Whether you’ve carved out 10 days in Poland or a month, spending at least 24 hours in Warsaw is a must. Although Krakow attracts the most attention from travellers, the heart of modern Poland beats in Warsaw. No Polish city surprises visitors more than this buzzing modern European capital.
I must admit: When I first visited Warsaw, it wasn’t love at first sight. Stepping outside Warszawa Centralna, an unfortunate encounter left an unsavoury first impression. Determined to prove Warsaw’s detractors wrong, though, I trudged on. I quickly began to enjoy the city as much as I had hoped.
Only able to sneak in one day in Warsaw? Let the city get under your skin by following along with this complete 1-day Warsaw itinerary…
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What to do in Warsaw in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Unlike other cities in Central Europe—including the former Polish royal capital of Krakow—Warsaw isn’t one of those easy-to-digest European cities that charms at first glance. The image of an idyllic and graceful Central European capital doesn’t quite apply here. (Well, at least not completely.)
The explanation is simple. World War II was not kind to Warsaw, leaving almost 90% of the city in ruins. Much of central Warsaw hails from the postwar period. Most of its buildings reflect modern architectural styles—some forgettable & regrettable.
Fortunately, it doesn’t end there. Sprinkled throughout Warsaw, you’ll find no shortage of eye-catching buildings. Many are reconstructed from their original Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical forms. It creates an architectural palette unlike any other city in Europe.
And while that’s reason enough to carve out at least 24 hours in Warsaw, there’s more to the city than that. The Polish capital also intrigues as one of Europe’s most underrated cultural destinations. Warsaw’s food & drink scene is pumpin’ and among the best in Central Europe. It stands up alongside regional heavyweights like Budapest, Prague, and Berlin. And the bonus? Warsaw does it while keeping a lower profile among the tourist hordes.
Convinced? Let’s see what to do in Warsaw in one day…
Get charmed in Old Town Warsaw
For anyone who’s been convinced that Warsaw lacks charm, put the idea to rest. Begin your day with a walk through Old Town Warsaw. Sure, Warsaw’s Old Town won’t strike a chord like the more popular historic centres of Krakow or Prague. But discovering its rich tapestry of (reconstructed) medieval, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture is absolutely one of the best things to do in Warsaw.
Start exploring Old Town Warsaw at Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Market Place), the heart of the historical district. This beautiful square is lined with reconstructed 17th-century merchant houses. It’s the perfect place to slow down before kicking your Warsaw itinerary into gear. Grab a cup of coffee and a snack at one of the cafés along here. Soak in the sights & sounds of Old Town Warsaw before continuing on.
The best way to experience Old Town Warsaw is to let your feet march you through its narrow streets to see what you uncover. With only one day in Warsaw, you won’t experience everything here. Keep on the lookout for these top Old Town Warsaw attractions:
- Barbican: Warsaw’s distinctive fairytale medieval gate. The Barbican was once one of the most important military fortifications along its city walls. Set against a backdrop of Warsaw’s modern New Town, The Barbican offers an interesting look at the city’s bipolar architectural palette.
- St. John’s Archcathedral: Originally built in Masovian Gothic style in the 14th century, this beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral is one of Old Town’s most distinctive buildings. Despite the church’s almost complete destruction in WWII, several important religious paintings survived. The crypts house some of the most important figures in Polish history. They make for an interesting visit.
- The Royal Castle: This centuries-old royal palace residence now houses one of the best museums in Warsaw. Exhibits at The Royal Castle include a collection of original period furniture. You’ll also find important works of Polish art from the 18th century.
Stroll along The Royal Way
Once you’ve got your fill of Old Town Warsaw, head towards central Warsaw. The route via Krakowskie Przedmieście is also known as The Royal Way. Along this famous avenue lies half a dozen beautiful palaces. You’ll see Tyszkiewicz Palace, the Presidential Palace, and Potocki Palace. There’s also a handful of impressive churches. Look out for St. Anne’s Church, Carmelite Church, and Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists.
