Sign in

Blog

8 Reasons to Visit Warsaw this Summer

Rather than being centred on an old market square, Warsaw is spread across a broad area with diverse architecture: restored Gothic, communist concrete, modern glass and steel.

This jumble is a sign of the city’s tumultuous past. Warsaw has suffered the worst history could throw at it, including virtual destruction at the end of World War II – and survived. As a result, it’s a fascinating collection of neighbourhoods and landmarks. Excellent museums interpret its complex story, from the joys of Chopin’s music to the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto.

It’s not all about the past, however. Warsaw’s restaurant and entertainment scene is the best in Poland. You can dine well and affordably here on cuisines from around the world, and take your choice of lively bars and clubs. This gritty city knows how to have fun.

#1 Rich culture and architecture

Warsaw will take your breath away with its historical sites and spots. Full of baroque churches and cathedrals, parks and philharmonics – everyone can find something that they enjoy, that’s for sure! You will spend hours exploring the unique architecture and ruins of the Old Town still recovering from the World War ll. Warsaw is a mixture of old and modern city. Some of the must-see places are Historical Museum of Warsaw, the Palace of Culture and Science and, of course, the Royal Castle.

#2 Authentic Polish cuisine

Where else can you experience the real taste of Polish cuisine if not in the capital city? Warsaw has a lot to offer in terms of food. There are thousands of local restaurants around, where you can order a plate of Polish dumplings (pierogi), have a potato or cheese cake, taste fresh Polish cheese and bread or have a pint of beer with jam-filled doughnuts. Warsaw is also the place where some of the best chocolate is made!

#3 Affordable prices

Warsaw, although it is not the cheapest city in Poland, is a budget friendly place. With its affordable prices, you can fully enjoy it without spending much. Budget travelers often cannot believe that beer can cost less than 5 zloty ($1.50) and you can have dinner in a nice restaurant for less than 15 zloty ($4.50).

#4 Great weather conditions

Although winters can be very cold, autumns are very mild and summers are hot. Therefore, the best time to fully enjoy the city would be May – October. At this time you can enjoy some ice cream treats!

#5 Hospitable locals

Locals in Warsaw are open-mined and friendly, willing to point you at right direction or translate something for you. The reason being, they want you to feel like home and have great memories from your stay in Poland.

#6 Best place to experience the old-but-new

Warsaw Castle’s “The Royal Castle – from Destruction to Reconstruction” exhibit. Inside the castle, you can also see the collection of paintings of the Old Town that architects used to help reconstruct things almost exactly as they had been before.

#7 The green spaces

For a city that was nothing but rubble 69 years ago and was then under Soviet rule for years, one doesn’t necessarily expect to find a lot of green spaces. And yet Warsaw is FULL of parks and gardens and other green spaces. Lively green spaces, too.

#8 The famous residents

As far as art and science goes, Warsaw actually has contributed a lot! Composer Fryderyk Chopin was born here. All over the city you can find benches that will play his music when you walk by/sit down on them. And physicist/chemist Marie Curie also called Warsaw home. Not only did Marie contribute to the study of radioactivity, but she was the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize.

Overall, Warsaw is a great and interesting city. It’s not especially touristy, yet still offers up all the amenities a tourist would need.

So, if you’re looking for a slightly-less-obvious place to visit in Europe, consider Poland — and, more specifically, Warsaw!


Travel guide to... Family holidays in Italy

It is not just the gelato bursting with sweet flavour. Or the al dente pasta smothered in Nonna’s tomato sauce. Or the chariot-grooved Roman streets, gladiator battlefields and other “Horrible Histories” relics. It is the graceful warmth and gentle humour showered on young visitors that makes Italy so appealing for families with bambini in tow.

Italy’s 20 regions could practically be different countries, so varied are they in landscape, culture, temperament and, of course, cuisine.

The focus for families is naturally on the coastline, which stretches for a staggering 4,582 miles. The coast extends from quaint villages of Cinque Terre, down through the theme parks of California-style Rimini, to the cluster of bijou islands bejewelling the Bay of Naples, and Puglia’s superb sand-laced shores - ideal for bucket-and-spade holidays.

On the tip of the boot’s toe, is Sicily and the tiny Aeolian Islands – seven specks of volcanic wonderment ringed with black-sand beaches. Part of a huge 200km volcanic ridge that runs between the smoking stack of Mount Etna and slumbering Mount Vesuvius near Naples, these unique volcanic islands are a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Islands & beaches

Italy’s second-largest island, Sardinia, is a long-time favourite – I challenge anyone, young or old, not to be instantly smitten by its fjord-like coves, aquamarine waters and swashbuckling sand dunes.

Fishing village Cala Gonone in the gin-clear Golfo di Orosei on the eastern coast; Stintino with its rainbow of pastel-hued cottages brightening Sardinia’s northwest tip; and Santa Teresa di Gallura in the northeast are beautiful, off-the-radar beach spots where families can kick back on white sand in relative peace.

