a large fountain at the end of a path lined with flowerbeds and sculptures of the virtues, the sciences, and the elements. Moreover, tucked away on the northern side of the park is a great place to enjoy a break. Here, you can enjoy the ornamental lake with a view of the 19th century water tower that was built to look like a circular Greek temple. Finally, standing in front of the park, just past the fountain at the east entrance is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Monument, which no visitor should miss…
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Monument (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza)
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built in 1925 on the arcade between the two main wings of Saxon Palace. The palace was left in ruins after World War II, although some consider it miraculous that the tomb survived the bombing. To be able to take in the full impact of this memorial, the story of its conception along with the continued honor and guard of the monument is necessary. In 1925, to commemorate the Polish soldiers who’d given their lives in defense of their country, the Polish Ministry of War selected the remains of an unknown soldier from the Lyczakowski Cemetery who defended Lwów during World War I, and brought them to Warsaw. The remains were taken to St. John’s Cathedral where a mass was held for the unknown soldiers who fell during World War I and the Polish-Soviet War. The soldier’s remains, along with soil gathered from 14 different battlegrounds where polish lives were lost, was buried in the tomb. Since then, soil has been gathered from all wars where Polish soldiers have given their lives and it’s been added to the tomb. With the exception of the time of German occupation of Warsaw during World War II, a soldier has stood guard to honor the tomb and keep the eternal flame lit.
The guards, soldiers from the Representative Battalion of the Polish Army, are changed every hour, on the hour, so if you can plan your trip to the memorial accordingly, it’ll certainly add to the experience. Conversely, we highly recommend viewing the ceremonial changing of the guards that takes place every Sunday at 12 pm. It’s quite an experience and draws many visitors, so arrive early if you want a space in front. Another tip to note, during our visit, the ceremony began a few minutes before the hour, so you should arrive early if you don’t want to miss anything!
Must See Sites for Chopin Fans
If you didn’t know before going to Warsaw that the famous composer, Fryderyk Chopin, spent his childhood and young adult years in the capital of Poland, you’ll probably figure it out pretty quickly. Warsaw is where he learned to play the piano, where at just eight-years-old he gave his first concern, and where his recognition and fame began. The pride of Chopin in Warsaw is undeniable, and visitors can take themed tours and see everything ‘Chopin’. On the other hand, if a tour isn’t your style, here are a few of our Chopin recommendations…
Fryderyk Chopin Museum
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birthday, the Freyderyk Chopin museum opened in 2010 and is considered one of the most technologically advanced museums in Europe. The museum has the largest and extremely comprehensive collection of Chopin memorabilia and artifacts, including a lock of his hair, his passport, the Pleyel Grand Piano he played during the final years of his life, and the dried flowers that were placed on his deathbed. Visitors are able to choose and personalize their path and experience through the museum, adapting their visit to learn every detail there’s to know of Chopin’s life as their interests dictate. The museum is housed in Ostrogski Palace, an interesting building filled with history that's worth seeing on its own merit. The palace has been everything from a military hospital to a pub, and it’s said that its catacombs are home to a prince that was cursed and turned into the ‘Golden Duck’. Plan your visit with information on the Chopin Museum website.
Holy Cross Church (Bazylika Świętego Krzyża)
Holy Cross Church is a large and beautiful Catholic church that stands in the middle of the city, near Old Town Warsaw. It’s special to Chopin fans not just because his family was part of the parish, but this is where his heart was entombed. His body was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, although his family attempted to bury him in Powązki Cemetery, where his family rests. However, due to political matters, this wasn’t possible, and therefore they settled on placing his heart inside a pillar in the church.
Chopin Monument (in Lazienki Park)
Considered one of the most famous Chopin Monuments, this is a must see for Chopin-ologists and music lovers alike. Be sure to take a trip to Lazienki Park and take in the beauty of the monument and you may even find yourself inspired by nature, just as Chopin did. Just be aware, hugely popular Chopin Concerts are held here each Sunday during the summer so you’ll want to schedule your visit accordingly.
