This page is divided into to sections. The first section contains general information about Poland and the secound part contains information about all the cities I have been to.
General information about Poland
The first cities in today's Poland, Kalisz and Elbląg. located on the Amber Trail to the Baltic Sea, were mentioned by Roman writers in the first century AD, yet the first Polish settlement in Biskupin dates even further back to the 7th century BC.
Poland became a unified kingdom in the first half of the 10th century, and officially adopted Catholicism in 966. The first major settlements were Poznań, Gniezno, Giecz, and Ostrów Lednicki. Gniezno was probably the most important city at that time, as the first king's coronation, of Bolesław the Brave, took place there in 1025. A decade later in 1038, the capital was moved to Kraków, where it remained for half a millennium. The kingdom fragmented after the death of King Bolesław III Wrymouth in 1138, with his sons (and their descendants) competing for the Kraków throne for nearly 200 years. The fragmentation and loss of central authority could not have come at a worse time, with the Mongol Empire invading and wreaking havoc on the realm repeatedly in 1240-1241, 1259-1260, and lastly between 1287-1288.
Following its reunification, Poland experienced its golden age from the 14th till the 16th century, under the reigns of King Casimir III the Great and the monarchs of the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. After uniting with Lithuania in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became the largest country in Europe. During this era, the commonwealth attracted significant immigration from Germans, Jews, Armenians, and Dutch, due in part to the freedom of confession guaranteed by the state, and the commonwealth's atmosphere of tolerance (a rather exceptional feat at the time of the Holy Inquisition).
Under the rule of the Vasa dynasty, the capital moved to Warsaw in 1596. The commonwealth's golden era came to an end in the 1650s, after a disastrous war with Russia coincided with an even more destructive five-year invasion and occupation by Sweden, an event known today as the Deluge (pоtор). Economically devastated by these events, the commonwealth's power dramatically declined in the 18th century. Weak in foreign affairs and internally divided by its nobility (szlachta), Russia, Prussia, and Austria seized on Poland-Lithuania's weakness and coordinated three partitions in 1772, 1793, and 1795. Responding to these partitions and a drastic need for political reform, Poland became the first country in Europe (and the second in the world after the United States) to pass a written constitution in 1791, a highly progressive and strong document for its time. Despite the constitution, the commonwealth ceased to exist after 1795, with its lands annexed by the three competing imperial powers.
The following period of foreign domination was met with fierce resistance. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French-backed semi-autonomous Duchy of Warsaw arose, before being erased from the map in 1813. Further uprisings ensued, including the 29 November uprising of 1830-1831 (in Russian Poland), the 1848 Revolution (in Austrian and Prussian Poland), and the January Uprising between 1863-1864 (also in Russian Poland). Throughout the occupation, Poles retained their sense of national identity and defied the three occupying powers with armed struggle or passive resistance.
Poland returned to the European map at the end of World War I, with a declaration of independence from the defeated German and Austro-Hungarian empires on 11 November 1918. From their ashes, the infant Second Polish Republic quickly became embroiled in violent territorial disputes with other new post-war states, including Czechoslovakia to the south, and revolutionary Soviet Russia to the east, which it fought a bloody war against between 1919-1921 to retain independence. This was further complicated by a hostile Weimar Germany to the west, which strongly resented a series of post-war Polish ethnic nationalist rebellions, Poland's annexations of eastern Prussian territories, and the detachment of German-speaking Danzig (contemporary Gdańsk) as a free city overseen by the League of Nations. Diplomatic difficulties were further compounded by domestic political chaos in the 1920s, as the republic's infant and fragile parliamentary democracy was undermined by a military coup in 1926, which brought about a semi-authoritarian regime under Marshal Józef Piłsudski, a highly-revered WWI and Polish-Soviet War leader.
All of these factors placed Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her from all sides.
Nowadays, Poland is a democratic parliamentary republic with a stable, robust economy, a member of NATO since 1999, and the European Union since 2004. The country's stability has been recently underscored by the fact that the tragic deaths of President Lech Kaczyński and many members of parliament in a plane crash in 2010 did not have an appreciable negative effect on the Polish currency or economic prospects. Poland has also successfully joined the Schengen Agreement for an open border to Germany, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency on a future (yet currently unspecified) date. Poland's dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbours has finally been achieved.
