With an atmospheric Old Town, beautiful public parks, and some world-class museums, Warsaw truly has something for everyone. These are Warsaw’s sightseeing highlights.
Warsaw Old Town Market Square
Warsaw is such a vibrant place today that it’s astounding to think that less than 100 years ago, it was almost completely destroyed, and much of the most historical aspects, such as the Royal Route and the Old Town, have had to be carefully and thoughtfully reconstructed. For all this, visiting the Royal Castle is a truly authentic experience.
Two of the best contemporary exhibitions – The POLIN History of the Polish Jews and the 1944 Warsaw Rising Museum – tackle the devastation of recent history and ultimately tell the story of a resilient and inspiring city. Warsaw also carries its post-war Soviet history, with the Palace of Culture and Science still a dominant part of the ever-crowded skyline.
But Warsaw has other stories to tell: the scientific achievements of Copernicus and Maria Skłodowska-Curie, and the music of Chopin, as well as grand palaces and parks. These are some of the highlights.
One of the best ways to get to know a city and its attractions is through a tour. Guides with local knowledge can help you make sense of what you’re seeing with engaging and entertaining stories, which can be much livelier than tackling a museum on your own. Where available, we have linked to tours related to each place.
Warsaw Old Town
Although virtually every structure you see was reconstructed within the last 80 years, it hasn’t stopped Warsaw’s Old Town being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Something like 700 years of history has been successfully revived in this beautiful and atmospheric section of the city. The Old Town has a number of highlights, including the Museum of Warsaw pictured above.
A guided tour is an excellent way to get to known Warsaw’s Old Town.
Warsaw Royal Castle
Although the Nazis destroyed Warsaw’s Royal Castle during the Second World War, you wouldn’t know it from the painstaking reconstruction. One of Europe’s most splendid 17th-century palaces has glittering, sumptuous rooms and the exhibition provides a strong overview of Poland’s rich history.
You can take a guided tour of the castle – either exclusively or as part of a wider exploration of Warsaw’s Old Town.
Palace of Culture and Science
Despite the crop of new towers, Stalin’s ‘gift’ still somewhat dominates Warsaw’s skyline. You can see the Palace of Culture and Science from miles away! This mammoth structure has theatres, museums, a cinema, and the essential observation deck on the 30th floor. A tour of PKiN will give you access to areas you wouldn’t otherwise see, with original 1950s furnishings and some great stories. Recommended!
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Opened in 2013, this award-winning museum tells the thousand-year story of Jewish people living in Poland. The name refers to a legend that the first Jews arrived in the country and heard “Polin” as the Hebrew word for “rest here”. The building itself is a stunning piece of contemporary architecture, whilst the exhibition retells this complicated history with colour and imagination.
The museum provides a free audio guide but guided tours will help give the experience more context.
Warsaw Rising Museum
Perhaps my favourite museum in Warsaw, 1944 Warsaw Rising is thrilling, grim, and inspiring in equal measures, with an ultimate message of joyful resistance. The two-month insurrection against the Nazi occupation of Warsaw was brutally crushed, with devastating consequences for the city, yet the museum is very life-affirming and gives great insight into Warsaw’s recent history.
Guided tours are available, often as part of a full-day package including the POLIN Museum.
If you fancy a break from urban life, Warsaw has some fantastic (and huge) green spaces, not least Łazienki Park. Peacocks wander and willows reflect in lakes, engendering a sense of deep relaxation. But there are also some beautiful historic houses to look at here.
A tour of Łazienki Park will usually include transport and entry tickets to the houses.
The Royal Route
Historically, the Royal Route stretches from the castle in the Old Town, down Krakowskie Przedmiescie – now one of Poland’s political and academic centres of power, and on through Nowy Świat. Touring the Royal Route is a great way to experience a bit of Warsaw history, see some key attractions, and also find some great bars and restaurants.
Fryderyk Chopin Museum
You’ll see reference to Chopin all over Warsaw. His heart is interred in the Holy Cross Church and, in many ways, his music was the soundtrack to an independent Poland. The Chopin Museum, in the reconstructed Ostrogski Palace, is a modern, interactive showcase of the composers life and works, with many items of memorabilia on display.
Various Chopin-related tours are available, which include entry to the museum.
Copernicus Science Centre
The Copernicus Science Centre is a fun, hands-on museum, designed principally to give kids a practical engagement with scientific principles. The Centre also has a Planetarium and free rooftop garden with impressive views.
Poland’s largest museum, drawing on a collection of over 800,000 works. Although there are international items on display, the exhibition is an excellent introduction to the incredibly rich history of Polish art and design.
Praga’s Neon Museum is dedicated to preserving a lost of era of Eastern European urban design, the beautiful neon signs that lit up buildings and shopfronts. Gorgeous typography and over 200 ghostly signs line this former factory space. This passion project is carefully and lovingly curated, with a concerted effort to fully document a vanishing time.
Some more general tours of Warsaw will bundle in a visit to the Neon Museum as part of the experience.
Like the Neon Museum, the Museum of Life Under Communism started out as a personal passion. This time, tour guides Rafał and Marta Patla began to collect objects from the four decades of the Soviet era in Poland. This compact museum includes mock ups of apartment rooms, numerous examples of household gadgets, a car, and a telephone box. For older Poles, it is a bittersweet nostalgia, with long-lost brand names. For everyone else, it is time travel.
The museum is run by the Adventure Warsaw crew who organise a Communist tour of Warsaw in a Nysa 522 military van. The 3-hour tour includes a visit to the museum.
Polish Vodka Museum
The rejuvenated Koneser industrial zone includes a ton of great shops, bars, and museums, and makes a great base for exploring the Praga district. Koneser is also home to the Polish Vodka Museum.
Entry is by tour only, guaranteeing a personalised experience. The museum is surprisingly educational with interactive exhibits and culminating with a tasting session.
In addition to a forced labour camp, Treblinka was the site of one of the Nazi’s deadliest extermination camps, second only to Auschwitz-Birkenau in terms of the number of Jewish people who were murdered. Some 85km to the north east of Warsaw, you’ll now find the Treblinka Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom.
In order to get a full historical insight, a day tour remains the best way to visit, with transport included.
Designed for different lengths of stay, these Warsaw itineraries will show you the best of the city, with transport directions and suggestions for where to eat.
Sightseeing In Warsaw Map
You can find all the locations listed above in the Warsaw map below.
Each type of landmark has a different colour marker on the map:
- 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
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.
Click on the icon in the top left corner for an index of every location, 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 Visit Warsaw map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.