Warsaw’s mix of baroque palaces, communist blocks and new glass skyscrapers can seem a little alienating at first, but stick with it and you’ll discover an often beautiful city whose recovery since almost total destruction in World War Two is one of Europe’s great success stories.
Centred on a baroque market square, Warsaw’s Old Town was immaculately reconstructed after wartime bombardment, while to its south the Śródmieście district contains streets filled with cafés and cool bars (often hidden discreetly within courtyards) and the Palace of Culture’s striking Stalinist wedding cake-style tower. Warsaw’s excellent cultural scene is also a draw, including state of the art museums dedicated to the history of Polish Jews and to onetime Warsaw resident Chopin. For a break from high culture, the raw, edgy Praga district across the river Vistula has hip bars and clubs in old warehouses along 19th century ulica Ząbkowska. Beyond the city, Warsaw’s suburbs give way quickly to quiet forests. Easy to reach from Warsaw are the woodlands of the Kampinos National Park, Chopin’s manor house birthplace at Żelazowa Wola and the renaissance town of Kazimierz Dolny.