On July 31, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:There is never a bad time to visit Warsaw. But time your visit to one of the city’s festivals and you’ll have a unique chance to mix with locals and experience Warsaw’s culture and cuisine. Here are five of the best annual events in Warsaw.
1. Carnival. Poland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and one of the most devoutly religious in Europe, so Lent is strictly observed. In the days leading up to Lent, Warsaw is awash with food and drink stands, as the locals make merry in preparation for 40 days of abstinence.
2. Topienie Marzanny. Topienie Marzanny (The Drowning of Marzanna) is one of the biggest festivals in city’s calendar. Marzanna is a Slavic goddess associated with winter, and so every year the locals gather to burn or drown an effigy of her, celebrating the first day of spring. It is therefore usually on March 21.
3. Noc Swietojanska. St. John’s Night (or Midsummer’s Eve) is one of the most unusual and enjoyable spectacles in Warsaw. Visit on June 23 to witness the city’s unmarried women toss wreaths into the Vistula river to attract a husband (long story), then enjoy a night of fireworks, concerts, food and drink.
4. Chopin Summer Concerts. Summertime in Warsaw means many great events, from film festivals to jazz jamborees, but the most distinctly Varsovian has to be the series of afternoon Chopin concerts held in Lazienki Park.
5. Christmas Fair. Visit the capital during December to see it transformed into a fairytale winter wonderland, with fun Christmas markets, countless nativity scenes and beautiful church recitals on every corner.
On July 31, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:From traditional taverns to chic cocktail joints, Warsaw has a wealth of drinking options, most of which are centered on the Old Town. But if you’re looking for a genuinely off-the-beaten-track spot, head for the hidden, nameless bars on Nowy Świat (accessible by an unassuming gateway).
Once you have had a few drinks, take your pick between some typical Polish culture (from opera to ballet to classical music) at the city’s Grand Theatre, or a night of drinking and dancing at the city’s many great clubs — most of which can be found on Mazowiecka Street, or in the districts of Mokotów and Wola. Alternatively, combine both pleasures with a cool jazz concert at Tygmont.
On July 31, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Poland may not be renowned for its haute cuisine, but delving into its eclectic restaurant scene offers up a few very pleasant surprises. Here, according to Forbes Travel Guide’s editors, are the best places to eat in Warsaw:
1. Platter by Karol Okrasa. For traditional local cooking designed for a gastronome’s palate, you can’t beat Platter. Owned and run by multi-award-winning Polish chef Karol Okrasa, the seasonal menu is simply sublime.
2. Restaurant 99. Serving up the best steaks in town — along with salads, pastas, fresh fish and a variety of popular Polish delicacies — this much-loved restaurant always requires a reservation.
3. The Restaurant at Hotel Sofitel. With it range of luxury French-inspired cuisine, traditional Polish dishes and various innovative fusion options, Hotel Sofitel’s elegant restaurant is a truly international dining experience.
4. Concept. Located within the city’s famous Messal Bathhouse, Concept serves up exquisite traditional food – from smoked guinea hen to stewed veal shank – and has perhaps the most extensive fine wine menu in Poland, with more than 400 labels on offer.
5. U Fukiera. Without doubt the most famous restaurant in Poland, U Fukiera sits on the capital’s main square and regularly plays host to passing monarchs, politicians and celebrities. With its ornate interior, traditional menu and wonderful service, dinner here is worth the splurge.
On July 31, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:From soaring full-service business hotels to intimate boutique lodgings, Warsaw’s hotel scene has seen an upgrade in style and service in recent years. Here are Warsaw’s best places to stay Forbes Travel Guide’s editors.
1. Rialto. As the city’s first boutique hotel, Rialto is an art deco stunner: a turn-of-the-century townhouse-cum-hotel complete with colonial-style décor, antique furniture and modern five-star facilities.
2. Marriott Warsaw. Built almost the instant the Soviet regime collapsed, Warsaw’s Marriot stands as a monument to capitalism, particularly as the skyscraper sits defiantly opposite Stalin’s Palace of Culture and Science. Besides offering comfortably kitsch lodgings, this marvelous hotel also boasts stunning views from its 40th-floor bar.
3. InterContinental Warsaw. A brand new boutique hotel in the heart of the capital, the enormous InterContinental has 326 rooms and suites (all exquisitely furnished with the latest modern conveniences), five restaurants and bars (serving both Polish and international cuisine) and an enormous wellness center (with a large pool, gym, sauna and spa). There are also comfortable self-service apartments available.
