Well, Poland´s capital is an old and ugly city – I had heard this statement a few times from my Polish friends here in Germany.
Truth to be told: My friends could not have been more wrong. Warsaw is so different than I expected and exceeded my expectations by far. I have visited a few other Polish cities, like Gdansk and Wroclaw, and each city was beautiful. However, Warsaw offered more museums and is an underrated city which I cannot understand why.
Colorful, charming, and lovely with a lot of interesting history, it swept me off my feet right away.
Are all areas beautiful in Warsaw? No, of course not. But which city can claim to only consist of pretty neighborhoods?! None.
But in the city center, you will be surrounded by many beautiful buildings and a lively city life that makes it charming and lovely – though this 1-or 2-day Warsaw itinerary also will lead you out of the city center, you will spend a good amount of time there.
So, I think 2 days in Warsaw is a good amount to spend in the city, I know some of you just have one day in Warsaw – you can use this itinerary to plan your trip for both options (or just use this post to get inspired for the best activities in Warsaw, regardless of how long you stay).
At the end of the post, you will also find some travel tips for your Warsaw itinerary, so you have a smooth trip. And if you are convinced that Warsaw is a great destination check out my Poland itinerary.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.
Things to do in 1 Or 2 Days
HOW TO SPEND 1 DAY IN WARSAW
For the first day, I suggest spending some time outdoors. So, check the weather forecast and swap day 1 with day 2 if the forecast predicts better weather for day 2).
Stop 1: Royal Lazienki Museum and Park
Why don’t you start your first day in Warsaw with a relaxing activity? Head to the Lazienki Park where you will also find some main landmarks in the country.
This park is popular among locals and visitors alike – you can enjoy some nice long walks and prepare for the busyness of Warsaw. You will not only walk in nature, but also have some beautiful sights and attractions in the park – like the summer residence of the last king of Poland.
Here, in the Palace on the Island, King Stanisław August Poniatowski hosted his dinners for scholars and poets to discuss the issues of the day.
Today, it is a museum where you can admire paintings from the royal collections. But you will find more places to visit, like an orangery, an amphitheatre, an eighteenth-century court theatre, the Museum of Hunting and Horseriding, and the Myślewicki Palace.
In the summer months, even Chopin concerts take place here.
You could take your sandwiches with you and have a breakfast here – or, depending on the length of the visit, you can also have your lunch picnic here. I suggest spending a few hours here (depending also on the weather), but not a full day as there are more beautiful places in Warsaw waiting for you to discover.
Stop 2: Royal Route
From there, you can walk along the Royal Route.
The Royal Route – these days – is comprised of a series of connecting Warsaw streets that feature a number of historic landmarks. It begins at Warsaw’s Castle Square and runs down south – arriving at Wilanów (King Jan III Sobieski’s personal residence).
If you visit the park first, you will walk the Royal Route the other way around.
Along the way you will come across many, many beautiful buildings – many of them of political importance. It really depends on how often you stop to actually visit certain churches or sights – you could probably spend a full day just visiting the sights along the way.
You will find the Presidential Palace, the Warsaw University campus, the Holy Cross Church (and more churches), Staszic Palace, statues, townhouses and more.
You don’t have to walk all of the 11-km-long route. You can also take a bus and get closer to the old town, getting off at/near the old town, or you walk the main route only (which is about 4 km).
Stop 3: Old Town Observation Tower
When you arrive at Castle Square, you will also find the old town observation tower (bell tower), which apparently offers great views over the city.
For a small entrance fee, you can (or rather have to) climb up about 150 stairs and then can enjoy the views.
However, you have to pay in cash (and since I was traveling cashless, I had to – very unfortunately – pass on this view).
Stop 4: Royal Castle and Castle Square
Once you get down from the bell tower, you can continue your journey and discover the beautiful old town with its pretty buildings.
Warsaw’s Old Town is just charming. Here you will – finally – be convinced of how colorful the city is.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a lot of history. The next stop should be the Royal Castle – if you can only visit one castle/palace, make it this castle.
The Royal Castle in Warsaw – built in the late 16th century – served throughout the centuries as the official residence of the Polish monarchs.
The Royal Castle was actually seriously damaged during World War II, but has been rebuilt and is now open to the public.
The Great Assembly Hall – the biggest room in the castle – is especially stunning.
On the Castle Square, you will also find the column of King Sigismund III Vasa, who in the 16th century moved the capital of Poland from Krakow to Warsaw.
Often, you will find artists here that make it even more fun to visit.
Stop 5: Old Town and Old Town Square
From the Castle Square, head to the Old Town Square. It is just a stone‘s throw away and the oldest square in the city, established at the turn of the 13th century.