Presidential Palace, Warsaw (Pałac Prezydencki)
On February 24th, 1818, Chopin, at the age of eight, gave his first piano concert here. In fact, he was so well received, that he was invited back and gained the attention of the press.
Visitationist Church (Kościół Wizytek)
Visit the Visitationish Church to see the building where Chopin regularly played the organ during church services. It’s said that he was sometimes so lost in the music, that he had to be asked to stop playing. This 17th century church is also the place where he met Konstancja Gładkowska, his first love.
Chopin Musical Benches
The city of Warsaw has placed Chopin Benches all across the city at places that have a historical connection to Chopin’s life. When visiting the places described above, or any of the other 15 places they’ve been placed, be sure to be vigilant and you’ll surely spot a Chopin Bench. The black stone benches have a route map and a description of the sites' relevance to Chopin (both in Polish and English). More importantly, in the lower right corner of the bench is a small silver button, that when pressed will delight your ears with 30 seconds of Chopin music. If that’s not enough, capture the QR code and get access to the Chopin App, where you’ll get music, tons of Chopin information, and photos!
See if you can find all 15 Chopin Benches at these various spots!
- Krasiński Square
- Miodowa Street
- Kozia Street
- The Music Conservatory
- Wessel Palace
- Radziwiłł Palace
- Saski Palace
- Saski Garden
- The Visitants’ Church
- Kazimierzowski Palace
- Czapski Palace
- Holy Cross Church
- Zamoyski Palace
- Gniński - Ostrogski Palace
- The Fryderyk Chopin Monument
German Prison Pawiak/Museum of Pawiak Prison (Muzeum Więzienia)
The history of Pawiak Prison is a long and difficult one for Poland. It was built in 1835, however in 1863 it was used by Imperial Russia as a transfer camp for deportation of Poles to Siberia. Most notably in its history, the prison was used by German Nazis as a German Gestapo Prison and then as part of a concentration death camp. While exact figures are unknown, it’s estimated that 37,000 people were executed here and 60,000 were sent to concentration camps.
On August 21, 1944, remaining prisoners were shot and the prison was destroyed by German Nazis. The prison was left in ruins, but as a point of significance, the Museum of Pawiak Prison was built on the foundation of the casemates that remained and items recovered from the rebel were used in the reconstruction. The Museum of Pawiak Prison was established in 1965, and today the museum can be seen in the basement of the prison, while the outside walls and courtyard have been memorialized. The Museum of Pawiak Prison has a semi regularly updated English Tumblr page, although their Polish website, can be used for up-to-date visiting information.
Warsaw Old Town
Naturally, a trip to Warsaw wouldn’t be complete without taking in the beauty and history of Old Town! It’s the place you’ll find the most tourists, but with plenty of good reasons. The buildings were wonderfully and meticulously restored after their destruction during Word War II and the Warsaw Uprising. The streets are narrow, quaint cobble stone avenues that twist and turn through the city. The history in the churches, the palace, and the museums, offer wonderful views into the perseverance and culture of Warsaw. There’s so much to see and do here that we’ve dedicated an entire post to it, City Guide to Warsaw, Poland: Part 2 | Visiting Old Town!
Remembrance and Memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto
During World War II, over 30% of Warsaw’s population was Jewish, making it the second largest Jewish community in Europe. In 1940, during the Nazi Germany Occupation, the Jewish Ghetto was walled off in the center of Warsaw with a 3 meter (9.8 foot) high wall to create two Ghettos, the small and the large, connected by a wooden bridge. The living conditions were so dire that in just three years, 100,000 people in the Ghetto had died from starvation and sickness, and this number doesn’t include the 100,000’s of people who were transferred in rail stock cars to extermination and concentration camps.
There are many sites in Warsaw where memories of the suffering, death, and atrocities can be reflected upon. However, one can also see the strength, endurance, and determination of the communities that lived this reality. Below, we’ve chosen to include two sites that were most impactful to us and aren’t likely included in most sightseeing lists. If you have additional recommendations, please share with us in the comments.
