When my husband and I decided to book a family holiday – just the 3 of us for the first time in 3 years – I was over the moon. I started planning months in advance, imagining us renting a car and driving around Ireland or drinking gallons of Spanish wine and ordering plates of tapas in the heart of Barcelona.
But mid-daydreaming I realized that, more often than not, I’m the one who gets really, excited about where we’re going. So I turned to my husband and asked where he would like to go. He paused. Then finally, after much internal deliberation, he sent me a message that read: Poland. And just like that we’d booked flights into Munich and onto Warsaw, and out of Krakow.
Did you know? 3 Facts About Warsaw
- Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and has been since 1596. It is also the largest!
- Warsaw, once described as the Paris of the East, was known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities German invasion of WWII in 1939 which left to over 85% of its building in ruins
- Warsaw was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980
Booking a Hotel in Warsaw
As I researched where to stay in Warsaw, I briefly contemplated booking a cute airbnb closer to the Old Town and, in fact, had some very pleasant exchanges with the owner of Apartment Franciszkanska who I would highly recommend despite not having stayed there during my stay.
When it came down to it however, I ended up booking three nights at the Warsaw Marriot Hotel. Why you ask? Pool I say. As it so happens, I gave birth to a fish and to date, if you ask her what her favourite part of Poland was, it would have to be the 2-hours we spent splashing around each morning before breakfast. Well, that and lody, the polish word for ice-cream!
The hotel itself was perfectly situated right across from the train station and a 20-30 min walk from the old town. Besides the pool, the highlight was definitely the proximity to the Palace of Science and Culture which we could see perfectly from our window on the twenty-something-th floor. Moreover, the staff was friendly, there were free apples in the lobby ( love free stuff – nay, food – I love free food), they gave Luna a small stuffed animal upon leaving and the fitness center was ah-mazing.
Next to the one at the Aria in Las Vegas, this was the best decked out gym I’d been to in a long time. It was actually part of a spa called Holmes Place and had space for floor workouts, cardio, and weight training and another section for massages, facials and sigh…well, all the things you don’t have time for when traveling with kids (check back with me in 18 years or so).
3 Days in Warsaw: What to See and Do
Warsaw is the perfect place to just meander. Which is good, because that’s essentially what kids to best. Whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple or with kids in tow, you can soak up the history and the flavour of the old city. New city. You know what I mean. Here is a round up of some of our favourite things to see and do in Warsaw:
Walk Around Old Town and New Town
Ironically enough, the old town in Warsaw is actually the new town. Dating back to the 13th century, much of the old town was badly damaged in the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and was then systematically blown up by the Germans following the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Following World War II, the old town was re-built to the last detail, making it actually newer than new town!
In both the old town and the new town you’ll find restaurants boasting traditional Polish cuisine including different types of dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese, onion and sometimes even fruit – my personal favourite (scroll down). Take the time to wander in and out of shops, watch the sun set over the Barbican or pop into St. John’s Archcathedral for a moment of calm before dinner.
Not only are there tons of churches to explore, but (at least during the summer months), it seems as if you can’t park yourself in the old square without witnessing a ballerina performing interpretive dance or a religious punk band looking to expand the flock as the sun goes down behind the Royal Castle. Never a dull moment!
Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Take an afternoon walk through Pilsudski Square. The square both houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and serves as entry to the Saxon Garden, a 15.5 hectare public garden in central Warsaw. Saxon Garden is the oldest park in the city and provides a wide, green, open space for kids to run around and burn off tons of energy! It’s also a romantic stroll for couple in love and a nice reprieve from the busy feel of the downtown core.
Bonus: There’s a great playground for kids! Stroll through the park, grab a coffee and let the kids, let loose.
Stroll through Lazienki Park
Want to further your discovery of Warsaw’s parks? Head to Lazienki Park, Warsaw’s largest. The park dates back to 1918 and connects the Royal Castle to the Wilanow Palace (further south).
Head towards the Łazienki Palace, designed by one Stanislaw as a bathing pavilion in 1674 and turned into a summer residence by another dude named Stanislaw in 1766. On your way to the palace, you’ll pass the Botanical Garden and the the Chopin Monument and you may even spot a peacock or two on your way!
