8 ideas for cheap sightseeing in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw for 10 euros

The beauty of traveling independently is that you can always change the previously planned route by adding new interesting destinations. Sometimes completely free of charge.

So it was on one of our trips to Europe. We needed to get from Paris to Berlin, the price of airfare was not good at all, and we started looking for options. Looking at the map of Europe, we found in the immediate vicinity of Germany… Poland, where our “tourist foot” had not yet set a foot, and its capital city Warsaw. And continuing our search we found out that flight Paris-Warsaw + overnight stay in Warsaw hotel + overnight bus transfer Warsaw-Berlin, turned out to be almost equal in price to the initially announced flight Paris-Berlin, in addition we had saved on the overnight stay in Berlin hotel. That’s a different story, we thought, and booked a hotel and a ticket.

Unexpectedly Warsaw burst into our life.

Buoyed by our success, we did not take into account the fact that in August it can be hot in Warsaw. So when we arrived from comfortable (in terms of weather) Paris and found ourselves in the hot embrace of the Polish capital, we were shocked. This is exactly what we did not expect.

We live in the south and the summer heat is normal for us, but the 40-degree heat in Warsaw took us by surprise. We couldn’t help it, we had to survive, we decided and went to change the currency.

Poland, a member of the European Union, is not in the Eurozone and has its own currency – the Polish zloty (PLN).

To get to the center, we exchanged 10€ for 36.1 PLN (1 PLN=16.8 RUB), hoping to exchange some more. But after spending only 8.8 PLN for a bus, and after checking the prices of food in local stores, we thought we’d try to save some money. Why? We are going to live in the city center, all the attractions are close by, the bus to Berlin also departs from the center, so we do not need to spend money on transportation, we did not plan to go to museums, we do not buy souvenirs, only food is left, and in this matter, we are not fastidious. And our quest “Living together for two days in Warsaw for 10 euros” has started. Almost like in “Eagle and Tails”… poorly.

Our hotel Logos Hotel was located on the embankment of the Vistula River, within walking distance of all major attractions of Warsaw. On the map it is marked with a red circle.

We booked the cheapest room for one night without breakfast and with private facilities on the floor, and we didn’t meet any other guests during our stay. The room had a beautiful view of the river, the graceful cable-stayed Holy Cross Bridge

and the National Stadium Stadion Narodowy, where the soccer battles of Euro 2012 and the final match of the UEFA Europa League 2014/2015 took place. In the evening, these objects were beautifully illuminated.

In general, I liked the hotel: despite the cheapness, clean, tidy, close to the metro station, stores and cafes. But, apparently, the heat is still not a frequent guest in Warsaw, because in the entire hotel, not only air conditioning and refrigerator, but even a basic fan in the rooms was not provided, and, of course, it was very hot. And now, two years later, nothing has changed. I specifically looked at the reviews on Bookings: people also complain about the lack of air conditioning and heat in the rooms.

After checking in and having a quick snack, we went to explore the city. In the meantime, we walked along Jerusalem Alley until we reached Parade Square, where the famous Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from Stalin, towered.

Built in 1955, this grandiose high-rise (237 meters high with a spire) is still the tallest building in Poland and one of the ten tallest structures of the European Union. Poles themselves do not like the Palace, considering it a symbol of enslavement. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, they even wanted to destroy it. And then, in an architectural competition announced in the mid-90s, they won the project to build several skyscrapers around the Palace, to reduce the impact of Stalin’s creation on the Polish capital. And passions have somehow subsided.

Be that as it may, the Palace of Culture and Science was and remains Warsaw’s calling card and the most photographed landmark.

A visit to the Polish capital without taking a peek at one of the local shopping centers is no easy task, especially at Złote Tarasy, which is located in the heart of the city next to the Palace of Culture and Science. The center owes its name firstly to Zlotej Street, where it is located, and secondly to the building’s design: its peculiarity is the absence of straight lines. The futuristic roof is made entirely of glass and looks like a huge wave frozen in the air. Inside, the walls and ceiling are also sloped, which gives the impression of being in a giant bubble. The center looks especially beautiful in the evening, when the whole roof glows with a nice “golden” light from the inside.