It’s enclosed by around 40 colorful houses that had to be rebuilt after being reduced to rubble by the Germans at the close of WWII.
There are colorful buildings wherever you look – promise. You have to walk along some cute streets that have some places you might want to stop.
Then, once you arrive at the middle of the square, you will find a statue of the Warsaw Mermaid, the emblem and guardian of the city.
And of course, the buildings – which come in many different colors – are very noticeable.
There are a couple of museums, but you can also just get lost in the streets. Don´t worry, even though Warsaw is quite big, the old town isn’t and you won’t get literally lost.
If you are interested in the history of the city, visit the Museum of Warsaw or follow the Old Town Cellars Route.
Tip: Also, make a little detour to the Barbican Fort, which is just behind the old town square.
Though it is not really spectacular, it is lovely to stroll along the old city walls, snap some pics from the observation point at Gnojna Góra, and… it is free to visit, so you can’t go wrong.
You could also pay a visit to the cathedral, which houses, amongst other things, the tombs of the medieval Mazovian princes and the last king of Poland.
Stop 7: Multimedia Park
So, depending on your speed, it might be late afternoon already. And since this is a busy day, I suggest to end it with a great dinner in the old town or to head to the multimedia park for some entertainment.
Close to the old town is this park that is not only a great place to rest, but also a great place to watch some light shows. The light show doesn’t take place every night and not all year, but if they are going on, then visit.
On the water screen with fog scattered over the water, you can watch an animated story about the history of Warsaw and its legends. It is accompanied by laser lights and several-meters-high columns of water rising to the rhythm of the music, lit by colourful floodlights.
Depending on the time of the visit, the show changes (free to watch) and there are even some winter shows. So, make sure to check out the show times and add it to your 2-day Warsaw itinerary.
This day in Warsaw is such a fun and colourful day – great views included. If you stay longer, then you could add following activities to your itinerary.
So, day 2 will be completely different – though not less interesting.
WHAT TO DO IN 2 DAYS in Warsaw
For day 2 in Warsaw, I suggest learning about the more recent history of Warsaw. Especially about World War II, as Poland was one of the countries most affected by the war.
As you most likely know, World War II was started by Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party in Germany, who invaded Poland on 1 September 1939.
His main goal was to make Germany a “world power” and to “protect the supposed purity and strength of the Aryan race” meaning to kill Jews and other Non-Aryans. This led to the Holocaust – the genocide of Jews and other Non-Aryans (and mentally or physically handicapped people) with more than six million people being killed!
So, in Warsaw you will find out a lot about that time and how Poland and the Jews were effected. It is not a fun day. But I think, it is important to remember! Plus, the information might be heavy to digest BUT the museums are well done and make it easy to stay interested!
Stop 1: Uprising Museum
Start your day 2 in Warsaw with learning about the war at the Uprising Museum.
This interactive museum tells us more about the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 – the museum is a tribute of Warsaw’s residents to those who fought and died to free Poland.
It shows the military history of the 63 days of fighting and the everyday lives of the civilian population, but it also tells us more about the post-war communist terror.
You can listen to the stories of the insurgents and see original exhibits from the uprising.
In Freedom Park – next to the museum – you will find the Memorial Wall, where nearly 11,000 names of soldiers killed in the Uprising are engraved.
There is also the insurgent murals by well-known Polish artists on the “Wall of Art.”
Stop 2: Warsaw Ghetto
From there, head to the Warsaw Ghetto (either walk the 2km or take bus).
Poland had a large community of Jews and the Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Europe during World War II.
It was established by the German authorities in November 1940 – and it meant, that all Jewish residents of Warsaw hat to move into that designated area. The ghetto was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded to prevent movement between the ghetto and the rest of Warsaw.
The population of the ghetto was estimated to be over 400,000 Jews. Living conditions were bad and in 1942, German SS and police units carried out mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto.
Stop 3: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Probably one of the best museums to visit in Warsaw is the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews located in the Warsaw Ghetto.
It doesn’t only cover the history of Jews in Poland during World War II – it goes back to the first Jewish settlers in Poland one thousand years ago.
It is divided into several parts – and all of them are well-made and make it interesting to watch and learn. Of course, a large part of the museum is about the Holocaust and how, especially, Jews were victims of the war.
Though it is a lot of information and somewhat heavy to take in, it is made so well that even younger people can visit and learn a lot.
It is everything but a boring museum that just presents facts on a board.
The whole exhibition should take about 2 hours – if you need a break, you can take it (and re-enter with your ticket) and have a drink or snack at the cafe in the museum.
For day 2, and after all the history, I recommend ending your day with something fun – maybe you want to visit a Chopin museum and see a Chopin concert?
