Since its completion in 1955, the Palace of Culture and Science has dominated Warsaw’s skyline, offering panoramic views from the observation deck on the 30th floor.
The Palace of Culture and Science
Stalin’s ‘gift’ to Warsaw has always been controversial – housing was desperately needed when it was built and 100 of the city’s few serviceable buildings were demolished to make way for it. All the same, the Palace of Culture and Science has remained a massive landmark on Warsaw’s skyline, even as other skyscrapers have grown up around it, and the view from the 30th floor is surely a muset-see for every first-time visitor?
Anyone can visit the observation terrace but a tour of the Palace of Culture and Science gives you access to areas that most of the public don’t get to see. It’s a fascinating insight into the history of the building.
What To See In The Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science
These days, the Palace of Culture and Science is a multi-purpose building, with offices, theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries, and academic institutions, as well as places to eat and drink. However, most people don’t get to see much of the tower itself, except for the panoramic observation deck on the 30th floor. This is certainly impressive and should be on everybody’s list of things to do the first time they visit Warsaw. The view stretches to the horizon in every direction, taking in the entire city.
As a member of the public, you are also able to visit the many cultural institutions contained within this massive building, such as the Science Museum or Museum of Evolution. There are also four theatres, a multiplex cinema, and a marble swimming pool, as well as bars and cafes, such as Kulturalna.
However, if you take part in an official tour of the Palace of Culture and Science, you get to see parts of the building that are normally off-limits to the public. We highly recommend this.
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What To Expect When Visiting The Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science is massive, with a number of different entrances. To visit the observation deck or take part in the tour, you need to go into the eastern entrance, between the Lalka Theater and the Teatr Dramatyczny. Look for the big entrance in the middle with the “PAŁAC KULTURY I NAUKI” sign above the columns. The street Marszałkowska is directly opposite, with UNIQLO, TK Maxx, and other big stores.
Pałac Kultury i Nauki
Inside, you’ll find a large lobby. There will probably be a fairly long queue down the stairs. You can join this queue regardless of whether you have bought tickets in advance or want to buy them now. As you can imagine, the elevator only fits so many people at a time, so the queue moves forward in chunks. You shouldn’t have to wait too long.
Palace of Culture and Science lobby and queue
Once you’ve reached the head of the queue, you’ll be squashed in the elevator and whisked up to the 30th floor, which is covered below.
If you’ve booked a guided tour, you still enter through the same lobby, but there’s no need to join the queue. Instead, go up the stairs and look for the signage for the “PANORAMA XXXp” and “SALA RATUSZOWA” just to the right.
Palace of Culture and Science signage (at edge of shot)
Just to the right of this sign is a doorway. Go through this and you’ll find a sightseeing information counter immediately to your right. This is the meeting point. You can show your ticket and they’ll register you for the tour.
Tour meeting point
Once everyone is assembled, the guide will take you in an elevator to the fourth floor. As the building is in constant use, the areas you get to see will vary depending on which spaces are currently not in use.
Entrance to the Polish Academy of Sciences meeting room
This room was used for Polish Academy of Sciences meetings. This view is from one of the translation booths, which still smells of cigarette smoke! The room was also used for press conferences during the Euro 2012 competition that was co-hosted with Ukraine.
Polish Academy of Sciences translation booth
The tour will give you an historical overview of the building, which is refreshingly critical in places, as well as some excellent stories and anecdotes.
The rooms are named after prominent figures, such as Marie Curie. Here, balls were held for leaders who achieved the greatest efficiency from workers.
Maria Skłodowska-Curie room
This is the so-called “chapel staircase” where many Poles would kneel down, either mistakenly or ironically reading the interior as a religious space. Many of the details refer to traditional Polish decoration.
The chapel staircase
The Round Room is dedicated to Copernicus. It leads to the Congress Hall, where many key political conferences took place. The room was often used as a smoking area.
The Round Room
The Adam Mickiewicz Room is where a lot of key discussions between Communist bureaucrats would have taken place. This incredible table was bugged.
Adam Mickiewicz Room
This is the backstage area for the Congress Hall, a kind of green room before any appearance. Bizarrely, the Rolling Stones played here in 1967.
Congress Hall green room
At the end of the 45-minute tour, which usually includes a visit to the grand banqueting hall known as the Marble Room, you’ll be taken straight to the elevator to the 30th floor. This has a large observation surrounding the entire building and giving 360° views of the city.