4. Le Royal Meridien Bristol. More than a century old, The Bristol was the place to be seen during Warsaw’s bourgeois prime of the 1920s, and it remains one of the city’s most decadent sleeping options to this day.
5. Mamaison Hotel Le Regina. Perhaps the most unique luxury hotel in the city, La Regina is housed in the historic Mokrowski Palace and offers the perfect blend of preserved historic charm with modern style and comfort.
On July 31, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:From palatial panoramas to milky meals, Warsaw has a surprising amount to entertain children. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the top things to do with kids in Warsaw.
1. Enjoy a city panorama. Wherever you go in Warsaw, you’ll see the Palace of Culture and Science; this is the one-time pet project of Joseph Stalin and still Poland’s highest building. But if you’d rather flip the perspective, take the kids up to the palace’s 30th floor terrace for an incredible view over the capital.
2. Head to the park. Warsaw has several large open spaces that are perfect for kids. The huge Łazienki Park boasts a number of fascinating memorials, as well as gondola rides on the river, while Agrykola Park has a lovely city panorama. Kabaty Forest, close to Warsaw, is the most popular choice for a day trip.
3. Explore with Copernicus. One of the most advanced – and the most interactive – educational museums on the continent, the Copernicus Science Centre is a great way to get kids excited about science and technology. The planetarium is particularly impressive.
4. Hop on a train. If you’re in Warsaw on a Sunday, head just ten miles south of the city to the town of Piaseczno, where you and the kids can board a tourist steam train running the rare narrow-gauge rail track.
5. Eat in a milk bar. A remnant of the communist era, milk bars were originally created in the sixties to serve cheap meals based on milk products. Although the food here isn’t of the highest quality, it is generally healthy and will give your children a visceral snapshot of how life was behind the Iron Curtain.
On July 8, 2012Joseph Reaney answered the question:From traditional folk art and crafts to locally made food, here are some of the best mementos and souvenirs to bring home from Warsaw, according to Forbes Travel Guide’s editors:
1. Amber Jewelry. Who knew fossilized tree resin could be so beautiful? Warsaw’s jewelers are experts in turning amber into art, so pick up a pretty pendant or earrings for yourself or a special someone.
2. Folk arts and crafts. Poland is well-known for its folk arts and crafts, from velvet embroidery to traditional dolls to lime-tree sculptures, and Warsaw has no shortage of market stalls and stores selling the wares.
3. Pisanka eggs. If you are in the Polish capital around Easter time, make sure you pick up a pisanka. These eggs are intricately decorated in a myriad of ways.
4. Food and drink. Anyone who spends time in Warsaw will fall in love with at least one or two of its traditional treats, so whether it is the kiełbasa sausages, smalec spreadable lard, preserved truffles or Żubrówka vodka, make sure you leave some room in your luggage.
5. Chopin music. You’ll find the great composer’s name attached to all kinds of tourist trinkets — from postcards to snow globes to (high quality) vodka — but there’s no better way to celebrate Chopin than with recordings of his work. Or, better still, with sheet music.
On July 8, 2012Joseph Reaney answered the question:Warsaw’s best food experiences center around traditional Polish cuisine — rich, hearty and delicious. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ list of five local dishes you simply have to sample:
1. Kiełbasa. In Poland — like most Slavic countries — sausages make up a significant part of the culinary landscape. Known generally as kiełbasa, Polish sausages come in a many different forms, made from pork, beer, turkey, lamb and veal and either boiled, grilled or smoked. They are typically eaten with boiled potatoes and gherkins.
2. Flaki po warszawsku. Although flaki is often literally translated into English as “guts,” don’t let that put you off — this traditional Polish tripe soup is delicious. The thick broth is popular all across the country, but this regional version also includes tasty meatballs.
3. Kluski. The generic name for dumplings, kluski come in various forms – from kluski śląskie (made from mashed potato) to pierogi (fried and stuffed with sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese or fruit). Keep in mind, however: the word kluski is also regularly used to mean noodles.
4. Żurek starowiejski. This soup is made of soured rye flour (akin to sourdough), with potatoes, chopped sausages, boiled eggs and sometimes mushrooms.