The official language of Poland is Polish, a Slavic language spoken by 55 million around the world. Foreign visitors should be aware that virtually all official information will usually be in Polish only. Street signs, directions, information signs, etc. are routinely only in Polish, as are schedules and announcements at train and bus stations (airports and a few major train stations seem to be an exception to this). When it comes to information signs in museums, churches, etc., signs in multiple languages are typically found only in popular tourist destinations.
Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough. Since English is taught from a very young age (some start as early as 4 years old), only Poles who grow up in isolated towns or communities will not be given English lessons. Older Poles, particularly in rural regions, will speak little or no English at all. However, it is highly possible that they will speak either French, German or Russian, taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the 1990s.
It is wise to refrain from speaking Russian on account of the countries' historically turbulent relations. In spite of this, German is still taught in many schools throughout the country, and is especially popular in the western districts. Ukrainian also has many similarities to Polish, as does Czech and Slovak.
A few phrases go a long way in Poland. Contrary to some other tourist destinations, where natives scoff at how bad a foreigner's use of the native language is, Polish people generally love the few foreigners who learn Polish or at least try to, even if it is only a few phrases. Younger Poles will also jump at the chance to practice their English. Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting outside of the main cities and tourist areas people may listen in to practice their understanding of English.
Do your homework and try to learn how to pronounce the names of places. Polish has a very regular pronunciation, so this should be no problem. Although there are a few sounds unknown to most English speakers, mastering every phoneme is not required to achieve intelligibility; catching the spirit is more important.
With almost 94% of the contemporary population ethnically Polish, Poland's recent history has made it a very homogeneous society, in stark contrast to its long history of ethno-religious diversity. Before World War II, 69% was ethnically Polish, with large, vocal minorities of Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Germans; less than two-thirds were Roman Catholic, along with large Orthodox and Protestant minorities. Poland also had the largest Jewish community in Europe, estimated variously at 10 to 30% of Poland's population before 1939.
Outside of the touristic areas of the major cities, you'll find that there are few, if any, foreigners. Most of the immigrants in Poland (mainly Ukrainians and Vietnamese, as well as smaller numbers of Italians, Portuguese, Spanish and Greeks in recent years) stay in the major cities to live and work. Poland's small group of contemporary ethnic minorities, which includes Germans, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Silesians, Lemkos, and Kashubians, all speak Polish and few regional dialects remain except in the south and in small patches along the Baltic coast.
In Polish, it takes some time before adults become familiar enough with one another to refer to each other using the equivalent of "you" (ty, equivalent to the French tu or the Spanish tú). Often, people who have worked together or have lived as neighbors for years still do not use the form "you" when speaking to one another. Men are called pan and women pani (in direct address; as Polish nouns are declined, the form of pan and panichange depending on how they are used in a sentence). That said, most Poles would just use their first names when speaking in English (or in another language without a similar form). If you are speaking in Polish, make sure to use the correct form.
Some men, particularly older men, may kiss a woman's hand when greeting or saying goodbye. Kissing a woman's hand is considered to be chivalrous by some, but is more and more often seen as outdated. Handshakes are quite common; however, it is very important to remember that men should not offer their hand to a woman - a handshake is only considered polite if the woman offers her hand to the man first. For a more heartfelt greeting or goodbye, close friends of opposite sex or two women will hug and kiss three times, alternating cheeks.
A fairly common practice is for people to greet each other with a dzień dobry (good day) when entering elevators, or at the very least, saying do widzenia (goodbye) when exiting the elevator.
It is also customary to greet shop-keepers or shop-assistants with dzień dobry upon entering a shop or at the beginning of a transaction at the cash register, and to say do widzenia before leaving the shop or at the conclusion of the transaction. Some Poles also use these greetings to the people standing in line when they enter a post office.
It is normal to say dzień dobry when entering a compartment on the train and to say do widzenia when you leave the compartment at your final destination, even if you have no other interaction with your fellow-passengers for the duration of your journey.
It is usual to bring a gift when invited to someone's home. Flowers are always a good choice. Florists' kiosks are ubiquitous; be sure to get an odd number of flowers, as an even number is associated with funerals. Poles will often bring vodka or whisky, but this depends on the level of familiarity, so tread carefully. Boxes of chocolates are also a very common present when invited to someone's home for a meal or special occasion; at First Communion time (May), you will find special boxed chocolates with First Communion pictures on them for the occasion.
