Cityscape views. Delicious cuisine. An ideal city break.
Earlier this year, I jetted off to the minus temperatures of Warsaw, Poland for a short trip with my Lorna Bunny. What was meant to be only a few days turned into a weeklong holiday, due to ‘The Beast from The East’ snow storm that Ireland was hit with, resulting in our flight being postponed for four days. But this just meant we got to enjoy the delectable cuisine, the friendly locals and the stunning architecture even more. Although we went during the Polish Winter, Warsaw is no doubt even more beautiful in summer.
Travel & Accommodation Details
We flew Ryanair from Dublin to Warsaw Modlin Airport (Dublin-Modlin 3 hours direct; Modlin-Dublin 3 hours direct). The flight to Warsaw was fine, though as aforementioned the original return flight was cancelled and postponed by 4 days, then, after even more unnecessary mess-ups & costs from Ryanair, the flight was delayed by another hour.
Modlin Airport is a 40-minute drive from Warsaw City Centre, which we accessed via Modlin Bus for 70 zł (€16.60) return, you can buy tickets from within Modlin Airport, they’re frequent enough though be aware that sometimes this bus isn’t ‘the big pink bus’ you’re told about at the airport. On our final trip back to the airport, we waited for the ‘pink bus’ that we had gotten three times previously, but this time that bus was not in sight at the City Centre collection point, instead they used a much smaller OK Bus, however this was also not audibly announced, and we missed the bus we had booked. The sales lady was extremely rude towards us, saying she called out the announcement, which was untrue as we were standing in front of her and she did not, and made us pay for two more tickets even though we had already bought return tickets.
Getting around Warsaw City is very easy, their public transport is pretty excellent. We bought the 3-day Ticket Zone 1 for 36 zł (€8.55) each, that you can from any of the main ticket machines. This 72 hour ticket should be validated once you get on board your first trip, and allows you to travel via bus, tram, metro and underground. Visit ZTM (Warsaw Public Transport) for more information.
While researching where to stay, one type of accommodation that really suited what Lorna and I needed were the ‘aparthotels’ – which are essentially apartments for short-term rent organised like a hotel. Our first aparthotel was Hosapartments City Center, in the central square area of Warsaw, while our second stay at Platinum Residence was a 25-minute walk from the square.
We were quite intrigued by Hosapartments City Center; the multi-storey blocks are host to many apartments, though the reception room is a bit tricky to find. The front of house did speak English, informing of us of the protocols with keys, supplies, and check-out. Located on Bagno Street, it is only a few minutes walk from the Palace of Culture & Science main square (more below) with many bars, cafés & restaurants and shops nearby, as well as bus, tram, metro and underground routes. We had paid for the room in full beforehand (via Expedia), and were given a Superior Room (2 double beds) on the 11th floor. It featured a medium-sized living room with a table & 4 chairs, television, a wardrobe, a shower & WC bathroom with minimal toiletries, plus a kitchen complete with a fridge, oven and hob, kettle, delph & glassware and utensils, as well as a washing machine. Below you’ll read the pros & cons I found of the aparthotel – overall Hosapartments City Center was impressive for the small price we paid for three nights.
- The Pros: The room was clean upon arrival, with plenty of fresh towels for each of us. There were tea bags, milk portions in the fridge and sugar – perfect for any Irish who needs their daily cups of tea! This was genuinely one of my favourite little touches in the aparthotel. As well as plates, cups & cutlery, there were also wine glasses and a wine bottle opener, which was great for our evenings in – there’s a 24 hour off-license nearby too. The beds were extremely comfortable, especially the pillows, and the room was always the right temperature; we would always turn up radiator to highest setting (5) when we headed out for the day, and turn down to 1 or 2 at night. Our room was next to the staircase and lift, giving us easy access to our room and was surprisingly quiet. The location of this aparthotel is definitely a major pro, as it is bang in the centre of the city and next door to all public transport, as well as a local supermarket, shopping and restaurants.
- The Cons: The step down from the shower to the bathroom floor was very high, and with nothing to hold onto it is a bit of a hazard. The shower head didn’t move up and down on the pole like it should. The blanket on our beds, though soft and snuggly, had fibres which stuck to everything, especially the sheets, and the blinds also let in a lot of light in the morning, neither of these are ideal. There were no bedside lockers nor nearby plugs – Lorna’s bed had plugs built into the wall at her pillows but they did not work. There is free WiFi but it did not work for us, despite the two different networks available.
