I stayed at the Hotel Hetman in October 2012, when I transited via Warsaw. I spent only one night there, but overall I was impressed by the level of service. Although the room was small, it was comfortable and very quiet. The buffet breakfast was amazing, with everything from Polish pastries to slices of Spanish omelette. The hotel has good connections to the city centre and is handy for Warsaw East railway station (Warszawa Wschodnia), where you can catch many intercity and international trains.
It was an interesting experience as I stayed in the Hotel Wilenski as it was then in November 1999, and even stayed in the same room. At that time it was a very basic hotel that appeared to have changed little since 1989. I would definitely stay at the Hotel Hetman the next time I'm in Warsaw.
A holiday break in Warsaw would not be complete without a visit on Sunday to Lazienki Park to sit on the benches or grass surrounding the imposing memorial to Frederic Chopin. Here world-famous pianists, laureates from renowned festivals and professors from leading music academies of music perform his immortal piano solos. It is an incomparable moment as silence descends upon the gathered audience and only the notes of the piano fill the air.
Royal Lazienki Park bus stop on Aleje Ujadowskie, enter park and monument is opposite. Concerts are FREE Sundays at noon and again at 4.00pm from mid May until end of September.
Google map: bit.ly/fWUF0s
Most eastern European cities have a beautiful town square tucked away somewhere, but Warsaw's Old Town Market Place (Rynek Starego Miasta) is unique. The old town was completely flattened in World WarII - one of Warsaw's 'sister' cities is Coventry. Between 1946 and 1980 this square, and the rest of the old centre, was painstakingly re-built, using as many of the existing bricks and detail as could be salvaged from the rubble. Warsaw is truly a phoenix city.
The whole area is now a World Heritage site and there is a castle, cobbles and horse-drawn carriages to beat the best of them. The Warsaw Historical Museum is in the square if you want to find out more. Afterwards, watch the world go by at one of the square's restaurants - try some serious Polish food such as pork knuckle with sauerkraut.
It's a perfect location, everything is within walking distance, both you and your posessions are safe as you don't just have a key to your room but there are a few locked doors you need to get through before getting to your room. The bar is excellent with friendly staff, cheap drink (even if it's not happy hour!) and pool, table tennis, cards and board games available as well as a mini cinema theatre, the bathrooms are kept well, there is a great kitchen facility and they sell any toiletries you may have forgotten at reception. I would definitely go back and recommend it.
Take care choosing a taxi in Warsaw, especially around Central Station where rip-off merchants abound! Only choose a taxi with the name of the firm prominently displayed (usually with a sign on the top of the cab). If you have booked a hotel you can ring them and they will send a taxi for you. We used MPT Taxis with no problems, phone 1-9191.
Boutique hotel in the centre of the Old Town overlooking Castle square. Great location, friendly staff and comfortable rooms each decorated in a different style. Good value for money too, we paid equivalent of £55 for a double room.
2 Swietojanska, Plac Zamkowy, Warsaw
Tel: 0048 224250100
The three clubs Zwiaz Mnie, Hydrozagadka and Saturator are great semi-alternative places to have fun on a weekend. All three are located in the very same courtyard so you can literally choose what you want to do in an instant (11 Listopada Street, Praga District, the place is kind of remote, taking a cab would be good, although you can take a tram or go by bus as well). You'll find all kinds of music there, though recently mostly 80s and 90s - I sincerely recommend these places if you feel like dancing. Beer is 7-10zl.
A great hostel in Warsaw - a truly unique place. It felt like being immersed in another century. The whole hostel welcomes you with an elegant atmosphere from the late 19th century. Imagine rooms with wooden beds, little lamps and photographs – everything is arranged and decorated with a lot of love. Enjoy discovering historical interior design. My personal favourites were the crochet tea-cloths!
On the other hand I didn’t miss any modern comforts - I had a modern bathroom and was checking my mail every night. Placed in the heart of the city, very near to the medieval Market square, it is also ideally located.
Wodkowica 5 street
The Nozyk Synagogue is the only synagogue in Warsaw that survived the war. It is located in an area of Warsaw that was originally inside the Little Ghetto in 1940, but was later outside the Ghetto after it was made smaller, following deportations.
Out of thousands of synagogues in Poland, there are only about 245 remaining. All of the unique wooden synagogues were destroyed, although some 17th century wooden Catholic churches remain to this day. The Nozyk synagogue was named for the man who founded it in 1900, Zalman ben Menasze Nozyk, and his wife Rywka bat Mosze (some guidebooks say it was founded in 1902).
Today services are held here every Friday night and every Saturday. Inside, you will see the interior of a moderately wealthy synagogue from turn-of-the-century Warsaw, with the cabinet containing the Torah scrolls and the bema (or pulpit) in the nave. The upper galleries are set aside for women.
6 Twarda St, Warschau 00-104, Polen
Tel.: 48-22-620 3496
This is a really good place for a walk or a relaxing afternoon with a book. And it's not only because of its bookish atmosphere. It's so much more than a university library. The building has a garden on the roof with some exotic plants and a small waterfall as well as many benches where you can sit and read in the sun. From a small balcony in one of the garden's corners, there is a view on the Vistula River and some of its bridges. Since the building is partly made of glass, the roof is a perfect place to watch students as they rush up and down the stairs.