In the Bay of Naples, Procida is a paradise island with colourful houses stacked on the seashore and sun-bleached beaches backed by lemon groves. Its proximity to Naples and the ancient ruins of Pompeii makes it ideal for families looking for a dual-centre holiday combining island beach-chic with blockbuster sightseeing.

Puglia is one long swath of gorgeous golden sand. The Greeks founded coastal settlements here in the 8th century BC and seaside villages on the Salentine Peninsula retain a Greek flavour with their rabbit warrens of dusty parched lanes. Beaches around the Baie dei Turchi near Otranto are sensational – perfect sand castle material.

Adrenalin rush

The island of Sicily sizzles with outdoor fun for all ages. Wish Sicily has a new collection of villa holidays with outdoor activities organised for over-eights, including body rafting, river trekking and canyoning across icy rock pools and black lava walls in the volcanic Alcantara Gorge, near Taormina on the Ionian Coast. Or head to the green depths of rural Tuscany, another beautiful region that begs outdoor action.

History lesson

Romulus killed Remus on Palentine Hill and Christians were fed alive to lions; the capital, Rome, beats school textbooks hands down.

When enthusiasm for ancient monuments wanes, visit the International International Sports Hall of Fame & Museum, a museum dedicated to the world’s sporting heroes, which opened this year on Piazza D’Aracoeli. Or engage young artists in a day sketching their own Rome travel journal with an artist and Sketching Rome Tours

Water world

Plan ahead and Venice, with its weathered web of calle (lanes) and canals, can be fun for families. Get acquainted with the city with a cruise aboard a public water bus (No 1) past ancient churches, palazzi and James Bond film sets on the Grand Canal – then dabble yourself in one of the city’s oldest traditions.


Milan to Venice: Driving through Italy

Taking a road trip from Milan to Venice is a great way to see the beautiful Italian landscapes, and experience cultural and regional diversity along the way. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary and explore the many beautiful towns, cities, and attractions throughout Italy. Driving through Italy is easy – with a number of expressways and large roads connecting cities and towns, driving is far and away the most efficient means of transportation. It’s also possible to take a train from Milan to Venice, or fly across, however, the train ride takes over six hours to make the journey, and you don’t get to stop at any of the enchanting destinations along the way.

MILAN

Milan is the fifth-largest city in the European Union and is recognised worldwide for being a design and fashion capital. It’s set apart by its glamour and passions – football, opera, and fashion. 

Visit the Duomo – A Gothic cathedral, this looms over the Piazza del Duomo. With over 3,500 statues, 135 spires, and 5 bronze doors, it is not surprising to find that it took 500 years to complete. You will be left speechless by its magnitude. Take the elevator up to the roof, and if you’re really lucky, it might be possible to view the Alps (and of course the city of Milan). The city’s symbol Madoninna is also perched atop the roof so a trip above the cathedral allows for a closer inspection.

Admire the Last Supper – This Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece resides in the church of Santa Maria della Grazie. The painting surely speaks for itself as it captures the moment that Jesus reveals that one of his disciples will betray him. Surviving despite the trials and tribulations that history has put it through, this fresco has been preserved remarkably. Book in advance, if not months in advance, if you are expecting to go during the peak season.

Go shopping – If you are looking to spend some serious money or even just to do some serious window shopping, then you have found a kindred spirit in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 11. This is an intense shopping establishment of formidable grandeur that took 12 years to construct. It’s home to fashion giants such as Prada and Gucci.

Visit the Opera – Are you an opera-lover? Do you want to see opera at its finest? Then surely you will have already heard of La Scala. Treat yourself to one of these tickets and experience some of the best acoustics and performers in the world. Or perhaps you would just like to view this fantastic theater? Cut a few corners, and just go to the Musuem at La Scala instead where you will be allowed to a sneak view in the theatre.

Explore Sforzesco Castle – Experience your Milan quota of the fine arts in one day at the Sforzesco Castle. Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, the castle now houses 12 mini-musuems and a vast archive – in essence it serves as a visual feast for the eyes! Collections include everything from the Renaissance period, Michelangelo’s unfinished last work and Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Antica (a sculpture gallery), to the Musuems of Musical Instruments and Antique Art.

Watch some football – If you are an avid football (soccer) fan, then book yourself tickets to a match at San Siro stadium. As any football fanatic will know, San Siro is one of the world’s best-known stadiums and Milan itself is home to two football teams – AC Milan and Inter. Head there during the football season and it is likely that you might see either of these two playing in these famous grounds.

