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Unconventional Travel Tips: Warsaw

Following the success of my Unconventional Travel Tips: Prague post, when I recently visited Warsaw I was eagerly on the look out for unusual things that might make good tips.

Picking the Polish capital for my Christmas Market destination of 2018, I arrived not knowing what to expect. Having never been to Poland before, our flight arrived into Warsaw Modlin Airport. This airport was really…let’s say basic. It did the job, but for me an airport is not something that should be able to be classified as twee or sweet. A tiny airport on the site of a disused military airfield, Modlin is a little over 6 years old. Like any child of this age, it seems to still be finding its feet in the world. It has everything an airport needs, but nothing more. The definition of no frills, it offers one restaurant, one bar, one cafe, one room of duty free and four departure gates and one set of toilets. (Yes, they are gross!) We arrived in a chilly -6’C and even from the air Poland looked cold. There is no filter on this picture, it was really this grey.

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Slightly over 20 miles from the centre of the city, getting from the airport to your accommodation can prove a difficult task in Warsaw. This leads me on to the first tip of the trip:

MONEY

Provided you do not wish to take an organised coach into the city centre, you will need to get a ticket from the machines in the airport arrivals terminal. Something to look out for here is the fact that these machines physically do not accept anything higher than 50 Polish Zloty (about £10). Considering that most of the ATM’s suggest withdrawing 1000PLN, 2000PLN and upwards, try to make sure you have smaller bills to hand throughout your trip. Some machines at regular train stations in the capital, do not accept anything larger than 20 Zloty, so be aware of this.

MAIN TIP: Use the bigger bills as early as possible on things like dinner or at the supermarket. If you try to pay for small amounts with large bills, a lot of places flatly refuse your money.

working business money coins

WHERE TO STAY

The same thing can be said regardless of where you travel, but it is always important to think about what you want from a hotel. Will it be just a place for your body at the end of a long day exploring? Will it be somewhere you will spend the majority of your time? For me, this time, my hotel needed to provide me with a cosy pitstop at frequent intervals during the day – somewhere to truly recharge. Due to this, we picked out the Hampton Hotel by Hilton, located in the super modern, downtown area of Warsaw city. We had a room on the 15th floor of a 17 floor building with views of the whole downtown. From our budget B&B in Prague a few months ago, this hotel was definitely a little Christmas treat.

MAIN TIP: Most of the big name hotels are in downtown Warsaw including the Marriott and the Hilton. Smaller hotels and B&B’s are more frequent, the closer you get to the Old Town

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This view though…

GETTING AROUND

Warsaw is a pretty small city and very flat. This makes it super easy to get around on foot. That being said, when walking the streets, many avenues do not have pedestrian crossing points, and it appears that 5 lanes of traffic running in each direction meet at an intersection with nowhere for the people. Unlike in London, it is standard practice in Warsaw for the crossing points to be under the roads – like mini subways. Great when it’s pouring with freezing rain, but not so great when you have luggage or issues with going up and down stairs. Trains are pretty cheap in Warsaw too and quite reliable (from my experience). We used the local buses too which are clean and seemed to run on time. Trams also run in the city, but they always seemed to be very crowded so we gave them a miss this time.

MAIN TIP: Be cautious if you struggle with mobility or if steps are an issue for you. Many of these passages do not have lift access, and those that do are not always easy to spot.

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A warming walk to the top of St Anne’s Church

WHERE TO AVOID?

For me, 3 days/2 nights is enough to see all of what we wanted to see in Warsaw, which evidently was the Christmas market. With the Christmas market being somewhat underwhelming, I am still happy to have visited Poland. The food was so very delicious and the Old Town Square somewhat Lego like and the views from the tower are not to be missed at a mere £1.50, the stairs are well worth a climb. One of the things I would say to avoid would be the Royal Palace. Although very cheap at about £4 each, it is very bizarre that you are not allowed to go inside with your jackets or bags. In a city that was -6’C at the time of my visit, I did not fancy taking off my coat for a look around. After going back to the ticket office, we did get refunded for our unused tickets. Perhaps a visit in summer time would be more suitable or coming up with an alternative security solution for visitors. 

MAIN TIP: Leave the Royal Palace and if you can, climb the stairs to the top of St Anne’s Church. The views of the Old Town are 360′ and so pretty, even in the rain!