It is customary to hold doors and chairs for women, as well as offering help with heavy packages (to acquaintances), getting heavy luggage down from overhead racks on the train (even strangers), and (if you know the woman) helping her on and off with her coat. Polish men in general have great respect for women and show women especial courtesy in these ways.
On buses and trams, seats are set aside for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women and women travelling with very small children (who must sit on their mothers' laps). These seats are usually at the front of trams. You can find pictures indicating which seats these are. It is permitted for anyone to sit in these seats, but the young, men, and the able-bodied are expected to give up their seats to the less able, pregnant women and the elderly, especially those seats clearly marked for such people.
Men should not wear hats indoors, in particular when entering a church. Most restaurants, museums, and other public buildings have a cloakroom, and people are expected to leave bags and outerwear there.
The national long distance rail operator is PKP Intercity. There are direct train connections to Warsaw from severan cities in Europe.
You can enter Poland by one of the many roads linking Poland with the neighbouring countries. Since Poland's entry to the Schengen Zone, checkpoints on border crossings with other EU countries have been removed.
However, queues on the borders with Poland's non-EU neighbours, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are still large and in areas congested with truck traffic. It can take up to several hours to pass.
If you're traveling with a US driver's license, be sure to take an international license with you. Poland is one of the few countries in Europe requiring US citizens to travel with an international license in order to rent a car. Also note that most car rentals are manual. If you want an automatic it must be booked in advance and expect higher costs.
Several ferries goes to Poland from Sweden, denmark and Germany.
Travelling within Poland
Polish road infrastructure is extensive and currently undergoing a massive construction boom with a number of motorways and expressways in various stages of development found throughout the country, yet many local routes may be slow or poorly maintained. However, public transport is quite plentiful and inexpensive, with buses and trams in cities, and charter buses and trains for long distance travel. There is also a well-established domestic flight network.
The national railway carriers are PKP Intercity for long-distance routes and PolRegio for regional routes. There are also several provincial-level carriers that are run exclusively by the voivodeships providing regional travel, as well as several fast urban rail systems found in larger cities, such as Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Poznań. The schedule of every train and online ticket purchasing can be found on the PKP-Rozklad planner. Note, if you search in the Polish language, provincially-operated carriers will display online tickets, although many will require some form of registration first.
Train tickets are quite cheap, but travel conditions and comfort may vary. Many routes between the larger cities offer services with fast and modern trains, while trains between smaller areas and regions can vary between the ultra-modern to the communist old. There are no universal train tickets in Poland and combining trains of different companies means that you have to buy separate tickets (which usually cost much more than keeping to a single carrier on a long trip). In general, the long-distance trains (EIP, EIC, IC, TLK) are run by PKP Intercity and regional ones are usually owned by Pol-Regio or provincial rail operators. It is sometimes possible to make a long distance journey across the country by Pol-Regio, which is usually is the cheapest option of all.
Poland has a very well developed network of private charter bus companies, which tend to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than rail travel. For trips under 100 km, charter buses are far more popular than trains. However, they are more difficult to use for foreigners, because of the language barrier.
In order to research buses, finding companies with the letters PKS is a good start. There is an on-line timetable available in English, which includes bus and train options, found at: e-podroznik pl. Online timetables are useful for planning, yet be aware that there are often multiple carriers at each bus station, and departure times for major cities and popular destinations are typically no longer than thirty minutes in-between.
In the past, driving in Poland was often described as stressful, frustrating and often time-consuming, due to the poor quality of roads, a lack of motorway-level routes, and the aggressive driving style of the locals. Thankfully, much has changed since the early 2000s, and today, a majority of all the republic's major cities are connected by motorways and expressways thanks to an ongoing construction boom fueled by Poland's strong economy and generous EU development funds. As of 2018, there are nearly 3,320 km (2,063 mi) of completed motorways and expressways throughout the country. However, much still needs to be done, as will be evidenced by many construction detours or finding yourself traveling on roads far above capacity for the volume of traffic they are carrying for.
