YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Difference between revisions of "Warsaw"

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search
Warsaw

Default Banner.jpg

(Districts)
m (Districts)
Line 9: Line 9:
  
 
==Districts==
 
==Districts==
Warsaw is divided into '''18 districts'''. The '''central district''' is called '''[[Warsaw/Srodmiescie|Śródmieście]]''' and is surrounded by '''6 other districts''' often collectively referred to as the ''Centrum'' (Centre). These are:
+
* Warsaw is divided into '''18 districts'''. The '''central district''' is called '''[[Warsaw/Srodmiescie|Śródmieście]]''' and is surrounded by '''6 other districts''' often collectively referred to as the ''Centrum'' (Centre). These are: '''[[Warsaw/Mokotow|Mokotów]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Ochota|Ochota]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Praga Polnoc|Praga Północ]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Praga Poludnie|Praga Południe]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Wola|Wola]]''' and '''[[Warsaw/Zoliborz|Żoliborz]]'''.  
'''[[Warsaw/Mokotow|Mokotów]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Ochota|Ochota]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Praga Polnoc|Praga Północ]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Praga Poludnie|Praga Południe]]''', '''[[Warsaw/Wola|Wola]]''' and '''[[Warsaw/Zoliborz|Żoliborz]]'''. The '''remaining 11 peripheral districts''' are:
+
* The '''remaining 11 peripheral districts''' are: [[Warsaw/Bemowo|Bemowo]], [[Warsaw/Bialoleka|Białołęka]]. [[Warsaw/Bielany|Bielany]], [[Warsaw/Rembertow|Rembertów]], [[Warsaw/Targowek|Targówek]], [[Warsaw/Ursus|Ursus]], [[Warsaw/Ursynow|Ursynów]], [[Warsaw/Wawer|Wawer]], [[Warsaw/Wesola|Wesoła]], [[Warsaw/Wilanow|Wilanów]] and [[Warsaw/Wlochy|Włochy]].
[[Warsaw/Bemowo|Bemowo]], [[Warsaw/Bialoleka|Białołęka]]. [[Warsaw/Bielany|Bielany]], [[Warsaw/Rembertow|Rembertów]], [[Warsaw/Targowek|Targówek]], [[Warsaw/Ursus|Ursus]].
 
[[Warsaw/Ursynow|Ursynów]], [[Warsaw/Wawer|Wawer]], [[Warsaw/Wesola|Wesoła]], [[Warsaw/Wilanow|Wilanów]] and [[Warsaw/Wlochy|Włochy]].
 
  
 
''For more information about the districts, see [[#Orientate_Yourself|Orientate Yourself]]''.
 
''For more information about the districts, see [[#Orientate_Yourself|Orientate Yourself]]''.

Revision as of 18:30, 14 August 2006

This article is the Collaboration of the month for 8 August 2006. Find out how it can be improved, and plunge forward to make this an article we can be proud of!


A panorama of the Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) in Warsaw

Warsaw [1] (Polish: Warszawa) is the capital of Poland and, with 1.7 million inhabitants, its largest city. It is located on the River Vistula (Polish: Wisła) roughly at the same distance of 350 km (217 mi) from both the Baltic Sea (Bałtyk) and the Carpathian Mountains (Karpaty).

Although not particularly well known among mainstream tourists, Warsaw has a picturesque Old Town that tells a story, some remarkable landmarks from the Communist era and a skyline full of skyscrapers, which were developed during the last few years.


Contents

Districts

For more information about the districts, see Orientate Yourself.

Understand

Piłsudski Square about 1900

It is often said that Warsaw bears some resemblance to the mythical Phoenix. Having been completely destroyed, the city somehow managed to lift itself from the ashes. In the aftermath of the 1944 Uprising against the Nazis [2], Warsaw was obliterated with 9 out of every 10 buildings crumbled in ruins. At the end of World War II (1939-45) was virtually uninhabited, yet with a tremendous reconstruction effort, most of the city was rebuilt as early as the 1950s.

The Communist era (1945-1989) has significantly contributed to the city architecture, with the most noticeable landmark, the Palace of Culture and Science (Polish: Pałac Kultury i Nauki, PKiN) [3], a "personal gift" from Joseph Stalin, dominating the Warsaw landscape.

Since the fall of Communism, Warsaw has been developing rapidly, even chaotically at times. Certainly, the harmonisation of urban landscape was of little importance to the country's first entrepreneurs, as they were busy plugging gaps in supply by selling various items on a provisional basis.

Warsaw's all about change now. You wouldn't recognize the city if you last saw it ten years ago or so. In the next ten years, it'll be a completely different place again. Off the beaten path, now's the time to see some of the Warsaw's peculiarities before they disappear forever.

Tourist Information

The Warsaw Tourist Information [4] will answer your questions about the city and other regions of Poland, tell you what's happening in the city at the time of your stay, book a hotel room for you and sell you a map of the city (or even give you one for free). They can be reached by e-mail [email protected] and by phone at +48 22 9431.

Also, they have four offices around the city where you can meet them face to face:

  • In the city centre, near the Castle Square (Polish: Plac Zamkowy): ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 39 9AM-8PM (Oct-Apr: 9AM-6PM)
  • At the central railway station (Polish: Dworzec Centralny): Al. Jerozolimskie 54 8AM-8PM (Oct-Apr: 8AM-6PM)
  • There are two offices in the airport ul. Żwirki i Wigury 1 - Terminal 1 Arrivals and also at the Etiuda Terminal (budget airlines fly here). Both open from 8AM-8PM (Oct-Apr: 8AM-6PM)

Get in

By plane

The Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport (WAW) is located in the area of Okęcie, some 10 km south of the centre point of the city. In fact, for many years the airport used to be called just Okęcie, but this reportedly caused confusion and it was renamed.