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That’s where we went shopping.

Although our shopping was purely symbolic, and consisted of a few yogurts, delicious pastries and fruits, bought at the local Carrefour. But we had a nice time breathing the air-conditioned air, looking at the windows and the local people. Back at the hotel, we went straight to bed to start our walk through the Old Town as early as possible tomorrow.

The next day we woke up at 5 am, and at 6 am we were walking briskly along Nowy Swiat street in the direction of Castle Square. The city was still asleep, there was not a soul on the street, the heat had broken. It was beautiful! I couldn’t even believe that in a few hours the scorching heat would begin again. At noon we had to vacate the room, but before that it would have been nice to have a refreshing shower and some lunch. We had only four hours to see everything. And we did!

We began our tour of the Old Town from Castle Square, which is home to the Royal Palace – the residence of the King and the authorities of the Rzeczpospolita (16th century) and the place where the first Constitution in Europe and the second in the world was adopted (3 May 1791). Currently, the palace is used as a museum.

In the middle of the square stands the Column of King Sigismund III – the oldest and highest secular monument in Warsaw, erected in 1644 on the initiative of King Wladyslaw IV in honor of his father – Sigismund III Waza, who moved the capital from Krakow to Warsaw.

Then along Swietojanska Street we walked to the majestic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (St. John, as the Poles call it). It is the main temple in Warsaw, very ornate inside.

Our next stop was the Market Square – one of the favorite places for walks of both citizens and tourists. It is always full of street musicians and artists, a lot of souvenir shops, small galleries, and all this is surrounded by beautiful, as if toy-like, houses.

At such an early hour the square was still empty, and we had no problem taking pictures near the cast-iron well of the XIX century,

The famous statue of the Little Mermaid (Sirenki), a true symbol of Warsaw, depicted on the emblem of the city.

The Little Mermaid was erected in 1855 on the initiative of King Wladyslaw VI and is one of the oldest monuments in the city. According to the legend, two mermaid sisters were swimming on the Baltic Sea. One of them turned to the Kingdom of Denmark and now sits on the promenade of Copenhagen, the other swam to the Vistula where she was caught by local fishermen near Warsaw. They wanted to eat her, but when they heard the mermaid’s divine singing, they decided to let her go. Fascinated by the beauty of the Vistula shores and the kindness of the locals, the mermaid remained there to live. She lived in the Vistula until a wealthy merchant decided to catch her and place her in his well. The mermaid was saved by the fisherman’s son, and in gratitude she helped the inhabitants fight off the invaders. And since then, the mermaid-siren has been sitting on the square with a sword – to come to the aid of the townsfolk at any moment.

Then along Nowomiejska street we came to the fortress walls of Barbakan – the ancient fortification, which protected the city and was the first to take enemy blows.

Old Town of Warsaw looks very organic and many tourists do not even suspect that almost all of the historical buildings were restored only in the 70s.

The fact is that in 1944, under Hitler’s orders, Warsaw was practically razed to the ground. As a result of the bombing, almost all historic buildings were blown up, including the Royal Palace, of which only one arch remained.

After the war, Warsaw, and in particular the Old City, was rebuilt from the remaining old plans, photographs and drawings.

Time flew inexorably, and our plans still included a visit to a unique place – a picturesque garden on the roof of the library of the University of Warsaw, and we decided that it was time to return.

Our way back took us down the oldest and most beautiful street, Krakowskie Przedmieście, which becomes pedestrian in the summertime. The sun had already begun to get very hot, but improvised water dispersants carefully (unlike gore-hoteliers) placed by the city’s authorities in tourist spots helped.

On this street we visited the so-called Church of the Cards. It is one of the few churches that survived the devastation of World War II. Built in the 18th century, the church has preserved its original decorations to this day.

