We spent 4.5 days in Poland to explore Krakow and Warsaw. Both are great cities and highly underrated! Our first stop was Krakow, which is full of charm and history. We then took the train to Warsaw, about a 3.5 hour journey on a comfortable high speed train. Warsaw is quite a different city from Krakow; not only is it a larger and more cosmopolitan, but it was mostly destroyed during WWII and the old town was rebuilt to replicate what was lost. Highlights in Warsaw were the colorful buildings of Old Town Square, the city’s large parks, and the authentic Polish food we enjoyed, including grilled goat cheese topped with jam (delicious!).
Top Things to do in Warsaw
Ryneck Starego Miasta
Warsaw’s Old Town is a fun area to explore and the Old Town Square is full of colorful buildings. The city was rebuilt after it was destroyed in WWII, and surprisingly, only one of the buildings in the modern Old Town Square is original. You can find cafes, shops, and local artists surrounding the square.
Bazylika Archikatedralna (St. John’s Archcathedral)
St. John’s Archcathedral is located in Warsaw’s Old Town built in the 14th century in Gothic style. It, too, was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt after the war. It is one of three cathedrals in Warsaw.
Plac Zamkowy is a main square located in front of the Royal Castle that once housed the Polish monarchs. The square is also surrounded by cafes and some shops and has street vendors and performers as well.
Located just next to Plac Zamkowy, this observation roof deck is a great spot to get views of Warsaw’s Old Town. For a small fee, you climb a few floors of circular stairs to get to the top. It is definitely worth it for the views and a photo op.
This famous street extends from Old Town and Royal Castle in the north, down to the Presidential Palace and Warsaw University in the south. It is lined by many famous monuments, churches and palaces, and eventually turns into the street Nowy Swiat. On this street you can find street vendors selling Polish treats and candy.
The Presidential Palace is located along the Krakowskie Przedmiescie and has been on the same site since 1643. Today, it is a modern building in a Neoclassical style. It is the seat of the Polish Council of Ministers and has been since 1918. Visits are limited to just viewing the exterior from the street.
Holy Cross Church (Nowy Swiat)
The Holy Cross Church is located on the Nowy Swiat, south of the Old Town area. It is a notable example of a Baroque church, built in 1757, and the interior is dotted with gold ornate features.
Barbakan Warszawski & Monument to the Little Insurgent
Located along Warsaw’s old city walls, you can visit the Warsaw Barbican, a semicircular fortification, to protect the city. Also located a few minutes walk from the Barbican is the Monument to the Little Insurgent, built to honor the children who fought and died during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 during WWII.
From Plac Zamkowy, you can cross the bridge over the Vistula River and enjoy this large green space. The park is a nice area to walk around spend an afternoon away from thr city center.
Lazienki Park & Palace on the Isle
Lazienki Park is about a 15 minute taxi ride from the old town area, but well worth a visit when in Warsaw. Walk to the Palace on the Isle, an idyllic palace on the water in the middle of the park. You can purchase tickets to tour the inside of this bath house turned summer residence, dating back to the late 15th century.
Tips: Look out for the peacocks that roam around the palace.
All over Poland you will find pottery full of lovely colors and patterns. Be on the look out for the authentic looking shops, versus the tourist trap gift shops that also sell it. One nice shop in Warsaw is the Ceramika Bolesławiec Warszawa on the street Freta.
Food and Drinks in Warsaw
We enjoyed a really great dinner of authentic Polish food (perogies, sausage, potatoes, etc) at Portretowa. It is located near Old Town and has a very warm and cosy ambiance. Note it is a small restaurant so be sure to book a table in advance.
Smakowanie Polskich Dan
We stumbled upon this cafe north of the Barbican and they were cooking Oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk exclusively from the Tatra Mountains in Poland. They served it with a bit of fresh jam on the top and it was a delicious snack!
When in Poland, you must try the traditional Polish pastry called kołacz. You can find this kołacz location right in the Old Town Square.
Where to Stay in Warsaw
The Hotel Bristol is a historic luxury hotel located right next to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. It has good sized rooms, nice views, and really great and comfy beds! It is part of the Marriott hotel group so you can use points if you have them.
Train from Krakow to Warsaw
Best way to get from Krakow to Warsw? We thought it was very easy via the modern high speed train. You'll want to travel between Kraków Główny and Warszawa Centralna stations. Book tickets in advance via the PKP Intercity website. Ours were booked roughly one month in advance and cost EUR 50 per person in first class.