The airport is quite small by Western European standards, which can be an advantage, because it is less of a mess (although not always). It has direct connections with some 70 destinations, mostly in Europe and in the eastern US. In 2005, some 7 million passengers were served.

The Chopin Airport is home to LOT Polish Airlines - one of the oldest (est. 1929) existing air carriers (but not necessarily the best).

A new terminal is currently being built, Because of this some streets leading to the airport are closed or narrowed. The situation is best depicted by the map here.

Arriving at the airport

The procedure is the same as everywhere, but prepare to actually wait for your baggage (to be fair it's not the only airport where gross delays happen).

Departing from the Airport

  • Presently, there are two terminals in use. The Terminal 1 is the "default" terminal and the Etiuda Terminal (check-in counters E1-E8) is used by budget airlines and for charters. Although both buildings are only some 500m (546yd) from each other, it is advisable to know from which you are departing.
  • The departures from the Terminal 1 are on the first floor (not ground).
  • Arrive at least 60 minutes before the scheduled take-off (120 minutes for flights to the US and Canada).
  • Obey all the restrictions for baggage contents.

Getting to and from the Airport

By bus

This is the cheapest way. The ticket costs 2.40 zł [5]. Buy a ticket before boarding and validate it as you enter the bus.

There are three bus routes running from the airport [6].

  • Bus Route 175 [7] ul. Żwirki i Wigury (Novotel Warsaw Airport) - ul. Raszyńska - pl. Zawiszy (Hotel Sobieski) - Al. Jerozolimskie (Holiday Inn, Marriott) - City Centre - Marszałkowska (Novotel Warsaw Centre) - ul. Świętokrzyska - Krakowskie Przedmieście (Hotel Europejski, Hotel Bristol, Sofitel Victoria) - ...
  • Bus Route 188 [8] ul. Żwirki i Wigury - ul. Wawelska - Al. Armii Ludowej / Trasa Łazienkowska (Metro Politechnika) - ...
  • Night Bus Route 611.

The 175 bus will take you to the northern city centre, passing near some of the most popular hotels on its way. This is the bus you will probably want to take but watch out as it is notorious for pickpockets operating on it. The 188 bus goes to deep Praga Południe on the right bank, passing through the southern city centre. It is also a better choice if you just want to get to the metro.

By taxi

Avoid the taxi drivers soliciting for customers. They are severely overcharging. Go for one of the companies recommended by the airport authorities (Merc Taxi, MPT Radio Taxi or Sawa Taxi - they are slightly above market average in terms of prices) or you can order a taxi from another corporation by phone (there is no surcharge).

In any case, the most you should pay is 3.00 zł (up to 4.50 zł on Sundays; but typically no more than 2.00 zł) per kilometre in the daytime plus an initial fee of no more than 6 zł. You are entitled to be given the bill on request. The bill must specify what was the route used. There is no obligation or custom of tipping the taxi drivers.

Other
  • Your hotel may operate a shuttle bus service. Ask in the reception.
  • There is a privately-owned bus operating [9], but considering it departs as rarely as every 45 minutes, it won't usually get you there much faster than the normal bus. The ticket costs 10 zł or €3 (~= 12 zł) or $3 (~= 9 zł).
  • For those travelling on from Warsaw to another town serviced by Polski Express there is a stop at the airport and a bureau where you can buy tickets. The routes and timetable are here.

By train

Please read about getting in and getting around by train in Poland first.

Unless you really know what you are doing, get out at the Dworzec Centralny (Warszawa Centralna) station, as it has best connections with all the places in the city. All long-distance trains pass through this station and all stop there. It is the only long-distance station underground, so you will know when to get out. It isn't the last station on the route!

After you arrive, you can take a bus to get wherever you want to.

See also: Getting out from Warsaw by train.

By car

Read about driving in Poland first.

Unlike most European capitals, Warsaw has no bypass. All transit traffic is routed through the city streets. The following E-roads lead to Warsaw: 2|E30, 7|E77, 8|E67, 17|E372. The E-numbers are usually displayed on signs but it is best to know the national numbers, too (these are the ones given before the | here).

What follows is a list of streets you will find yourself on when approaching the city from different directions:

The cities listed above are the ones displayed on signs in the city. The abbreviations in (parentheses) show you which neighbouring countries can be reached with a road.

Road Distances to Other Cities

Cities in Poland

Białystok 190 km (118 mi) Gdańsk 390 km (242 mi) Kielce 180 km (112 mi) Kraków 290 km (180 mi) Olsztyn 210 km (130 mi) Poznań 310 km (193 mi) Siedlce 100 km (62 mi) Toruń 210 km (130 mi) Poznań 310 km (193 mi)

Cities in Other Countries

Berlin (D) 570 km (354 mi) Budapest (H) 700 km (535 mi) Kaliningrad (RU) 350 km (217 mi)

By bus

For the list of international connections, see Poland - By bus; for more information about the regional and long-distance connections, see: Warsaw - Get out by bus.

Most buses arrive at Dworzec PKS Warszawa Zachodnia (Al. Jerozolimskie near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich, also a railway station). Walk to the other side of Al. Jerozolimskie and take a bus:

  • Best of all, 517 or E-5 (peak hours only) to Centrum.
  • Alternatively, 523 or 130 to Dw. Centralny (one bus stop short of Centrum).
  • Also not bad, 408 (peak hours only) or 188 to Metro Politechnika (one metro stop short of Centrum).
  • At night there is 605 to Dw. Centralny every 30 minutes beginning at about 11:30PM.

The other buses are not for you unless you know what you are doing.

