While certainly not an eye-sore, Warsaw probably won’t make you go back home to report, “It’s certainly one of the better-looking places I saw” while eating your mom’s homemade cold-slaw.
But what the Polish capital—whose proper name is the much less pun-centric Warszawa (var-sha-vah)—lacks in architecture it makes up for in history and a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere. A city that was effectively leveled during World War II and lost nearly 30% of its population in the Holocaust, the Warsaw you see today is a replica of its former self, reconstructed and ruled, along with the rest of Poland, by a communist government until 1990. Institutions such as the Warsaw Rising and History of Polish Jews museums remember the war, and many of the buildings, most noticeably the Palace of Culture and Science, serve as relics to the period of Soviet influence. With over a thousand years of history but only around three decades of independence, Warsaw is an exciting blend of old and new. It’s just as easy to find a vegan burger place as a traditional Polish restaurant, a futuristic one meter-wide house as a royal castle, a man wearing regular shorts as a man wearing early-2000s three-quarter jean shorts. Spend your days roaming around museums, parks, and cafés, your nights along the Vistula River, and the months afterwards thinking how stupid you were to judge this place by its looks.