Pass by Kopernika Square. The square is home to a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who first theorized that the earth rotated around the sun. Continue by swinging right on Świȩtokrzyska to continue into the heart of Warsaw.
Check out Warsaw from above at the Palace of Culture & Science
Much to the dismay of many Varsovians, I couldn’t leave the enormous Palace of Culture & Science off this 1-day Warsaw itinerary. If you love seeing cities from above (or want to tackle a crippling fear of heights), it’s a must-visit. From the corner of Nowy Świat & Świȩtokrzyska, it’s about a 15-minute walk to get here. You (literally) can’t miss it.
This monolithic skyscraper is often dubbed “Stalin’s Last Erection.” It came as a “gift” from the Soviet leader in Poland’s communist postwar era. (Kinda explains why it isn’t exactly celebrated, eh?)
Nonetheless, most travellers, after detaching themselves from the building’s former political connotations, will be fascinated by it.
The main reason to visit the Palace of Culture & Science is for the views. Hop into the high-speed elevator (20zł for adults / 15zł for children) to blast up to its 30th-floor observation deck. At the top, you’ll enjoy sweeping vistas over Warsaw’s vast skyline.
Enjoy a nostalgic taste of Warsaw at Bar Prasowy
Finished dabbling into Warsaw from above? Drop down in front of the Palace of Culture & Science onto Marszałkowska, one of the main drags in central Warsaw. Walk two kilometres south (or take a tram), building up an appetite for your next stop: Bar Prasowy.
Many remnants from the communist era linger around Warsaw, but perhaps none are as compelling as milk bars. Taking its name from the cheap & hearty dairy-based foods on their menu, milk bars (bar mleczny) are among the best places in Warsaw to eat. They’re an absolute must-visit—even if you only have one day in Warsaw!
Among the best milk bars in Warsaw is Bar Prasowy (Marszałkowska 10/16). The restaurant has a history dating back over 60 years. Their most famous offering is their pierogi. These chewy Polish dumplings are filled with a variety of ingredients, from savoury meats to fruits.
The most popular varieties at Bar Prasowy include:
- pierogi z mięsem (meat)
- pierogi z kapustą (sauerkraut and mushrooms)
- pierogi ruskie (potato and cheese)
- pierogi z jagodami (blueberries)
- pierogi z truskawkami (strawberries)
Chill out in Łazienki Park
Now that you’ve stuffed & fuelled yourself for the journey ahead, continue south along Marszałkowska. Walk to the traffic circle, swinging left towards Warsaw’s crowning greenspace, Łazienki Park. This famous park stretches out over 180 acres in the centre of Warsaw. There’s plenty of room to relax in Łazienki Park after a half day of sightseeing.
But I didn’t take you all the way down here to chill in any ordinary city park. Łazienki Park is home to palaces, museums, monuments, and orangeries begging for discovery.
The park’s most famous site is the Palace on the Isle, a Neoclassical palace perched upon Stawy Łazienkowskie. The stunning interplay of the palace’s reflection in the waters with the surrounding greenery forms one of Warsaw’s most beautiful scenes.
Other than the Palace on the Isle, wander around Łazienki Park to check out Ujazdowski Castle (now housing the Modern Museum of Art), the New & Old Orangeries, and Belvedere Palace.
Grab a hearty Polish meal in Śródmieście
After lounging around and absorbing the sights of Łazienki Park, beeline back to the centre of Warsaw (Śródmieście), either by foot or tram, to continue your journey.
Since you’re only in Warsaw for 24 hours, there’s no better way to set the evening afoot than to grab some delectable Polish food at one of Warsaw’s best Polish restaurants. Here are a few ideas:
- Czerwony Wieprz (Żelazna 68): A local favourite serving up Eastern European fare with a dash of old Soviet flair. Their menu, like many in Poland, is meat-heavy, with pork sitting in as their specialty.
