At the beginning of October 2017, we made a brief weekend getaway to Warsaw. Two days in which we discover a vibrant city, full of history and inhabited by a town capable of rebuilding an entire city from scratch. If you want to pass two days in Warsaw In this post we explain, what to visit, how to get around Warsaw, what and where to eat.
Warsaw has two airports. The closest to the city center is the Warsaw Chopin, until this airport we flew with Norwegian. It can be accessed by bus line, train or taxi. Upon arriving at night we opted for the taxi.
At the airport, there are official taxis at the exit. The flag drop is 8 zloti and then 2 zloti are counted per kilometer, with a maximum of 40 zloti to the center. Above all, do not take taxis that are not official.
Ryanair fly to the airport of Warsaw Modlin, which is about 35 kilometers from the center of Warsaw. The best way to get there is with the Modlinbus, which leaves the car park right next to the Palace of Culture and Science. We bought it the day before online and it cost us 33 zloti each. It is highly recommended to buy the bus ticket in advance to secure the place. The bus takes about 45 minutes between the center of Warsaw and the Warsaw-Modlin airport.
As we decided to take a taxi to the hotel, we exchanged currency at the airport on departure. There they bought us 1 euro for 3.68 zloti. Surprisingly the change at the airport was better than in the city center. However, in almost all places we were able to pay by credit card, so almost all we paid was the cash taxi.
We are looking for a very central hotel, the Mamaison Residence Diana. It is minutes from the central train station and Palace of Culture and Science. We booked an apartment room that was huge and had all kinds of amenities. The room cost us € 191 both nights and did not include breakfast. The best without a doubt was the location that was very well located.
We moved basically walking. Having the hotel so central we went almost everywhere on foot. We only take a tram to return from the Stary Dom restaurant in the Mokotov district (almost an hour's walk from our hotel). Tickets can be purchased at kiosks where it puts bilety and in the vending machines that are in some stops. The tram we climbed into also had a machine that sold tickets, but I don't know if all the trams have them. The machines have the menu in English and can be paid in cash or by credit card. The single ticket for an area costs 4.40 zloti and gives you the option to change in an hour and a half. If you are going to make a short trip, for a maximum of 20 minutes and without transfer, you can buy the ticket that costs 3.60 zloti. When boarding the tram or bus you have to validate the ticket.
Free Tour Old Town Warsaw
Having little time we decided to take a free tour of the old part of the city. This “free” guided tour is done a couple of times a day and the meeting point is in the Segismundo column. We did the 10:30 am tour and there were guides in Spanish and English. At the end of the visit the will is left to the guide.
The guided tour of Walkative Tour started at the foot of the Sigismund III column, located at the entrance of Warsaw Old Town. The guide, a boy named Bartosh, was very nice and carried a yellow umbrella to stand out from the crowd of tourists gathered there. Interestingly, there was a large group of Spanish tourists who had already started their guided tour in Spanish with another guide.
After the presentations, Bartosh told us that Warsaw has existed as such since the thirteenth century, but it was thanks to the man in the column, King Sigismund III, when he began to gain importance and grow much more. And this king moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw in the 16th century. The decision was based on two reasons. The first and most understandable is that the situation in Warsaw allowed it to better control the territory of Poland at that time, whose territories covered an area four times larger than the current extension of the country. The second reason, much rarer, is that Sigismund III was very fond of alchemy. At that time it was very fashionable to devote to that protociencia whose main objective was to create gold. However, the alchemical experiments that the king had carried out in his palace in Krakow had ended fatally. In an explosion, the king had loaded half of the palace, so to get away from that embarrassment, he decided to establish the northernmost court in Warsaw. In addition, it was a city that promised, since it was next to a river with a lot of river trade and in the middle of the trade route between the nations of the east and the west.
Just in front of Column of Sigismund III stands the palace where he lived At first it belonged to a duke, but the king took advantage of it to expand it and already put stay to live there. The call royal castle It was almost completely destroyed during World War II, and during the communist government it remained in ruins for 40 years. However, it was later debated to rebuild it and in doing so the architects had doubts: should they rebuild the medieval castle, the Renaissance palace or the later neoclassical palace? As they did not agree, in the end a bit of everything was rebuilt. Therefore, when you enter the courtyard of the castle you can see that the facades on all four sides look like a patchwork of various styles. Finally, the history of Polish royalty ended at the end of the s. XIX when they decided they didn't need it at all and Poland became a republic. Today, the castle is a museum and you can visit the interior rooms also rebuilt. Apparently, the interior is more authentic than the exterior, because before the war, many Poles hid a large number of objects from the palace to avoid the plundering of the Nazis and after the war almost everyone recovered to restore the interior.
