Good morning friends! I hope y’all have been enjoying these travel guides. Today I am sharing details from our time in Warsaw, Poland and our amazing stay at the oh so chic H15 Boutique Hotel.
We took the train from Gdansk to Warsaw. As a nervous flyer I much prefer taking trains or boats from city to city than flying. I also find it much less of a hassle than flying- no security, so lines, no delays. Once in Warsaw we took a short taxi ride from the train station to our hotel.
The beautiful H15 Boutique Hotel was built in 1892 and is packed with fascinating history. Before World War I the patriotic youth organized secret meetings here with goals of leading Poland to regain its independence. In 1924 the building was bought by The Soviet Union for use as the Soviet Union Embassy. At this time, some of the original Art Nouveau decorations were replaced by Soviet symbols such as the red star and the hammer and sickle. Also at this time, the Soviets carved reliefs of peasants and workers at the tops of columns on the front of the building. Above the first floor balcony the Soviet Union Globe was added as well. In 1941 the building was taken over by the Third Reich. The Germans did not get rid of Soviet symbols, treating them like trophies. After The Second Word War, the People’s Republic took over the property and later it belonged to the largest shipping company in Poland. Despite the massive renovations done in 2007 by the hotel, the majority of the original decorations from the Soviet Union Embassy are still present today.
The architecture, design and décor of H15 are absolutely stunning! From the exterior, to the lobby to our suite, everything was gorgeous! We checked into our massive 1 bedroom, 1.5 bath suite complete with a bar and kitchenette, a living room and dinning room! It was the biggest and most beautiful room I have ever stayed in while traveling in Europe. It was decorated with bright colors and pops or leopard and gold. It was flawless!
We freshened up and hit the town! Our first stop was Koszyki Hall, a massive market space with shops and tons of restaurants. We decided on Port Royal Fish and Oyster Bar. We sipped on beers and admired how cute the restaurant was. We started with the tuna tartar and split the fish and chips. Yum!
Next we visited the Royal Castle. It is located in Castle Square, the Royal Castle has served the Polish monarchs throughout the centuries as the official residence. In the 19th century it was used as an administrative centre by the Tsar and was re-designed for the needs of the Imperial Russian administration. During World War I it was the residence of the German Governor-General. In early 1920s the Royal Castle was the seat of the Polish Head of State and between 1926 and World War II the building was the residence of the Polish president, Ignacy Moscicki. Burned and looted by the Nazis following the invasion of Poland in 1939, the Castle was completely rebuilt and reconstructed in 1965. The Royal Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle is absolutely beautiful as are the many treasures inside such as paintings and jewels. Inside the castle we also visited The Lanckoronski Collection, which showcases some of Rembrandt’s Paintings. As an artist myself this was thrilling to me! Eek!
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After we enjoyed Aperol Spritz at a café in Castle Square with perfect views of the castle.
We got back to our gorgeous suite, cracked open a bottle of white wine from the mini bar and both took hot bubble baths in the amazing and massive tub. It was the first tub we’d had so far on the trip and we were thrilled about it. The bathroom even had towel warmers. Ahhhh. Absolutely exhausted from the week of travel, relaxing in our robes in our beautiful living room post bath felt wonderful!
Too tired for our planned fancy dinner, we decided to walk around the neighborhood and just pop in somewhere casual. Posypane was where we ended up, which was right on the corner from our hotel. We started with a delicious goat cheese and grilled veggie salad then split the Bolognese and a bottle of wine.
We slept like babies in our suite built for a queen.
The next morning we enjoyed coffee in our living room then went down to the hotel’s beautiful breakfast. Their buffet was amazing! Especially the baked beans and the beet salad. Yum!
We took a cab to the POLIN Museum. The POLIN Museum is a narrative museum showcasing the 1000 year history of Jews in Poland. It is one of the most moving museums I have ever been to. If you only do one thing in Warsaw it has to be the POLIN Museum.
After the museum we walked to old town for lunch. On our walk we bough some souvenirs.
We had been on the hunt for Polish sausage since being in Poland. We thought we’d see it on every menu because well, we were in Poland. We were ecstatic to find it in Old Town Market Square. We had a sausage platter and beers at Restauracja Bazyliszek. One of the sausages was a blood sausage. I passed but Judi tried it and said it wasn’t bad! It was served with potato salad, mustard and cabbage. Finally! Polish Sausage in Poland!
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The Mermaid statue, a symbol of Warsaw is also in Old Town Market Square.
After lunch we were off to visit the many churches in Warsaw. Our first stop was St. Anne’s Church. It is one of Poland’s most notable churches with a Neoclassical façade and it ranks among Warsaw’s oldest buildings. Over time, it has seen many reconstructions, resulting in its present-day appearance, unchanged since 1788.
Next? St. John’s Archcathedral. St. John’s is one of three cathedrals in Warsaw, but the only one which is also an Archcathedral. The is also UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built in the 14th century, the Cathedral served as a coronation and burial site for numerous monarchs. During WWII The Germans managed to drive a tank loaded with explosives into the Cathedral causing a huge explosion destroying large parts of the building. After the collapse of the Uprising, the Germans drilled holes into the walls for explosives and blew up the Cathedral destroying 90% of its walls. The cathedral was rebuilt after the war. The exterior reconstruction is based on the 14th-century church’s appearance.
Immediately adjacent to St. John’s Cathedral, it is one of the most notable late Renaissance churches in Warsaw. The Jesuit church, Church of the Gracious Mother of God was our next stop. The church was founded in1609 for the Jesuits and the entry doors are like nothing I have ever seen before.