Get around

Orientate Yourself

File:PLAC.jpg
Warsaw, The Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki)

As is the case with most cities, Warsaw is situated on a river. The river's name is Vistula (Polish: Wisła) and it crosses the city vertically, dividing it into two parts, usually referred to as 'the left bank' (Polish: lewy brzeg adj. lewobrzeżna [Warszawa]) and 'the right bank' (Polish: prawy brzeg adj. prawobrzeżna [Warszawa]).

The Inner City

Historically, the right bank was the first one to become populated, somewhere in the 9th or 10th century. However, the present city's central district, called Śródmieście (the Inner City) lies on the left bank. The Old Town is fully contained within the borders of the Inner City.

The central point of the city is located at the intersection of al. Jerozolimskie and ul. Marszałkowska, near the entrance to the Metro Centrum [10] underground station. This is indicated by a signpost showing distances to other European capitals.

In the quarter delimited by al. Jerozolimskie, ul. Marszałkowska, al. Jana Pawła II and ul. Świętokrzyska, you will also find the main railway station Dworzec Centralny and the Palace of Culture and Science [11].

It is good to know that the Palace of Culture is a landmark visible from almost any location in Warsaw. Should you ever get lost in the city, this will be your beacon.

The Centre of Warsaw

Warsaw is divided into 18 districts (dzielnica pl. dzielnice), 6 of which border the Inner City. These are:

Śródmieście and all the districts that border it are often collectively referred to as Centrum (the Centre). They were a single borough under the previous administrative division.

The Suburbs

The remaining 11 peripheral districts are:

Street Numbering Schemes

  • In streets perpendicular to Vistula, numbers grow as you get farther from the river.
  • In streets parallel to Vistula, numbers grow down the river.
  • There are some exceptions to those rules, however. One of them is the longest street in Warsaw, ul. Puławska.
  • Some buildings have more than one number, like e.g. 188/192. This is to maintain contiguity.
  • Some other buildings have number extensions: 60, 60a and 60b are different buildings.
  • The slash in an address can have another meaning, denoting a distinct part inside a building, usually a flat in a block of flats.

The correct addressing scheme is:

An example A template
1 Sz.P. Janina Nowak Salutation AddresseeName
2 ul. Cicha 132/16 StreetAbbr. StreetName BuildingNo (/FlatNo)
3 62-600 Gniezno PostCode City
Address Traps

Although there is a rule that no two streets within the city may bear the same name:

  • Watch out for street names that may look similar, like ul. Oboźna / ul. Obozowa / ul. Okopowa or in fact are similar, like ul. Budrysów and ul. Trzech Budrysów.
  • There are al. (avenues) and ul. (streets) by the same name: al. Wilanowska and ul. Wilanowska.
  • Some street names in the newest Warsaw district of Wesoła overlap those in the other parts of the city. There is a bus that goes from nearby al. Jana Pawła II to ul. Jana Pawła II, the latter being in Wesoła.

In some suburban residential districts built in the 1970s and 80s, the addressing schemes may be completely unintelligible. Either ask the locals or buy a plan of the city that has all the numbers printed on the map.

Walk

Considering that the strict city centre is a flat area whose sides measure only some 2 kilometres, it is a good idea to take a stroll through it. There are two streets that serve the purpose of a promenade:

  • ul. Chmielna (Hop Street), which is fully pedestrianized; and
  • ul. Nowy Świat (New World Street), which is closed for traffic on summer weekends.

Let's suppose you start your walk from Metro Centrum (this is a popular place where people arrange to meet one another). Get to the other side of ul. Marszałkowska through the underpass. The round building adjacent to the intersection is called the Rotunda. It is a bank branch and the pavement in front of it is another popular meeting place. Going along the ul. Marszałkowska you pass some department stores and after 500 m or so, turn right into ul. Chmielna. At the end of it, turn left into ul. Nowy Świat and go straight ahead. This street, which then changes into Krakowskie Przedmieście, will lead you to Castle Square and Old Town.

Use Public Transport

The public transport system in Warsaw is generally well-developed. The route descriptions are easy to follow and the tickets are cheap. It can be painfully slow, however, to travel between destinations far from the city centre.

Tickets

Although there are many carrier companies, tickets are issued and controlled by the single Warsaw Transport Authority (Polish: Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego or ZTM) and they are valid for all means of transport except the trains.

All prices given below were valid as of August 2006.

The ticket system is quite complicated but as a tourist you shouldn't need to trouble yourself about knowing all the details. What you need to know, however, is that:

  • A single ticket costs 2.40 zł and there is a 48% concession for ISIC (international student ID) card holders, such tickets cost 1.25 zł. It is twice as expensive (4.80 zł, or 2.50 zł for a foreign student) to travel on a night bus or on a suburban route if you cross the city boundary (click here for a map).
  • The cost of travelling can be significantly reduced with travelcards.
Travelcards
  • A daily travelcard, which is valid for 24 hours since first activated, costs 7.20 zł (3.70 zł with the 48% discount).
  • A travelcard for three consecutive days (valid until 23:59 on the 3rd day) costs 12.00 zł (6.20 zł).
  • A weekly travelcard costs 24.00 zł (12.40 zł).

All the travelcards above are transferable and are valid for night buses too (but not for the suburban ones unless you stay within the city boundary).

  • A monthly, non-transferable travelcard valid for all journeys within the city boundary costs 66.00 zł (34.30 zł).
Remember to Validate

Validate your ticket immediately after entering the bus or tram. Travelcards only need to be activated on your first journey, except in the underground where touching in and touching out (or inserting a ticket) is required to open the gate.

Where to Buy

Tickets can be bought in kiosks and in other places with the Sprzedaż biletów ZTM ("WTA tickets sold here") stickers. For buses and trams, the tickets can also be bought onboard from the driver, but:

  • There is a surcharge of 0.60 zł (0.30 zł).
  • You need to have the exact amount due (no change).
  • If the driver is out of tickets you can still be fined.

