Travel Destinations

Monday, December 11, 2023

How to Spend Two Days in Warsaw

Warsaw Old Town and Royal Castle Poland

Warsaw is the capital of Poland and its largest city. Warsaw is the city we flew in and out of for our 13-day Poland vacation. We spent two full days in Warsaw and it was the perfect amount of time to see and taste the highlights of Warsaw.

Warsaw has a historic, old city feel even though 85% of Warsaw’s historic center was destroyed in World War II. Unlike other European cities that sustained damage throughout the war from various bombings, Warsaw was deliberately destroyed by the Nazis as punishment for the Warsaw Uprising. Many buildings were meticulously rebuilt, some with the help of paintings of Warsaw from the 1700s by Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto, the nephew of Canaletto and often referred to as Canaletto. Replicas of Canaletto’s paintings are scattered around Warsaw. 

Recommended Itinerary for Two Days in Warsaw – Day One

We started our first day in Warsaw with a stroll down Warsaw’s Royal Route, a one-kilometer route that passes multiple churches and palaces.

Roman Catholic Church of the Visitants Warsaw Poland

The Roman Catholic Church of the Visitants is the only church in the area that survived World War II. Poland’s famous composer Frédéric Chopin was an organist at this church briefly. Across the street is one of the Canaletto painting replicas.

Holy Cross Church Warsaw Poland

Next is the Holy Cross Church, where Chopin’s heart is encased in one of the pillars inside. While Chopin died in Paris, he wanted part of him to be buried in his home country. Outside of the church is a statue of Jesus bearing his cross. This is one of the many buildings that were destroyed but rebuilt in the same style with some help from a Canaletto painting.

Copernicus Monument Warsaw Poland

Another Polish celebrity is Nicolaus Copernicus, a mathematician and astronomer. The Copernicus Monument is on the Royal Route. Near the monument is another Canaletto painting replica and one of many benches that play Chopin’s music with the push of a button.

Palace of Culture and Science Warsaw Poland

We turned off of the Royal Route to walk over to the Palace of Culture and Science, which at one point was the tallest building between Frankfurt and St. Petersburg. If you didn’t know, you might think the building is old and historic. However, it was built in the 1950s as a ‘gift’ by Stalin for Poland in an older style. It is free to enter the ground-floor lobby, which feels like 1950s Soviet Union.

Zlotta 44 Warsaw Poland

Nearby is Zlotta 44, a skyscraper designed by Daniel Libeskind, the world-renowned architect who redeveloped the 9/11 site in New York City. The shape of the building evokes an eagle, which is the symbol of Poland.

Next, we walked to the National Museum of Warsaw which has a wonderful collection of 19th century Polish art that depicts daily life. There is also a collection of Medieval Art with altarpieces from churches around Poland. The museum also holds modern and postmodern Polish art.

Zapiekanka Eat Polska Food Tour Warsaw Poland

After our museum visit, we joined an Eat Polska food tour to get acquainted with Polish cuisine. Food tours are one of our favorite things to do early on in a trip so we know what to look for and eat through the rest of the vacation. On our food tour, we visited five different places and ate lots of traditional dishes including bread spread with smalec chased with a shot of vodka, two types of soup, zapiekanka, potato dumplings, breaded porkchop, and a couple sweets. In addition to learning about Poland’s cuisine, we learned about Poland’s food history and how it was impacted by its time under Soviet rule.

Since we didn’t need any dinner after filling up with Polish food on our food tour, we ended our day with a piano concert at Chopin Salon. Chopin Salon holds a concert every night featuring the music of Poland’s famous composer. Each night features a different pianist. Sometimes the piano is accompanied by another instrument or a singer. We were served a glass of wine and a slice of apple pie to enjoy during the concert.

Recommended Itinerary for Two Days in Warsaw – Day Two

Our second full day in Warsaw was focused on Warsaw’s Old Town, the resistance, and Jewish history.

St. Anne’s Church Tower Warsaw Poland

St. Anne’s Church has an altar that survived World War II. Next door to the church is a tower that provides a view of Warsaw’s Old Town after climbing 150 steps.

Royal Castle Warsaw Poland

The Royal Castle on Castle Square was destroyed by the Nazis and carefully restored decades later. Luckily much of what was in the castle was removed for safekeeping before its destruction, so many of the furnishings seen in the castle today are original.

