Travel

How to spend 3 Hours in Warsaw

July 16, 2016
3 hours in Warsaw

I arrived in Poland by way Budapest, Hungary. I got to spend a little over 3 hours in Warsaw. It was a ‘layover’ on my way to Berlin. Warsaw is the capitol of Poland and architecturally it was the least European city I visited. This is because Warsaw was all but leveled during WWII and the city had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Some buildings in the city remain in their post bombing ruins, many as landmarks to the past. There were quite a few building though that were in ruins but had no plaque or sign and were surrounded by building that looked fine. I wondered if someone had just forgotten to fix them.

Walking Tour

I was visiting my friend, Bart, who had a family event in Warsaw that morning and I took the opportunity to explore the city. After he and his brothers dropped me off in the middle of the city, I walked towards the city center and hoped to run into a free walking tour. I dropped in behind a group of people that were clearly being given a tour and soon after a girl came up behind me and asked if it was a free walking tour. I responded that I wasn’t sure and one lady in the tour quickly clarified saying “um, actually, this is a private tour so if you could please….”
Ok lady no problem.

The girl that had come up behind me was with two other friends. I just decided to tag along with them: they too were only in Warsaw for the day. We made our way through the biting cold to the Palace of Science and Culture, the tallest building in Poland and a ‘gift’ from the Soviet Union.

It was a huge building and it took us quite some time to find the small office that was the tourist information center. After grabbing some maps and a fun sticker book about the Warsaw mermaid we were back in the cold.

Jewish District

We decided to do a walking tour of the Jewish district which proved to be a really interesting walk. Warsaw did a great job of highlighting the horrors perpetuated against the Jews and seamlessly integrating that memory into the city.
Warsaw held the largest Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe. From April 19, 1943 to May 16, 1943 Jews in the ghetto organized an uprising that slowed the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and inspired other uprisings in ghettos and killing centers. During the month long resistance, German military leveled the buildings in the ghetto, including the Great Synagogue on Tlomacki Street.

One part of the wall still stood near a high school and that was where the self-guided walking tour began. We wound our way around the left bank of the river, walking past the Jewish hospitals, buildings that used to be part of the ghetto and a frame of the bridge that connected the two parts of the Ghetto. Chlonda Street in Warsaw was quite important for the Nazi’s war operation as it was used for transport, communication and other necessities and so they built the ghetto around either side of the street and Jews would have to walk across the bridge to see friends and family on the other side. They were not allowed in the rest of the city and others weren’t allowed into the ghetto.

In addition, throughout the city, there were bricks laid on the ground to signify where the ghetto walls once stood.

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Old Town

At the end of our tour, we made our way back to the Old Town. Architecturally, this area felt much more European with its narrow cobble stone streets and colorful buildings. After the war, the Soviets decided to rebuild the rest of Warsaw in the style of communist architecture but decided to revive Old Town to its original look. But rather than an exact replica, they used realistic but slightly varied paintings of Italian painter Bernado Bellotto.

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We looked for food in Old Town, but Bart soon returned and we had to get on the road to Berlin. I said my hasty goodbyes to my three hour travel buddies, the bright, lively streets of Old Town and the cold, structured and historically alive streets of the rest of Warsaw.

My initial impression of Warsaw was that it was a boring city. And that could very well hold through considering it’s the business center of Poland (think Milan in Italy). But underneath the drab architecture and hurrying residents, lies a powerful and fascinating history.

So if you have a chance to visit Warsaw, even for three hours, make sure you take some time to do a walking tour: guided and self-guided. And make sure you stop in Old Town to be reminded of what the city once looked like.

Have you been to Warsaw? What were your impressions of it?
Leave a comment below and let me know.
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Yours,

Omolayo Nkem

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5 Comments

  • Reply gree coins hack June 27, 2017 at 05:38

    I love reading these articles because they’re short but informative.

    • Reply Omolayo Nkem July 6, 2017 at 11:14

      Thank you. And thanks for stopping by. Glad you found it helpful!

  • Reply Sara July 24, 2017 at 23:27

    I am planning a 5 hour layover in Warsaw in two weeks. To be safe, I figured 3 hours in Warsaw would be just enough time to leave the airport and get back through security without stressing about missing my flight. I stumbled on your site and it is EXACTLY what I was looking for!!!
    Is there a way to find a map for the walking tour on-line? I am traveling alone and will be in Warsaw during the middle of the day, should I be worried at all?
    Thank so much for the feedback and your perfect piece!

    • Reply Omolayo Nkem July 25, 2017 at 06:56

      Hi Sara!
      So elated that you found this piece useful! You’re certainly going to enjoy Warsaw. It has a eerie charm, if that makes any sense. There is just so much history on those streets.
      As for the walking tour, if you want to do a self-guided tour, the best place to start is the cultural center – it’s the giant imposing building donated by the Russians. They have maps and information gallor, I think it was free. Most tours start there or in the square anyways.
      If you want a free walking tour (you’re supposed to tip your tour guide what you want), then these two sites are really reputable: https://freewalkingtour.com/warsaw/ and http://orangeumbrella.pl/

      If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask. Feel free to shoot me an email. Super excited for your layover in Warsaw. I think you’ll have a blast.

      • Reply sara July 26, 2017 at 13:50

        Thank you so much!! It will be a great ending to my Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Russia trip this summer!! I love going back to school and telling my students about all of my summer adventures and trying to instill a sense of adventure in them, most of them have not left the city, let alone the state….If I can do, anyone can!!!
        Thank you again so much for your help!!

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