This tour is for visitors to Warsaw with limited time who want to get a flavour of the city. You may be on business, for example, and only have a day free before flying home. Here, you’ll find a window into the history and culture of Warsaw.
Warsaw Old Town at night
Some Things to Keep in Mind About Exploring Warsaw
There is a lot to see and do in Warsaw. This one-day schedule includes many key attractions, focusing on the Old Town, as well as the state-of-the-art POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science.
Any sightseeing trip is bound to include a lot of walking. Make sure you have decent footwear and some kind of protection against the rain. The tourist season is from April to October, and opening times vary accordingly. Certain areas get crowded in summer – we have tried to accommodate this – but the itinerary should also work out of season.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are some excellent Warsaw tours available. We’ll link to several below, as we move through each attraction. If you are interested in a particular place, it is always worth being guided through the experience.
Consider which area of Kraków you book accommodation in, as this will impact any sightseeing or activities. Our Warsaw Visit Map helps you work out how close you could be staying to the things you most want to see.
It’s impossible to over everything in a single day. If you find yourself rushing, stick with the things which interest you most. The Old Town, in particular, is beautiful enough to just sit outside with a coffee or beer and watch the world go by.
Excellent English is spoken in most places. Debit / credit cards and contactless payments are accepted everywhere, unless stated. With many attractions, it makes sense to book in advance.
Warsaw One-Day Itinerary Summary
- Duration: 10 hours of touring (not including evening meal and nightlife).
- Areas Covered: Warsaw Old Town; Royal Castle; POLIN Museum; Palace of Culture and Science.
- Sights visited: Mostowa Street mural; Barbican and City Walls; Old Town Square; Mermaid of Warsaw statue; Castle Square; Sigismund’s Column; Royal Castle; POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews; Palace of Culture and Science.
9:00am: Breakfast – To Lubię
Breakfast in Warsaw is a surefire way to immerse in local life and kick off a day exploring the Old Town. To Lubię is a cosy cafe located in one of the towers of St. Hyacinth’s Church. They serve a continental breakfast of cheese and meats, with warm rolls and croissants, and a delicious tea or coffee. You can eat outside in the pretty street if the weather is good. The cafe also specialises in Dominican mead.
St. Hyacinth’s interior
St. Hyacinth’s is a Dominican church with a fine, white Baroque interior, and is definitely worth a quick look.
You can reach the café by getting a bus to the Plac Krasińskich 02 stop, walking back down plac Krasińskich and turning left into Długa. Here, you’ll pass one of Warsaw’s 15 Chopin Benches and the Monument to the Warsaw Rising.
Walk until you reach Freta and you’ll see To Lubię ahead to the left. The walk takes 5 minutes.
Mostowa street mural
10:00am: Mostowa murals / Warsaw Barbican and City Walls
If you come outside the cafe and look to your left, you’ll see the red brick curve of the Barbican at the end of the road. Walk towards it but then take a 2-minute detour left into Mostowa. The last house on the right (number 9) has some pretty 1960 Communist murals on three of its walls, by the artist Zofia Czarnocka-Kowalska.
Follow the footpath around the building and walk back up to the Barbican a couple of minutes ahead of you. You’ll see the old city wall on your left. These were originally built between the 13th and 16th centuries, but have seen subsequent restoration and rebuilding.
The 1540 Barbican was designed by Jan Baptist the Venetian, although the whole structure was partially dismantled in the 19th century, before reconstruction after its near destruction during WWII.
Most tours of Warsaw Old Town will include an overview of the Barbican and city fortifications. The Barbican also has a small museum, which is open during high season.
Warsaw Museum and Old Town Square
10:30am: Warsaw Old Town Square
After you’ve spent a bit of time exploring the City Walls, continue along Nowomiejska. Keep your eyes out for a handy public toilet just before you hit the streets of the Old Town.
After a few minute’s, you’ll emerge into Rynek Starego Miasta, Warsaw’s Old Town Market Square. Smart town houses in earthy colours border the square with an inner square of restaurant umbrellas.
In the centre you’ll find Konstanty Hegel’s Syrenka statue – the Mermaid of Warsaw. There are variations on this theme around Warsaw, based on the city’s coat of arms. You can learn more about the backstory at the Museum of Warsaw, which occupies a number of the historic houses on the top end of the square. This large collection of artworks and artefacts tells the story of the city and the people who have lived here. You could always substitute this for the Royal Castle visit, if you want to know more.
Warsaw’s Castle Square
10:45am: Castle Square
Walk to the far end of the Old Town Square and take the street named Świętojańska on the right-hand side. After 2 minutes, you’ll pass the striking frontage of St. John’s Cathedral, which has a significant in Polish royal history.
Continue for another minute and you’ll emerge into Castle Square, one of the iconic images of Warsaw.
Warsaw Royal Castle grounds
11:00am: Warsaw Royal Castle
Once you’ve had a good look around the square, you can head into the Royal Castle for the rest of the morning.
In a typical act of spite and vandalism, the Nazis blew up much of the Royal Castle during the brutal occupation of WWII, so what you see is a remarkable reconstruction, like much of Warsaw’s Old Town. However, most of the objects inside are either original or authentic to what was one of Europe’s most splendid palaces.
We have a full walkthrough of what to expect on our Royal Castle page.
Warsaw Royal Castle tours are well-worth taking part in, as they’ll give thoughtful context and insight to what you see in the museum.
