Like Berlin, Warsaw still has something of a Cold War reputation. But Poland’s capital is thriving and fascinating, and should definitely be considered as a side trip from Kraków.
Although Warsaw has a pretty Old Town, the city itself is very different from Kraków in almost every respect. Much of Poland’s capital was built after 1945 into a patchwork of different districts and monuments. Mostly modern and Modernist, it has, to be honest, little of the beauty of Kraków but there are excellent museums and plenty of places to eat and party. Warsaw feels very much focused on the future. Roughly 300km away, it takes about 2.5 hours on the train to reach from Kraków, and makes a good weekend destination, rather than a day trip.
How Much Time Should I Spend In Warsaw?
If you plan things right, you can see an awful lot of Warsaw in a full 2-3 days. The train is most convenient, leaving from the very heart of Kraków and dropping you off close to the action less than 2.5 hours later. Aim to arrive in the afternoon, giving you time to get settled and to find a good restaurant for your first evening.
Two days is enough to see the key sights, such as the Old Town and the Soviet Palace of Culture and Science. Three days allows you to branch out a bit and venture to the other side of the Vistula river.
You can then either return to Kraków via train on your final evening or fly directly home from Warsaw Chopin Airport.
What Should I See In Warsaw? What Are Warsaw’s Must-See Attractions?
- The Warsaw Rising Museum is to this city what the Schindler museum is to Kraków: an essential visit if you want to make sense of the Polish experience in the modern era.
- Similarly, the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews is an excellent counterpart, which documents 1000 years of history in an engaging and imaginative manner.
- No trip to Warsaw is complete without a visit to the observation terrace of the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science. This imposing tower is easy to find, as it can be seen from everywhere!
- More modest than Kraków’s Old Town, the Warsaw equivalent is still very handsome and is a great destination for restaurants and atmospheric coffee shops. Much of it was rebuilt after the destruction of WWII, but that doesn’t detract from the fine mix of different architectural styles. The Royal Castle is also a reconstruction, but is an interesting museum and gallery. Entry is free on Wednesdays.
- Warsaw is proud of native son and composer Frédéric Chopin. Here, the Fryderyk Chopin Museum is another state-of-the-art exhibition with limited admission. So book in advance. You can also see the Church of the Holy Cross where Chopin’s heart is contained in an urn.
- For an overview of tours and tickets, see our Things To Do In Warsaw page. Get Your Guide offers an excellent overview of things to see in Warsaw, with the ability to book entry tickets in advance.
Should I Have A Tour Guide For Warsaw?
Warsaw is an easy city to find your way around and you won’t have problems locating the main tourist sights. English is widely spoken. However, hiring a guide will take away most of the planning and gives the kind of insight only a local can provide. It can also be a great way to get to know people, especially if you combine a tour with bar or food crawl. There really is no faster way of getting to know a new city. I’ve booked tours in Kraków and can honestly say they’ve added so much to the experience.
In addition to offering entry tickets and event suggestions, Get Your Guide is a great place to find a tour. There’s a big range of options and prices, and customer feedback means you aren’t taking a risk when you book.
Is Warsaw Expensive? What Is A Reasonable Warsaw Budget?
Warsaw is relatively cheap for a European city and, as with Kraków, the world-class museums are great value for money. All things considered, you should plan for a similar budget to Kraków. Although Warsaw is the capital Poland’s capital it is less of a tourist destination, so everything evens out. See our How Much Money Do I Need For Kraków? page for a rough breakdown of the costs.
Approximate Daily Warsaw Budgets (Per Person)
- Budget Warsaw Trip: 205zł (about US$54, €46, £42)
- Mid-Range Warsaw Trip: 500zł (about US$131, €112, £102)
- Luxury Warsaw Trip: 814zł (about US$216, €182, £165)
Is It Easy To Get Money In Warsaw?
As with Kraków, Warsaw has a very modern attitude to money. The ATMs accept cards from overseas – always check with your bank before travelling – and most give different language options.
Contactless card payments are the norm in shops, museums, restaurants and bars. Google Pay was launched in Poland in 2016 and Apple Pay a couple of years later. Poles tend to use a system called BLIK, which also allows contactless withdrawal from ATMs.
There’s no minimum spend – you can pay contactless for a drink or small snack in the corner store, but you may have to enter your PIN for larger payments.
We advise you just carry a bit of backup cash and some loose change for public toilets and the like.
If you’re coming directly from another EU country, remember that Poland uses the złoty and not the Euro! You can find more practical information about money on our Polish Currency page, and we also have a handy currency conversion tool.
How To Get To Warsaw
Warsaw sits in the centre of Poland, slightly to the east. At roughly 290km, it’s easy to reach from Kraków via train, bus, plane, or private vehicle, and will take 2.5-4 hours, depending on the form of transport. See our How To Travel From Kraków To Warsaw page for more information.
- The train is the best option for most travellers. It’s the fastest, most comfortable, and remains competitively priced. There are hourly departures from Kraków Główny, right in the centre of the city, and arrives at Warszawa Centralna, right around the corner from the Palace of Culture and Science. You really couldn’t ask for a more direct route. Trains run from very early in the morning until late evening, and (at time of writing) cost roughly €30 per person each way. Trains are comfortable and modern. The whole journey takes less than 2.5 hours.
- The coach is the cheapest method and also quite convenient. These also leave twice an hour from the Dworzec Autobusowy, just next to the train station. You can get off at a number of stops once you reach Warsaw. Prices vary considerably but can be ridiculously cheap. Again, the coaches are modern and comfortable. The downside is that the journey time is roughly 4.5 hours.
- Whilst a plane might seem the fastest option, you have to add the time it takes between the airport and city centre at each end, and it could end up being the most expensive option. Polish airline LOT offers up to seven direct flights a day from John Paul II International to Warsaw Chopin International. One-way flights are roughly €50 at time of writing and take about an hour each way, but you have to factor in arrival times of two hours or more.