The Platinum Residence aparthotel reception is hidden away behind the shops of the Hilton Hotel complex, but we found it eventually. Reception was very plush and impressive upon arrival, check-in was very easy though we did pay a deposit of 100 zł (€23.70), the front of house was friendly and spoke English. Located on Grzybowska Street, it is a 20-minute walk from the Palace of Culture & Science main square, but there are nearby trams and buses for easier access with luggage. The area is excellent for restaurants, we had three sublime dinners within 5 minutes of Platinum Residence. We had paid for the room in full beforehand (via Expedia), and were given a Studio Room (1 double bed) on the 9th floor. It featured a spacious living area with a suede couch, two televisions, a large wardrobe, a shower & WC bathroom with minimal toiletries, as well as a fridge, countertop hob, microwave, an island with 4 high stools, plus a kettle, delph & glassware and utensils, as well as a dishwasher. Below you’ll read my pros & cons – overall this Platinum Residence was beautiful, great value with many perks and an equally great location.
- The Pros: The bed and living area were very comfortable, and overall the furnishing was very modern. The couch was particularly comfortable, and in addition to the television opposite, this made for very enjoyable and cosy evenings in.
- The Cons: Our room was next to the staircase and lift, however in comparison to the previous accommodation, the sound of the elevator shaft and lifts coming & going was quite loud, and disturbed my sleep most of the stay. Only 1 of the 2 televisions worked, and the wardrobe had no hangers and its doors got stuck everytime we tried to open them. There is free WiFi but you have to pay for it in advance of your booking, which was €6.30 per day. We did experience a very loud party from the room above us – this went on from 6pm-2am and we did try to make a noise complaint via reception but there was no answer from the phones, so we did have to shout up to the group upstairs to ask to turn down their speakers.
Recommendations – Sightseeing
Warsaw is full of history and stunning architecture. One of the best sights that you must visit is the Palace of Culture & Science, which acts as the city centre mark. You can visit the viewing terrace on the XXX Floor and see the 360 cityscape views of Warsaw. It was built in 1955, and at the height of 778 feet the Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in the capital. It’s an amazing spot for photo opportunities, and especially at sunrise. Is side there is a lot to do too, including a cinema, museum, nightclub, café and restaurant as well as the theatre.
The Royal Castle in Old Town was my favourite sight that we saw, because of its history and interior design aspects. The first few rooms on the walking tor are absolutely breathtaking, it’s almost hard to take it all in at once. The walls and ceiling feature an enormous amount of gold, while pillars and a lot of marble. It is pure opulence. Along the tour you’ll come across regal furniture and throne rooms, painting and portraits, sculptures and murals, and a lot of luxury. This was the royal castle for the King after all.
While in Old Town, take a look at the market square that’s surrounded by colourful buildings which date back to the 13th Century. Here you’ll find the statue of the Mermaid of Warsaw, the city’s guardian who is a sword-wielding mermaid, also represented on the city’s coat of arms. Be sure you visit the Barbican, which is the old bridge that marks the entrance to Old Town and was a historical point during the wars that encircled Warsaw. The main road that leads from the Old Town Square also brings you along to the government buildings and the beautiful Hotel Bristol.
Hotel Bristol reflects the opulence of the castle, with high ceilings, gold accents and plenty of marble. It was built in 1901, and has certainly gone through the wars. In 1939, when the Germans were about to invade the city, this hotel became the headquarters of the Chief of the Warsaw District. Hotel Bristol was miraculously left almost unscathed from the war, in comparison to the rubble it neighbourhood was brought to. Here we enjoyed a glass of wine with nibbles, taking in the history and stepping out of the cold. From the large floral arrangements to the gold mirror at the cocktail bar and the piano music, this was a beautiful experience and today it still resembles its luxurious facades as it did decades ago, following renovations in 1989 then in 2005 and 2013.
Recommendations – Dining
We ate a lot of excellent food while in Warsaw, and were very open to trying the local cuisine. Below are little snippets of all the restaurants & bars we visited, while you can read my full blog post here of the Warsaw Recommendations: 5 Places You Need to Eat In later this week (June 7th) to even better convince you to visit them too!