5. Bread and cakes. Firm and brown with a crunchy crust, bread (chleb) is the backbone of Polish cuisine, available with almost every meal. But if you have a sweet tooth, try the traditional desserts of Makowiec (a poppy seed cake with raisins and walnuts) or sernik (cheesecake made with Polish twaróg cheese) instead.
On July 8, 2012Joseph Reaney answered the question:There’s more to see in Warsaw than you can tackle in a single day, but if you’re willing to wake up early, go to bed late and do a lot of walking, here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ one-day itinerary:
Start your morning with an early breakfast in Castle Square, in the shadow of the red-brick Royal Castle — once the official residence of the Polish monarchs. Once you’re done, head down the famous Krakowskie Przedmieście street and spend the rest of the morning following the famous Royal Route, passing highlights including Tyszkiewicz Palace, Carmelite Church, the Presidential Palace, Triple Cross Square and Ujazdów Castle en route to Wilanów (once the residence of King Jan III Sobieski, this spectacular building is known as “The Polish Versailles”).
Spend a more relaxing afternoon in one of Warsaw’s many museums — the Centre for Contemporary Art if you’re an art lover, or the Museum of Independence if you’re a history buff — then watch the sun set from the viewing platform at the Palace of Culture and Science. In the evening, settled in for a traditional Polish dinner at U Fukiera, then enjoy a cold beer in one of the secret bars on the Nowy Świat thoroughfare. If you’re still not ready for bed, dance the night away in the hotspot Praga neighborhood.
On July 8, 2012Joseph Reaney answered the question:As far as big European cities go, Warsaw isn’t known as a top shopping destination. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful clothes, souvenirs, markets and more to be discovered — here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the best shopping in Warsaw:
Like any other major capital, you can shop for all the big fashion designers in Warsaw — from Alexander McQueen to Yves Saint Laurent. However, the best high-end fashion shopping is to be done in the local boutiques, such as clothes store Morka+ (owned by leading Polish designer Ewa Morka) and jeweler W. Kruk (ideal for traditional Polish amber jewelry).
For the souvenirs, travel around Warsaw to specialty stores: Produkty Benedyktyńskie for monk-made soaps and lotions, Cepelia for dolls dressed in the traditional costumes, and Antykwariat Lamus for historic books and maps. But you can also cut corners by heading to some of the city’s major shopping malls, or even to the supermarket if you are looking for traditional Żubrówka vodka, smalec (spreadable lard), or tasty Polish truffles.
Every weekend, there are farmers’ markets held across Warsaw, as country folk come to the big city to sell their fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat. The best of these are Bazar Hale Banacha on Grójecka Street and Bazar Hale Mirowskie on Plac Mirowski. The Warsaw stalls aren’t all about food and drink. Two of the best-known flea markets sell antiques and bric-a-brac — Bazar Na Kole on Obozowa Street and Bazar Różyckiego on Targowa Street.
On July 8, 2012Joseph Reaney answered the question:It may have a turbulent history, but today there’s more to see and do in Warsaw — old and new — than you might think. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best five things do in Poland’s capital city:
1. Walk the Royal Route. A ten-kilometer stretch starting at Warsaw's Castle Square and ending at Wilanów palace (called the “Polish Versailles”), this walk takes in a grand total of seven palaces, five churches, two parks and a castle.
2. Enjoy some traditional fare. Like the food in most Slavic countries, Poland’s cuisine is rich and hearty, characterized by lots of meat, cream and cabbage. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious—for great traditional food, try Polish eateries Fukier and Buffo.
3. Explore the museums. Warsaw is home to dozens of excellent exhibits, from the endlessly absorbing (The Fryderyk Chopin Museum, the Centre for Contemporary Art, the Museum of Independence) to the wonderfully wacky (the Museum of Caricature, the Museum of Torture, the Wilanów Poster Museum). If you’re in the city in mid-May you can also explore the museums for free on the Noc Muzeów: the Long Night of Museums.
4. Be entertained. As the capital city, Warsaw is home to the country’s major cultural institutions, from the Polish National Opera to the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, so there’s no better place to take in the arts. With spectacular venues like the neoclassical Grand Theatre, you’re sure to have a great night out.
5. Take in a festival. Warsaw has festivals running throughout the year, but come in the fall for the best events, including the Festival of Jewish Culture in August/September, the Old-Polish Music Festival in September/October and the Warsaw Film Festival in October.