November 18th, 2017
The best way to experience a city is by foot. You take so much more in when you travel slowly and can visit those back streets where cars can't go. You can stop where you want, not where the bus stops. You can also get a feel for the landscape, how the town is built and how each area tells a unique story. While your feet are on the ground, you eyes should be looking up, above the shops to the architecture and residents on top. Some cities, however, are more walkable than others. So how does Warsaw do? Is it a good city to walk in?
It's Mostly Flat
Having lived in Sheffield, UK, I know the benefits and drawbacks of hills. Pros: strong thighs and great views. Cons: walking up them. Warsaw, from what I've experienced has very few hills. There are steps around the river, for if you want to be at river level or you wish to cross over the top. These concrete stairs are fun to explore and quite majestic to look at. They're not too steep or difficult either.
Roads are Mostly Straight
Much like New York, I've found myself mostly having to walk straight, then make one 90 degrees turn and go straight again to get to my destination. This makes it fairly easy to find wherever you're going. The smaller roads have some twists and turns, especially in the old town, but by following the main roads you rarely have to change direction.
There are Parks and Beaches
If you wish to get away from the traffic, there are plenty of leafy parks to wander through. I noticed (because I'm dull) that there are bins and toilets everywhere. One portaloo even had a urinal inside it. Warsaw is extremely clean, so anywhere you walk will be pleasant. In one moment you'll be in a woodland by a lake, in the next you'll be on a riverside beach.
It's Really Big
Maps can be deceptive. When walking to my hostel I saw it was just straight down the road. So I followed this road for over an hour before I got anywhere close to my hostel, even though I'm staying in the Praga District which looks to be in the city centre on any map. Sometimes, you can keep walking and walking and walking and you just don't seem to be making any progress. I thought the trip across the river would take a couple of minutes, but it felt endless.
Lights Take Forever to Change
Crossing the road can be a difficult and confusing experience. There are zebra crossings, but not all cars are willing to stop (buses definitely aren't). Then there many pelican crossings. It can feel like an eternity waiting for the green man and even then, cars will drive straight through so you have to be careful. There's quite a lot of traffic, but drivers are safe so it's not too dangerous crossing the road. You just have to keep your eye out and, if you're British, remember which direction they are coming from. The sheer size of the roads means you crossing them can increase your journey time significantly, so you should factor this in when making plans.
It's a City Full of Surprises
From the modern city centre to the old town, this is one of the most diverse cities I've walked in. Every corner has a new surprise. Just wandering in the old town you'll see beautiful palaces, pastel coloured houses and creepy old bars. As mentioned before, you can be in a built up concrete area then suddenly on a sandy beach. There really is so much to explore and every area close to the city centre has shops and facilities for you to browse if you need a break. I even stumbled across a field full of tanks, war planes and helicopters completely unexpectedly. This is outside the national museum and free to explore.
Warsaw is large and public transport easy and cheap, so it's understandable if you don't want to walk everywhere. If you can walk, however, you'll find a city that is easy to navigate and full of places to explore as well as plenty of things to do and see.
Add The Wanderer to your subscriptions feedThe Wanderer