Use only those taxis that are associated in a "corporation" (look for phone number and a logo on the side and on the top). There are no British style minicabs in Poland. Unaffiliated drivers are likely to cheat and charge you much more. Like everywhere, be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations. They are called the "taxi mafia", and it is generally best to ignore them. Some of the "official" taxi-despatchers (dressed in yellow wests) outside the terminal building deliberately points you to some "alternative" taxis some 15 meters away from the "normal" taxis. The price for this trip to Radisson Centrum hotel (which should have been 35-40 Zloty at most for a Friday night) was charged with almost 97 Zloty on the taxameter. It seems there is some kind of "deal" between at least one of these taxi despatchers and some pirate taxis in WAW airport, so if the taxi despatcher tries to point you to other taxis than the ones you are queing up for (along with the "local" Poles) then either refuse to be sent away to the other taxi or ask the price in advance. As this scam was done by people I regarded to be "official" led to the fact that I did not discover this fraud before it was too late.
The airport train station, Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina, opened on 1 June 2012. Trains depart every 10-12 minutes during peak times and every 15 minutes otherwise. Both the Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM; Warsaw's S-Bahn-like suburban railway system) and Koleje Mazowieckie (Mazovian Railways or KML; the provincial local train operator) operate trains to and from the airport. Four bus lines operate between points in the city and the airport from 4:40am to 11:00pm.
Warsaw has three stations for long-distance trains: Dworzec Centralny or Warszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central). Unless you really know what you're doing, the best option is Dworzec Centralny (Warszawa Centralna) station, as it has best connections with all the places in the city. All long-distance trains pass through this station and all stop there. It is the only long-distance station underground. There is no central station for suburban trains, but the most important one is Warszawa Śródmieście (close to Warszawa Centralna and Metro Centrum).
Regional and long-distance bus connections in Poland are traditionally called PKS. Once it was a legitimate abbreviation for the state-owned monopoly. Now, however, bus routes are operated by completely independent companies, some of which have chosen to retain the old PKS as a part of their name. In Warsaw, there's PKS Warszawa but PKSes from various other cities also operate. Most PKS buses arrive and depart from either of two major terminals: Dworzec PKS Warszawa Zachodnia, Al. Jerozolimskie (near Rondo Zesłańców Syberyjskich) is the bigger of the two, next to the railway station by the same name. Most buses arrive here. International buses like Eurolines, Ecolines, Simple Express have their main stop here. The station signage is mostly in Polish and there is no tourist information bureau here. You may also arrive late at night. It is an ugly place, and several miles away from the city centre, where you probably want to go. How to get there is not immediately obvious. From the main hall of the station, go towards the side opposite where all the ticket booths are (entering from the bus apron, this is to your left), go down the stairs, turn right down a long corridor, then turn right again into another long corridor until you reach two stairwells leading upwards. These will take you to the other side of Al. Jerozolimskie, where you can take a bus: 517, E-5 (peak hours only), 127 , or 130 to Dw. Centralny (one bus stop short of Centrum). Catching the eastbound suburban train or S2 urban railway line might be the best option. During the night, buses N35 and N85 run to Dw. Centralny (main station) every 30 minutes beginning at 23:52. The secound station is Dworzec PKS Warszawa Wschodnia, ul. Lubelska. Next to the railway station of the same name. Some of the eastbound domestic lines leave from here.
Places to sleep
There are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels, pensions and rented villas. You may use i.e. hotels.com, booking.com or hostelworld.com to find somewhere to sleep. If you want to rent a private home Airbnb.com is somewhere you could check out.
Money and banking
Poland is part of the European Union and the Eurozone. Because of this Euro have replaced the local currency. If you want to exchange money, you can do so at any bank where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the Euro. Credit cards are well accepted in Portugal. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. To authorize your payment with a credit card, you are frequently presented a device with a keypad where you should type PIN code and also confirm amount--even for Visa Classic or MasterCard.
Vaccine and health
If you live in another country that is member of the European Union be sure to bring your European Health Insurance Card.
Poland is a member of the Schengen Agreement and there are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and "non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and "international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you are travelling within the Schengen area or not, many airlines will still insist on seeing your ID card or passport. Travel in the Schengen zone is an informative article which provides aditional informastion.
State law enforcement is carried out by the Policja. In conjunction with national law enforcement, some municipalities have their own city guards, yet their powers are strictly limited to misdemeanors or traffic safety. Most citizens respect the police, while policemen and women are largely courteous and helpful to tourists in need.
The European unified emergency number 112 is being deployed in Poland. By now, it certainly works for all mobile-phone calls and most landline calls. There are also three "old" emergency numbers that are still in use. These are:
Poland is generally a safe country. In fact, you are much less likely to experience crime in places like Warsaw or Kraków than in Paris or Rome. Overall, just use common sense and be aware of what you're doing.