Means of transport

Warsaw is served by some 200 bus routes and some 30 tram lines. There is also an underground line going from south to north on the left bank and a recently-introduced Rapid Urban Railway (Polish: Szybka Kolej Miejska or SKM) which has proved to be a big disappointment.

Buses

Buses operate usually from 5AM to 11PM, but you should always check the schedule. The intervals can be anything from as little as 5 minutes (crowded routes during peak hours) to nearly 2 hours (certain suburban routes). Usually, you will wait 20 minutes at most.

Bus route numbers consist of three digits. Only the first digit has any meaning, the latter being merely ordinal. Here's the key to understanding Warsaw bus route numbers:

Normal Expedited Suburban
All-Day Service 1xx 5xx 7xx
Certain Hours Only (Usually Peak) 3xx 4xx 8xx

Other than that:

  • 6xx are night routes.
  • 2xx are special routes, which operate only a few days in a year.
  • E-x are express routes, which link the farthest districts to the city centre and operate during peak hours only.

There are a few routes that will be of certain interest to you as a tourist:

  • 175 and 188 operate to and from the airport.
  • 100 [12], a circular route that links some of the most interesting tourist attractions and is often served by a double-decker. Get in at Castle Square for the best seat.
  • 180 [13], the Warsaw Sightseeing Route between the Powązki Cemetery and Warszawa/Wilanow Wilanów.

A map of the tourist routes is available.

Requesting a stop. Certain bus stops are request-only (Polish: na żądanie):

  • If you want to get out, press the stop (red) button. In certain old buses, the button is located above the door (and it's not red).
  • If you want to get on a bus, wave your hand (or star-jump, or do whatever it takes to attract the driver's attention).

Sometimes, the door will not open automatically. To open it, locate the button drzwi (blue) and press it. Then you have 15 seconds until the door closes back.

Night buses

There are 14 night bus routes (601-614). All parts of the city are covered, but travelling to distant locations is particularly time-consuming. All buses operate at 30-minute intervals and depart from their central stop at Dw. Centralny 15 and 45 minutes after the hour, which facilitates changing.

When travelling on a night bus, it is essential to know the location of your bus stop at Dw. Centralny. Bear in mind that every route operates in two directions, so you must also look up what is displayed next to the number. There is a map that will help you.

All night bus stops except Dw. Centralny and Centrum are request stops. Signal well in advance as some night bus drivers may be too busy accelerating to notice.

There is also a map of all the night bus routes (in PDF).

Trams

Although trams are not faster than buses unless there is a heavy traffic jam, they may have some appeal for a tourist as it is easier to predict where they are going - they usually go straight ahead and only rarely turn.

Trams have two-digit numbers below 50 (for the curious, the 50+ numbers were used by the long-lost trolley buses). Trams with numbers above 40 operate during peak hours only. A map of tram routes is available to assist you in planning your journey.

There is a special route T operated by historic cars from pl. Narutowicza. You can see the timetable and the route on a map.

The tram services can end as early as at 10PM. There used to be a night tram 640 route but it has been suspended.

Metro (the Underground)

The Warsaw underground, called Metro (from Russian from French) opened in 1995 and is one of the newest underground railway systems in Europe. It is clean, neat, well-signed and... useless, from a tourist's point of view, though some stations, especially the northern ones, are still worth visiting if you admire modern architecture.

The underground is operated by Metro Warszawskie sp. z o.o.. The trains run daily from early morning until midnight at the interval of 5-10 minutes.

Obtaining More Information

The timetables are available at every stop. It is however more convenient to look them up on the Internet:

ZTM also operates a 24/7 hotline at +48 22 94 84.

Taxis

How Much Is It

The maximum base fare (taryfa 1) is 3.00 zł/km (although no corporation charges more than 2.00 zł/km). The base fare applies to journeys within the city (zone 1) on weekdays.

Taxi drivers can charge:

  • 150% of the base fare (taryfa 2) at night or on weekends and public holidays.
  • 200% of the base fare (taryfa 3) for journeys in the suburbs - look out for blue rectangular signs saying taxi 2 strefa (Taxi Zone 2).
  • 300% of the base fare (taryfa 4) at night and in the suburbs or on weekends and public holidays).

Also, they can also charge you:

  • 6.00 zł initial fee (slamming the door).
  • 40.00 zł/h for waiting.
  • for getting to you but only if you are not in the first zone.

They cannot charge you for anything else. There is no obligation or custom of tipping the drivers. The driver is required to give you a receipt on request. The full route must be written on the receipt. If the route was suboptimal, the fare can then be challenged. Call City Guard (Polish: Straż Miejska) at 986 (+48 22 986 from a mobile phone) should there be any problems.

Avoid Fraudsters

The pricelist above applies only to officially registered taxis. Others (non-taxi carriers) may charge you whatever they feel like, so they are best avoided.

A legal taxi has:

  • its number displayed on the front door under the window (black digits on white).
  • a TAXI sign (not TAX1 or TAKI).
  • a sticker with the base fare displayed on the passenger (rear) door window pane.
  • the driver's ID card must be visible inside the cab.

Best practices are as follows:

  • Book a taxi by phone. There is no surcharge.
  • If hailing a taxi in the street, choose the one that has a corporation logo.

There is no practice of any surcharges on additional person (normally up to 4 should fit), or luggage.

List of taxi companies (corporations) in Warsaw (with phone numbers and fares but in Polish).

Car

Driving

  • Be warned that there are more people driving recklessly in Warsaw than in other Northern European cities.
  • No matter what the actual speed limit is, leave the leftmost lane for those poor people that are always in a hurry.
  • Watch out for white-van drivers and for estates where the luggage compartment is separated with a grille. On average, the drivers of such cars are the most aggressive folk.