Cafe Zamek interior
1:00pm: Lunch – Café Zamek
Even though it is less than a minute away from the Royal Castle, Café Zamek is tucked quietly away in plac Zamkowy. There is a powerful but faded aristocratic charm about the antique furniture and chandeliers. The menu features Polish classics and there are fine cakes and coffee to be had. Best of all, the terraces look out over the castle grounds and the Vistula river. You’ll pay a little bit extra here but it’s generally worth it.
From the Castle Square entrance to the Royal Castle, turn right and follow the castle walls into plac Zamkowy. You should see Café Zamek ahead at the other side of the square.
plac Zamkowy 02 bus stop
2:10pm: Getting to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Once you’re feeling fully revitalised, leave Café Zamek and cut back across Castle Square, past Sigismund’s Column, continue in this direction, passing St. Anne’s on your left, until the road merges with Krakowskie Przedmieście.
Stay on Krakowskie Przedmieście until you reach plac Zamkowy 02 bus stop on the left. It’s opposite the E. Wedel chocolate shop and café. The walk takes 7 minutes in total.
Catch the 180 bus headed to Chomiczówka. These arrive every 10-15 minutes. The journey takes about 8 minutes and there are five stops to Nalewki-Muzeum 02, which is where you want to get off. The fare currently costs 3.40zł.
You should be able to see the imposing structure of the POLIN Museum behind the bus stop and slightly to the left.
POLIN Museum’s stunning bimah
2:30pm: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
One of Warsaw’s contemporary highlights is the huge, state-of-the-art POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. From the stunning building to the imaginative multimedia displays, this excellent museum covers a millennium of Jewish history in Poland.
Obviously the museum covers the bleak history of the Holocaust but this is countered with beauty and joy, not least in the breathtaking reconstruction of the bimah from the Gwoździec Synagogue – a visual highlight that will stay with you.
5:45pm: Paradox Café
It’s likely you’ll need a sit down and some refreshments after the POLIN. Paradox Café, less than 5 minutes away, is a great place for coffee and cake. There’s also an excellent selection of beers. The cafe’s USP is its big collection of card and board games. There’s also a library of books with a fantasy and sci-fi flavour.
To reach the Paradox, leave by the same route you entered and head back to the same Nalewki-Muzeum bus stop. Turn left and follow Mordechaja Anielewicza over the traffic lights. After a few minutes you’ll find the café’s colonnaded frontage to your left.
Palace of Culture and Science
6:45pm: Palace of Culture and Science Observation Deck
No visit to Warsaw is complete without a trip to the Palace of Culture and Science. This imposing and controversial 1955 skyscraper was a ‘gift of friendship’ from the Stalin. The building itself contains three theatres, a cinema, cafes and restaurants amongst its 3000+ rooms. The highlight, however, is the observation deck on the 30th floor, which gives a bird’s eye view of the Polish capital.
The Palace can be reached by various means but probably the most straightforward is to catch the Metro – giving the opportunity to try another of Warsaw’s transport options.
Cross the road from the Paradox and walk straight across the park to the big main road Gen. W. Andersa. Follow this road in the same direction. You should see the tram lines running parallel to you left. You’ll reach the Ratusz Arsenał Metro station after roughly 8 minutes.
Catch the M1 train in the direction of Kabaty and get off 2 stops later at Centrum. Trains run every 3 minutes and the journey also takes 3 minutes. Tickets currently cost 3.40zł. Once you exit at Centrum, the building is 200m away and impossible to miss.
A tour of the Palace of Culture and Science will give you access to some grand ballrooms, conference halls, and marble staircases, as well as the fantastic views from the 30th floor.
8:00pm: Dinner – Restauracja Warszawska
Restauracja Warszawska is an excellent restaurant in a dramatic, Bond villain-type lair of concrete. The food is a modern take on Polish classics by Cordon Bleu chef Dariusz Barański.
Find your way back to the Centrum Metro station and cross over to the far side of Marszałkowska. Turn left and continue up the same main road. You’ll pass the Wars Sawa Junior shopping mall on your right. Turn right after 500m into Stanisława Moniuszki – there’s a branch of Orange on the corner – and then left at the end of the road into plac Powstańców Warszawy. The restaurant is in the 5-star Hotel Warszawska, which is on the left at the very end of the road. The entire walk should take 11 minutes.
8:00pm: Nightlife – Bars and clubs around Nowy Świat
Finish your night with the bars on and around Nowy Świat. There are many here or tucked into side streets. Try Pijana Wiśnia or PiwPaw Beer Heaven on nearby Foksal.
Leave the Hotel Warszawska and you’ll see Świętokrzyska on your left. Turn right into this and follow the road for about 5-6 minutes. You’ll pass the Nowy Świat-Uniwersytet Metro station. Turn right into Nowy Świat, which cuts across Świętokrzyska.
Plan your Warsaw visit with Warsaw map of Warsaw’s attractions, restaurants, sightseeing and hotels.
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.
More Warsaw Itineraries
See our range of itineraries to suit your stay in Kraków:
- Warsaw Two-Day Itinerary
Warsaw is packed with things to do, but you can still see a lot in two days. This itinerary is perfect for getting the most out of two full days, such as a long weekend.
- Warsaw Three-Day Itinerary
This three-day schedule includes many key attractions, such as the Royal Route and the Old Town, as well as a mix of classic and contemporary Warsaw. But a day trip to Kraków is also part of this itinerary.
- Sightseeing In Warsaw
This page summarises the key attractions you won’t want to miss during your trip to Warsaw, with information on how to visit them.
- Things To Do In Warsaw
This page is full of suggestions for some essential and fun things to see and do in Warsaw. Here, we offer an overview of different activities and link out to where you can find out more information.