Indoor and outdoor things to do in Warsaw in winter
The sun had already begun to set as our flight landed in Warsaw — it had just turned 3.10pm.
I’d no expectations when we landed in the Polish capital in winter, but I’d expected the cold. With temperatures already in the minus, we planned to find fun things to do in Warsaw in winter, and mainly indoors.
It’s safe to say that I’m not a fan of the extreme cold. We don’t really gel, not to mention it takes me forever to put on the many layers of clothing. However, knowing what to pack for Poland in winter made the world of difference, and helped us to enjoy our trip.
Visiting Warsaw in winter puts you in the mood for the upcoming festive season. While you can’t completely avoid outdoor activities, there are many things to do in Warsaw where you can remain toasty indoors.
1. Visit the Warsaw Christmas market
Dates can vary, but in recent years, this is the time of year it begins. You can find the main market in Castle Square in the Old Town, among the backdrop of the historic center.
It’s much smaller than its popular counterparts in Prague or Vienna, which in my opinion, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
With temperatures hitting -8 in the evening, we didn’t spend too long browsing the stalls from fear of getting frostbite.
The stalls sell everything from traditional Polish snacks and mulled wine, to Christmas gifts and stocking fillers. Also, with a good exchange rate with the Polish currency (Zloty), we bought several items for ourselves and the family.
Delicious things to eat and drink — things to do in Warsaw in winter
Along with the main Christmas market, there are also others worth checking out.
For food and drink, head to the Old Town Market Place, where you can indulge in some authentic Polish kielbasa. Alternatively, visit the Catholic church courtyard market near the Castle Square entrance and invest in some quality winter accessories.
All in all, we really enjoyed visiting the Warsaw Christmas market.
Although it was uncomfortably cold, the festive atmosphere surrounding the market is worth seeing. However, if you prefer your markets on the crowded and bigger, side, then it’s probably not for you.
Baltic cheese stall
2. Visit the Warsaw Royal Palace
A very short walk from the Warsaw Christmas market is the Warsaw Royal Castle. Once home to the Polish monarchs, the castle has had many visitors, including the Prussians and the Tsarists.
After being occupied by the Tsar during the Imperial Russian administration, the biggest devastation occurred during World War II. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, leaving the German Governor-General to turn the castle into his residence.
In 1944, the Warsaw Uprising took place. The Polish underground resistance tried liberating the city from Nazi rule but were defeated after a battle lasting 63 days. In reprisal, the Germans torched the city, destroying everything in their path, including the castle.
The castle today — things to do in Warsaw in winter
The castle was rebuilt and reconstructed from 1971 to 1984, with the surviving fragments registered as historical monuments. Today, the castle’s a UNESCO heritage world site, and also a must see in Warsaw.
If visiting in November, you’ll be happy to read that entrance to the castle is free. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out, and learned that other attractions are also free in November.
Along with the chance to keep warm, the castle provides an in-depth look into the city’s historic past. The rooms of the castle, though reconstructed, show off the baroque style and opulence of the aristocratic period.
Map of all the places listed on this post
Warsaw Royal Palace
Warsaw Royal Palace ceiling
3. View Warsaw from above
Try as you might, but it’s very hard to miss the Palace of Culture and Science building in Warsaw. Standing at 778ft tall (237m), it also holds the title of being the tallest building in Poland.
The building was a gift from Stalin and built to rival the skyscrapers found in the USA. At first glance, it’s quite confusing as to what the building’s used for, as it appears to have several functions.
After asking some locals, we discovered that it’s home to a cinema, as well as a theater and science institutions.
Head to the top — Warsaw in winter
Inside, signs of the former Soviet regime are evident, especially when you look up. There’s not much to do inside, unless you speak or understand Polish, but you can visit the observation deck.
Located on the 30th floor, the observation deck’s also the place to see far-reaching views of Warsaw.
Naturally, I’d recommend visiting on a clear day — sunny if you’re lucky like we were. During the warmer months, there are several deck chairs around where you can lap up the views.