- A private car is another option, taking roughly the same amount of time as the coach (4.5 hours), but certainly costing more in terms of fuel.
Is It Easy To Get Around Warsaw?
Yes. ZTM runs an integrated transport system of tram, bus, and metro, all using the same tickets. You can buy these at machines, found at many stops. These have options for different languages and accept cards. As with Kraków, the system has an excellent online and app timetable and ticketing system which makes planning easy.
Most destinations can be reached with a single-journey ticket, which costs 3.40zł at time of writing. It is valid for 20 minutes and includes transfers between different vehicles.
InterContinental Warszawa – image © booking.com
Where Should I Stay In Warsaw?
Where you stay will depend very much on your budget and the kinds of attractions you want to focus on. The best option is to use an online booking service like Booking.com. You can see everything available, with information and user reviews to help you find the ideal place. It’s often possible to reserve a room with no upfront payment and pay when you check out. Most hotels offer the option for cancellations, in case you need to cancel your trip.
When’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Warsaw?
Warsaw can seem oppressive in winter, so avoid November to April. The city is pleasant in spring, although prices are likely to be higher around Easter. The summer months of July and August are probably the best time to visit, but you may get some nice bargains in September and October. The temperature is moderate here and it rarely strays much above 19°C. The midwinter average is -1°C, although it can be considerably colder at night. It also rains less in spring and autumn.
What Should I Pack For A Trip To Warsaw?
Take what you’ve already packed for Kraków. It can rain a bit more in summer, so also consider a brolly and waterproof jacket, hat, and shoes. Otherwise, you’ll find anything else you need is available in the shops for a very reasonable price.
Is Warsaw Safe For Travellers?
Warsaw appears to be very safe for travellers. Crime rates are low and most people report a good experience in the city. Despite regressive legislation and a bad reputation in recent years, many LGBT+ travellers still recommend Warsaw as a great destination. Coming from Kraków, however, Warsaw will feel a little edgier. As with all big cities, keep your wits about you.
Travel Insurance For Warsaw
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See our dedicated site for Warsaw travel, WarsawVisit.com, for a Google map of Warsaw’s essential attractions and further information about the city.
Other Polish Cities You Can Visit From Kraków
You will find a general overview of the transport network on our page How To Travel From Kraków To Other Polish Cities. This gives information on how to use trains, coaches, planes, and private vehicles in Poland, and where each type of service departs in Kraków.
- Białystok: In the north east of Poland, Białystok has a lively cultural scene and a handful of tourist attractions, and is close to the UNESCO-listed Białowieski National Park and the oldest forests in Europe.
- Gdańsk: On the Baltic coast, Gdańsk is friendly and great for food, and one of Poland’s biggest tourist destinations.
- Gdynia: Gdynia is also a port city with some lovely sandy beaches, and also makes a great day trip from neighbouring Gdańsk.
- Katowice: For something a bit different, Katowice is very post-industrial. It’s airport and proximity to Kraków make it worth consideration for travellers who want a future-facing (and very green) Poland, with dramatic, modern architecture.
- Łódź: Set in the very heart of Poland, Łódź is coming into its own as a creative city. The city is alive with murals and street art. There’s a great food scene and a nice mix of architectural styles. Right now, Łódź has that exciting feel of the future.
- Lublin: On the eastern side of Poland, Lublin is best known as a cultural and academic city. It has a rich Jewish heritage and was apparently referred to as the ‘Jewish Oxford’ in the Jagiellonian era. There is a nice mix of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque, with some atmospheric cobbled streets.
- Olsztyn: Up in the north, Olsztyn is often overlooked by tourists keen to reach the more famous Gdańsk. It does, however, have a pretty Old Town and ranks very highly for quality of life. What’s more, the city provides a gateway to some gorgeous wild countryside of lakes and forests.
- Poznań: 300km to the west of Warsaw, youthful Poznań has a lively, friendly nightlife, with plenty of restaurants and bars. The Old Town is brightly coloured and quirkily decorated with bold styles similar to Southern Germany. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied for a long weekend, with a museums, a cathedral, and historical buildings, but the city also makes a great base for exploring Poland’s countryside.
- Sopot: Another seaside resort, between Gdynia and Gdańsk, Sopot is a playground for the rich. With sandy beaches and a pier, as well as the shops, bars, and clubs of Bohaterów Monte Cassino, it can be very busy at the height of the season. Even more than Gdynia, Sopot might be best sampled first as an afternoon out, rounded off with a meal in one of the excellent fish restaurants.
- Szczecin: Close to the border with Germany, Szczecin is off the beaten track for most tourists. The Old Town is pretty and there are a handful of attractions to see. But, mainly, visiting Szczecin is a great opportunity to get to know Polish food and to engage with the culture – there is a fine Philharmonic building and the grand Ducal Castle is now an arts centre.
- Toruń: Largely untouched by the Second World War, Toruń is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Vistula River to the north west of Warsaw. The architectural highlights are dominated by the huge Gothic cathedral and the city feels less hectic than more famous tourist destinations.
- Wrocław: Wrocław is a charming city in the western part of Poland, with islands and bridges criss-crossing the water and a strong Gothic flavour to the architecture. Built out from the 10th century Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), Wrocław also has a stunning market square, much of which is listed within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Zakopane: 110km from Kraków, Poland’s outdoor capital and winter resort, Zakopane is nestled at the root of the High Tatra mountains. The area is excellent for hiking, skiing, and a range of other activities. However, there is also unique folk architecture and plenty of more spectacular attractions.
As well as travelling to other Polish destinations, Kraków also serves as a handy hub for a number of cities in neighbouring countries.