Parking

  • Never leave any stuff on display in the car (laptops, mobile phones, purses, briefcases, money, detachable car radios or front panels). If you cannot take it with you at least hide it in the boot.
  • There is a paid-parking zone in the centre of the city. This applies M-F 8AM-6PM. Parking costs 1.00 zł for the first hour. Subsequent hours cost more although there is no hour limit. 0.40 zł is the minimal payment. You can pay with coins or with the Warsaw City Card (not the tourist card).

Rent a car

All major rental companies have branches in Warsaw, most notably at the airport. As everywhere, prices may vary significantly depending on several factors. See individual websites for details: Avis, Hertz, EuropCar, Budget, National Car. You can also rent a motorbike at Moto4Fun.

Bicycle

Bicycle paths in Warsaw leave much to be desired. Cyclists either need to use the sidewalks, which is illegal and inconvenient, or the streets, which can be dangerous (because of the reasons given above).

When leaving your bicycle, be sure to use a non-trivial lock.

Bicycle paths

There is a map available, but it is outdated. Some notable bicycle paths are:

  • Along the western bank of Vistula from Żoliborz to Wilanów (with some gaps) and further to Powsin.
  • All over the district of Ursynów.
  • Along the eastern bank of the Vistula southwards to ul. Trakt Lubelski.
  • Across the Kabaty forest on the southern boundary of the city, starting at Metro Kabaty.
  • Along Trasa Siekierkowska.

See

File:WarsawMetropolitan.jpg
The Metropolitan Building on pl. Piłsudskiego
  • The Old Town (Stare Miasto) was ruined in 85% during World War 2 and completely rebuilt shortly thereafter. It is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the impressive Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski).
  • The Royal Road (Trakt Królewski) was originally a track linking the Royal Castle to the Royal Palace in Wilanów (Pałac Królewski w Wilanowie), some 10 kilometers farther. There are many points of interest along the route, and there's a Poster Museum (Muzeum Plakatu) in Wilanów too.
  • The New Town (Nowe Miasto), just north of the Old Town.
  • The Old Praga area (Stara Praga) on the right bank has preserved most of its pre-war architecture and is quickly becoming an important artistic centre. For a quick glance, go to ul. Ząbkowska. There's also a Zoo there.
  • Cemeteries of historical interest (commemorating the victims of the uprisings) and the Warsaw Uprising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego) are in Wola.
  • The Warsaw Citadel is in Żoliborz.
  • The Metropolitan Building at pl. Piłsudskiego, rated the World's Best Business Centre in 2003.

The other attractions in the city centre are listed in the article for Śródmieście.

Parks

File:WarsawGNZ.jpg
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza) at pl. Piłsudskiego near the Saski Garden (Ogród Saski)
  • Łazienki Royal Gardens (Łazienki Królewskie) Vast and beautiful gardens. See the Palace on Water (Pałac na wodzie), the Old Orangery (Stara oranżeria) and the amphitheatre. Entry to the park is free, the museums have small fees.
  • Botanical Gardens. (Ogród botaniczny) Actually, there are two of them: the small one next to Łazienki (entrance from Al. Ujazdowskie) and the big one in Warsaw/Powsin.
  • Field of Mokotów (Pole Mokotowskie) A large green area with a pond and a few pubs, next to the metro station Pole Mokotowskie. Many students are hanging around there during hot days.
  • Saski Garden (Ogród Saski) between ul. Marszałkowska and pl. Piłsudskiego with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza), the only remnant of the Saski palace.
  • Skaryszewski Park (Park Skaryszewski) The biggest park in Warsaw, in Praga Południe. Starts at Rondo Waszyngtona.
  • Kabacki Forest (Las Kabacki) The only forest that can be reached with the metro (travel to the south terminus). No surprise it's quite crowded these days. The Park of Culture in Powsin is within 30 minutes walk. For a better forest, travel to Puszcza Kampinoska.

Museums

Most museums are closed on Mondays and they often have free admission once a week. Visitors must usually enter at least half an hour before the closing time.

Do

  • Take a view of the panorama of the city from the highest floor of the Palace of Culture (Polish: Pałac Kultury).
  • Visit the metro at least once. Most interesting stations are in the northern part.

Cinemas

Cinemas notable for an unorthodox repertoire are Rejs, Iluzjon and Muranów. For mainstream films, most shopping malls have cinemas. Most films are with subtitles (Polish: napisy) except those for kids. There're many websites with the current repertoire. FilmWeb is one of them.

Every October, there's a Warsaw Film Festival (Polish: Warszawski Festiwal Filmowy).

Clubs

Sports

Swimming

Polish: basen or pływanie

There are many swimming pools in the city. Look for OSiRs (Ośrodek Sportu i Rekreacji, Sport and Recreation Centres).

Ice-skating

Polish: łyżwy or jazda na łyżwach

Two major places for this are the Torwar in Śródmieście and Tor Stegny in Mokotów. In winter, there's a free rink next to the Palace of Culture

Bowling

Polish: kręgle or gra w kręgle

  • Hula Kula in the Warsaw University Library (Biblioteka Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego or BUW) ul. Dobra 55/66
  • Arco Bowling ul. Bitwy Warszawskiej 1920 19
  • Hokus Pokus ul. Powstańców Śląskich 126a and in Sadyba Best Mall ul. Powsińska 31

Climbing

Polish: ścianka or wspinaczka po ściance

Cycling

Polish: rower or jazda na rowerze

See the Get around by bicycle section.

Learn

Universities

Polish Language

  • Survival Polish is an elementary language course, which is readily available on the Internet. Free.
  • Institute of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 32, +48 22 5521530, 5520563, a part of the Warsaw University. 1200 zł for a standard course or 1800 zł for an intensive one.
  • Tandem courses (you learn Polish and your partner learns your language), Originally intended for Erasmus students. Free.

