Warsaw is at the forefront of the modernization boom that is sweeping through parts of the former Eastern Bloc countries. The city was almost completely flattened to ruble during World War II and was rebuilt in a typically dull and blockish style under Soviet rule, but since 1989 Warsaw is racing to catch up with its modern Western neighbors. There are new developments everywhere and the pace shows no signs of slowing in the future. New designer shops, restaurants and bars are popping up where there were none before.

What To Do

Warsaw doesn’t all look new. The Royal Castle was built in the 13th Century and was destroyed during the war, but it was rebuilt in the 1970s. The restoration is complete and accurate so this gives a nice glimpse into old Warsaw. The entire Old Town was restored over the years since the war as well and both this district and the Castle are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and definitely worth some of your time.

The Palace of Culture and Science was a gift from the Soviet Union in the 1950s and it’s still the tallest building in the country. You can take an elevator to the viewing platform for a great look around the city. For something a little different you can check out a local vodka distillery. Vodka is considered a Polish invention and if you contact the place in advance you can arrange a tour in English.

Getting There

If you are coming from Berlin you can get to Warsaw in about 6 hours on the train, but if you are coming from elsewhere it’s a good idea to book a flight into Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport (code: WAW). It’s the largest airport in the country and your best chance of getting a good deal. You can get to the airport by local bus, but many hotels operate shuttle services as well.

Where To Stay

Compared to Germany and other countries to the west, accommodations in Warsaw tend to be cheap. There are a few hostels in Warsaw and quite a few hotels in Warsaw as well. Summer is the peak season so if you are coming then you should definitely plan ahead to get your first choice, but otherwise this isn’t a tough place to find a cheap bed.