Fast City Guides: Warsaw

Fast City Guides: Warsaw

Stare Misato

 

Vital stats:

Population: 1,700,000

Location: Eastern Poland

To Sum up: The Phoenix city

Adventurer ranking:

 

 

 

The Situation:

Warsaw is a city that’s forever taking a beating from everyone else, literally and figuratively. Those who are familiar with the name are quick to envision a bleak, industrial place whose main claim to fame is suffering a localized apocalypse during WWII. Even residents of Krakow – its by-reputation more cultured neighbor – are quick to scoff at the city. But upon visiting you realize that this is a place which has been vastly underestimated.  While it was rebuilt in the post-war Stalinist style, recent decades have seen a massive reconstruction of the beautiful pre-war old town and the city. Surprisingly, the city itself houses more parks than anywhere else in Europe – making it among the greenest. Pleasing aesthetics aside, Warsaw showcases a grand cultural heritage (Chopin called it home), bustling modern city life and a pumping nightscene.

Who‘s it for:

It’s not often that a European capital is overshadowed by its little brother on the tourist trail, but Warsaw has found itself in such a position with Krakow. But in many ways this is a good thing, especially for those who are trying to avoid the foreign masses. In other words – Warsaw isn’t going to throw fun down your throat in the way which Krakow does, you’re going to have to be a little more proactive, which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for first time travellers to europe.  That been said, there are a great many high quality attractions where the local prices and lack of lines are very welcome. Music lovers of all sorts will love the city, you can barely walk a city block without seeing a monument or museum dedicated to Chopin, not to mention the myriad of clubs and bars which go off every other night. Oh, and guys – there are 4 women for every man in this city. I probably shouldn’t have given that one away.

Advice:

  • As mentioned, doing a little forward research on where to go and what to see is quite important as Warsaw is very spread out and much larger than it’s brother city. You’ll have a harder time winging it here than you would elsewhere.
  • A girl I know once joked that if I ever went to Warsaw I’d practically be guaranteed to be pick-pocketed and mugged – so badly would I stand out. Well this didn’t happen, but still be aware that this is not a city which is used to tourists – so be prepared to look after yourself a bit more.
  • Telling people that you prefer Warsaw to Krakow is a great way to endear yourself to anybody here.
Outside the City Courts

The Do’s:

  • The Warsaw Old town or Stare Misato. A total reconstruction of Warsaw’s pre-1939 town center, the brightly colored mix of medieval, rococo and neoclassical buildings is extremely beautiful.
  • The Palace of Culture and Science. Built from 1953 – 1955 as a gift from Joseph Stalin to the Polish people, the largest national building was viewed by locals more as a Titanic middle finger given they were simultaneously been held under Soviet subjugation. Nowdays the building is more tolerated, offering grand views of the city as well as hosting a range of major exhibitions.
  • Take a stroll in the park. There are a host of extremely elegant options to choose from but the two most famous are probably the Saxon Park (The oldest) and the Royal Baths Park (The biggest and most grand).
  • Get some local vodka going on  at any of the cities excellent bars and clubs

The must do’s

The Warsaw uprising museum. It’s not often that I recommend a museum as essential viewing in an Eastern European city but this is very well done. The ambience, interactivity, displays, movies and reconstructions are truly world class. For the historical layman, the Warsaw uprising was the near successful uprising of the cities populace in the closing months of WWII. It was a horribly bloody and ultimately unsuccessful affair, ending with the Nazi annihilation of the city.

Warsaw in 1945

Avoid like the plague

Anti-semetic and nazi jokes. Obviously unpopular in most countries, this is ground zero for the intolerance of such things.

My Experience

Regrettably it was a whirlwind tour of 1 and half days and I was barely able to see very much. I was however fortunate to have a local friend give me a grand tour of the old town and some of the local student bars. An very intelligent girl – she provided great commentary and company. I’d gone there with the expectation of there been very little to do, and was thus disappointed that I’d ultimately allocated too little time.

Desire to return

 

 

 

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