Other Languages

  • Toastmasters An English-speaking club mainly for people in their 20s and 30s. Worth paying a visit if you stay for more than a week. Meetings every Wednesday at 7PM.

Work

Buy

Items of specific interest include clothing (both foreign and local brands), which is cheaper than elsewhere in Western Europe.

Payment Options

Cash

Read the Buy section of the Poland article first. See the images of Polish notes, coins. and their security features (PDF).

Plastic Money

Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron and Maestro as well as some other obscure cards are widely accepted and if they're not then there's usually a plenty of cash dispensers around (Polish: bankomat). AmEx and Diners' Club are less popular. There may be a minimal purchase value for card payments, usually 10.00 zł or so in shops but can be 20.00 zł or even 50.00 zł in bars.

High Street Shopping

The traditional high streets for shopping are ul. Chmielna and ul. Nowy Świat (see the Walk section above).

Shopping Malls

Most people nowadays do their shopping in the malls (Polish: centrum handlowe pl. centra ~, often abbreviated CH). These are usually located in the suburbs (with some notable exceptions) and open until 10PM. Apart from shops, malls also have entertainment areas with cinemas, bars, etc. Some also have sports facilities.

Galeria Mokotów (Mokotów) was the most renowned mall for a long time, but it was superseded by Arkadia (Żoliborz), which is now also the biggest mall but is expected to lose its leading position when Złote Tarasy (Śródmieście) is opened in late 2006.

The most upmarket shopping centres are arguably CH Promenada (Praga Południe) and Blue City (Ochota). Other significant shopping destinatios are: CH Reduta (Ochota, adjacent to Blue City), CH Targówek, Wola Park and Fort Wola (both in Wola, but not close to each other), Klif, Sadyba Best Mall and Warszawa Wileńska (Praga Północ, also a railway station).

Factory (Ursus) is a factory outlet, where defective clothing is sold at bargain prices. Centrum Janki and M1 Marki are not really in Warsaw but there are free buses running.

Hypermarkets

The name hypermarket, meaning something even more super than a supermarket, made a big career in Poland in the late 1990s. These are generally huge self-service shops, which attract customers by advertising low food prices and then try to flog them something more. Recently the quality of food in hypermarkets has decreased as the better off customers are moving to "delicatessen" shops such as Alma in Promenada.

Hypermarkets are usually open 8AM-10PM. If you want to avoid queues, the best time to visit is either early in the morning or just before the closing time.

Popular hypermarkets found in Warsaw include; Carrefour, Géant, TESCO and Real. There are also some slightly smaller chains like E.Leclerc, Hypernova and Żabka. Discount supermarkets like Biedronka and Leader Price offer only junk food and are best avoided.

DIY

There is also an abundance of DIY hypermarkets in Warsaw: Castorama. Leroy Merlin, OBI and Praktiker each has two or three shops.

Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronics (Polish: RTV) and household appliances (Polish: AGD) are not particularly cheap in Poland, due to the high VAT and relatively small competition. There are four big consumer electronics chains: Media Markt, Euro RTV-AGD, Electroworld and Avans. The competition between them is purely for a show and consists in exchanging disparaging advertisements (in which the Media Markt is the leader).

Better prices can be achieved by shopping on-line or using any of the price comparison services, such as Ceneo and Skąpiec. For computer equipment, there is a quasi-mall in the underpasses at the intersection of al. Armii Ludowej and al. Niepodległości called WGE (Polish: Warszawska Giełda Elektroniczna) [14] and there is a computer bazaar every weekend nearby at ul. Batorego [15].

Antiques

There is an antiques market in Koło (Bemowo) and also in Bronisze (on the way to Poznań, see the Get around by car section above).

Provisional-now-Permanent

  • Jarmark Europa (near Rondo Waszyngtona) the Asian market on the top of the now-unused sports stadium, is a place which most Warsaw dwellers detest but it can be interesting from a tourist's point of view provided you keep your wallet in a safe place. In the beginning of the 1990s, hordes of people from the former Soviet Union came here to sell literally everything they had. Nowadays it's mostly about cheap Asian clothing, sometimes counterfeit, and most of the sellers are Vietnamese. From time to time, some CDs or DVDs can also be seen there - they're counterfeit too.
  • KDT This ugly, to say the least, provisional market hall (sometimes referred to as the hangar) will probably remain on its place in the very centre of the city for the next few years, as the owner seems to be well-connected with the present rightist government. Visit this oddity if you wish but do not leave any money there. As for a tourist attraction, the entry is free.

Eat

In recent years eating out has become more and more frequent among Poles and the development of Warsaw restaurants, pubs, bars and other places offering something to eat (and drink) reflects that. Every year new interesting places open and now almost everyone will find something for his or hers tastes.

Budget

Although the prices of food are generally lower in Poland than in other EU countries, Warsaw is surely the most expensive place in the country. Despite that there are many ways to eat on a limited budget.

