Warsaw itinerary: how to spend one day in Warsaw

This Warsaw itinerary will help you make the best of your time if you have only one day in Warsaw.

Warsaw is the capital of Poland. It is therefore the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the country. Although there are plenty of things to do, it is possible to see the biggest highlights of Warsaw in one day.

Its historic center is quite small and compact and most sights are within walking distance of each other. Personally, I found Warsaw not as charming as Poznan or Lublin. But its old town did surprise me. Warsaw was completely destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, but its historic center was beautifully renovated in its original state.

Furthermore, Warsaw has some interesting museums and it is a great place to try Polish food. 

Warsaw itinerary: Warsaw Old town
Old center of Warsaw

My Warsaw itinerary

I spent two days in Warsaw and this was the perfect time to see everything at a slow pace. I spent the first day exploring the old town and its surroundings and the second day visiting some museums.

In hindsight, I would have been able to see everything in Warsaw in one day. Maybe it is my distaste for big cities, but I enjoyed Lublin and Poznan much more and would have liked more time there.

On the other hand, the museums in Warsaw are of very good quality. They helped a lot in understanding the city’s history. If you like visiting museums I do recommend adding another day to your Warsaw itinerary.

Warsaw itinerary: Warsaw Old town
Old center of Warsaw

Warsaw itinerary: One day in Warsaw

Saxon garden

Start your Warsaw itinerary at the Saxon garden. This garden once belonged to the Saxon palace complex. When the gardens opened to the public in 1727 it was the first public park in the world.

During World War II, the park was severely damaged, and the palace and many of the buildings were destroyed. After the war, the park was restored and many of the original features were rebuilt. The park still very much resembles a palace garden complete with Baroque statues and a fountain, but without the opulent palace.

The Saxon Garden is a popular destination for visitors to Warsaw and is home to several important monuments, including a monument to the victims of the Holocaust and a monument to the victims of the Warsaw Uprising.

The garden is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument to the Polish soldiers who died during World War I and World War II, and the monument to the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, which honors the children who died during the Holocaust.

Tomb of the unknown soldier Warsaw
Tomb of the unknown soldier in Warsaw

Presidential Palace

From the Saxon garden it is a short walk to the Presidential Palace. The 17th century Presidential palace is one of the few buildings that survived WW2. Built in 1643 it saw plenty of renovations though, even before the wars in the 20th century. 

It is now the official residential palace of the Polish president. With all the security outside, it’s hard to miss. 

St. Anne church

From the presidential palace you can easily walk towards the Old town. You will pass by a few churches. The saint Anne church is the oldest church in Warsaw and one of the few that survived WW2. 

The church was originally built in the Gothic style by the Teutonic Knights, a Catholic religious order that played a significant role in the history of Poland. It was dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

In the 17th century, the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style and the interior of the church was decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and paintings.

The church is well worth a visit. The church is home to a number of important works of art, including a 14th-century sculpture of the Virgin Mary and a 17th-century painting of St. Anne. You can also visit the bell tower for some nice views over Warsaw.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace was the residence of those that ruled Poland from the 14th century. First the Masovian dukes and later the Polish kings. Later the Presidential palace took over its role.

The castle was then completely destroyed in WW2. Like the Old town, it was rebuilt in its original state and is now a museum

Inside the Royal Palace of Warsaw
Royal Palace in Warsaw

Johannes Cathedral

From the Royal Palace you can wander into the streets of the old town. One of the most scenic parts of Warsaw. Within the old town are several noteworthy buildings. One of them is the Johannes cathedral. 

The history of this Roman catholic church goes back to the 14th century. During the uprising of Warsaw the church was blown up. Much effort has been done to restore the Gothic facade. The crypts below the church still have the tombs of important Polish dukes and kings.

St. Martins church

The Saint Martin’s church is another beautiful 14th century church that you will come across wandering the streets of the old town. 

Along with the church came a monastery and hospital. After WW2 only the exterior of the church was restored in its original Baroque style. 

Saint Martin Church in Warsaw
St. Martins church in Warsaw

Old town Market square

The old town market square is like a journey back in time. It’s so well restored that it is hard to imagine that everything you see is rebuilt after WW2. The colorful facades of the ancient merchant houses make this an incredibly scenic market square. 

If you have the time you can visit the Museum of Warsaw. An excellent exhibition about the city’s history. 

Old town Warsaw
Old center of Warsaw

Warsaw Barbican

Just behind the market square as you leave the old town you will pass through the Warsaw Barbican. 

Warsaw once had a complex network of fortifications and city walls that protected the city from invaders. The Barbican was used for example during the Swedish invasion in 1656. However, with the development of artillery power, the Barbican soon lost its purpose.

By WW2 it was already in dismay and it was then completely destroyed during the Warsaw uprising in 1944. Part of the city walls and the Barbican were restored as a tourist attraction.

Warsaw Barbican
Warsaw Barbican

Warsaw Uprising monument

This Warsaw itinerary focuses a lot on the old town. Most of which was destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

Not far from the Barbican is the Warsaw Uprising monument. It remembers the 63 days that the Polish underground resistance fought against Nazi Germany. Germany fought back with success. Many Polish resistance fighters as well as civilians were killed. Furthermore, most of Warsaw was left completely destroyed. 