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After walking through the territory of the University of Warsaw to Dobra Street, we found ourselves at the entrance to the library.

The Warsaw University Library is a real art object, the main decoration of which is the very roof garden that anyone can enter. The garden is one of the largest roof gardens in Europe. Here you can read, breathe and look at the Vistula River and the roofs of the Old Town. It is an absolute must see in Warsaw. Unfortunately, the heat did not spare the plants and we could not fully enjoy the beauty of the garden, but we enjoyed a walk inside the library and even sat in the student cafe.

Thanks to the powerful air conditioning this place was probably the best in town at the time.

The basic sightseeing program was done, we had a little more time left and decided to have lunch at the Milk Bar (Bar mleczny). Andrey Bedniakov told us about the chain of these institutions in the program “Head & Tails”. In Poland, local budgets subsidize cafes and bistros that do not sell alcoholic beverages, and lunches in such canteens are very cheap. Therefore, not only students, but also businessmen who want to eat tasty and cheap (“like at mom’s”) eat at the “dairy cafes”. We chose the cheapest dishes and went to the counter, but were not met with understanding from the catering staff. Apparently, wanting to cash in on the tourists, she bypassed the menu, she set an unrealistic price for a simple meal. She did not know that we have a quest, and every zloty counts. We started to object. And then the Poles in line behind us started shoveling their coins at us. It was embarrassing and pleasant at the same time! We didn’t take any money, of course, and left with nothing.

We went to the nearest supermarket, bought ready-made pirogi and watermelon, and went back to the hotel for lunch. Yes, yes, exactly pierogi, that’s the name of the Polish dumplings with different fillings.

Ours, by the way, turned out to be “very good.

On our way there, we stopped by the Museum of Frederic Chopin, perhaps the most famous Varsovian. This museum is considered one of the best biographical museums not only in Poland, but in the whole Europe: there are a huge number of exhibits related to life and work of the composer, a lot of multimedia exhibits, touch screens everywhere, concerts are held regularly. The museum was still closed (working hours from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 20:00). In addition, we did not have enough money to visit it: 22 PLN for adults and 13 PLN for students was our entire Warsaw budget (by the way, admission was free on Sunday). So we had to confine ourselves to taking a booklet in Russian “Frederic Chopin’s Warsaw” and the graffiti bearing Chopin’s name on the wall of the neighboring building.

During his short 39-year life, the great composer composed many wonderful pieces, some of which you have heard, and more than once, without even knowing that it was Chopin: they are both cell phone ringtones and introductions to commercials and television programs. And everyone’s famous funeral march… it’s Chopin, too.

But let’s not talk about sad things. If you, like us, do not have enough money to visit the museum, do not worry. Warsaw is one big Chopin museum in the open air. There are multimedia Chopin’s stands all over the city, near the places connected with the composer’s life. Each bench has a map of the route of the walk, a description of the place and a button, which, when pressed, begins a performance of a fragment of Chopin’s work.

After clearing the room, depositing our luggage in the hotel luggage room, and taking the rest of our food with us, we went to wait out the heat at the Royal Lazienki Park. Ask anyone living in Warsaw what the coziest place in the city is, and 90% will name the Royal Gardens of Lazienki Park. On 76 hectares are placed numerous lakes, fountains, greenhouses, gazebos, mansions, statues and even a Greek amphitheater.

The main pride and attraction of the Lazenkovsky Park is the famous Palace on the water. This is the former royal summer residence, which was built in 1784-95.

In Łazienki there is a monument to Frederic Chopin. Next to it, there are often classical music concerts. But whether we finally lost our nerve from the heat or the monument successfully merged with the surrounding landscape, in general, we did not find it. But we took a nap for an hour on benches in a secluded corner of the park.

After we had walked about the park a little bit more, we went back to the center. We were tired of feasts, but we had had enough of dry food and so we decided to make one more attempt to have lunch (or dinner) at another Molochny bar on Marszalkowska Street. The bar was called Zlota Kurka (Golden Hen) and was a typical ’90s diner. The whole area seemed to be stuck in the past.

