After enjoying the Ibis Hotel Warsaw Centrum buffet breakfast, we were ready for a busy day exploring more of Warsaw’s attractions. Our first stop was at the Royal Lazienki Park which was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel. It’s the largest park in Warsaw and was designed in 17th century Baroque style.
Just inside the park gates stands a large monument to Fryderyk Chopin surrounded by seating where free piano concerts take place on summer weekends. We had a short stroll through one section of the park and admired the beautiful Belvedere Palace. This is now used by the President for ceremonial purposes and serves as an official residence for heads of state when visiting the country.
Leaving the park, we caught a bus from outside the gates to the district of Wilanów so that we could visit it’s palace and park. Bus 180 terminates near the entrance to the Wilanów estate making it easy to locate the correct stop. Entrance to the Palace is 20zl (£4.15) with a further 5zl to view the gardens but was included in our Warsaw Pass. Admission is free each Thursday.
The palace was built as the royal summer residence of King John III Sobieski and is one of the most important monuments in Polish culture. We explored the lavish interior, with the upper floor now a series of galleries displaying ceramics, silverware and paintings. The lower floor was my favourite, with the Palace’s elegant and formal rooms furnished in period style demonstrating the opulent lifestyle.
There was little to see in the formal gardens during our March visit, as the delicate shrubs and hedges were covered to protect them from frost but I’m certain it’s a perfect place for a stroll during the summer.
We wandered along a gravel path to the boathouse and pier from where it’s possible to take boat trips in warmer weather. During our visit the river was frozen and it was fun to watch ducks sliding on the ice.
As we strolled back, we noticed numerous people going into the Orangery and being curious, we took a look ourselves. Opening the heavy door, we discovered that a four day tulip festival was taking place featuring around 100 varieties in stylish arrangements. We hadn’t seen this event advertised but were fortunate to have come across it as the flowers were beautiful.
Returning to the city centre by bus, we found a cosy cafe for tea and cakes and then headed to our next venue, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN). Entrance to this museum is 25zl (£5.20) and is included in the Warsaw Pass.
POLIN opened between 2013 and 2014 and stands in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw – an area which the Nazis turned into the Warsaw Ghetto during World War Two. The museum was selected as the 2016 European museum of the year and features 8 galleries presenting a thousand year history of Polish Jews from the Middle Ages to modern times.
The tour starts with the history of the pre-war Jewish district and its inhabitants. It then tells the story of the inter-war period, WW2, the horrors of the holocaust and post-war life. The holocaust is handled with sensitivity leaving visitors with a sense of an entire world that collapsed following both the Nazi and Soviet invasions. This section is extremely sad, moving and poignant but most of all it’s an education into the life of Polish Jews. The museum is large, so I would suggest allowing a minimum of two and a half hours for a visit.
Leaving the museum, there was still one more place we wished to visit and that was the viewing platform on the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science. This landmark building boasts 3,300 rooms most of which are now offices and conference facilities with bars, theatres and museums on the lower floors.
Tickets to the viewing terrace cost 20zl (£4.10) and are included with the Warsaw Pass. Access is by an old fashioned lift, complete with an attendant sitting on a stool operating the buttons.
Sadly, we hadn’t selected the best time for our visit as it had just started snowing heavily and was bitterly cold on the exposed terrace. We could only imagine the far reaching views but we were able to look down on the city below and across to the old town. It was then back to the hotel to warm up and have a well deserved rest before dinner.
To round off our evening we had reserved a table at Dawne Smaki which specialises in traditional Polish cuisine.
The restaurant is located midway between the new and old parts of town and our large main dishes of pork and chicken were both excellent. The staff were friendly and attentive with live folk music contributing to the relaxed atmosphere. The perfect end to a fun filled day exploring Warsaw.
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