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The Royal Palace
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The view from the top of St Anne’s Church

Overall I would not put Warsaw on the list of places to visit for a good Christmas market, which is why I did not rush to get the post out when it was actually Christmas. It is a pretty little city with great places to eat and very cheap to have a drink. Frosty locals mean much of the city distinctively lacks that festive feel and I found the Old Town quite disappointing. The market was very small, and lots of the Christmas lights kept being switched off in various places around the city which was a shame. The food in Warsaw was definitely one of the highlights however so there will be more on that very soon!

Have you ever been to Warsaw or elsewhere in Poland? What did you think of the city you visited? 

21 thoughts on “Unconventional Travel Tips: Warsaw”

    1. Thank you for reading Diandra ♥️ nothing quite like travel nostaligia feelings! We still enjoyed it and have no regrets but won’t be going back for the markets. We saw lots of those and general food stores there but we didn’t need to buy anything in those places, unlike when we went to Prague and I ended up featuring even the basics on my food blog post about Prague 😂 x

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  1. I’ve been to Warsaw and loved the food there although I only had burgers and Italian but it was still so good and very cheap.
    Great post Ellie, definitely useful tips 👍🏼👍🏼😘

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    1. The burgers in Poland are the absolute yummiest and the pizza there was some of the best ever. The pizza makes me want to return to Poland just for that! Oooh and the vino – can’t forget the vino!

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  2. I’ve been to Warsaw but just a short trip during an exchange project and I really liked the architecture and the feeling, but I prefer Wroclaw, which is very lovely and has cute little dwarfs scattered around the city. I heard Krakow is also very beautiful.

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  3. Afraid I’m not sold on a trip – way too cold for my old bones no matter how good the food and the airport facilities sound dodgey….
    Love the tops though 🐩🐩🐩

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    1. Oh no! Well it was very cold – I think maybe you would like to visit Poland in summer – perhaps another city as there are some beautiful places on offer and the food is really good! The airport was not the best but it did the job I think it would have been different again if we had gone to the other one in the city.

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  4. Looking out from your window Ellie I thought Warsaw would be more densely populated in terms of streets, lighting, shops etc. but it’s actually very tiny for a capital city. Shame Warsaw didn’t live up to your expectations, the last thing you need is an underwhelming travel experience that’s not fully embracing a festive period.

    Anyway If you’re looking for another city in Poland to visit I’ll recommend Krakow to you as I’ve heard really good things about the city itself.

    Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures
    https://johnnystraventures.com

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    1. I still loved visiting Warsaw and have no regrets. We had a lovely time there too. Everyone recommends Krakow, I’d love to explore that city next 🙂 Thank you for reading x

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  5. I found Warsaw a little brooding. I’ve been to a good number of Polish cities and it was my least favourite. That said I like the old town. But much of it was so … communist. Your guide was great, and had some spot on tips. I wouldn’t give up my jacket in -6 either

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    1. I completely understand what you mean by brooding! It was even more so in cold, dark December! I found the old town pretty but a bit underwhelming 😦 but I still really liked it. The Royal Palace no coat rule was very strange – I’m glad we stood our ground. There were a few people also leaving b/c of that! Thank you for reading x

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  6. I went to Warsaw once and stayed in a lovely little hostel. Our room had a large bed and a feature fire place which we could use if we wanted to. We went in September so it was still fairly warm and we didn’t end up using the fireplace. I agree with you that there’s not much to do in the city but the food was delicious! I got addicted to pierogi.

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    1. YASSSS, pierogi looks so good there! I didn’t get to try any last time but I’ve had it before! I’d love to try a polish version of it 😍 I always like a place a bit better when it’s not artic conditions! I know I’ll return to Poland one day ❤️ Thank you so much for reading Kim as always ♥️ x

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      1. There’s was a lovely pierogi place in Old Town. I’m pretty sure it was a chain across Poland but I can’t remember what it was called! 😦 It was delicious though. If you’re thinking about going back to Poland, I’d recommend Gdasnk, Sopot or Krakow.

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      2. I would love to visit Krakow and Wroclaw in Poland, maybe later this year! Thank you for the recommendations, Poland is such a unique country – it is really a lovely place to explore ♥ and the food being so good is always a help. I found some of the best pizza I ever had in a little place in Poland and I think it was also a small chain (within Poland) it was called Tutti Santi ♥

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