I love traveling to Poland. Living in Canada, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, but I feel like so few people go to Poland for vacation unless you’re Polish or living in Europe, so I’m going to write about my latest trip to Poland and cover all the cities I visited and basically why you should go.
If you’re flying into Poland from Canada or the US, you’re most likely going to land in Warsaw (or Warszawa in Polish). It’s the capital of Poland and is the biggest city with a million-ish people living there. I like Warsaw, but it’s not my fave…still a lot to see though.
Warsaw is a bit different as it’s pretty spread out and most of it was rebuilt after WWII because it was almost entirely bombed to the ground. There is the Old Town, which seems old, but it’s not. Then there is the downtown area, which looks like a communist version of Barcelona.
We stayed at the Novotel Centrum hotel because it’s a large hotel and we were arriving in the morning. We wanted to book a hotel that could accommodate an earlier check-in because after a long flight, you don’t want to have to kill time waiting for your room.
We were in Poland during the World Cup when it was in Russia and it was just a cool atmosphere. There were fans everywhere (even though Poland kind of stunk). So many restaurants had outdoor viewing areas setup, our hotel had games during commercials with prizes. It was a fun time! There was a huge outdoor screening in Warsaw outside of the Palace of Culture and Science.
Below are some spots that I took my Canadian husband (first-time Poland visitor):
Old Town – this is an obvious statement. It’s the “old” part of Warsaw, which actually isn’t that old because it was mostly bombed to the ground. It’s a very touristy area with lots of shops, cafes, restaurants.
Watch out for the gypsies though…it’s a lot less than it used to be but basically any kids playing “Despacito” on an accordion by themselves are gypsies. Don’t give them money.
The Presidential Palace – I just walked by it a few times, but two of those times, there were protests right outside. You can tour inside, but instead, we went for a drink to the very boujee hotel nearby, Hotel Bristol. It was super fancy and we were so sweaty that day. I definitely felt underdressed and frumpy especially since there was a piano player in the bar lounge in a tuxedo. It was really effing boujee.
Złote Tarasy – this translates to “golden terraces” and is a fancy looking mall. The malls in Poland are so much nicer and this is one of them. Yea they have some of the same old shit like H&M, Forever 21 and some other stores we have here. It’s a bummer, but move past those. What you need to check out are the shoe stores, my fave being Badura but honourable mention to Ryłko, Prima Moda and Venezia. You can buy amazing leather/suede shoes that are made in Europe for a fraction of what you can buy in Canada/USA. My family and I always joke about how many shoes we’re going to buy. My husband claimed he’d buy only one, maybe two pairs if he was lucky. He bought four plus some pantofle (traditional leather slippers).
Warsaw Uprising Museum – I’m not much of a museum person but this one is really well done. It’s more of an installation/experience type of museum. They really layout the items in an interesting way. There is even an old war plane hanging off the ceiling. It’s obviously serious and very impactful. I’ve also been to a few of the other museums over the years. Word of advice, don’t walk back in a museum. I got yelled at in the National Museum as a kid because I got too ahead of my mom and then went back to get her.
Other places to check out that I don’t want to explain (look it up yourself):
- Plac Kultury i Nauki (Palace of Culture and Science)
- Łazienki Park
- The Royal Castle
- Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów
- Frederic Chopin Museum
We obviously went out to eat and found some gems as well as a couple shitty places. Craft breweries are really trendy right now as well as hamburger and “American” restaurants, which obv I’m not interested in because I have that at home. Watch out for restaurants in the Old Town where a lot are targeted at tourists (duh), but they’re high in price, low in quality. We had the shittiest cheese plate at this one place…just random ass cheeses with ritz crackers and flaccid grapes. It was total shit.
Below are some of the restaurants we enjoyed:
Podwale Restaurant – located in the Old Town, this place makes schnitzels bigger than your head (and believe me, Poland has a lot of big heads). Outside of the restaurant is a parked truck. It’s a pretty touristy place but it’s legit. Plus you get shots of wiśnówka after your meal. On a certain day, the schnitzel is 5zł off (I forgot which day).
Same Fusy – also located in Old Town, it’s this cool underground tea house. I’ve never seen anything like it, which is only partly because it’s the only tea place I’ve been to. If you like tea, I recommend this place. If you don’t like tea, maybe you should go here and potentially change your mind. One downside, you can’t buy tea to take home.
Piw Paw – this bar has over 50 beer taps to choose from and is open really late. The decor is pretty cool with all of the walls being completely covered in bottle caps. One thing, if you pick an unpopular beer that kind of sits there, it might not be as fresh. I tried to pick an obscure one called Mirosław and according to my husband, it kinda sucked.
Zapiecek – even though it’s a chain restaurant, we really liked this place. It’s traditional Polish food.
We went here twice and had kielbasa, pierogi and bigos. The menus are really helpful too because they have English ones if you can’t read Polish.
Specjały Regionalne – is an old school, traditional restaurant. It was really good, lots of delicious Polish meal options. My husband ordered golabki in a tomato sauce with dill potatoes, split the kopytka and I had homemade rosół. They also have a ton of different nalewki to try (fruit-flavoured liquors). We had malinówka (raspberry).
One last thing….
The taxi drivers can be total a-holes. They can overcharge or refuse to take you to a place that isn’t far enough.
We needed to get to the train station from our hotel which was about 1 km away. We had two to just flat out tell us no. Another said he would do it for 50zł. Finally we got another guy to do it for 30zł, which was still a rip-off, but I was starting to get nervous because it was pouring rain and busy af outside.
So be careful around the train stations, airport, leaving hotels and Sigmund’s Column. The taxis were actually the worst there, so do yourself a favour and walk or get an uber.
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