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Dinner for two, consisting of a portion of Ukrainian borscht and a portion of pasta with sour cream and sugar, cost us 4.30 Polish money (a little over one euro or 72.24 rubles). And, imagine, we were full. Moreover, we still occasionally eat such pasta in Russia, recalling warmly our lunch in Warsaw.

The day was slowly drawing to a close. We returned to the hotel, went up to our floor, took a shower in the common bathroom (here they are – the beauty of amenities on the floor), again without meeting any of the guests, took our suitcase from the luggage room and went for a walk in the evening Warsaw.

We had a night journey ahead of us, so we spent the few zlotys we had left on food for the road.

At 22:30, right on time, our bus Simple Express left the Palace of Culture and Science, taking us from the sultry (who would have thought) Warsaw to Berlin, and on to Copenhagen. Now we had a mission: to give our regards from the Warsaw mermaid to her Danish sister.

Review: Sights of Warsaw (Poland) – my budget (but without sacrificing comfort) trip to Warsaw

I wanted to get to Warsaw for a long time, and I finally did it! My trip took place thanks to the opening of an inexpensive connecting train route through Brest. I’ll tell you a little bit about this route, and then I’ll show you how I saw Warsaw in early March. The train Minsk-Brest-Warsaw is the most budget-friendly way to get to Poland’s capital. TICKETS. Round trip and back – about $45 (90 rubles). For comparison, direct train is almost 160 dollars (compartment), the flight – 120 euros. With such prices direct train loses all sense, if you are not afraid of flying. With the train I am describing, you will lose time because it goes during the day. You first get to Brest, where you are given about 50 minutes to change to the Polish train, which will take you further. You don’t actually have to go anywhere; the train is served on the same platform. It’s better to buy tickets in advance because they sell like hotcakes, especially on public holidays like March 8, May Day, etc. CASH: We bought Polish zloty in advance because we were not sure that we would be able to exchange the currency right away. I advise you to do the same. The exchange offices in Poland are signed Kantor and there are several in the maze-like passages of the central railway station. The rate varies, there are exchangers with a commission, so you need to look carefully. LIFT HOOK: It’s a long way, but you’re hungry. On the way to Brest, my husband and I ordered a meal with delivery at the Brest train station. By the way, on the way the communication and mobile Internet are terrible, they are often absent. Only in localities during short stops you can use them. Next time we will order before departure. On the way back there is less time for the transfer, so we stocked ssoboyki. Although in Poland before crossing the border you can order food in the same way, thanks to the fact that in the Polish border town of Terespol Belarusian mobile operators work well, MTS is more reliable than Velcom.

BORDER: Customs inspects passengers diligently and thoroughly, so be prepared for a long wait. Many people were asked to open their suitcases, and ours was checked twice.

And here we are finally in the capital of Poland! In Warsaw, the train passes through three stations: Eastern (Warszawa Wschodnia), Central (Warszawa Centralna), and Western (Warszawa Zachodnia). We got off at the central station, since we rented an apartment in the center.

Warsaw showed me the face of metal, steel and concrete from the start. The train station is surrounded by modern glass high-rises. They confused me, because Warsaw (at least the center) was not what I expected. Among these high-rises, network of streets and underground passages it is easy to get lost. Underpasses are difficult to navigate, they look like a real labyrinth.

Warsaw

Among the modern glass, the Stalin skyscraper, one of the symbols of Warsaw, stands out. It is the Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland. It was a gift to the Polish people from the Soviet Union. The pompous building houses offices, the headquarters of a number of companies and government institutions, museums, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, bookstores, scientific institutes, swimming pools, and exhibition spaces. Some Varsovians take the view that the building only spoils the appearance of the city and looks simply absurd, and suggest that it should be pulled down. Just as many advocate the preservation of the historic building, which, by all accounts, is a memorable image.

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Warsaw

This complex is not just big, it’s gigantic! It is striking not only for its size, but also for the abundance of decor. At the same time, the muses are adjacent to the workers.