  • Milk bars are a typically Polish remainder of the communist era. These establishments were originally created in the sixties to serve cheap meals based on milk products, mainly different types of dumplings etc. After the communism ended in 1989 most of them closed down but some survived, in Warsaw thanks to subsidies from the magistrate. Inside survived the atmosphere of the old days, despite an occasional advertisement or two of modern food products (mainly soft drinks) everything looks, feels and smells like in the eighties. Because of that and really low prices milk bars attract students, pensioners and occasionally homeless. Food can be actually quite palpable, despite various horror stories told by some to discourage the fainthearted. In fact it is surely better than in global fast food chains as everything is cooked on site. Worth a try out of curiosity even if you can afford more expensive meals. Soup: 1.5 - 2 zł, main course 3 - 8 zł.
    • Uniwersytecki near the entrance to Warsaw University main campus, frequented by students and university professors (who call it affectionately Cockroach),
  • Zapiekanka is sold by many street vendors, and is basically a pizza baguette. Usually half a baguette topped with cheese, mushrooms and a lot of tomato sauce, they're very cheap but filling and make a welcome change from the usual hotdogs. You wouldn't want to live on them but they make an inexpensive solution to the problem of breakfast and lunch. They're also freshly prepared - most street vendors will have several prepared zapiekankas which they'll put in under the grill when you order one. It only takes a couple of minutes and then they'll take it out and drown it in ketchup. The baguette used can be quite long and depending on the crunchiness of the bread can present an interesting eating challenge. A napkin is essential to avoid cheese or tomato sauce induced trauma to your face or clothes.
  • "Vietnamese". Many small restaurants across the city with meals made in Vietnamese fashion. Chicken, beef, pork, sometimes sea-food in variety of sauces, rice with vegetables, soups. Sometimes crowded. Often called (incorrectly) Chinese (Chińczyk). Always can buy for take out. Typical main course (often quite large portion) 8-11 zł.
    • Central Railway Station (-1 level, at the end of one of passages crossing over rails)
    • ul. Mazowiecka (going from Palace of Culture, take Świętokrzyska (in direction of Nowy Świat), and turn left into Mazowiecka (3rd left)). Soup (chicken is good) 6-8 zł. Main course 9-14 zł.
  • "Turc". Many small restaurants across the city with döner kebab and other Turkish-like fastfood. (kebab: 5-7 zł)
    • Central Railway Station in a few points (-1 level, at the end of one of passages crossing over rails, ...)
    • The best one is situated on the corner of Marszałkowska and Świętokrzyska street. Usually there is a queue.

Mid-range

  • Turc, Pizza, Pasta, Mexican restaurant, more...

The best pierogi in town can be found in Srodmiescie.

With delivery

One company offers meals from a number of the city's restaurnts, delivered to your door within one hour. You can order by phone or via the internet:

  • Room Service, [16]. Order by phone, and get your meal in 30-45 minutes. Delivery (pl: dostawa) free if not stated otherwise. Usually minimum order is 20-30 zł. Tip (up to 15%) appreciated, but not required.
  • PizzaHut, +48 22 5363636, [17](in Polish). Pizza for 1-2 person 25 zł. Always promotions like: second pizza for half price/5zł. Ask.
  • Vesuvio Pizza, +48 22 6440490. Ursynów district only. Open till 10PM. Pizza for 1-2 person from 13 zł.
  • KFC, +48 22 5363636, [18] (in Polish). Chicken in all configurations. Sandwich menu 8-11 zł. Chicken (5 pieces) 11 zł.

Splurge

  • Restaurants on the Old Town market.
  • Restaurants in splurge hotels (Bristol, Sheraton, etc.).

Drink

Café

Usually 7-12 zł.

  • at Nowy Świat street (near Charles de Gaulle roundabout)
    • Bajka, Amatorska, Piotruś with very specific ambiance, coffee 4-6 zł, beer, vodka, congnac.
    • chains: Nescafé, Coffeeheaven, Daily Café, and so forth.
    • Blikle, café with very long tradition with specialité — Blikle's donuts.
  • A number of cafés at Chmielna street (between Marszałkowska and Nowy Świat), some with entrance from gateways.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

The most expensive hotels are located in Śródmieście. Hotel Bristol (now: Le Royal Meridien Bristol) is deemed the most prestigious one.

Contact

  • The area code for Warsaw is 22. When calling a phone number from abroad, prefix it with +48 22.
  • The Central Post Office open 24/7 is located at ul. Świętokrzyska 31/33.

Newspapers

  • The Warsaw Voice An English-language weekly about Warsaw and Poland.
  • WIK, Warszawski Informator Kulturalny (in Polish) A monthly review of all upcoming cultural events in the city.
  • There are two respectable broadsheets: Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita and three influential weeklies: Polityka, Wprost and Newsweek Polska.
  • The two main tabloids are Fakt and Super Express. There are also two free newspapers: Metropol and Metro.
  • For a vast selection of foreign newspapers and magazines, search for Empik, Relay or Inmedio; or ask in your hotel.

Internet

Cafés

There many Internet cafés (Polish: kawiarnia or kawiarenka internetowa). In the very centre:

  • A 24/7 Internet café is located at Dworzec Centralny at the -1 level (above the platforms, below the ground)
  • Two other Internet cafés are at Metro Centrum -2 level (7AM-12AM, 4.00-6.00 zł/h).

Hot Spots

A list is available here

Stay safe

  • Watch out for pickpockets (especialy on the 175 bus).
  • Park your car in a safe place, on a guarded car park if possible.
  • Do not travel alone on trains - choose the compartments with other passengers. When travelling at night, make sure that at least one person is not asleep.
  • InterCity and Express trains are safer.

In emergency

  • Police: 997, Firefighters: 998, Ambulance: 999
  • The common European emergency number 112 works too.
  • City Guard: 986 (+48 22 986 from a mobile phone)

Cope

Male citizens of Warsaw call themselves warszawiak. The more regular form warszawianin is considered derogatory. Females have no such problem, the only form being warszawianka.