In cities, follow standard city travel rules: don't leave valuables in the car in plain sight; don't display money or expensive things needlessly; know where you're going; be suspicious of strangers asking for money or trying to sell you something.
Pickpockets operate, pay attention to your belongings in crowds, at stations, in crowded trains/buses (especially to/from the airport), and clubs.
In any case, do not be afraid to seek help or advice from the Police (Policja) or the Municipal Guards (Straz Miejska). They are generally helpful, professional and can speak English if in larger towns or touristic spots.
Be astute on sleeper trains, as bag robberies sometimes happen between major stations. Ask for ID from anyone who asks to take your ticket or passport and lock backpacks to the luggage racks. Keep valuables on you, maintain common sense.
Violent behavior is rare and if it occurs it is most likely alcohol-related. While pubs and clubs are generally very safe, the nearby streets may be scenes of brawls, especially late at night. Try to avoid confrontations. Women and girls are generally less likely to be confronted or harassed since the Polish code of conduct strictly prohibits any type of violence (physical or verbal) against women. By the same token, in case of a fight between mixed gender travelers, Polish men are likely to intervene on the side of the woman, regardless of the context.
Polish cuisine and drink
Poles take their meals following the standard continental schedule: a light breakfast in the morning (usually some sandwiches with tea/coffee), then dinner at around 4PM or 5PM, then supper at around 7PM or 8 PM.
It is not difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish. Most major cities have some exclusively vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city centre. Vegan options remain extremely limited, however.
Traditional Polish cuisine tends to be hearty, rich in meats, sauces, and vegetables; sides of pickled vegetables are a favorite accompaniment. Modern Polish cuisine, however, tends towards greater variety, and focuses on healthy choices. In general, the quality of "store-bought" food is very high, especially in dairy products, baked goods, vegetables and meat products.
A dinner commonly includes the first course of soup, followed by the main course. Among soups, barszcz czerwony (red beet soup, a.k.a. borscht) is perhaps the most recognizable: a spicy and slightly sour soup, served hot. It's commonly poured over dumplings (barszcz z uszkami or barszcz z pierogami), or served with a fried pate roll (barszcz z pasztecikiem). Other uncommon soups include zupa ogórkowa, a cucumber soup made of a mix of fresh and pickled cucumbers; zupa grzybowa, typically made with wild mushrooms; also, flaki or flaczki - well-seasoned tripe.
Pierogi are, of course, an immediately recognizable Polish dish. They are often served along side another dish (for example, with barszcz), rather than as the main course. There are several types of them, stuffed with a mix of cottage cheese and onion, or with meat or even wild forest fruits. Gołąbki are also widely known: they are large cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of grains and meats, steamed or boiled and served hot with a white sauce or tomato sauce.
Bigos is another unique, if less well-known, Polish dish: a "hunter's stew" that includes various meats and vegetables, on a base of pickled cabbage. Bigos tends to be very thick and hearty. Similar ingredients can also be thinned out and served in the form of a cabbage soup, called kapuśniak. Some Austro-Hungarian imports have also become popular over the years, and adopted by the Polish cuisine. These include gulasz, a local version of goulash that's less spicy than the original, and sznycel po wiedeńsku, which is a traditional schnitzel, often served with potatoes and a selection of vegetables.
When it comes to food-on-the-go, foreign imports tend to dominate (such as kebab or pizza stands, and fast-food franchises). An interesting Polish twist is a zapiekanka, which is an open-faced baguette, covered with mushrooms and cheese (or other toppings of choice), and toasted until the cheese melts. Zapiekanki can be found at numerous roadside stands and bars.
Poland is also known for two unique cheeses, both made by hand in the [Podhale] mountain region in the south. Oscypek is the more famous: a hard, salty cheese, made of unpasteurized sheep milk, and smoked. It goes very well with alcoholic beverages such as beer. The less common is bryndza, a soft cheese, also made with sheep milk (and therefore salty), with a consistency similar to spreadable cheeses. It's usually served on bread, or baked potatoes. Both cheeses are covered by the EU Protected Designation of Origin (like the French Roquefort, or the Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano).
