Compared to all the places I traveled this winter break (including Madrid) Warsaw, Poland had the most Christmas cheer. The decorations, the music the giant tree in Castle Square, the city was lit up with Christmas spirit.
My friends and I were pleasantly surprised by Warsaw. At first, we were only going so we could see Auschwitz, however we were won over by the charm of this city.
Old Town/ Castle Square
Our hostel was right in the middle of Old Town. We could walk to Castle Square. We were right next to a ice skating rink, a giant Christmas tree, kiosks of mulled wine and the Christmas market. It took about 3 hours to explore the whole area of Old Town and Castle Square with great detail, mostly because I was taking so many pictures of the gorgeous architecture and admiring the artisan crafts.
If you go past Castle Square down the long main street with lights there is a photo exhibit on Poland’s recovery from World War Two and Communism. It was very interesting with photos, quotes, a short film and lots of interesting facts. It’s all free and outside.
One thing to note about Old Town is that it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After World War Two, the area was in ruins. However with the strong will of the Polish people there was a powerful initiative to restore Old Town to it’s once great luster. This is ever so clear when you visit a small museum called Photoplasitcon.
The only real thing I did other than walk around, was go to Photoplasitcon. It was only a euro to enter. You sit around a giant pillar with photos and look through binoculars at vintage photos of Warsaw. The photos were more or less before World War One and you can see the great care the Polish government took in restoring the city. It was fascinating to see how the city evolved.
We stayed at Old Town Hostel Kanonia. We got a four bed private suite with a fully furnished kitchen and comfortable beds. It was about 40 euros a night for the room. The staff were extremely helpful.
They went out of their way to assist us especially when we asked how to get to Auschwitz. Having a fully function kitchen was very helpful for us cooking meals. Polish dumplings, beer and wine were all delicious. I learned that if you divide the polish currency by 4 it’s roughly the amount in euros. Food was incredibly cheap. I never spent over 5 euros for a meal however we cooked mostly so meals were on average 2 euros.
I found Warsaw to be a very underrated city. While few people I know would put it on a European backpacking trip, I believe it has it’s own quaint charm that should be noted.