Warsaw

Warsaw

There are retro cars in the parking lot near this high-rise where you can take a guided tour of the city.

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We postponed the pleasant ride for later, since we were short on time, but we took pictures of the information.

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In the Palace of Culture and Science there is an observation deck, where we certainly wanted to go, because to see the new city from above is for us a kind of ritual. So the next morning, right before it opened, without waiting in line, we went there. On March 8, Warsaw was in a fog, but we did not want to hope for better weather and to postpone a bird’s-eye view of the city. The central station area is densely built up.

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In the fog, the main stadium looked like a flying saucer landing.

Warsaw

After assessing the distances from the altitude and figuring out where to go to find Old Town, we headed back down. Honestly, if my husband had not been in Warsaw, we would have a lot longer to turn the map this way and that way, so as not to go to the wrong place. After a small Vilnius and the usual Minsk, Warsaw is a huge megalopolis. What is noticeably good in Warsaw are the subway stations. The M-shaped canopies are visible from afar.

Warsaw

The easiest way to get to the Old Town is along Swientokrzyska Street, which starts near the Palace of Culture and Science. In the photo above is the metro station Swientokrzyska. On the Warsaw Insurgents Square which we passed we saw a bust of Napoleon.

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It is clear from the inscription on the bust that the first one was set in 1921 and the current version in 2011. If in Russia Napoleon has an image of the conqueror, in the war of 1812 is called the Patriotic War, on the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, that is, modern Poland and Belarus, Lithuania and part of the Ukraine, Napoleon was considered by many as a liberator; Poles and Belarusians fought on his side in the “Polish legions”. The gentry hoped that Napoleon would help restore the divided Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and restore the Constitution and independence. Not far from this square is a very nice landmark in Warsaw, Winnie Pucha Street, Kubusia Puchatka in Polish.

Warsaw

Warsaw

The street is small and easy to skip, but it is close to Nowy Swiat-Uniwersytet metro station. There we turn left into Nowy Swiat street, where the city gradually begins to “age”. The neighborhood is called Krakowskie Przedmieść (Krakow Suburb). The number of stories of buildings is decreasing, while the decor on them is increasing.

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Warsaw

A monument to the most famous Pole – Nicolaus Copernicus.

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The Church of the Holy Cross.

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In contrast to the railway station area, it is difficult to get lost here, quite often you can find such detailed signs.

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The Church of the Holy Cross is one of the few places of interest in Warsaw that was not destroyed during World War II. This church has stood unchanged since 1761, only some of the interior details have changed.

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Nearby is the elegant historic Bristol Hotel.

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It opened in 1901. During World War II it miraculously remained almost undestroyed amidst the rubble. By 1970, the hotel had become obsolete and was given to the University of Warsaw. A library was set up there, but the building was never renovated or rebuilt. As a chic hotel, the Bristol reopened its doors in 1993 and Margaret Thatcher attended the opening.

The Presidential Palace (another name is the Radziwill Palace).

Warsaw

It is the largest of all the palaces in Warsaw. For the longest time it was owned by the Radziwiłłs of the Nieswizh line (I wrote a review about their main residence in Nieswizh). Monument to Adam Mickiewicz. Of all the monuments to this romanticist poet that I have seen, the one in Warsaw is the most grandiose and pompous.

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Finally, we reached the Old Town.

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The tower on the right can be climbed for a small fee, which we do, without thinking for a minute. From afar you can see how much taller the Stalinist towers are than today’s towers.

Warsaw

The old city reminded me of Stockholm and Riga at the same time. It is hard to believe, but after World War II Warsaw lay in ruins and what you can see now is the result of the skill and hard work of Polish restorers. The buildings were literally assembled brick by brick.

Warsaw

The Royal Palace (on the right) can be visited. It houses, I’m sure, an interesting exhibit, but we have so little time that we choose to walk through the Old Town. The street that begins between the two “blocks” of houses is called Beer Street and is the longest in the Old Town. On it usually and start walking.