If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit a milk bar (bar mleczny). A milk bar is very basic sort of fast food eatery serving cheap Polish fare. Nowadays it has become harder to find them. Invented by the communist authorities in the mid-1960s as a means to offer cheap meals to people working in firms that had no canteen, the milk bar's iconic name originates from the fact that until the late 1980s, meals served were mostly dairy-made or vegetarian (especially during martial law in the early 1980s, when meat was rationed). Milk bars are usually subsidized by the state. Eating at a milk bar can be a unique experience. It is not uncommon that you will encounter people from various social classes—students, businessmen, university professors, elderly people, even homeless—all eating side-by-side in a 1970s-like environment. Presumably, it is the quality of food at absolutely unbeatable prices (veggie main courses starting from just a few złotych!) that attracts people. However, a cautionary warning needs to be issued—complete nut jobs dine at milk bars too, so even if you're going to for the food, you'll end up with dinner and a show. Curious as to what the show will entail? Well, each show varies, but most of them will leave you scratching head and require the suspension of reality.
The drinking and purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18.
Poland is on the border of the European vodka and beer belts. Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks but they drink less than the European average. You can buy beer, vodka, hard liquor and wine in virtually all stores. Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Plum brandy, known as śliwowica, is also a popular spirit, with many in rural areas making and drinking their own brews. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Polish liqueurs and nalewka (alcoholic tincture) are also a must.
Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID, however in practice most small stores found throughout Poland will not ID you if you look like you could possibly be 18.
Places I have been to in Poland
Warsaw is the capital of Poland and, with 1.7 million inhabitants, its largest city. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly equidistant from both the Baltic Sea in the north and the Carpathian Mountains in the south.
The public transport system in Warsaw is generally well-developed, with some 200 bus routes and 30 tram lines. The route descriptions on the tram stops are easy to follow (although bus stop notices are more complex) and the tickets are cheap. It can be painfully slow, however, to travel between destinations far from the city center.
Historically, the right bank was the first one to become populated, during the 9th or 10th century. However, the present city's central district, called Śródmieście lies on the left bank. The Old Town is fully contained within the borders of the city center.
The medieval capital of Poland was the southern city of Krakow, but Warsaw has been the capital of the country since 1596, and has grown to become Poland's largest city and the nation's urban and commercial center. Completely destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, the city lifted itself from the ashes. Today, almost every building in Warsaw dates to the postwar era — with what little remains of the old structures being confined largely to the restored districts of Stare Miasto (the 'old city') and Nowe Miasto ('new city'), as well as selected monuments and cemeteries, plus midwar modernist districts Ochota and Żoliborz. When they rebuild Warsaw after WWII they used old pictures to restore everything as it once was.
The central point of the city is located at the intersection of Al. Jerozolimskie and ul. Marszałkowska, near the entrance to the Metro Centrum subway station. It is good to know that the Palace of Culture is a landmark visible from almost any location in Warsaw. Should you ever get lost in the city, just walk toward the Palace of Culture and Science.
Most of the major sightseeing attractions are located in Centrum area, which encompasses seven districts, however, the most important district for sight seeing is likely to be considered Śródmieście. The other districts all have something else to offer too, but the further from Centrum you journey, the less likely you're to find much of anything that is of any major interest, although Wilanów's palace and Kabaty forest are interesting enough.
Go on a Tour of Warsaw - the Old Town and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Explore old Praga to get more shady (but safe) insight into old Warsaw. Find charming art cafes and galleries hidden around Ząbkowska, Targowa, Wileńska, 11 listopada, Inżynierska streets. In night, there are lot of vibrating clubs on these streets.
Warsaw Craft Beer Tour. This Warsaw Craft Beer Tour is a 3-hour walking and drinking tour through 3 of the coolest craft beer pubs that allow you to taste 9 different types of craft beer. It is great for craft beer lovers, groups, bachelor and stag parties.
Finding an unique place to eat is easy, as there are no international chain restaurants present here, as in Western Europe.
For those on a budget, there are many kebab shops sprinkled around Warsaw, especially in Śródmieście, which offer decent food and portions for the fair price of 7-13 zł a kebab. Other cheap alternatives are milk bars, which are discussed later in the section, and Vietnamese restaurants.
Don't leave Warsaw without trying out Poland's most famous dish - Pierogi, which is kind of a dumpling, with the most various stuffings (e.g. meat, cottage cheese or strawberries). You can also try an learn how to make these in one of cooking school for tourists.