St. John's Cathedral Warsaw Poland

St. John’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Warsaw. It was built in the 1300s. St. John’s Cathedral is also important because Poland’s constitution was consecrated there in 1791. It was also a battleground of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising where many were killed when a tank drove into the church and exploded.

Old Town Market Square Warsaw Poland

We stopped for a lunch of pierogis and walked to Old Town Market Square. Not one single building remained of this square in 1945, and it was rebuilt in 1956. The buildings were intentionally built to lean out to recreate how the original buildings looked.

The Museum of Warsaw is in Old Town Market Square. If you’re not a museum person, I would recommend skipping this one. There is a lot of stuff to look at. However, Romeo disagrees and is glad we visited the museum.

Warsaw Uprising Monument Poland

We left the Old Town and walked to the Warsaw Uprising Monument, which commemorates the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 where members of the resistance attempted to end the Nazi occupation.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes Warsaw Poland

A short distance away is the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which commemorates the Jewish uprising. This uprising occurred the year before the Warsaw Uprising in resistance to the Nazi order to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews Warsaw

The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is an excellent museum covering a thousand years of Jewish history. We recommend renting the audio guide.

Path of the Remembrance Bunker Warsaw Poland

The Path of the Remembrance is a series of three black stone memorials to the heroes of the uprising and they lead to a bunker where 100 organizers of the uprising hid and committed suicide when the Nazis found them.

Umschlagplatz Monument Warsaw Poland

We walked over to the Umschlagplatz Monument which marks the spot where Nazis brought Jewish families and loaded them onto trains headed to Treblinka or Auschwitz.

We had already visited quite a few spots on our second day, but we had just enough time to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum. This is the one place in our Warsaw two-day itinerary that could not be reached by walking, so we took an Uber. The Warsaw Uprising Museum celebrates the heroes of the uprising.

Recommended Restaurants in Warsaw

ELIXIR by Dom Wódki Warsaw Poland

ELIXIR by Dom Wódki is a Michelin-rated restaurant and was our favorite in Warsaw. This restaurant combines Poland’s iconic vodka with its regional dishes. Each dish on the menu has two recommended vodka pairings, one to sip with the dish and one to enjoy as a shot that works as a palate cleanser in preparation for the next dish.

Stolica Warsaw Poland

Stolica is in Warsaw’s Old Town and serves elevated interpretations of traditional dishes. Dining here feels like enjoying an old-school fancy dining experience at a price that’s quite affordable, especially for what you get. I had caviar, duck, and the famous Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka. It was the perfect final meal of our two weeks in Poland.

We visited Kamanda Lwowska on our food tour. This restaurant serves traditional Polish food in the traditional Polish style served in traditional Polish surroundings and is definitely worth a visit if you won’t already be visiting it on a food tour.

We visited GOŚCINIEC Polskie Pierogi for lunch when in Warsaw’s old town for pierogis. The menu is full of pierogis of all different kinds. You can mix and match and have them steamed or fried.

Recommended Hotels in Warsaw

Hotel Bristol Poland Warsaw

We stayed three nights at the Hotel Bristol and it was our favorite hotel in Poland. The Hotel Bristol is a historic luxury hotel that originally opened in 1901. The hotel miraculously survived being destroyed in World War II and was used by the Nazis as a hotel during the war.

The hotel’s central location was convenient for walking to almost all of Warsaw’s points of interest and recommended restaurants. We booked an executive king room that was spacious and very comfortable. The hotel has two bars and two restaurants. During our stay we had drinks at Gin Bar Lane’s and the Column Bar and breakfast at the Café Bristol.

We arrived late in the evening, after many restaurants were already closed, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that Hotel Bristol offers room service, with a menu of Polish dishes. It was such a relief to be able to have a good meal plus get our first taste of Poland’s flavorful soups.

Renaissance Warsaw Airport Hotel Poland

We also stayed one night at the Renaissance Warsaw Airport Hotel because we had an early morning flight and returned to Warsaw from Krakow the day before our flight home. The Renaissance Warsaw Airport Hotel is extremely convenient for early morning flights because it is literally across the street from the airport terminal. We stayed in a standard king room and had a view of the tarmac, which is fun for fans of airports and airplanes. We would not recommend staying here for more than one night as it’s a 20- to 30-minute Uber ride or 45-minute to one-hour bus ride into the city center.

Both recommended Warsaw hotels are Marriott properties.

Castle Square Warsaw Poland

Warsaw's resilience, cultural richness, and culinary treasures make it a must-visit destination when planning a Poland vacation. 

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.