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Image used under Creative Commons from Eric The Fish (2013)

The perfect mix of eastern and western European culture can be found in roughly three hours from Shannon Airport in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

Steeped in history and culture, visitors will be struck mostly by the sheer volume of modern architecture here. However, the story behind, what on the face of it looks like a modern metropolis, lies in the late 1930s and 1940s when the city was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

Getting Around

Thankfully, transport options are straightforward to navigate between the wonders to be found here. Warsaw Modlin airport is approx. 35km north-west from the city centre.  Buses and trains are on hand to whisk you to your lodgings. A three-day city travel card covering two zones can be used for an unlimited amount of journeys on buses, trams and trains within the limits of the zones.

When it comes to finding somewhere to lay your head, there’s a wide selection available ranging in price, quality and comfort. Make sure to ask reception staff to recommend a walking tour that takes in the Old Town. It’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss out on the myriad of hidden gems that lie in wait.

The tour routes are dotted with art cafes and charming galleries, many of which only come to light with a push in the right direction from a local. For night owls, bars and clubs can be equally absent to the untrained eye so make sure to keep them peeled in daylight so you can retrace your steps when the sun goes down.

Must Sees

When exploring, the striking St. John’s Cathedral stands out among the numerous churches to be found in the city’s historic centre. On the edge of the Old Town, you’ll find the Royal Castle perched proudly. Reconstruction was only completed in 1984 after almost 13 years of work and toil to resurrect the notable structure.

The Palace of Culture and Science is also well worth an investment of your time. The building, which some say is the city’s defining landmark, was a gift from Stalin and the Russian people in 1955. If you’re fit enough, the viewing platform all the way up on the 30th floor is the ideal spot to inspect the city from an alternate vantage point.

For every Old Town there’s a New Town and Warsaw’s doesn’t disappoint. Tourists can take in the haunting Warsaw Rising museum and see just why the city is no longer the architectural splendor it once was with interactive displays, artifacts, photographs and compelling video footage.

A visit to Warsaw certainly leaves an indelible mark by mixing its poignant past with a tangible and obvious optimism in the future, which rubs off on all who come here.

Five for free

  • Walk the Royal Route

    The Royal Route is an 11km stroll from one end – Warsaw’s Old Town – to the other – the Royal Mansion of Wilanow, and takes in the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University and monuments to Polish astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus. You’ll find lots of cafes along the way to rest your walk-weary bones too!

    Image used under Creative Commons from Jorge Lascar

  • Go to the Beach

    It’s unusual to stumble across a beach in a European city but not in Warsaw. In fact, there are three of them on the Vistula River and all are connected by a scenic path. Choose one to while away an hour or three.

    Image used under Creative Commons from PolandMFA

  • Chill out in Castle Square

    Known locally as Plac Zamkowy, tourists flock here and make this arguably the most photographed place in the entire city. Overlooking the district of Praga and the River Vistula, and with a tunnel underneath the gothic bridge, the views from here can be especially majestic on a clear day.

    Image used under Creative Commons from Nathan Bergeron Photography

  • Cool your jets

    Head for Rybaki Street in the Old Town and behold the fountain with 360 water jets! If you happen to be visiting in summer, you’ll find laser light shows and music here on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Image used under Creative Commons from Leszek.Leszczynski

  • Take the weight off in Lazienki Park

    Lazienki Park is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. Music lovers are treated to free piano concerts of Chopin’s music near the composer’s monument every Sunday during the summer. If you’re not planning to visit around that time, the gardens and wildlife are still worth taking in.

    All prices correct at time of publishing – December 2013

    Image used under Creative Commons from Ana Paula Hirama

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