If you’re looking for things to do in Warsaw you’ll be pleased to know that Poland’s capital is packed with opportunities for adventures.
Whether you’re visiting for a week or if you just have 48 hours in Warsaw, there is plenty see, do, and explore in the city.
For some reason a lot of travelers pass up this beautiful spot and opt to visit Krakow instead.
Don’t worry – Warsaw is just as beautiful, interesting, and unique!
For directions on how to reach the Old Town and city center from the airport you can read my guide here.
Things to do in Warsaw | Poland’s Lovely Capital
Walk the Royal Route
The Royal Route in Warsaw is the road that many Polish kings and visitors of royalty would take on their way to the Wilanow Palace from the Royal Castle.
Much of the route is lined with tall trees, impressive architecture, and many different religious and prestigious buildings.
Famous members of royalty as well as the upper class of Warsaw would build their homes and residences along this route as a sign of both respect and status.
Today, the Royal Route offers an interesting way for tourists to see some of the most inspiring buildings in the city and many different monuments, statues, and boutiques, and café’s as well.
You can start at the Royal Castle near the Old Town but I highly recommend taking the metro to the Wilanow Palace and making your way back from there.
As you get closer to the Old Town the buildings and architecture become more impressive with every step and you can get a better sense of what it must have been like for Polish royalty to walk or ride the same route.
Stand in Awe of the Old Town Square
Unfortunately the entire Old Town Square in Warsaw was destroyed during World War 2 but with the help of many of the city’s citizens and other cities in the area it was completely rebuilt to its former glory.
The German army actually went building to building, planted explosives, and made a systematic effort to level the entire area in an attempt to discredit and extinguish all the accomplishments of the Polish population.
Today the Old Town Square and Market Place is one of the most beautiful places in all of Warsaw.
Each side is lined with bright and colorful buildings that have been meticulously rebuilt from bricks found in the rubble and other nearby cities.
It is not only a popular tourist destination but also a reminder of what the Polish people overcame during the war.
At the center of the square you’ll find a mermaid statue, which is the symbol of the city. It has stood in place since 1855 and was thankfully spared destruction by the German army.
The entire square is lined with cafes, restaurants, and many different tourist related shops.
Whether you want ice cream, waffles, or something else to eat, you can easily find it here.
At night the entire square is romantically lit up and serves as an ideal spot for capturing the essence of the city.
The square is the heart of the Old Town and from here you can easily reach many of the other popular tourist sights in Warsaw.
Explore the Old Town
After checking out the Square and Market Place it’s a good idea to explore the rest of the Warsaw Old town.
The entire Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage site and you’re bound to be impressed by the beautiful buildings, bright colors, and lovely architecture.
The Old Town itself is surrounded on 3 sides by city walls and defended by the famous Barbican.
The Barbican is a semi-circular defensive structure that looks similar to a castle and that was used to defend the city throughout part of its history. It’s a small part of what remains of the city’s fortifications and is an interesting piece of Polish history to admire on your walk through the Old Town.
If winding streets and cobblestone alleys sound interesting to you then you’ll love the charm and spirit of the Old Town.
It seemingly acts as a window into Polish history and it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like living in Warsaw throughout the past couple of centuries.
From the burgher’s houses in the square to the remains of the defensive fortifications, the Warsaw Old Town is one of the most unique in Central Europe.
It’s not as grand or expansive as many other Old Town areas you’ll find but its rich and turbulent history make it one of the first places you’ll want to check out when you visit the city.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum
I’m not really into museums that much but I consider the Warsaw Uprising Museum not only one of the best things to see in Warsaw but one of the most important museums in all of Europe.
The museum is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising that took place in 1944.
The Uprising was a major defensive operation that the Polish resistance army and freedom fighters undertook in order to save the city and its remaining inhabitants.
They weren’t successful but it was the first time that the Germany army had experienced anything so severe and destructive from a local population.
The Uprising is the reason the Germans so systematically destroyed the city but it was a symbol of hope for the Polish people who had lived through the War and remained, until this day, a sign of heroic strength and courage for those who participated.
The museum acts as a place where historical information about World War 2 can be shared without bias.
Inside you’ll find countless artifacts such as weapons, photos, important texts, and a wide variety of relevant pieces of history.
The aim of the museum is to keep alive the spirit and memory of those who participated and to show the world what the people living in the city had to go through under the hands of the German’s.
Whether you want to learn more about Polish history and its involvement in World War 2 or you want to reflect on what happened to the unfortunate citizens of Warsaw, the Uprising Museum is truly a chilling and thought-provoking place and highly worth taking the time to visit.
Take A Bite Out of Stalin’s Birthday Cake
If you’re wondering what to do in Warsaw, then you’re going to want to head over to the awkwardly designed building right in the center of the business district.
Stalin’s Birthday Cake, more formally known as the Palace of Culture and Science, is one of the most interesting buildings in Warsaw.
At 231 meters high it’s the 8th highest building in the European Union. It was built under the communists as a dedication to Stalin and as a gift from the Soviet Union to the Polish people.