Mingle with Royalty at The Wilanów Palace
Depending on how many days you have in Warsaw, a visit to the Wilanow Palace – a Baroque royal residence built in 1677 by King John Sobieski III – may or may not be worth your while.
With only 3 days to tour the city, the palace wasn’t originally part of our plan but one rainy day meant we ran in search of sanctuary – and where better to weather the storm than in the company of dead royals?
Note: Wilanow Palace is about a 30 min bus ride or so south of central Warsaw. For a nominal fee you can tour both the royal apartments and the gardens (which I imagine are more welcoming during sunnier days).
The Warsaw Rising Museum
When traveling with young kids, it’s not always easy to justify a trip to the museum. Kids (heck, even teenagers) tend not to stare at art with quite the same whimsical, intrigue as adults do.
That being said, we try really hard to squeeze in at least one museum into each visit and the one that I definitely didn’t want to miss during the first leg of our trip was the Warsaw Rising Museum, a tribute to Warsaw’s residents who fought and died for an independent Poland. The museum itself was enormously interactive, with numerous displays taking you through the journey of Warsaw residents before, during and after the tragic events surrounding WWII and the rise of communism in Europe. Definitely worth a visit. Plan to spend 3-4 hours taking it all in.
Bonus: There is a separate room with displays for kids featuring stuffed animals, rocking horses, a colouring table (with paper and crayons that the kids are welcome to use), children’s books (in polish) and a video showing the children of Warsaw during the city’s darkest hours.
3 Days in Warsaw: Where to Eat
Dine on on Nowy Siat
Whatever you do – take the time to eat somewhere along Nowy Siat. It is the most delicious strip of restaurants, ice-cream shops, and cafes you will find throughout Warsaw. It’s eclectic, hip and provides you with choices that range from traditional Polish to new-age cuisine. It’s also the best way to reach the old town from the financial center!
See below for our favourite lunch-spot on Nowy Siat.
Favourite Breakfast in Warsaw: Cud Miod
Cud Miod was fantastic! We stumbled upon Cud Miod because it was so close to the Marriott and we were starving after our mornings swim! It also happened to serve breakfast until noon, which was KEY (we really love our eggs).
The orange juice was fresh, the food was delicious and the decor was charming. In fact, we loved it so much that after trying the joint next door and – after being thoroughly disappointed in every way – we returned on our third morning before catching the train onward to Krakow.
Photo courtesy of the Cud Miod Facebook Page.
Favourite Lunch in Warsaw: Petit Appetit
Had someone told me that cucumber soup could be this good, I would have perfected my gazpacho years ago.
Parked along the picturesque street of Nowy Siat, Petit Appetit is a little taste of Paris in the heart of Warsaw. Not only does it serve up a cucumber yogurt soup so good that my four year old couldn’t keep her hands off it – or her spoon out of it – it also boasts an assortment of delicious french pastries, and healthy options for breakfast and lunch including salads, savoury crepes and so much more.
Park yourself for an hour or two and sip on a refreshing basil lemonade or a creamy cappuccino as you watch wedding goers, students, parents with small children, and businessmen and women hustle their way about the city.
Top tip: Try ordering the lunch menu which includes a soup + crepe or salad + dessert of the day. Great value for the price and dessert is always delicious!
Favourite Dinner in Warsaw: Czerwony Wieprz
It’s impossible to follow every recommendation you’ve received while visiting a new city, but a visit to Czerwony Wieprz was one I didn’t want to miss. Situated on the border of the town centre and the Wola District, which saw the birth of socialism in Poland, Czerwony Wieprz has a fascinating history to complement it’s extensive menu.
The restaurant takes it’s name from the original Inn, which dates back to the 19th century and operated on the same spot as Czerwony Wieprz until WWII. Czerwony Wieprz, meaning “Inn Under the Red Hog” was named after communist leaders that frequented the Inn, including Lenin himself! Legend has it that the original Inn was used for secret meetings among communist party leadership.
Glance at the menu here and try out some dishes favoured by members of the communist elite including Gierek’s Truffle Soup. This creamy soup, filled with chicken, Grana Padano cheese flakes and olive-truffle croutons is supposedly based on a recipe provided by the wife of Charles De Gaulle, the deliciousness of which I can personally attest.
Stay tuned for 3-days in Krakow, coming up next!