Winter’s another story of course, and given the altitude, the wind’s less forgiving at that height. You do need to purchase tickets beforehand, but it’s reasonable at 20 Zloty (£4.00 / €4.60 / $4.60).
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw is unmissable
“With temperatures already in the minus, we planned to find fun things to do in Warsaw in winter, and mainly indoors!”
4. Step back in time
A last-minute attraction that we visited in Warsaw was Wilanów Palace.
We decided to see this historic palace for ourselves on the suggestion of our hotel.
Unlike the royal castle, Wilanów Palace is a little further from the center. After around 20 minutes in our Uber, we arrived at the palace’s grounds.
In the right place
On first glance, we weren’t sure as to whether we were dropped off in the right area. Wilanów Palace is surrounded by both residential homes and vast parkland.
Eventually, we spotted the entrance leading to the estate.
Beneath clear blue skies and plenty of bright sunshine, the colors of the 17th century estate beckoned us in.
Originally built for King John III Sobieski, Wilanów Palace merges baroque architectural style with Polish building traditions.
Most notably, the palace has survived both World Wars. It’s a lavish reminder of Poland’s former past and definitely worth a visit.
Today, Wilanów Palace is a museum, housing plenty of colorful frescoes painted by prominent artists of the time.
To the back of the palace is a sculpture garden. It was first cultivated in an Italian baroque style before later taking on French influences.
Entrance to Wilanów Palace costs 7 zł ($1.85 / €1. 57 / £1.39). I advise buying your ticket online, so you can skip the line and waltz right on through.
The sculpture garden at Wilanów Palace
5. Visit one of Warsaw’s milk bars
We discovered a unique dining experience in Warsaw that kills 3 birds with one stone.
Traditional, hearty and cheap, Warsaw’s milk bars are an epicurean experience unlike any other. The first one opened in 1896 selling basic dairy-based products, hence where it took its name.
Where it began — things to do in Warsaw in winter
During the communist era, the government subsidized milk bars, using them as workplace canteens. After the end of communism, many milk bars went out of business, and with it, a one-of-its-kind type of institution.
In recent years, a retro revival of Warsaw’s milk bars has resulted in people flocking once again to its doors. Leave any fine dining expectations at the door, as this is comfort, wholesome food at its best.
One of the most notable milk bars in Warsaw is Prasowy.
Food, alongside a hearty portion of nostalgia is served up at this self-service eatery. Expect creamy mash potatoes, a filling meat dish, and warming soups. Better yet, you can eat a wholesome 2-course meal for under £5 ($7; €7).
There’s an English menu by the door, and usually a server at the counter that speaks English. The meal option also comes with a free drink — a glass of blackcurrant squash. Needless to say, it’s one local foodie experience you cannot miss when in Warsaw.
Delicious, yet very reasonable priced, food at Prasowy
Prasowy menu board
6. Visit the food court at Hala Koszyki
While Hala Koszyki is known as a shopping center, for me, its main attraction is its food court. Ideal for escaping the Warsaw winter weather, it’s a modern style building with plenty to satisfy hungry gastronomes.
Alongside Polish cuisine, you can fill your belly on international dishes and vegetarian and vegan food. When in Warsaw, we couldn’t miss out on trying the traditional Kielbasa sausage and fries with pickles, and you shouldn’t either.
Above all, Hala Koszyki is the place where families and friends gather. Whether over a coffee, or a platter of tapas, it’s the energy of the place that keeps drawing people back.
Choose from Polish cuisine or international
Where to sleep in Warsaw
Boutique hotels in Warsaw are on the rise, and going out of their way to impress. Boutique by name, boutique by nature, H15 Boutique Hotel is my choice for Warsaw.
This 4-star hotel is located in a chic area of the city, with plenty of independent restaurants and bars. The hotel’s also within walking distance of the Palace of Culture and Science and Warsaw New Town. Suites are generous, stylish and comfortable, and the service is impeccable.
What are your thoughts on Warsaw in winter? Does it look like somewhere you’d like to visit? Drop me a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....