Places with Interesting Names

  • Praga is also a Polish name for Prague, the capital of Czech Republic (same etymology)
  • Włochy is also a Polish name for Italy - the district was named after the Italian immigrants that lived there
  • Names of many places in Warsaw originate from French descriptive names:
    • Żoliborz - jolli bord, a beautiful bank
    • Mokotów - mon coteau, my hillside
    • Wilanów - villa nova, a new city (the original name was Milanów)
    • Marymont, Marywil, etc.
  • Several places are named after various emotions:
  • Bródno (in Targówek) - a ford, albeit with a different spelling and same pronunciation it can also mean [it is] dirty [here]
  • There are a few atypical street names in Warsaw - among them are: ul. Abecadło - the Alphabet Street, ul. Kubusia Puchatka - Winnie-the-Pooh Street, ul. Spalinowa - Exhaust Fumes Street
  • ul. Batuty had its five minutes of world-wide fame [19]

Public toilets

There is a shortage of public toilets in the city, although those that exist generally maintain a good standard. The cost is usually 1.00 zł or 2.00 zł. Sometimes there will be no toilet paper (Polish: papier toaletowy) in the cubicle and you will need to take it at the entrance from the "operator" (Polish: babcia klozetowa, "toilet granny" - yes, this is a feminine profession). This is a relic from the communist era where the toilet paper was a much sought-after commodity.

Most restaurants and bars have toilets on premises. Usually they are for customers only but you can always ask. Sometimes you may need to obtain a key first.

And if all else fails, there's always a McDonald's nearby.

Which Is the Right One?

Even if you have found a toilet (Polish: toaleta or WC) another problem may arise as before you are able to relieve yourself you will see two doors: one with a triangle and the other with a circle on it. Now, which door do you choose? The answer is written below, white on white. Select the text to reveal it:

The triangle is for gents and the circle is for ladies. 
An explanation of why it is like that is yet to be given.

Apart from the mentioned symbols you may also find:

  • K, damski or żeński for ladies
  • M or męski for gents

Get out

File:Zelazowa Wola.JPG
Chopin's mansion in Żelazowa Wola

Get out by train

Please read about getting in and getting around by train in Poland first.

Whichever way you are going, there is a PKP journey planner.

Long-distance trains

Warsaw has three stations for long-distance trains:

  • Dworzec Centralny or Warszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) ul. Emilii Plater
  • Dworzec Wschodni or Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw East) between ul. Kijowska and ul. Lubelska (on the right bank)
  • Dworzec Zachodni or Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) Al. Jerozolimskie near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich

Trains running eastwards start at Warszawa Zachodnia, stop at Warszawa Centralna and then at Warszawa Wschodnia, while trains heading westwards make the same trip in the opposite direction (except that they not always stop at Warszawa Zachodnia). The same is true for arriving trains and tourists often find it confusing that the main train station (Warszawa Centralna) is not the last station on the route.

If your train is without reservation, you may get a better seat (or any seat at all in certain trains during peak season only) if you enter the train on its initial station.

Suburban trains

There is no central station for suburban trains but the most important one is Warszawa Śródmieście (in close proximity of Warszawa Centralna and Metro Centrum). Some destinations you can reach from there are: Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Łowicz, Milanówek, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Otwock, Piława, Pruszków, Radom, Siedlce, Skierniewice, Sochaczew, Sulejówek, Terespol, Tłuszcz, Wołomin, Żyrardów.

Suburban trains going north depart from Warszawa Gdańska (Metro Dworzec Gdański). From there, you can go to destinations like Ciechanów, Działdowo, Mława and Nasielsk.

Similarly, suburban trains going east depart from Warszawa Wileńska (ul. Targowa near Al. Solidarności, also a shopping mall there). Example destinations: Małkinia, Tłuszcz, Wołomin.

Warsaw Commuter Railway

WKD [20] (Polish: Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa) is separate, narrow-gauge train service that runs from a distinct platform at Warszawa Śródmieście to Grodzisk Mazowiecki, a city some 50 km west of Warsaw through Pruszków, Milanówek, and Podkowa Leśna.

Get out by bus

See also: How to read timetables in the Polish phrasebook

PKS

Regional and long-distance bus connections in Poland are traditionally called PKS. Once it was a legitimate abbreviation for the state-owned monopoly. Now, however, bus routes are operated by a bunch of completely independent companies, some of which had simply chosen to retain the old PKS as a part of their name. In Warsaw, there's PKS Warszawa [21] but PKSes from various other cities also operate. Most PKS buses depart from either of two major terminals:

  • Dworzec PKS Warszawa Zachodnia Al. Jerozolimskie near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich the bigger of the two, next to the railway station by the same name, buses going west of Warsaw
  • Dworzec PKS Warszawa Stadion al. Zieleniecka and ul. Targowa near Stadion X-lecia, buses going east of Warsaw

Polski Express

Then, there's also a competitor to post-PKS companies, the Polski Express. It serves the most popular destinations, such as Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Częstochowa, Elbląg, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Katowice, Kraków, Łódź, Lublin, Pabianice, Płock, Szczecin, Toruń along with some holiday resorts, such as Kudowa Zdrój and maritime Kołobrzeg, Krynica Morska and Ustka. The departure point is at al. Jana Pawła II near Dworzec Centralny (there are also shuttle services from and to the airport every half an hour)

Trip Suggestions

  • Żelazowa Wola (~50 km): Visit the place where Frederic Chopin was born and lived until he left for Paris at the age of 20. The mansion where he stayed with his family is surrounded by a magnificent garden.
  • Konstancin-Jeziorna (~20 km, take the 700 bus): Take a deep breath in Konstancin, a spa famous for its clean air. There's a spacious park and some cafés too. Of all towns around Warsaw, in Konstancin housing prices are the highest.
  • Kraków (~300 km, in 3 hrs by certain trains): The former capital of Poland. The European City of Culture in 2000. No need for further introduction. Why not pay a one or two-day visit there?
  • Puszcza Kampinoska (~15 km, take the 726 bus) Often called the green lungs of Warsaw and not without merit. A primeval forest, wild and beautiful. An ideal choice for a day off from the noise of the city [22].



This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!