Summer in Warsaw
In summer, life moves outdoors in Warsaw. During the summer months, popular music festivals take place in the capital, food events are organised in the parks, and free ferries run between the banks of the Vistula. Here are our suggestions on what to do in the capital during the summer season.
Enjoy the atmosphere of a holiday resort in the middle of the city
How better to cool off on a hot summer day than by the waterfront? Relax on the banks of the Vistula, enjoy beautiful views, unwind after a busy day, have fun and eat your fill of delicious food. Strolling or biking down the several-kilometre-long promenade you’ll encounter a superb panorama of the Old Town and many interesting sites like the Multimedia Fountain Park, the Copernicus Science Centre, PGE Narodowy stadium and the statue of the Warsaw Mermaid. Along the way you can rest inside gazebos with reclining benches, on seats fashioned out of tree branches, mini beaches, or a street workout zone. Youngsters will love the water playground with ‘dancing’ fountains and figures of fish as well as trampolines. On weekends, from May until September, the Slow Market, a multicultural culinary market, invites passers-by for a bite. In the evenings, relax in one of the clubs or bars open during the warm season, and on weekends, enjoy music events and party until late at night. You can also go aboard one of the multi-storey barges moored to the bank, housing bars and restaurants.
You might chance on a film screening, a concert or a dance party. From here, delight in the view of the other, wild, side of the river, known for its natural, sandy beaches which attract fans of leisure and summer sports. If you want to go across, simply catch one of the free city ferries. Those who would like to go on a longer cruise can take advantage of boats, motor boats and other types of water equipment.
Multimedia Fountain Park
Located at the foot of the Old Town, the Multimedia Fountain Park brings a cooling breeze to Varsovians and visitors to the city from May until the end of September. Drop by on a hot day, or come for a spectacular light, sound & water show. You’ll see a fascinating animated story inspired by Warsaw’s history and legends on a water screen. The show is accompanied by laser lights and illuminated pillars of water several metres tall, rising to the rhythm of the music. To get the best view, make yourself comfortable on the grassy slope. Shows take place at 9.30pm every Friday and Saturday in May, June and July, at 9pm in August, and at 8.30pm in September. park-fontann.pl
Relax to the music of Chopin
Did you know that Fryderyk Chopin spent his childhood and youth in Warsaw? Listen to the music of this brilliant composer against the backdrop of a royal garden. Ever since the 1960s, concerts by eminent pianists and talented young musicians embarking on their career have been organised at the Chopin Monument in the Royal Łazienki Park. The surroundings – trees, birdsong and beds full of roses – create a magnificent setting. Recitals are held every Sunday at 12:00 noon and 16:00. Come, make yourself comfortable on the great lawn and let yourself fall into dreamy contemplation. On a hot day, you can find shade under the trees. If (as is very likely) you fall in love with this extraordinary music, make sure to visit Warsaw in the second half of August for the Chopin i jego Europa (Chopin and his Europe) festival, a true feast for classical music lovers. Over the course of two weeks several dozen concerts by outstanding artists from all over the world are organised at a variety of venues, many of them performed on period instruments from Chopin’s time.
Which event to attend?
Welcome summer along with thousands of Varsovians during Wianki nad Wisłą (Garlands on the Vistula). Organised on midsummer night in the vicinity of the Multimedia Fountain Park, the festival is a reference to the Slavic holiday celebrated during summer solstice. It concludes with a lively outdoor concert.
Summer weekends promise no less fun. Every Saturday in the Old Town market square you’ll hear stars play during the Jazz na Starówce (Jazz at the Old Town) festival. Thanks to its unforgettable atmosphere, the event, organised for over two decades, has become one of the hallmarks of the Warsaw music scene.
During Strefa Ciszy (Sphere of Silence) in the Royal Łazienki Park you’ll find respite amid the sounds of classical, jazz and traditional music, and during the Ogrody Muzyczne (Music Gardens) festival at the Royal Castle in July you’ll be whisked away to the world of opera and ballet.
Does theatre make you think of a boring evening? Come watch the performances of street artists within the framework of the Sztuka Ulicy (International Street Art Festival) and you’ll change your mind forever. If you prefer the movies, pick one of over twenty outdoor locations where films are screened as part of the Filmowa Stolica Lata (Film Capital of the Summer) festival.
Warszawa Singera (Singer’s Warsaw Jewish Culture Festival), a many-day celebration of music, theatre and literature, references the multicultural history of the city. Make sure to attend the finale concert on Plac Grzybowski, a pre-war hub of Warsaw Jews.
Wrap up the season with river attractions during Święto Wisły. Take a free cruise on a wooden boat, try skimboarding or watch an evening parade of watercrafts. Detailed information about these and many other events can be found here.
A taste of Warsaw cuisine
You’ll have learned nothing about the savoury side of Warsaw unless you’ve tasted local dishes: pierogi, pyzy ziemniaczane (potato dumplings) with meat or traditional Polish soups like flaki (tripes), żurek (a traditional fermented soup) and chłodnik (cold beet soup). You’ll find all of them in inexpensive bary mleczne (‘milk bars’), where one can still feel the atmosphere of the communist period, and in many other restaurants. If you are looking for novelty, try modern-day takes on traditional recipes cooked up by Warsaw chefs from local products. To enjoy the summer weather, make yourself comfortable in a restaurant garden.