Palace of Culture and Science Observation Deck
Views to the east stretch over the river to the National Stadium and Praga. You can also see the Old Town.
The view on the opposite side is getting crowded as more skyscrapers go up.
It gets windy on the 30th floor but there are places to sit inside, as well as a small cafe and gift shop. Once you’re done, the elevator takes you down to the basement, where there are some shops and access to the car park. Stairs take you back to the lobby where you first started.
How To Visit The Palace of Culture and Science
Passageway on the PKiN tour
Finding the Palace of Culture and Science is very easy, seeing as it has such a huge presence on the Warsaw skyline. The central train station is just behind the building and the Śródmieście train station is just next door. Many buses and trams pass right by, alighting at one of the Centrum stops. You can also get the M1 Metro line, also to Centrum.
It’s a huge building, so make sure you are on the Marszałkowska right side, with shops such as TK Maxx and UNIQLO behind you. See the walkthrough above for more details.
Palace of Culture and Science address: plac Defilad 1, Warsaw 00-110 Poland
The Palace of Culture and Science observation deck is open daily from 10am to 8pm, although visiting hours may differ on public holidays, such as Easter. See the official PKiN website for updates.
Tickets for the viewing terrace are 25zł (concessions and groups 20zł).
You can buy PKiN tickets online and these are valid for 12 months after purchasing. To be honest, though, there isn’t much of an advantage over buying tickets in person on the day.
If you take part in an official tour of the Palace of Culture and Science, however, you’ll get to skip the queue and see behind the scenes.
Powiśle and Northern Śródmieście Districts: Sometimes referred to as ‘downtown Warsaw’, Śródmieście contains the Royal Route of Nowy Świat and Krakowskie Przedmiescie – two historic streets crammed with things to see and do. The area is also home to the iconic Palace Of Science And Culture and the stunning InterContinental Warszawa hotel. These districts are peppered with amazing restaurants, including the Michelin listed Szóstka.
Tips For Visiting The Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science at night
- Tickets are not tied to a specific timeslot and advanced tickets are valid for 12 months after purchasing.
- Once you have reached the front of the queue, the elevator takes minutes to reach the 30th floor. From there, you can spend as long or as little as you like on the observation deck. I suspect most people spend about 20 minutes, but you can also get a coffee or ice cream. The tour lasts 45 minutes and then fast-tracks you to the elevator.
- Obviously, the experience on the 30th floor very much depends on the weather. It is usually quite windy and, although the walkway is fully covered, the viewing areas are exposed to the cold and wet. It is, however, completely safe as the viewing areas are fully fenced off. If you take the tour, there is a bit of walking and at least one staircase, but the experience isn’t too strenuous and you get to sit down a lot!
- There is a cloakroom in the basement of the lobby area, although it was closed when I was last there, and I’m not sure they are in use anymore. Officially, larger bags are not allowed in the lifts, so you may want to pack light before you arrive.
- Photography is allowed anywhere in the building. There is fencing all around the viewing area, so you’ll have to angle the lens through the gaps.
- This is a great activity for children, as the viewing platform is completely safe.
- There is an accessible lift on the first floor and the building has ramps. Ask at the ticket office when you arrive. There is a staircase on the guided tour, so it’s best to ask about accessibility options before buying tickets.
- There is a cafe on either side of the lobby area, and a restaurant to the right of the ticket stand. There are also other cafes and bars within the PKiN complex.
- There is a small gift shop on the 30th floor and a larger one in the basement of the lobby.
- Card payments are encouraged here rather than cash.
- There are toilets in the basement of the lobby and up on the 30th floor.
- The construction work in front of PKiN is the new Museum of Modern Art building, due to open in 2024.
Where Is This Place Located?Find this location on the Warsaw Visit Google map:
- Open the Warsaw Visit map
- Click on a marker and it will give you the name of the landmark, with a brief description and links for more information and directions. You can pan, scroll, and zoom around the map, or use the + or – buttons in the bottom left of the map to zoom in and out
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side, sorted by category. Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Each category is on a different layer, which can be switched on and off. So you can just see the Hotel or Restaurant pins, for example
- If you are using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location
Map pins are color coded:
- YELLOW: Warsaw Sightseeing
- BLUE: Warsaw Hotels
- RED: Warsaw Places To Eat – Michelin restaurants are DARK RED
- ORANGE: Warsaw Nightlife
- PURPLE: Shopping In Warsaw
- GREEN: Warsaw Transportation