One of the most underrated European capitals is Warsaw. This vibrant city in Poland has a colorful Old Town similar to Prague, a modern business district like Berlin, and a strong cafe culture that resembles Paris.
However, the city has its own unique character that is deeply rooted in Polish tradition and history. In May 2016, my husband and I began our year-long backpacking trip around the world. We started in Indonesia, hopped over to France, then made our way to Poland.
Here’s a look at our three weeks in Warsaw for the third episode of The LeBrun Instagram Diaries.
We kicked off our time in Warsaw by visiting the Old Town. We wanted to familiarize ourselves with the area, so we went on a walking tour to learn about the city’s history. Our guide taught us that more than 85 percent of the historic center was destroyed during WWII.
After the war ended, the area was rebuilt to an almost identical state to how it was before. The reconstruction was an incredible feat that took five years.
As a result, Warsaw’s Old Town was awarded a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980. It’s the only site on the list that isn’t original, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. If anything, it actually makes it more extraordinary.
Aside from the colorful architecture, our favorite part of Warsaw was visiting all of the different restaurants. The city has tons of cafes, bistros, eateries, and bars. Many of the cafes have outdoor tables that spill onto the sidewalk.
On a sunny day, locals flock to the cafes and it can be hard to find a spot outside. Most people leisurely sit at their table for multiple hours to slowly enjoy their food, coffee, and cocktails in the sun. This reminded us of Paris and we loved it!
In addition to the cafes, Warsaw boasts a huge range of cuisine. We found French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and of course, Polish restaurants throughout the city. The food prices were very affordable compared to American prices. We found quick meals for US$5 and gourmet dishes starting at US$10. Most nights we ate like kings!
Before coming to Warsaw, we had never tried Polish food before. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were antsy to try it out. On our second day, we went to a milk bar, or “bar mleczny,” that serves traditional dishes for extremely low prices. It was called Prasowy and the entire menu was in Polish. Since neither of us speak Polish, we asked the woman at the cash register about her favorite dishes and we ordered those.
We ended up with a massive plate of meat pierogi, buckwheat groats, potatoes, and meatballs. It was heavy, but delicious! Throughout the rest of our time in Warsaw, we ate sausages, sauerkraut, borsch soup, and beef tartare. We also sampled lots of Polish beer and vodka. Our favorite bar was Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa, which serves beer, wine, and vodka shots for only $1 each. It was heavenly.
To work off all of the food we were gorging, we made daily trips to the city’s parks. Warsaw is an incredibly green place. Parks, gardens, and fields make up almost a quarter of the city. Getting away from the hustle and bustle is very easy.
We got into a routine of buying two cones of ice cream and strolling around. Most of the parks were filled with families sitting on the grass or walking along the paths. Some of the parks also host events. We went to a free outdoor concert where a pianist was playing Chopin music. There were hundreds of people laying on picnic blankets and enjoying the music. It was lovely!
Overall, we loved how beautiful and affordable Warsaw was. Even though we had three weeks, it wasn’t nearly enough time. There were lots of sites we didn’t see and many restaurants we didn’t try. However, we met some great friends and it was incredibly fun. Our time there proved that the best part about travel is discovering new things and meeting new people. But the worst part is saying goodbye. Luckily, we’re still in Europe so we can go back anytime. Even if we don’t, we’ll always have Warsaw!
What are your favorite ways to get to know a destination?