The visit continued until we reached a street full of old multi-storey houses with facades of different colors. As Bartosh told us, during World War II Warsaw was reduced to rubble, so that the entire historic center is actually rebuilt. However, far from detracting from it, this had a lot of merit because the whole neighborhood was restored in the 50s in just 7 years. Such was the effort of the Varsovians to recover the historical pre-war helmet, which UNESCO declared it a world heritage site.
Along the way, the guide told us a curious custom of Polish weddings. After leaving the church, the inhabitants of the city can form human barriers to prevent the passage of the bride and groom to the place of the banquet. And it is customary for the newly married couple to bribe human barriers by giving them bottles of vodka to let them pass.
In the Kanonia Square we find a big red bronze bell on the floor. Legend has it that at the end of the s. XVII this bell was forged and, you see what things, the first day they rang it shattered. But the Varsovians were not intimidated by this misfortune, but recovered the pieces and reinforced them. That is why today the bell looks like a newly made puzzle. In addition, something mysterious happened: the people of the neighborhood who had contributed to this repair were saved from an epidemic that hit the city shortly after and eventually became mayors, councilors and important people. When the word spread, the bell was considered a good luck charm. And even today many people ask for wishes. To do this you have to touch the top end of the bell while turning around in the clockwise direction.
Shortly after we arrived at the marketplace. It is a very beautiful open space, as it is surrounded by very picturesque old-looking houses. It is a really photogenic place. This was where the market was once held, which was quite important because Warsaw was in the middle of the river trade route along the Vistula River and the east-west trade route mentioned above. In the center of the square stands the Warsaw Mermaid Monument. Is a statue of a mermaid armed with a scimitar and a shield that forms the emblem of the city and can be seen in many other parts.
According to legend, this mermaid was the sister of Copenhagen. But unlike the younger sister, the one from Warsaw continued traveling the seas until she climbed the Vistula river up and reached the old Warsaw. There she became very famous due to the beauty of her singing, which was able to make everyone who listened to her look. Her fame spread and one of the largest landowners in the area ordered two fishermen to bring her to her palace to sing only for him. However, when they were about to deliver it, one of the fishermen asked the siren to sing because he wanted to know what he was about to lose forever. The music in his voice left him convinced that he should release her, so the curious fisherman stole the other and saved the mermaid. But, but, the half-human half-fish girl told the fisherman that he was not going to stay there unless he could feel safe, so the man gave him a sword and a shield to defend himself. And grateful, the siren announced that, whenever the city was in danger, they could call her and she would come to the help of the Varsovians. Miraculously, the statue survived World War II and today it can always be seen in the square, surrounded by tourists.
After crossing the entire square diagonally, we continue until we reach a section of the old brick wall red At this point the barbican, a fortification that stood out from the wall and where there was one of the entrance doors to the city. At the top of the walls there are metallic ornaments where the pigeons stand guard permanently. Interestingly, the Poles never got to use it to defend Warsaw. But when the Swedes snatched the city and then the Poles wanted to reconquer it, they were forced to fight the defenses they had built themselves. Ironies of history. Right on the other side of the barbican on the right is a restaurant that almost doesn't look like a restaurant. It is one of the «milk bar»From Warsaw. In these canteen-like restaurants, traditional Polish food is prepared for a very cheap price, but they usually do not speak English, only Polish.
Later we stop in front of the house museum of the famous scientist Marie Curie, although in Poland they prefer the Polish version of the name, with the Polish surname before that of their French husband: Maria Sklodowska-Curie. The story of this amazing woman is exciting, since she was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was also the first person to have a Nobel Prize in two categories, physical and chemistry. As if that were not enough, she was one of the first women to be university professors after studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, one of the first universities that allowed women to study. But Marie Curie was much more than a brilliant scientist, she was a woman who challenged the conventions of her time. And in this Warsaw museum you can discover more about her.