Right behind it is the impressive building of the Supreme court of Poland and it borders the Krasinski square. This square used to be a buffer zone between Warsaw and the Warsaw ghetto. 

Warsaw uprising Monument
Warsaw uprising monument

Palace of culture and science

One of the best places to end your Warsaw itinerary is to enjoy the panorama views over the city from the Palace of culture and science. 

This building is a great example of Stalinist architecture. It is very similar to the palace of culture and science in Riga. Both were a gift from Stalin to the Soviet people.

Moscow too has several similar buildings called the seven Stalin sisters. The one in Warsaw is the eight sister. Now it’s a symbol of a complicated past. It remains the highest building of Warsaw among newer modern skyscrapers. 

The best time to visit is just before sunset when you have the best views over Warsaw. Besides the views there are now also museums and a cinema inside this huge building complex.  

Panorama view over Warsaw from the Palace of Culture and Science

More than one day in Warsaw

It’s possible to see the highlights in Warsaw in one day. However, there are plenty of things to do in Warsaw for another day or two. First of all, Warsaw has some excellent museums

Polin museum

The polin museum is one of the best museums in Poland. It tells the long and turbulent history of the Jews. All the way from the first Jews that settled in Poland to the second World war and the current Jewish community. Don’t miss the excellent museum canteen that serves delicious Jewish food. 

POLIN museum
POLIN museum

Warsaw museum

The Warsaw museum tells the history from different perspectives. It’s not a must visit, but when you have the time it is very informative and you will learn a lot about Warsaw as a city. 

Warsaw museum
Old center of Warsaw

Warsaw itinerary travel tips

Where to sleep

Budget dormitory: Kapsula hostel Warsaw is a great budget option near the old town. The capsules provide some privacy and the hostel is clean with friendly staff.  

Budget room: Hotel Hetman has a central location and offers good value rooms in Warsaw. 

Budget apartment: Green wood apartment Stara Ochota is a good option if you are staying in Warsaw for a longer period.  

Old center of Warsaw

What to eat in Warsaw

warsaw is a great place to try Polish food. A very popular Polish food are Pierogi. Pierogi are dumplings filled with various ingredients. They can be savory or sweet, and some popular fillings include cheese and potato, meat, cabbage, mushrooms, or fruit. Pierogi are typically boiled or fried and are often served with sour cream or butter.

One of my personal favourite Polish recipies is Żurek. Żurek is a sour rye soup that is a traditional Polish dish. It is made with fermented rye flour, giving it a tangy flavor. People usually eat Żurek with boiled eggs, sausage, and potatoes. 

Sausages are extremely popular in Poland. Kiełbasa refers to Polish sausages, which come in various types and flavors. They can be smoked, grilled, or boiled and are often enjoyed with mustard or horseradish. They make a nice meal together with potato pancakes.

Placki ziemniaczane are Polish potato pancakes. They are made from grated potatoes mixed with flour, eggs, and seasonings, then fried until crispy. People usually eat them with sour cream or applesauce.

More difficult to find on a restaurant meni is Bigos. Bigos, often referred to as “hunter’s stew,” is a hearty dish made with sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, and a combination of meats like pork, beef, and sausages. It is cooked slowly and is traditionally enjoyed during festive occasions.

For something sweet you should try Makowiec. Makowiec is a traditional Polish poppy seed roll. It consists of a sweet yeast dough rolled with a filling made from ground poppy seeds, honey, and sometimes raisins.

Where to eat in Warsaw

Gosciniec: Gosciniec is in the heart of the old town and a bit touristy. Still it serves delicious Polish food. First of all a wide selection of different pierogi dumplings

Recommended: fried dumplings with cabbage and forest mushrooms. With both fried bacon and sour cream as topping 

Zapiecek: Very similar to Gosciniec. In the heart of the old town and a decent menu of traditional Polish foods including potato dumplings, potato pancakes, bigos cabbage stew and goulash. 

Recommended: potato pancakes

Zebra I Kosci: Zebra I Kosci has great reviews, but is a bit more upmarket than the budget places I mentioned above. For meat lovers it is well worth the splurge. Portions are huge so you could share. 

As much as I loved the pork ribs I liked my appetizer best. Zurek is a traditional Polish soup with a slightly sour taste. Maybe an acquired taste for some, but I absolutely loved it.   

Recommended: Zurek


How to get there

Of course you can fly into Warsaw international airport from most major European cities. However, Warsaw is also well connected by train and this is a more sustainable way to reach the city. Warsaw has an excellent international train connection with Berlin. Less frequent trains go to Prague or Vilnius.

If the train times are not convenient, buses go from Warsaw to Vilnius, Riga and even Tallinn

How to get around

If you stick to this Warsaw itinerary you can visit almost everything on foot. For the longer distances you can use the excellent bus network or uber. I found uber to be affordable in Warsaw and used both uber as well as the bus. 

Warsaw has a metro system too that can bring you to the outskirts of the city while avoiding the traffic. During my visit I did not use the metro. 

When to visit

Warsaw is a large city and you will find something to do in Warsaw in any season. Spring and autumn are the best times to escape the oppressing summer heat or the winter cold.

Winters are to be avoided due to the smog and air pollution that is at its worst when temperatures drop below zero. That said, I did visit warsaw in winter and it wasn’t that bad.

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