It's by the Vistula River within a walking distance from the Old Town in Warsaw. Dobra 68/70, 00-312 Warszawa
If you can be bothered hiking out of Warsaw, this huge botanical gardens is nothing as grand as Kew, but is beautiful all the same. Magnificent magnolia collection in early spring (March/April if I remember rightly), but is well worth the trek at any time between early spring to late autumn.
Apparently the 139 goes from the city centre (but annoyingly the website does not say from where exactly!).
If you have a full day free, you can take the southbound metro to Kabaty, get out at the last stop and enter Kabaty Forest (behind the ubiquitous Tesco!). Follow the signs in the forest to Powsin (it is about a 30-45 min walk through the forest), or ask the polite Varsovians if you get lost.
You can get the bus back into town if you are pooped.
This is more compact than the amazing main botanical garden in Powsin (just outside of Warsaw, and well worth a visit, too!). Located near the centre of town, it has lots of interesting nooks and crannies to investigate, and is beautifully laid out in most places. Great for an afternoon stroll away from the crowds in Lazienki Park next door. The greenhouses are open to the public in the summer, and are well worth visiting, too.
If you are walking south from the town along Al. Ujazdowski, it is on your left-hand side, just before the first entrance to Lazienki Park.
Meaning, 'Between Us' in English, this cafe bar is a hidden gem in the hustle and bustle of central Warsaw. Full of local arty types, this is a mixed bar (meaning gay and straight friendly - OK, just friendly!) that appeals to folk of all ages and nationalities. It really gives visitors an insight into the cool and prosperous side of Poland. Lush.
ul Bracka, Warsaw
(just behind the 'Smyk' toy store on Al. Jerozolimskie (on the left hand side if you are walking to the river from Central Station).
Much of the world is appalled by the British warm beer, but the Poles take it a step - or should that be a degree? - further. Served like a hot whiskey with added sugar, lemon and cloves, it sounds odd but is a great antidote to those soggy-shoed, chapped-lip, Polish winter days.
Location: All good pubs in winter, but Stacja Rynek Pub does a fine one.
Bizarre. As you stroll along the swanky Nowy Swiat toward trendy Foksal Street, look through an archway and you’ll spy an oversized garden shed. Located in a back alley right in the heart of Warsaw’s swishest nightlife district, serving strong Polish beer and a great atmosphere late into the night, this bar is delightfully out of step with its surroundings. For those who like their socialising on the downbeat side.
Location: Through an archway off Nowy Swiat, near the turn into Ulica Foksal.
Bunker chic, or a hipster’s fallout shelter perhaps, this underground pub on the Old Town Square tries hard but still manages to be very cool. The funky décor and beats, the lack of natural light, the strong alcohol, all combine to make you feel like you have entered another dimension.
Location: Old Town Square, at the south-west end, downstairs.
Fascinating place that feels like a throwback to the Iron Curtain days, with fur-coat wearing, sharp-eyed merchants selling everything from gas masks and old Soviet coins to bootlegged pornographic DVDs. There is also plenty of, ahem, knock-down vodka and cigarettes on offer, but not to the naked eye. And whatever you do, don’t try to take any photographs. Stalin may be long dead, but paranoia is still alive and well in certain parts of his old domain.
Location: Stadion Dziesięciolecia.
Getting there: Number 12 tram from Srodmiescie Station.
In a city where even the “Old Town” dates back only about 30 years, it’s no surprise that the fairly unremarkable house and grounds at Wilanow should be singled out by Warsaw tourism bods as for special praise. It is a pleasant area for a stroll, both inside and out, but take a bus to get there. It’s not really worth an overpriced taxi ride to see it.
Getting there: Lots of buses go from Nowy Swiat or the Central Station.
I took a short walk from the bustling Old Town down to Mariensztat Square and found the Barylka Pub, Warsaw's oldest I was told. A good selection of local beers and nice food served by friendly English speaking staff. Very popular with locals, it's a lovely place to sit outside in the square and relax. I came back a second time to enjoy a free concert on a Thursday evening and had a very enjoyable evening - inexpensive, friendly and recommended. Nice change from the modern over-hyped cafes that proliferate
It's a pub, you don't need a reservation - just go to 5-7 Garbarska St, Mariensztat, and look for 'Pub pod Barylka';
tel: (22) 826 62 39
Prohibicja is ideally placed on Podwale not far from the Royal Castle and Old Town.
In keeping with its name the restaurant has a mock up of a still above the bar downstairs and the white washed walls are pock marked with fake bullet holes. A suitably theatrical design for somewhere that is owned by four Polish actors.
The menu has both Polish and American influences - including dishes such as Spare Ribs with French Fries and Pike/Perch with Mashed Potatoes, Spinach and Caper Sauce - the food is simple but well cooked and tasty, the service excellent, friendly and efficient.
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