Warsaw, Poland

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyPolish Zloty
Local languagePolish
Country Poland

Introduction

Lying in central-eastern Poland, Warsaw’s beauty and elegance hides a tragic and bloody past. This city was condemned to total destruction by Hitler’s army in 1943 when orders were given to destroy every last stone. Thankfully for us, Polish patriots lovingly restored what was destroyed after the end of the Second World War, rebuilding much of the beauty of the original 19th century architecture.

Though the Cold War phase witnessed some neglect of Warsaw’s visual beauty, with some elements of twentieth century Stalinist architecture piercing the city as well as allowing the build-up of heavy traffic, the essence of its elegant parks and palaces has never been lost. Neither has its history been forgotten with many museums and monuments being dedicated to the Nazi era and the holocaust, as well as to other periods of the city’s history.

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Things to do

The right bank of the Vistula River houses the increasingly fashionable Praga district whilst Warsaw’s main ‘must-sees’ are all located in close proximity on the left bank, making seeing them on foot all the easier! Most are located between the Stare Miasto (Old Town) and the Lazienki Park. The Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta) is a beautiful and vibrant center of cafes, street artists and flowers and continues to provide a lively atmosphere at night. Located close by is the St John Cathedral which provides the religious center for the strongly catholic inhabitants, and the Royal Castle (Zamek Krolewski) dating back to the fourteenth century but still being repaired after the damage caused in WW2.


The Jewish population of Warsaw suffered terribly during the war. Four hundred thousand Jews were rounded up and forced to stay in the Jewish ghetto surrounded by a three meter high wall stretching from the Palace of Culture and Science to the Umschlagplatz monument. Memorials and museums dedicated to this period of history are prevalent including the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish Historical Institute. The Nozyk Synagogue (Synagoga Nozykow) dating back to nineteen hundred and Prozna Street (Ulica Pozna) a thoroughfare providing evidence of former Jewish Warsaw, offer additional insights.


The Lazienki Park contains the Chopin Monument (where the annual Chopin Festival is held each summer) and the Palace on the Water (Palac Lazienkowski). Originally built in the mid-seventeenth century, Ujazdowski Castle now houses the Center of Contemporary Art and a variety of Polish, European and North American artists’ exhibitions.

Local transport

The Warsaw Municipal Transport Board, ZTM, operates the main public transport network, connecting all stations to all areas of Warsaw including a night bus operating from the Central Station. Though more investment is still needed to operate a fully comprehensive system, the service is generally cheap and reliable and is the best way to travel the city.

All tickets (except those for the night bus) must be purchased before boarding and can be bought from post offices, city hotels and most restaurants. Passes are also available, with the weekly pass offering the best value for those enjoying a longer stay. Ask the City Transportation Office at ulica Senatorska 37 for other cheaper tickets especially where travelling with children, in a group or as a student as good discounts are also available these.

Cycling is not one of Warsaw’s favorite pastimes or modes of transportation by all accounts. The heavy traffic levels and complicated road network goes some way to explain this. Should you be particularly determined however, cycles can be hired from ‘Bike Renta’l, ulica Ostrobramska 73.

Day trips

Kampinoski Park offers those in search of natural beauty a real treat with expanses of forests, lakes and mountains. Lying immediately to the northwest of the city, regular departures by PKS bus leave from Warsaw's main bus station, al Jerozolimskie 144.

Torun, lying on the banks of the Vistula River, has been listed as a World Heritage Site and is certainly worthy of its status. The ruins of the thirteenth century Castle of the Teutonic Knights, the grand Town Hall and the famous gingerbread bakery all add to its charm. Leaving from Warsaw Centralna by train or by Polski Express bus from next to Centralna station, you can be there in just three hours or three and a half hours respectively.

Recommended places and events to visit in Warsaw

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