- Mokotowska 69 (Mokotowska 69): A classy wine bar & restaurant specializing in seafood & steak with a modern international twist.
- Restauracja Różana (Chocimska 7): An elegant restaurant that’s one of the best for fine Polish dining in Warsaw.
- Soul Kitchen (Nowogrodzka 18A): A Warsaw favourite on a mission to serve up the city’s tastiest simple Polish soul food.
Sip on Polish craft beer
Once you’ve filled your belly with some delicious Polish food, hop on your feet to try out Poland’s other popular consumable: beer. There’s a long history of brewing tradition in Poland. And judging by the explosion of craft beers in Warsaw, it’s only gaining momentum.
As famous as Warsaw is for raucous nightlife, you might prefer a quieter evening at a local pub. Here are a few ideas for the best places for craft beer in Warsaw:
- Gorączka Złota (Wilcza 29): A popular local pub that’s high on beer selection and reasonably priced—if a little short on style.
- Jabeerwocky Craft Beer Pub (Nowogrodzka 12): A chilled-out pub with salty urban decor. It’s got a tremendous selection of 16 Polish and European craft beers on tap.
- PiwPaw Beer Heaven (Foksal 16): A massive beer hall featuring more than 50 beers on tap.
- Artezan (Stanisława Moniuszki 1A): A stylish brewpub delivering its own unique indie craft beers. Their selection includes IPAs, dark ales, and porters.
Is sipping on beers in a quiet pub too tame for your tastes? Head across the Vistula River from Old Town for a night in Praga. This once dilapidated and somewhat seedy neighbourhood is quickly becoming one of the hippest places in Warsaw. Praga is home to some of the city’s wildest bars & clubs.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Warsaw
Even with the immense size of the Polish capital, deciding where to stay in Warsaw isn’t so difficult for travellers. I’d recommend staying in and around Śródmieście or Old Town in central Warsaw to maximize your day. Here are a couple of recommendations:
- Hampton By Hilton Warsaw City Centre: This superb city centre hotel is within steps of Warszawa Centralna and the Palace of Culture & Science. The spacious and colourful rooms feature excellent views of the city.
- Mercure Warszawa Centrum: This elegant modern hotel is perfectly located in the heart of Śródmieście near the central train station. Extras like a fitness centre, hot tub, and sauna add to the value.
- Hotel Indigo Warsaw Nowy Świat: This sleek 4-star boutique hotel occupies a lovely 19th-century building. Rooms sparkle with royal blue accents and spectacular city views. The on-site restaurant, Florentin, delivers a rare taste of the Middle East in Poland.
- InterContinental Warszawa: This ultra-stylish 5-star is the best luxury hotel in Warsaw. It dazzles with well-adorned rooms & a whole host of world-class amenities. Don’t leave without soaking up the sensational views from the 43rd-floor swimming pool.
Getting to Warsaw
By air: Poland’s capital is served by Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport (WAW), the country’s busiest airport. Several major airlines fly into WAW from international destinations, including LOT Polish Airlines, Wizz Air, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.
By train: Warsaw is well-connected to the rest of Poland and other European destinations by train. Popular journeys include Krakow (2h18m), Gdansk (2h40m), and Berlin (6h23m).
More 1-day Warsaw itinerary ideas
- Interested in WWII history? Don’t miss out on the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The museum features fascinating exhibits detailing the heroic but ultimately unsuccessful Polish resistance movement against Nazi occupation.
- Feeling a little regal? Try to squeeze in a visit to the stunning Wilanów Palace. This 17th-century Baroque royal residence is located 30 minutes southeast of the city centre by bus.
- Got Cold War nostalgia? Pop into the Neon Museum in Praga for an evening visit. The Neon Museum displays some of the cool neon signs that lit up the streets of Warsaw during the postwar communist era.
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