If you’re looking for a different approach for Christmas shopping or just want to escape to somewhere cosier this winter, Warsaw makes for a very festive destination.
Poland has some of the very best Christmas markets in Europe and Warsaw certainly doesn’t disappoint. The whole of the Old Town is decorated with Christmas cheer, with lights all the way up the Royal Route to Castle Square, where the main Christmas market is held. This part of the city, at least, is extremely romantic at this time of year.
Christmas In Warsaw
Christmas is one of the two most important festivals in Poland, and a time of deep religious significance. More than 90% of Polish people self-identify as Catholic and the birth of Christ is celebrated as a time of great joy. Christ’s Mass is taken seriously and brings all the traditional trappings of the season, including Christmas trees and lights, nativity scenes, and carols. But, for Poles, these symbols have a deep spiritual significance that is easily lost in more secular countries.
For the most devout, the season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, with Adwent, four weeks of abstinence and spiritual preparation for the arrival of Christ. St. Nicholas’ Day on 6th December marks the holiday season itself, when small gifts are given to well-behaved children and ‘rózga’ go to the naughty (twigs or lumps of coal), whereas the larger gifts on Christmas Eve are brought by Jesus himself (or his messenger).
Poles celebrate Christmas on December 24th, with a 12-course meal, so shops and services tend to close for the day from 2pm. It’s a beautiful time to wander through the Old Town and enjoy the peace. The feasting continues on December 25th, a time for visiting family and friends.
New Year’s Eve (or ‘Sylwester’) is typically huge in Poland, with nearly every available venue holding an all-night party. You’ll generally need to have booked in advance. Then Three Kings Day on January 6th is a public holiday in honour of Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, and usually includes a big street parade. The Christmas season finally comes to a close on February 2nd.
Warsaw Christmas Market
Though there are Christmas events in other areas of Warsaw, the Old Town is where most of the magic happens. From mid-November, the whole of Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmiescie are garlanded with festive lights. In fact, the whole 20km of the Royal Route down to Wilanów is lit up.
The market itself is held on the Castle Square, which is brightly decorated with lights and one of the best dressed Christmas trees in Europe. Entry is free and you can expect some 60 stalls selling festive knick-knacks and winter clothes, as well as a fantastic range of foods and warming drinks.
This year, the market is open from 25th November 2023 until Three Kings Day on 6th January 2024, although some stalls won’t open until early December. The market is open daily from 11am and closes at 8pm on Sunday to Thursday and 9.30pm on Friday and Saturday.
Market Square is transformed into an ice rink, with daily sessions between 1-3pm, 4-6pm, and 7-9pm. Admission is free, though there is a rental charge for skates of 10zł per hour. The rink is open until at least 2nd February, when the Christmas season officially ends. You’ll also find a winter ice rink at the Palace of Culture and Science.
Vitkac shopping mall
Christmas Shopping In Warsaw
In addition to the Christmas markets, Warsaw is a great city for shopping, with a number of big malls, often with prices that are much cheaper than at home.
The three main malls are Złote Tarasy (next to Centralna train station and opposite the Palace of Culture and Science), Arkadia (to the north of Warsaw), and Galeria Mokotów (to the south). You’ll also find Vitkac, a luxury shopping location with brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, close to the centre of the city.
Certain streets, such as Mokotowska and Marszałkowska are also key locations for shopping. The former is good for perfume, jewellery, and accessories, whilst the latter features famous chain stores such as Zara, H&M, and UNIQLO.
Believe it or not, Warsaw Chopin Airport is pretty good for shopping on the airside. You’ll find tons of speciality foods and Polish spirits to take back as gifts in shops such as Polana, as well as Victoria’s Secret, W.Kruk, and duty free perfumes.
Restauracja U Barssa
Christmas Food And Drink In Warsaw
If you’re ever celebrated Christmas with a Pole, you’ll know that Wigilia – the meal on Christmas Eve – is one of the most important celebrations of the year, loaded with spiritual significance. Amongst other customs, an empty place is set at the table, to welcome any absent or unexpected guest, and 12 different dishes are served over the course of the meal, which are almost exclusively vegetarian. Celebrations are supposed to start after the first star has been spotted in the night sky.
Prepare to be amazed by every aspect of the food on offer at a Polish market during festival time. At Christmas, you’ll find warming mulled wine and flavoured vodkas, alongside Polish sausages, oscypek (grilled smoked cheese), bigos, and other specialities. These mouth-watering treats are often cooked in eye-popping quantities.
Away from the market, you’ll find plenty of places to eat around the city. Here are some suggestions to start you off:
- Cafe Zamek: Right next to the market and within the main Royal Castle building, Zamek is an excellent place for lunch or high tea when you’re visiting Warsaw’s Old Town.
- Restauracja U Barssa: The Old Town Market Square location could not be better for the outdoor ice rink and Restauracja U Barssa’s menu of Polish classics matches the atmosphere perfectly.
- Stolica: With an enviable location in the alleys of Warsaw’s Old Town, Stolica offers contemporary Polish cuisine, inspired by the elegant interwar period.
- Stara Kamienica: Stara Kamienica translates roughly as “old tenement house”, which gives an indication of the lovingly atmospheric period interior and traditional Polish menu.
- Nuta: Not Christmassy per se, but a special treat all the same. Nuta is currently the only restaurant in Warsaw with a Michelin star. The dishes are Italian, with Polish and Asian influences, giving an imaginative twist to the dining experience.
See our Restaurants In Warsaw page for more suggestions.
Hotel Verte, Warsaw
Where To Stay For Christmas In Warsaw
There is no shortage of great accommodation in Warsaw, but for the maximum Christmas romance, you’ll want to stay close to the Old Town or along the twinkling lights of stately Krakowskie Przedmiescie. Here are some suggestions. You can read more on our Where To Stay In Warsaw page.
- Hotel Verte, Warsaw: Tucked just behind the Old Town and handy for the Christmas market, the stately and playful Hotel Verte is a romantic world in itself.
- Hotel Bristol: Amidst the twinkling Christmas lights of Krakowskie Przedmiescie, Hotel Bristol is perhaps Warsaw’s most iconic place to stay. This landmark of the Art Nouveau era is once again one of the city’s most luxurious.
- Raffles Europejski Warsaw<: With a unique collection of modern art spread throughout, the Raffles Europejski Warsaw scores the highest marks for service, food, and numerous imaginative touches.
- Mamaison Le Regina Boutique Hotel: For discerning design and a romantic location, Mamaison Le Regina Boutique Hotel is hard to beat. This former palace is now the perfect blend of old Warsaw and new.
- Chopin Boutique: Like walking back in time, the Chopin Boutique has more than a touch of pre-war Warsaw, with elegant drawing rooms and a friendly, idiosyncratic approach to accommodation. This is a hotel with a fan base and, for many, it is the only place to stay in town.
Christmas Weather In Warsaw
Although less likely these days, due to an overall rise in temperatures, it’s still possible you’ll see some snow if you visit Warsaw in December. With an average low of -2°C, it’s certainly cold enough. But there’s a 50% chance you’ll get rain instead. The average high is 1°C.
The centre of Warsaw can also be very windy, so wrap up warm, with layers, gloves, hat, and scarf, and make sure your boots and outer garments are fully waterproof. Our packing guide has plenty of tips for what to take for a winter trip.