WARSAW (Reuters) - Got 48 hours to spare this summer in Warsaw, the capital of Poland for more than 400 years? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.
Located in central Poland, Warsaw is easily accessible by train and plane. The airport is conveniently located within the city limits and only a 15-minute drive or 30-minute bus ride from the center.
Legend says the city’s name is based on the love story of a fisherman named Wars, who meets a beautiful siren on the banks of the Vistula river named Sawa. They marry and live happily ever after, with others naming the village after their union.
In modern times, just 20 years after ditching Communism and going into default, Poland is the European Union’s economic success story. With central Europe’s largest economy and a population of 38 million people, Poland is the only EU member to have avoided recession in recent years.
Warsaw, which combines the old with the new, leads the country’s economy — providing a busy home for the headquarters of many companies, a thriving stock exchange, government offices, international institutions, universities and many tourist attractions.
5 p.m. - Start your trip by looking out on the entire city from the top terrace of the neo-Gothic Palace of Science and Culture in the heart of the capital.
The palace, at 754-feet (230-metres), is Warsaw’s tallest. It has 42 floors and hosts restaurants, theatres, bars, museums and a swimming pool. It was built in the 1950s as a gift from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to remind Poles of where their loyalties should lie during the Cold War.
Located between the central train station and a main shopping area, this “living museum of socialist realist art”, is visible up to 20 miles away.
6 p.m. - After enjoying a view over the entire city, take a lift back down, run by an old-fashioned lift operator, and make your way to have dinner and/or drinks at the trendy and artsy Cafe Kulturalna, the socialist-realist and monumental ground floor of the Palace, set up inside a theatre. Cafe Kulturalna often hosts alternative music bands that play small live concerts. Reservations are recommended.
8 p.m. - If you are up for a short walk, take a stroll to Foksal street. There you will certainly find a bar of your liking. Reservations on weekends are recommended if you want to sit on one of the beautiful patios on a summer evening.
If you are feeling more ambitious, walk over the Poniatowski bridge (the walk should take 20-30 minutes) to see Warsaw’s newest investment - the National Stadium built for the UEFA European Championship soccer cup this June. At night it is beautifully lit up in the red and white national colors.
10 p.m. Go to Przekaski Zakaski - Bistro a la Fourchette on nearby Krakowskie Przedmiescie (Royal Avenue). Move back in history and have Communist-style vodka shots and herring snacks, overlooking the Presidential Palace.
10 a.m. A walk down the Royal Avenue (Krakowskie Przedmiescie), the route of Polish kings for travelling between their city and summer residences, is an ideal start to the day.
You can stop by the Church of All Saints, by the Copernicus Monument, where the heart of Frederic Chopin is buried.
The Old Town awaits you at the end of your stroll.
Don’t be fooled, though. The old town is not that old - it was reconstructed after World War II. It is an almost exact replica of the original - from before the destruction.
During the war and particularly during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Warsaw was torched, bombarded and razed to the ground, including the Old Town area.
You can get the idea of what Warsaw looked like back then from a famous scene in the Pianist, when Adrian Brody (playing Wladyslaw Szpilan) emerges from his final hide-out and looks at completely ruined Warsaw stretching for miles.
Surviving architects after the war searched for old photographs, plans and documents in an attempt to ensure an exact reconstruction of the Old Town (Stare Miasto).
12 p.m. - Enjoy lunch at Kompania Piwna, accompanied by a large mug of beer. The restaurant is located in a historic building, right next to the Old City’s red-brick walls. There you get to see and feel the original size of the city since the walls were once the old fortress walls protecting Warsawians from outside threats.
2 p.m. - After lunch you can visit the modern and interactive science museum, the Copernicus Science Centre, near the Old Town and the Warsaw University, where you could, for example, see what jumping up and down would feel like on different planets, depending on their gravity levels.
6 p.m. - Enjoy dinner at restaurant/wine bar Enoteka, hidden in the basement of a historic building on Dluga Street. You can choose wines from around the world at cost prices to go with the delicious menu on offer.
If you’re up for a more posh evening, head to Mielzynski wine bar - one of the hottest places in Warsaw, located in the once industrial part of Warsaw. Enjoy great wine in what looks to be an old warehouse. Reservations are advisable.
10 p.m. - If you feel like partying into the night, pick one of the many clubs on Mazowiecka street, the place to be on a Saturday night.
10 a.m. Make a perfect start to a beautifully sunny Sunday on the Square of the Three Crosses (Plac Trzech Krzyzy), lined with trendy cafes offering tasty breakfasts. Just the thing if you are recovering from a heavy night.
Sit in the sun and sip an espresso, looking across at the Warsaw bourse, the symbol of Poland’s transition to capitalism in 1989, and watching the world go by.
The building which now houses the bourse makes a neat physical symbol of Poland’s transition from communist country to capitalist democracy. It used to be the headquarters of the Communist Party Politburo, one of the most inaccessible and guarded buildings in the country during the Cold War.
12 p.m. Take a bus to Wilanow, a beautifully green district of the capital and walk through the Baroque royal residence — the Wilanow Palace Museum, which was the summer residence of King John III Sobieski, famous for the erotic letters he exchanged with his beloved French-born wife and his great victory over the Turkish army in the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
2 p.m. Slowly make your way back to the centre. Get off the bus at the prime minister’s office on the Ujazdowskie Avenue and walk to Atelier Amaro for an exceptional lunch experience.
Atelier Amaro is the first Polish restaurant to earn a Michelin Rising Star award.
You could also lunch at the Belvedere Restaurant inside the Lazienki Park - a beautifully located restaurant-orangerie. If you sit on the outdoor patio you might get a visit from the resident peacock.
4 p.m. After lunch, take a stroll through alleys lined with blossoming roses and chestnut trees in Warsaw’s most famous Lazienki Park before heading home.
In the summer months, Chopin piano concerts are organized in the park on weekends.
Reporting By Karolina Slowikowska, editing by Paul Casciato