This Destination Is One Of The Top Ranked City Vacation Spots In Europe

Travel to Central and Eastern Europe has enjoyed a major facelift since the fall of Communism over 30 years ago. Before then, Western media tended to portray countries behind the Iron Curtain as gray and dismal places where everyone was poor, drank lots of hard alcohol, and never smiled. Those stereotypes still persist in some American movies and TV shows but, by and large, the region is increasingly attracting budget-conscious tourists who want something different from traditional European hotspots like London, Paris, or Rome. One place that has emerged beautifully from its bleak former image is the Polish capital, Warsaw.

While Prague has long drawn tourists with its stunning architecture and famous Czech beer, and Budapest lures travelers with its sense of grandeur and relaxing thermal baths, it has taken a little longer for Warsaw's charm to become apparent to visitors. But now the city's time has come; in 2023, it was ranked top of the European Best Destinations (EBD) poll.

Warsaw has lots of history to explore

Warsaw has had a turbulent past and that is reflected in its skyline. After the former "Paris of the North" was reduced to rubble by German troops at the end of World War II, the city rose again to become a fascinating mix of reconstructed historic buildings, Communist-era architecture, and sleek modern towers. While few could argue that it is as photogenic as Krakow, it is more its own place thanks to its comparative lack of tourists.

Warsaw offers a range of attractions suited to just about any kind of visitor. History buffs will have a field day; a great place to start is the Old Town, which looks authentic enough but was mostly rebuilt after the war. Further insight into life under the Nazis can be found at the former Gestapo HQ or the old Warsaw Ghetto.  For a glimpse of the Communist era, head to the landmark Stalinist Palace of Culture and Science or the Museum of Life in the Polish People's Republic. The latter is ironically located above KFC, a symbol of American capitalism.

For a taste of modern life in Warsaw, its parks are very communal places where you can stroll, relax, and mingle with the locals. Praski Park is also home to captive brown bears and neighbors the city zoo. In the summer, you can cool off with a beer or cocktail on one of the sandy municipal beaches lining the banks of the Vistula River.

Warsaw is great for a cultural city break

Leaving the tragedies of its past behind, Warsaw is now regarded as one of the safest cities to visit in Europe and it has a vibrant culture that makes it one of the coolest best-kept secrets on either side of the old east-west divide. Disused warehouses have become a haven for a lively art scene and the walls of many districts feature huge murals by local and international street artists while regular exhibitions can be found in galleries across the city.

Once you've had enough of sightseeing and culture, there is always the important business of eating, drinking, and partying. Like any major city in Central and Eastern Europe these days, central Warsaw is awash with trendy burger houses and taco joints, but if you want a taste of traditional cuisine you should check out an old-school Milk Bar. Forget the sinister "A Clockwork Orange" associations; these no-frills cafeterias serve cheap and filling grub and are a great place to sample the country's most iconic dish, Pierogi, small dumplings with a variety of fillings.

Poland is a Slavic nation and, like all Slavs, the Polish take enjoying themselves very seriously indeed. As a result, Warsaw has an abundance of hip bars, cafes, cocktail lounges, craft beer joints, and nightclubs. Nightlife in the former Eastern Bloc isn't quite the adventure it used to be, but there are still plenty of quirky venues to keep you drinking and dancing until the sun comes up.