14 Pronza Street (Ulica Próżna)
Other than markers, monuments, photos, and memories, most of the physical remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto have been erased through rebuilding and revitalization. However, there’s one last tenement building that remains which still bears the scars of World War II. On our way to the Palace of Culture and Science (the large communist era building that towers over Warsaw city center), we walked down Plac Grzybowski and stopped at the corner where the street intersected with Pronza Street. The buildings in all directions are new and well maintained, except for one, number 14. It’s easy to walk by without knowing the significance of this older, worn, and scared tenement building, but once you know that it’s the one last remaining, untouched buildings of its kind, you’ll want to stop and reflect.
We recommend visiting as soon as you can, as this block has undergone many recent renovations and it’s likely only a matter of time before number 14’s exterior scars are erased and forever left to only live in photographs.
Thanks to Roaming Required for the tip on visiting Pronza Street, which without, we’d likely have walked by this historical building without a clue as to its significance!
Warsaw Ghetto Boundary Marker
The significance of the Warsaw Ghetto is strong and has been preserved through markers placed in the city. As you explore Warsaw, you’ll likely come across markers embedded in the street that represent the Warsaw Ghetto walls that once stood there. The markers, including placards and maps of the zones are listed in the Wikipedia entry. We chose to highlight one that was particularly impactful to us; it’s on the corner of Świętojerska Street and Nowiniarska Street. It has the only remaining fragment of the wall preserved, which surrounded the northern part of the Warsaw Ghetto. It’s also next to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland, a sharp contrast in architecture and justice of the history of the monument we went to see that didn’t escape us. We recommend, after seeing the boundary marker, to walk a few feet to your right (when facing the boundary marker) just past the driveway and look at the back of the Supreme Court building. There are three stunning bronze sculptures of Caryatids that are standing in a reflection pool while bearing part of the weight of the building. The Caryatids represent the three theological virtues: love, hope, and faith. You may also notice the bronze columns around the building which have written legal maxims in Latin and Polish.
University Library Garden (Ogród Biblioteki Uniwersyteckiej)
We were walking towards the Copernicus Science Centre when we spotted what looked like an amazing rooftop garden hidden behind a few buildings. It wasn’t originally on our list of sights, but it caught our attention when we saw a glimpse of it, and so, we set off to find the entrance. When we finally found it, we learned that it was the Warsaw University Library Garden and it was free to enter. Thankfully, even though the library was closed at the time of our visit, the garden is open daily. We found the entrance by walking up Dobra Street and turning into a small courtyard between the garden and the library, where an open gate gave entrance to the garden.
As soon as we entered, we knew the space was special; it felt as if we were in an alternate universe (for you gamers out there, think Syberia). The oxidized green exterior was complemented with glass and iron structures that spanned the lower and upper portions of the garden. As if walking through a fantasy world, vines were beautifully overgrown on the building and hung above us. Several trees and pergolas provided shade, while abstract sculptures placed throughout the garden provided intrigue. We passed by streams, bridges, waterfalls, and even encountered benches that were hidden away in a peaceful escape from the bright sun and noise of other visitors. The garden has two levels, the top one being a roof top garden, which we later learned is one of the largest such gardens in Europe, covering over a hectare (2.47 acres) of space! There are many unique sections to explore on the roof portion of the garden, and we especially enjoyed walking beneath the pathways covered with nearly ripe grape vines! If the garden itself wasn’t enough of a hidden gem, we were graced with a viewing platform at the southeast corner of the roof (at ground level it’s where Lipowa and Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie streets meet). We had clear views to Vistula River and PGE Stadium. It was one of our favorite gardens, ranking up there with Paris' gardens and parks!
So Much More to See in Warsaw!
Be sure to see Warsaw as we saw it, through our camera lens! We’ve included our experience of Warsaw, plus pictures of all the places we saw and explored during our time in the city in our article City Guide to Warsaw, Poland: Part 4 | A Photo Essay & Beyond.