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Warsaw

Occasionally there are quite narrow alleys.

Warsaw

Somewhere along Beer Street, we “glued” to a tour group from Belarus with a local guide. Just thanks to her we learned that beautiful paintings on the walls used to serve as a kind of advertisement for stores, because not all Warsaw residents were literate and would not be able to read the inscriptions.

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This is the Jewish quarter

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And this is the main market square. It immediately reminds us how noisy and lively it used to be back in the day. Trade was boisterous, shoppers lined up, staring into storefronts.

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Nowadays, the square is also bustling, but mostly because of the tourists. On the square there is a museum of Warsaw, and several large souvenir stores are not with cheap Chinese consumer goods, and with works of folk crafts: wood products, leather, woven tablecloths, napkins and doilies, embroidery, toys, ceramics.

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The tour group is followed by the Barbican in Warsaw, located between the Old Town and the New Town.

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Warsaw

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Barbican was erected in 1540 on the site of the old city gates, but it quickly became obsolete because of the rapid growth of power of artillery, to withstand which its defenses were insufficient. For this reason, the 17th century barbican was partially dismantled, in the 19th century it became part of the residential buildings. During World War II the barbican was almost completely destroyed, as well as most of the buildings of the Old Town. It was not rebuilt until 1952-1954 based on 17th century drawings, as the new government decided to use it as a tourist attraction. The barbican was restored except for the 2 outer gates and the tower on the Old Town side. Now it is among the most popular tourist attractions in Warsaw. At the entrance to the Barbakan tower artists sell paintings, and city residents relax by its walls. Between the walls is a full-fledged walking street.

Warsaw

Warsaw

If you walk along the walls in the direction of the royal palace, you can notice the Monument to the Young Posvtants. The monument is dedicated to the children who took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Warsaw

Looking at the boy’s serious face, his helmet and oversized boots, I felt my heart clench. At the same time, I felt horror, compassion, and pity. Soon the Barbican leads us to Palace Square, where our inspection began.

Warsaw

We decide to return to explore the New City. The New Town, which starts from the walls of the Barbican, is not so new.

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The Marie Skladowska-Curie House Museum is located in New Town. I think everyone knows who she was?

We also found the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Monument on the bank of the Vistula River when we went for a walk.

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Another impressive monument is the monument to the Warsaw insurgents.

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We went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which was open until 20:00 on Thursdays. It is located in the former building of the streetcar station. Therefore, the museum is very large and at the end there was no time to listen to the full video guide. Several times a day a 3D movie showing Warsaw after the war is shown. I recommend this museum to those interested in history. It just so happens that this museum was the only one we visited in Warsaw. The Nicolaus Copernicus Science Center we only had time to see from the outside. On the museum lawn, there are some experiments of the “I don’t believe my eyes/ears” variety. If you do not have time to visit the science center, I strongly recommend at least to experiment with the installations outside. It can be combined with a walk along the Vistula. But in general, museums in Warsaw close pretty early, some at five, some even at four. Finally, let’s talk about delicious food and prices.

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Warning! There is a real risk of overeating yourself. The portions are very generous. The soup and the main course is the maximum that you can cram into yourself. One would have been enough for me, but I want to try everything. I especially liked the rye soup zhurek with sausages (16-17 zlotys, a little less than 4 euros). The “pierogi” (about 20-25 PLN for a huge portion, i.e. up to 6 euros), i.e. dumplings with various fillings, are very tasty. I never got to desserts. The prices in Warsaw are quite human. For food it is certainly lower than in Belarus. Day pass in the zone 1 for all types of transport (it’s enough to spare) – 15 zlotys, ie, 3.5 euros. Museum of the Uprising – 25 zlotys, to climb the Stalinist tower – 20 zlotys. So if you want to see Warsaw, don’t hesitate and take a few days. The incredibly well maintained and beautiful historical part of the city awaits you, delicious food and reasonable prices.

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