Restauracja POLKA Magda Gessler, Świętojańska 2: This was one of the most famous restaurants on my Eat List for Warsaw, and with good reason. Their food is excellent, the attention to detail in presentation and flavour is on point, the decor is very opulent and their staff is a perfect marriage of friendly and professional.
Tried & Tasted: Potato Latkes with Creamy Mushroom Sauce, Pork Loin Filled with Plums. Cookie FM Rating – 5/5
Latem Bar & Restaurant, rynek Starego Miasta 10: A lovely spot within the Old Town, that’s full of character and has a great selection of dishes to back it up. The staff was very attentive and though it was quiet when we arrived, our server kept chatting with us from behind the bar. The food was tasty, and a great way to start or end any day.
Tried & Tasted: Potato Latkes with Norwegian Smoked Salmon, Stuffed Duck Pierogi. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
The Marriott Panorama Sky Bar, Al. Jerozolimskie 65/79: The views from this panoramic sky bar are amazing, you can see across Warsaw for miles. Their Asian-inspired tapas are tasty too, very colourful and beautifully presented and this is also a great place to enjoy cocktails with friends. High up on the 40th Floor, this is the highest I’ve ever wined & dined!
Tried & Tasted: 7°C Fire Treated Tuna, 7°C Crispy Vegetables, 52°C Salmon Teriyaki, 52°C Black Angus Beef, 72°C Yakitori Chicken. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
Wabu Sushi Bar & Japanese Tapas, plac Europejski 2: Here at Wabu, I can easily say I’ve had the best sushi of my life. The choice was ridiculously hard as there is a vast variety of sushi & sashimi, norimaki and hosomaki as well as main dishes and more. A very busy restaurant that has plenty of space, ethnic decor and a great team of chefs, I’m already wanting to go back!
Tried & Tasted: Futomaki Peppered Tuna, Salmon & Avocado Hosomaki, Gyoza Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings, Chocolate Mousse with Chilli. Cookie FM Rating – 5/5
Podwale 25, 00-001 Warszawa: A Bavarian style restaurant just opposite the famous Barbican, we enjoyed a good beer & lunch here, which warmed us up in no time. This is a very spacious restaurant, with a big menu and even bigger portions. If you’re looking for the biggest Wiener Schnitzel, you’ll find it here!
Tried & Tasted: Hungarian Goulash Soupe, Schnitzel Wiener Art. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
Bar Bambino, Hoża 19: We wanted to try one of the famous ‘milk bars’ of Warsaw, which are known for their canteen-like food that’s good, very quick and very cheap. Be aware that at peak hours the queue at Bar Bambino will go out the door, and they have very little English. Have the Google Translate at the ready or learn a bit of Polish beforehand.
Tried & Tasted: Ziemniaki młode z masłem, Pierogi ze szpinakiem, Pierogi z serem. Cookie FM Rating – 3/5
Mamma Mia Pizza Restaurant, Świętokrzyska 32: Would a holiday be complete without a cheeky takeaway pizza? We enjoyed two hot pizzas from the local pizzeria near our first apartments. They have a great menu, friendly and quick service – plus they’re open 24/7!
Tried & Tasted: Pizza Parma, Focaccia. Cookie FM Rating – 3.5/5
STIXX Bar & Grill, plac Europejski 4A: STIXX is definitely different to what we’d been eating during our holiday, but the lively vibe was just as great. There was a wonderful mix of locals and tourists, there was music and a great cocktail bar as well as a selection of different dishes from around the world. The food was tasty, filling and we had a very enjoyable evening.
Tried & Tasted: Chicken Tikka Butter Masala. Cookie FM Rating – 4.5/5
Oberża Pod Czerwonym Wieprzem (The Inn Under the Red Hog), Żelazna 68: This was another restaurant on my Eat List for Warsaw, as I was intrigued by its claim of being “the only Communist restaurant in Poland”. Steeped in history and photographs from over the years, the menu features dishes named after key people of the wars, with a strong influence of German cuisine while still being quite Polish. The staff is friendly, and the premises is vast, making dinner for big groups very easy. The food itself was very tasty and great value too. And hey, if it’s good enough for Bruce Willis, it’s good enough for us!
Tried & Tasted: Erich’s Pork Knuckle. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
CHECK OUT LORNA’S BLOG FASHION BOSS TO READ MORE ABOUT Warsaw
Images © Nirina Plunkett