Why Chopin? Well, he is probably one of the most famous Polish guys and is Warsaw´s pride (though he wasn’t actually born here, he did live here for a long time).
In the evening, you will have daily Chopin concerts that you can visit (for free if you have a Warsaw Card).
Stop 4: Chopin Museum
The museum, within the baroque Ostrogski Palace, displays the work of the famous composer Chopin.
I haven’t visited myself, but there are many different ways to learn about him and his music in the museum, and thus, it has become one of the main attractions in Warsaw.
I mean, even the airport is named after him, so a museum seems only logical.
ALTERNATIVE PLACE TO VISIT IN 1 OR 2 DAYS
As everyone has different tastes and prefer other activities, here are a few more places you can visit in 48 hours in Warsaw.
Palace of Culture & Science
This building is probably one of the most outstanding in Warsaw – it was from the Soviet Union and completed in 1955 – and thus causes mixed feelings in the locals.
I passed it several times, but did not get to visit it. At 237m high, it is the tallest building in Poland and somehow reminded me of New York.
What is most interesting to most visitors is probably not that it houses a museum, but that it has an observation terrace on the 30th floor (you can buy tickets online).
If you want to skip one of the other places above and do this instead, just make sure to check out their opening hours. Psssst, apparently the interior is stunning, too, and actually houses more attractions….
TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR WARSAW TRIP
If you stay in Warsaw for 2 days, then these tips will hopefully help you in planning your trip.
How to Arrive in Warsaw
Warsaw has an international airport that is well connected to the city center – you can just take a bus from the airport to the city center for around 1€.
They run frequently and also late at night and early in the morning.
If you arrive at the main train station, you are within walking distance of the old town. You could also take a bus/tram if you don’t stay in the city center.
How to Get Around in Warsaw
You can mostly walk to many sights and won’t need public transportation often – while Warsaw is quite big, it is very walkable.
However, you might want to take public transportation if you visit the museums or if you don’t want to walk more than 10km a day.
Trains and buses are very good – reliable and affordable.
You can buy your ticket at the ticket machines at the bus stations (you can select English as the language, and from there on, it is very straightforward). However, the tickets are based on the time and zones. So, you need to think where you want to go and for how long your ticket should be valid.
Also, credit cards are accepted (in Europe, American Express – unfortunately – is not as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard).
Where to Stay in Warsaw
I highly suggest staying in the city center. If you are traveling to Poland from the US, or western or northern Europe, you will find that accommodation prices are very reasonable and so staying in the city center should not break your bank.
I stayed in a hostel (after some great experiences in hostels in Lebanon and Jordan, I have start liking hostels… Something I seriously had not liked before) and the hostel I stayed was a great choice. Though not directly located in the old town, it was still nicely located and the value for money was great. Check out rates here.
However, since prices in Warsaw are not as high as in other European capitals, you also get quite good value for money if you book a mid-range or luxury accommodation. Check out Inter Continental for a luxury hotel.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Warsaw – I normally don’t do much research for restaurants, but eat whenever I see a cozy spot and something vegan on the menu.
Food is quite affordable – by western European standards – and so I often ended up spending more as I had a coffee here and a snack there. This also happened in Warsaw – I was happy to see that vegan food is also available in Polish restaurants, as traditional Polish food is very meat-heavy and quite unhealthy in general. However, whatever cuisine you are looking for, you will find it in Warsaw.
I had a very delicious burger at Tel Aviv – a bit outside the old town. The staff was a bit inattentive but since food was great, I still highly recommend it if you are craving vegan burger (even if you aren’t into vegan food, give it a try if you happen to be around this place!).
Is Warsaw Safe?
I traveled to Warsaw by myself and felt safe. I strolled the city center after sunset and did not feel scared in any way – however, always exercise common sense.
Avoid side streets at night (and probably dig areas – however, with 2 days in Warsaw, I did not come across any dodgy neighborhoods). And watch your belongings.
I found quite a lot of people who spoke English well enough. I did not have any issues and many also spoke some (basic) German. When I visited Poland the first time – like 12 years ago – that was completely different. But with English, you are good to go.
Warsaw Card for 48 Hours
I did not get a Warsaw Card, but it might make sense for you.
If you visit a Chopin concert, you can watch it without any extra costs and do a few other activities. It might help you save money (for me, it did not pay off, especially because the entry to the Royal Palace isn’t included).
CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO IN 2 DAYS IN WARSAW
So, hopefully these tips will help you while planning your Warsaw itinerary – now filled with information on the best places to visit and top things to do in 1 day or 2 days in Warsaw.
If you want to find out more about beautiful Polish cities, check out my Gdansk itinerary.