This year we decided to spend a different Christmas in Warsaw, Poland. Our flight was scheduled to depart very early in the morning from Basel (a 2-hours drive from Lausanne) so we stayed at the Novotel Basel City hotel, which has family rooms at decent prices.
The following morning we woke up at 5 am and drove to the Basel Euroairport, which is located a few minutes by car from Basel and it is shared between Switzerland, France and Germany.
The Wizzair flight from Basel to Warsaw takes only 2 hours.
We arrived at the Chopin airport in Warsaw on December 23rd before noon. Weather was not cold but it was rainy (and it remained like that the entire weekend). Outside the airport we took a cab to the downtown. Alternative options are bus and train. But being the airport so close, the taxi ride is very short (no more than 15-20 minutes) and prices are accessible (around 15 Euros).
We stayed at the Mercure Warsaw Centrum, a cheap option and very centrally located. The hotel is a 100 mts walk to the Palace of Culture and Science and Warsaw bus terminal. It is also literally right across the street from Zlote Tarasy, the largest shopping malls in Warsaw.
After check-in at the hotel and a fast lunch, we started our tour. While we had 3 days to spend in the city, we knew that most of the museums would be closed on December 24th and 25th (actually most of the places in the city are closed during those days). So we had to rush if we wanted to see our selected museums.
To make the most of our day, we found that moving around the city by taxi was a good and cheap option. We never paid more than 5-7 Euros per trip and we used the MyTaxi app, which was very convenient given the language barrier.
Our first stop was the Warsaw Rising Museum, dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The museum recreates very well the scenarios and life in the Ghetto. The museum collects thousands of elements, pictures and other materials belonging to the people involved in the rising. As a word of advice, if you visit the place with kids, you must discuss with them first what they are going to see. Our eldest son (9 years old) loved the place and the history. But the youngest (5 years old) was intimidated by the darkness and sounds in the museum.
The pictures speak for themselves, but there are not enough words to describe how touching and moving it is to visit this place.
After we finished our visit to the Warsaw Rising Museum, we booked a cab via MyTaxi to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, or the Polin Museum.
The Polin Museum is in a beautiful modern building, located in the district once inhabited mainly by Jews, which was transformed by the Nazis into a ghetto during the World War II.
The Exhibition is composed of eight galleries, spread over an area of 4000 sq.m., presenting 1000 years of history of Polish Jews, from the Middle Ages until today.
This is a very educative museum, which our kids loved.
When we finished our tour at the Polin museum it was already dark outside. Actually, it gets dark very early in winter in Warsaw. Around 3.45pm.
We hopped into another taxi and headed directly to Old Town Warsaw.
By that time, it was getting a bit cold, it was still raining and our kids were tired after waking up at 5 a.m, taking a 2-hours flight, exploring 2 museums and touring the city. So we decided to take a break at one of the many nice little cafes in the Old Town, where it is possible to taste delicious cakes and all type of sweets with a warm cup of tea or coffee.
After warming up at the café, we finished our day at the Christmas Market in the Old Town Market Square.
The next day we woke up just on time to have breakfast at the hotel.
And then we crossed the street to the mall to make some last minute purchases for Christmas eve.
We had lunch at Pizza Hut (not very Polish) and then we took a taxi to the old town to explore the area with day light.
We stopped by the Café Bristol for afternoon tea. Café Bristol is a traditional Café opened in 1901, offering delicious desserts, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We enjoyed their delicious cakes but he had to leave some room for Christmas Eve dinner 😉
By the time we finished our afternoon tea, we tried to get a taxi to go back to the hotel. But it was too late. Christmas eve celebrations had already started and there were almost no taxis available. However, this allowed us to have a wonderful walk back to the hotel in the cold winter evening of Warsaw and take beautiful pictures of the Palace of Culture and Science.
We had our Christmas Eve dinner at the hotel since most of the restaurants were closed. Christmas in Poland is celebrated in family at home and people start eating around 4-5pm and continue until midnight, when they go to church for the Christmas mass.
Knowing that everything would be closed on Christmas day, we left the day to rest. However, we still had time to visit the remaining parts of the wall of the Ghetto, which were very close to the hotel.
We had a wonderful time in Warsaw and we really enjoyed the Christmas spirit in the city. We will definitely go back to Poland very soon.