Today it is the most visible landmark in the city and is used as an exhibition center, office building, university, and at ground level there is even a public cinema.
No trip to Warsaw is complete without grabbing a photo of yourself standing in front of it. On the 30th floor you can visit a terrace for a lovely panoramic view of the entire city and enjoy a coffee or snack at the café up there.
For many tourists it’s the first thing they see.
Whether you’re taking a taxi from the airport or arriving by train, the Palace of Culture and Science dominates the skyline and is located right in the heart of downtown.
It’s only a short 10 to 15 minute walk from the Old Town and it’s quite impressive and worth spending an hour or two checking out.
See the Famous Bears
One of the lesser-known things to do in Warsaw is also one of the strangest.
Since 1949, living on a small concrete structure beside Praski Park, are 3 brown bears.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
There are 3 enormous bears that roam around right beside a popular metro stop in their own enclosure all year round.
The reason the bears are here is unknown but the most popular reason is that they’re being kept there to get used to people before being shipped off to the nearby zoo.
Either way, it’s quite surprising when you’re walking down the street and all of a sudden you see this huge brown bear climbing up some concrete rocks and staring at you.
It might be tempting to climb in and get a closer look but that’s not something you should ever try.
A few years ago a drunk guy climbed into the enclosure and was viciously mauled by the bears that didn’t want him invading their privacy.
You’ve been warned. You can get some great photos from the edge of the enclosure just don’t try to get any closer for a selfie.
Relax In One of the Many Lovely Parks
All across Warsaw are large, expansive, and beautiful parks.
Even in the heart of downtown you can find parks covered in large trees and seemingly hidden away from the bustle of the city. There are two parks that are definitely worth visiting if you have the time.
Saski Park, which opened for public use in 1727, is said to be one of the oldest public parks in the entire world.
It opened at a time when parks were reserved for the wealthy or royalty and public citizens really had nowhere to go for leisure and relaxation.
On one end of the park you can find the Tomb of the Unknown Solder, which is all that’s left from the Saski Palace that once stood there. Throughout the park you’ll find many statues, fountains, and a few serene lakes where you can relax and enjoy a beautiful spring or summer day.
Lazienki Park is another gorgeous park in the city and arguably the most popular.
Every weekend you can expect to see hundreds of locals strolling through the well-groomed paths and taking in the beauty of the manicured landscape and lovely gardens.
Located at the Southern end of the city, Lazienki Park is the perfect place to visit if you want to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in a nature haven in the center of a metropolis.
Enjoy the Views from the Banks of the Vistula
The Vistula River slowly crosses through the heart of Warsaw before emptying into the Baltic Sea a few hundred kilometers later.
Both sides of the Vistula offer something unique for visitors to do. On the Old Town side is a lovely walkway where you’ll find many people riding their bikes, rollerblading, or walking on a warm evening.
From here the view isn’t that impressive but it’s quiet, secluded, and easy to reach from the Old Town, which makes it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
On the other side of the Vistula, near the Praga District is a park that lines the entire length of the river for more than a kilometer.
On this side you’ll be able to enjoy a gorgeous view of the Old Town and part of the city.
It’s only a 20-minute walk to reach the banks on the Praga side from the Old Town but it’s well worth the walk. It’s a lot quieter and if you make it at the right time you can catch an incredible sunset as the sun dips off behind the horizon.
The Wilanow Palace
The Wilanow Palace, also known as the Versailles of Poland, is the most impressive and beautiful palace in Warsaw.
Built in the 1600s, the palace has stood through countless wars and acts of destruction.
It marks the end of the Royal Route and there is so much to see and do on the palace grounds that it’s possible to spend an entire day here walking around.
At only 10km south of the Old Town, the Wilanow Palace is one of the most important buildings that still remain from Polish history.
It was used by King Jan Sobieski as a summer palace and was fortunate enough to avoid all the destruction and intentional damaged caused by the German army during World War 2.
If you’re looking for the best glimpse into Polish history in Warsaw then this is it.
Not only is the Palace a beautiful building to visit but also the Palace grounds are just as impressive.
You can rent a rowboat and spend some time paddling around the lake on the Palace grounds or you can just walk through the beautiful park that surrounds the entire area.
If you want to spend a few hours and get away from the tourists in the Old Town you should definitely check out the Wilanow Palace.
Admire the Gorgeous Architecture
What is the point of visiting Europe if not for the beautiful, unique, and impressive architecture?
Warsaw is no exception and in the city you’ll be able to find many different prominent buildings that have been designed and influenced by a wide range of important Polish architects.
There are different examples of architecture from almost every European architecture era.
When you’re walking through the town you’ll easily be able to spot examples of buildings and structures designed during the renaissance, gothic, neoclassical, and even baroque periods.
Even if you’re into more modern architecture you’ll be able to find something that will impress you.
There are many examples of Stalinism, brutalism, and even ultra-modern styles of architecture built in just the past few years.
With every step you take you’re sure to be impressed by something you come across, just be sure to look up every so often or you might miss something that will blow you away.