Lay of the Land
Most of tourist-friendly Warsaw, from the restored New and Old Towns in the city's northern end to the royal parks of the south, lies along a single axis running parallel to the Wisla River. Krakowski Przedmiescie turns into the shopping and nightlife center Nowy Swiat, which turns into Aleje Ujazdowskie, running past one of many former royal palaces and on south, changing its name to Jana Sobieskiego as it heads down to the old royal palace of Wilanow on the city's outskirts. The main train station, a brooding, scary hangover from the Soviet era, and the massive Palace of Science and Culture, Josef Stalin's "gift" to the city, occupy a swath of the center on Al. Jerozolimskie, a broad boulevard that intersects Nowy Swiat. It is rarely necessary (or advisable) to cross the Wisla River, though taxis may use the highway that runs along its banks to speed around city traffic.
WHEN TO GO
The Polish capital is bitterly cold in winter. Though spring and autumn often see heavy rainfall, the best times to visit are from May to June and September to October, when the weather is mild enough for exploring the city on foot.
HOW TO GET THERE
Warsaw Fredric Chopin International Airport hosts most international flights and lies four and a half miles south of the city center (www.polish-airports.com). Popular airlines include Poland's own Lot (800-223-0593; www.lot.com), American Airlines (800-433-7300; www.aa.com), Lufthansa (800-399-5838; www.lufthansa.com), and British Airways (800-247-9297; www.ba.com). Lot flies direct from Chicago (approximately nine hours) and New York City (approximately eight hours).
To get from the airport to the city, there are several public transportation options: The Airport-City bus leaves every 20 minutes from Terminal One, stopping at Central Station and all the major hotels; the cheaper public bus 175 leaves every ten minutes (www.lotnisko-chopina.pl/katalog/dojazd/en/dojazd.php).
When seeking a taxi from the airport or within the city limits, look for cars with phone numbers listed on their exteriors and avoid unmarked vehiclesunsanctioned cabs can be both expensive and dangerous. Wherever you are, your safest bet is to ask someone (a hotel clerk or bartender, for example) to phone a reliable cab company for you, or call Sawa Taxi yourself (48-22-644-4444).
Warsaw Tourism: www.warsawtour.pl
Center for Tourist Information
Pl. Zamkowy 1/13
Tel: 48 22 635 18 81
Located on Castle Square in the Old Town, this tourist information office is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There's also a branch of the Warsaw tourist information office in the airport. In the United States, the Polish National Tourist Office is located in Hoboken, New Jersey (5 Marine View Plaza; 201-420-9910; www.polandtour.org).View Poland Factsheet