Breakfast markets (targ śniadaniowy) are an excellent opportunity to sample regional specialties and exotic cooking, original recipes and ecological farm products.
The Slow Market, a multicultural cuisine market, opens on the Vistula boulevards on weekends, while the Night Market has its venue on the platforms of the Warszawa Główna railway station, with several dozen stands serving tasty street food from all over the world.
Vegetarians will be thrilled to learn that Warsaw has been recognised as one of the world’s top vegan friendly cities.
On hot days take a walk to one of the city’s artisan ice cream parlours and try flavours you’ve never tasted before: jasmine-lime, pineapple-rucola, lilac-meringue, sesame or rose-white chocolate. Those with dietary restrictions will find milk-free, sugar-free and vegan versions. Do you like gourmet food tasting in special venues? Drop by the historic Hala Gwardii or the elegantly restored Hala Koszyki. Both are market buildings from the early twentieth century which today are home to dozens of fashionable restaurants, bars and stands with interesting regional food products.
You will also find exquisite venues serving all kinds of cuisine, including restaurants listed in prestigious guides like Michelin and Gault&Millau.
Discover Warsaw on (two) wheels
Have you ever tried sightseeing on a bicycle? Over 500 km of biking trails and the city bike rental system Veturilo will make this a piece of cake. You can take out a bike at one of several hundred 24-hour stations in convenient locations at intersections and metro stations. Thanks to signposts located throughout the city, you’ll easily get to the sites you want to see, while giving your body a workout. If you’re tired of traffic, head for the Vistula and ride down the boulevards. Along the way, you’ll pass the Multimedia Fountain Park, the Royal Castle gardens, the Museum by the Vistula and the Copernicus Science Centre. Take a break in one of the cafes or clubs, and if you have the time, take your bike across the river to the other, wild side on one of the free ferries. Rest on a real, sandy beach or continue further, taking a charming winding trail through semi-wild woods. It is not uncommon to see birds or signs of beaver activity, and you can feast your eyes on a beautiful panorama of the Old Town. If planning is not your forte, sign up for a guided biking tour of the city. In just a couple of hours you’ll see the Polish capital’s major attractions and learn about their history and interesting trivia. Are you ready?
The emotions of sport
Do you want to experience real emotions? Then make sure to visit the pre-war horse racing track Tor Wyścigów Konnych Służewiec. Races are held on most summer weekends, but the biggest crowds come out to events like the prestigious Derby organised on the first Sunday of July. The race, held since the late nineteenth century, is run by three-year-old English purebreds. Join the crowd of betters at the pre-race presentation of horses, take down the name and number of your favourite, and then… hope for the best. Remember that there is a dress code on the honorary tribune. Perhaps you want to take part in the ‘Most Beautiful Hat’ contest, but remember that the competition here is as fierce as on the track. Make sure to take binoculars with you. After a successful run, view the oldest legal street art gallery in Poland, an unparalleled hub for Polish graffiti artists. Rumour has it that every self-respecting artist from Poland has to have his or her drawing on the over one-kilometre pre-war wall dividing the race track from the street. It’s a sightseeing must.
Take part in marking the anniversary of an event which played a pivotal role in Warsaw’s history
75 years ago the Varsovians took arms against the German occupiers. The insurgents wanted to free the city from the Nazi yoke before the arrival of the Soviet army and, by doing so, to win sovereignty for Poland. The uprising, planned to last a few days, continued for over two months. As a result of these events, Warsaw was almost completely destroyed and its inhabitants all expelled to transit and prisoner-of-war camps.
To mark the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, every year on 1 August at 17:00, sirens sound and the whole city stops for one minute to pay tribute to the insurgents. Take part in the official celebrations, watch the watercraft parade on the Vistula or attend one of the many concerts commemorating the heroic struggle. You can also discover the history of the largest uprising in Nazi-occupied Europe at the interactive Warsaw Rising Museum.
Not only on foot
Is it true that it’s best to visit a city on foot? Not necessarily. In Warsaw, you have several other options.
You can get to many interesting sites with special tourist lines: trams T and 36 and bus 100. These can be accessed using normal city transport tickets. The lines are served by historic vehicles that once carried regular passengers. Do you want to go back in time even further and get a feel of nineteenth-century Warsaw? Then take a horse-drawn carriage through the Old Town (the carriages are parked in Plac Zamkowy in front of the Royal Castle). To see the city’s main attractions, you can also take a hop on/hop off double decker bus. Those who want to cool off by the water will be interested in the possibility of getting to the other, wild side of the Vistula on one of four free-of-charge ferries, and those who like water attractions can take a cruise on the Vistula. How about siesta aboard a real passenger craft from the late ninteenth century? Or perhaps you are more comfortable in the intimate atmosphere of modern cruise ships, like those operated by Po Wiśle? Or on a wild motor boat ride?