December 24, 2010 / 10:17 AM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Warsaw

WARSAW (Reuters Life!) - The Polish capital offers visitors a diverse cocktail of old world charm, communist heritage and state-of-the-art museums honoring two of Poland's most famous sons, Chopin and Copernicus.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you get the most out of a short stay in this city of two million people.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. - Hit downtown Warsaw (you are already here if you came by train to the communist-era Central Station) and look up to see the city's hallmark, the towering "Stalinist Gothic" Palace of Culture and Science, a "gift" from the Soviet Union to Poland, its new communist satellite, after World War Two.

Go to the Palace's 30th floor for great views of Warsaw's skyline from the panorama terrace. (www.pkin.pl/)

8 p.m. - If you are a soccer fan, you can choose a game at one of the Warsaw teams' stadiums on your first night in the city-- Polonia (www.poloniawarszawa.com/) or the brand-new Legia venue (legia.com/www/index_en.php). If not, hit the bars of Warsaw's quaint, neo-classical Old Town.

SATURDAY

10 a.m. - Drop by the Powisle district by the Vistula river to see Warsaw University's modern library and then move on just a few meters to Warsaw's brand-new interactive Copernicus Science Center (www.kopernik.org.pl/en/). After the visit you can enjoy the roof gardens on both buildings in summer.

If music is more your thing, try out the newly renovated and similarly interactive museum devoted to Polish-born romantic composer Frederic Chopin (chopin.museum/en). The museum has been drawing large crowds through 2010 -- 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth -- so it is well worth booking in advance.

1 p.m. - Try traditional Polish delicacies such as perch, pike or duck at the popular if quirky U Kucharzy restaurant (www.gessler.pl/newruk5.htm) in the Old Town.

3 p.m. - If you are into history, take a lift to the Warsaw Uprising Museum (www.1944.pl/en/) commemorating the 1944 military uprising against the Nazi occupation, which left the once-bustling city in ruins and largely depopulated.

8 p.m. - Check out the bars along Nowy Swiat and Foksal streets and then maybe move on to one of the top-notch night clubs on nearby Mazowiecka Street.

For dedicated bohemians, the small clubs and bars of Zabkowska street in the Praga district on the other side of the Vistula River are an attractive alternative. Though Praga has become more lively of late, it is still associated with petty crime and poor neighborhoods, so stick to the main streets.

SUNDAY

10 a.m. - Start your day with a stroll through the elegant Royal Lazienki Park, one-time residence of Poland's kings, established in the 17th century and famed for its peacocks and neo-classical "Palace on the Water" overlooking a lake. (here). Enter from the southwest gate by the Belweder palace, now home to Poland's president.

If you are visiting in the summer season, make sure to get to the Chopin monument at midday to hear an open-air, free live concert of his compositions.

1 p.m. - Leave the park and head north along Ujazdowskie Avenue, lined with government buildings and part of Warsaw's Royal Route that runs to the Old Town. Stop off for lunch at one of the trendy cafes on the nearby Square of the Three Crosses.

2 p.m. - Continue north via the Nowy Swiat street and enjoy its pricey shops or pop into the Familijny 'milk bar' (Nowy Swiat 39) -- one of the communist-era, cheap fast-food diners, which are now as likely to draw businessmen as cash-strapped artists and students or the homeless.

Nowy Swiat then becomes the picturesque Krakowskie Przedmiescie street which is packed with historic churches and buildings of Warsaw University.

Stop by the Presidential Palace to see lanterns and wreathes of flowers lying there to honor the late president Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 other victims of an April 10 plane crash in Smolensk in western Russia.

A nice spot to crowd-watch is Przekaski Zakaski, a round-the-clock bar just opposite the palace, which became a great success among Warsovians nostalgic for communist-era ambiance and keen to enjoy prices set at 4 zlotys ($1.39) for all drinks and at 8 zlotys for simple Polish snacks there.

4 p.m. Enjoy views of the former Royal Castle, which often houses art exhibitions or venture through the winding cobbled streets and main square of an Old Town that was lovingly restored brick by brick by Warsaw residents after its total destruction during World War Two.

From the castle, you also get a good view of Poland's new National Soccer Stadium on the other side of the Vistula river.

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