Next up, the Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists. This church, dating back to 1664, is one of the most notable rococo churches in Poland.
Finally, The Church of the Holy Cross.
Being the Catholic girls we are, it was now time to drink. We sipped Aperol Spritz at a café on Nowy Swiat, one of the most expensive streets in Warsaw.
I was SO excited about dinner I could hardly stand it, and the excitement was for good reason, as it would end up being our favorite meal in Warsaw. We ate at Oberza Pod Czerwonym. The Soviet-era themed restaurant offers Eastern European fare paired with cozy, rustic and retro décor. The food was outstanding! We started with a prawn appetizer served in a hot skillet with white wine, garlic and spicy Hungarian peppers. Amazing. Four our entrée we split the “Prince of Carpathian Limosine Beef Tenderloin”, which was a juicy beef tenderloin with cognac pepper sauce. Divine. For dessert we had Kremówka z truskawkami, which is Pop John Paul II’s favorite dessert. And I must say PJP has great taste in dessert.
Enjoyed another lovely and relaxing morning sipping coffee in our living room. For breakfast that morning I opted for more beans and beats and also an omelet this time.
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It was Corpus Christi Day, a federal holiday in Poland, meaning pretty much everything was closed. So I got creative and planned a little walking tour for Judi and I. Yes, drinking Ap Spritz and looking at pretty palaces and castles is totally fun while on vacation, but I also think it is important to learn about a destination’s history. Frankly, I think it would be disrespectful to go to a place like Warsaw and not pay tribute and respects to the millions of innocent Jews who’s life’s were stolen from them. I attempted to base my walking tour on doing just that. I will share the details of the stops so you can recreate it yourself, which I highly recommend you do, but out of respect for the victims of the Holocaust I will not be sharing any photos.
Our first stop was the Jewish Ghetto wall fragment. Following the Ghetto Uprising this whole area was leveled so few traces of the ghetto walls remain. If you duck into the courtyard at ul. Sienna 55 or ul. Złota 62 you will see remaining parts of the ghetto wall.
Next, was Nozyk Synagogue. The Nozyk Synagogue is the only surviving prewar Jewish house of prayer in Warsaw. All other synagogues were destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. Today the synagogue is protected by armed guards, which gives you a sickening feeling that though WWII is decades in our world’s past, anti Semitism still breathes today.
Just a few blocks away is Ulica Próżna, or “Empty Street”. It is the only former Warsaw Ghetto street still featuring tenement houses- four in total. The street is one of the few fragments left of “Jewish Warsaw”.
We next walked to A Footbridge Memory. When the Jewish ghettos were occupied, a footbridge was built over ul. Chłodna to connect the large and small Ghettos. Under the bridge was Arian territory. Only when crossing the bridge could the Jewish people get a glimpse down into their past lives. Today there is a pair of metal poles standing in the bridges place as a memorial. The memorial also has viewing windows inside the poles where visitors can flip through images of life in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Our final, and most heart breaking stop was Umschlagplatz. Umschlagplatz was the term used during the Holocaust referring to the holding areas adjacent to railway stations in occupied Poland where Jews from ghettos were assembled for deportation to Nazi death camps. Five to seven thousand Jews a day were passed through the Warsaw Umschlagplatz on their way to the Treblinka extermination camp, the most deadly camp of all the Nazi death camps.
On our walk to Old Town for lunch we stopped in St. Hyacinith’s Church. During WWII, the church and monastery served the Polish forces in the Warsaw Uprising as a field hospital. During the bombardments over a thousand civilians and insurgents were killed in the church. A plaque near the entrance describes the tragic and horrific events. “During the Warsaw uprising this church served as a hospital. The hospital was actually located in the crypt. The church itself used to provide shelter to the civilian population during the bombing blitz. In mid-August, the church was bombed and destroyed. Approximately a thousand people were killed. The hospital managed to continue to function in the ruined building until it was taken by the Germans on September 2. The invaders firstly executed the whole medical staff and blew up the hospital burying alive about 500 people under the rubble. After the war, it turned out to be impossible to exhume the remains of all the victims. Therefore, the ruined crypt was totally covered with a marble floor with the remains buried underneath.”
Also on our walk, we walked through the Warsaw Barbican. Erected in 1540, The Warsaw Barbican is a fortified outpost and one of few remaining relics of the complex network of historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw.
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We had lunch in Old Town Market Square at a place called Murzynek. We had some beers, sweet and sour cabbage, we couldn’t get enough of the stuff her in Poland, chicken schnitzel and fries.
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On our walk back to the hotel we stopped for drinks at Cafe Literatka. And duh, we had Aperols.
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Even more exhausted than the evening before, we opted to just find somewhere casual in our hotel’s neighborhood for dinner. We popped into Toto Eataliano and had a delicious Italian meal on their patio. We started with a beautiful salad for our entrée we split an AMAZING shrimp and lobster pasta. Who knew Poland would have the best Italian food?!
After dinner we enjoyed our suites amazing bath tub again and sipped wine in our robes in the living room.
So sad to leave the beautiful and chic H15 Boutique Hotel, we had our final breakfast at in Warsaw and we were off to the airport to fly to Estonia!
H15 is one of the most beautifully designed hotels I have ever been to. It is five star luxury and I highly recommend staying in this historical hotel during your stay in Warsaw.
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Thank you so much to H15 for our amazing stay! We cannot wait to return.
Kisses and traveling wishes,