Tour the canals – Surprised to hear that there are canals in Milan? Well there are, two to be exact. Do not expect the canals of Venice, though. Although designed by the great Leonardo da Vinci, Milan’s canals are not of the same cut as those of Venice. Based in the Navigli district, they are very enchanting and to be enjoyed during the summer months when you can take a lazy boat trip whilst gazing upon the charming artist havens. Or, spend your time dining in the restaurants on its perimeters. This is a great neighborhood and makes for a restful break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DRIVING ROUTE

Head south out of Milan on the A1 and merge onto the A14/E45, then drive for about an hour towards the city of Piacenza. Take a stop off in this ‘Pleasant Place’, as it was called by the Romans, and visit the Ricci Oddi Galleria d’Arte Moderna and its collection of modern art, the restored 13th Century town hall, and wander around the exquisite historic centre Palazzo Farnese.

Continue just 50 minutes southeast on the A1 into the city of Parma. One of Italy’s most prosperous cities, here you can sip on Sangiovese wine, watch impressive classical music shows, and enjoy the cobbled streets of the glamorous city of Parma. A city that is famous for Lamborghinis, Verdi, and ham and cheese, it’s imperative that you eat, drink and soak in the cultural atmosphere of Parma for at least a few hours on this route.

Drive for one hour onto the quaint city of Bologna. Filled with cafes, museums, and medieval and Renaissance structures, Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, some of the nation’s finest restaurants, and serves as a hub for start-up tech companies in Italy.

Just under an hour from Bologna, the city of Ferrara is a commonly overlooked tourist attraction in Italy that is definitely worth a visit. The city still maintains its medieval city walls, and was once home to the powerful Este clan–the arch enemies of Florence’s Medici family. Take time to visit the Jewish ghetto here dating back to World War II, which is the largest and oldest in the region.

The final leg of the journey is a two-hour drive directly to Venice, but you can stop off at the city of Padua on the way if you prefer an additional destination detour.

After your drive from Milan to Venice you will be looking for somewhere incredible to stay for the night. One of the best hotels in Venice has to be the Ca’vendramin Di Santa Fosca, with incredible canal views and a unique roof terrace. The five star hotel is in a prime location–close to the Rialto–and is set in a 16th century palazzo with its own private jetty out onto Venice’s famous canals.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VENICE

With its historical canals, gondolas, and winding streets, Venice, Italy is considered one of the most romantic and visited cities in the world. The city is almost always on everyone’s “must see” list – and judging by the crowds, people do a good job of crossing it off their list! I find Venice to beautiful, fun, and a great place to get lost in. 

Enter Basilica San Marco – St. Mark’s Basilica is the third building on its spot on the Piazza San Marco. Two other churches were there previously, the first built to hold the stolen bones of St. Mark. The current is filled with amazing mosaics, domes, statues, and the High Altar that supposedly contains some of the saint’s remains.

Tour the Doge’s Palace – A series of 120 doges ruled Venice, and their incredible three story palace predates the Renaissance. The facade features beautiful arches and pink and white marble. The palace is located on St. Mark’s Square. The inside of the palace is remarkable, and filled with artwork. Tours will take visitors across the Bridge of Sighs to the nearby prison cells, one of which once housed famous Cassanova.

Take a Gondola ride – Some may say the gondolas of Venice are a tourist trap, but so are a lot of other fun things! A gondola ride can be very romantic if taken around dusk.

Go explore Lido – If you want to escape the city, Lido is an island between Venice and the sea that has a beach on where you can relax. Cabanas can also be rented.

Visit Murano island – Close to Venice, nearby Murano island is the home of the famous glass blowers of the famous Murano glass. Although the island is filled with souvenirs, it is an educational and fun afternoon learning and watching how the glass is blown.

Visit the markets – Venice has great markets where you can buy some delicious food at a fraction of the cost than at the restaurants. The morning fish market is a favourite. Head there early to watch the restaurant owners pick their fish and stay for the old ladies picking their dinners. There is also an organic produce market on Mondays.

Explore the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – This is a huge, avant-garde collection of art, comprised of more than 200 artists. There are countless pieces by surrealists, abstract expressionists, and Italian futurists. In addition to works by Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, and various other big-name artists, the collection also includes local works.

Climb the Campanile di San Marco – Built in 1912, this tower is actually a replica of the original Bell Tower of St. Mark. It is said that every last detail of the structure is a match. You can climb up through the inner workings and get a great view of the city.

Watch the Voga Longa – Held annually on May 23rd, this is a marathon rowing event in which thousands of people come out to participate. At over 1,500 vessels strong, this tradition originated as a protest to the increasing amount of power boats throughout Venice waters. In order to receive recognition, you have to row 20 miles in under 3.5 hours.

I Tre Mercanti – For the foodies out there, this food gallery can be found just a stone’s skip away from St. Marco’s Square. The specialty here is Italian dishes but the cool part is the number of regional specialties from around Italy. There are over 97 pasta sauces here! It’s kind of like heaven, really, especially the tiramisu.

Take a trip to Burano – Another one of the islands around Venice is Burano, which is known for its colorful, block-like buildings. The government actually regulates house-painting on this island. Wander the streets, and admire the many art galleries and shops along the way.