Warsaw Travel Guide
It’s only a few months ago Raffles Hotels finally added a second European hotel to its portfolio: Istanbul, giving at least some company to until-then solo act the Royal Monceau in Paris. Expansion on the continent will continue though, if in the slightly left-field Polish capital of Warsaw, with the revival of the historic Hotel Europejski, due to open in 2016.
First opened in 1857, the hotel was known as one of the most luxurious in the Russian Empire. Virtually destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt and eventually reopened in 1962. Closed for years, now the Europejski will be restored to its former glory, with 103 rooms and suites, restaurants, bar, and spa.
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Hotel Bristol, your token five star
Warsaw. It may not be top of your European breaks wishlist (hell, it probably loses out to Krakow in your Poland wishlist, too), but it does have one thing going for it – it was recently judged the European city with the cheapest five star hotels.
Actually, there’s far more to say for Warsaw than that. Flights are uniformly cheap (last year we flew from London on Ryanair for £18, or $29 return – yes, total), and while some of the modern city is grim, the Old Town is gorgeous, plus there’s loads of interesting history, the 1944 Uprising Museum and Jewish Museum for starters.
So yes, you definitely want to go to Warsaw. And here are some of our favorite places to stay. They’re not all five star hotels – but then, you can probably find your own five star hotel, right?
We admit, we're borderline gym addicts. We love the muscle machines, the calisthenics classes, the inflatable balls, and hardwood floor studios. And judging from a poll we took last spring, it seems quite a few of you agree.
Which is why, when we were staying with a friend recently in Warsaw, we were glad to be saving money on hotels (for once), but we sorely missed having a nice clean gym to work off all the kielbasa and pierogies. Enter InterContinental Warsaw to the rescue!
For fun, we decided to try out the hotel's fitness center, which, we were delighted to learn upon arrival, sits on the 43rd floor , offering amazing views of the city.
Before heading straight to the gym, though (we were on vacation, what's the rush?), we slipped into a robe and slippers and made a beeline for the indoor pool, which we eventually nicknamed 'the pool in the sky.' Surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows, it was easily one of the nicest hotel pools we've seen in a while. We snapped the above photo of Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science (or "Palac Kultury i Nauki", if Polish is your thing) standing at the edge of the pool, wary of seeming too touristy, but then again, with a view like that, who cares?
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Up until very recently, one of the top places to stay in Warsaw, Poland was Le Meridien Bristol, a gorgeous landmark building located right in the center of the city. And technically, the Bristol still ranks as one of Warsaw's top hotels, except as of earlier this month, it's going by a new name.
An eight-month, EUR 12 million renovation resulted in several major changes to the property: refreshed guest rooms and public spaces, a new restaurant and wine bar, and, most importantly for SPG members, a re-branding from Le Meridien to Luxury Collection. Ooooh!
As of January 17, the elegant 112-year-old hotel began flying the LC flag, thus joining the ranks of such renowned places as Venice's Hotel Danieli, Manhattan's The Chatwal and Shanghai's brand new Twelve at Hengshan.
We went looking for a place to stay in the Polish capital, Warsaw, and we think that Le Regina will suit us pretty well. Apart from coming up at numero uno on the TripAdvisor ratings, Le Regina just looks cool. It was even named the most prestigious hotel in Poland by Forbes magazine.
It could be a little on the pretentious side, but Le Regina is housed in a gorgeoous Old Town building in central touristy Warsaw, and it's got everything you need from free wireless internet to a pool and sauna. It's nearly too much and there's a chance you'll stay inside instead of exploring Warsaw.
Le Regina is small--just 61 rooms--but still has a plethora of package deals to drag in the customers. We like the Warsaw Diamonds Package which gives you extra-luxury during your stay, including limousine pick-up and special dinner; but it's only valid for stays of 2 nights or longer and you have to arrive on Friday or Saturday. The Diamonds deal will set you back 265 Euro for a double.
· Warsaw is No Prague [HotelChatter]
Last night's Amazing Race All-Star episode was a two-hour spectacular that we didn't have to sit through. Luckily, our sibling Jaunted did and wrote down everything that happened. (Unfortch, we still have to sit through Tori and Dean's ridiculous reality show)
In the first challenge, the Racers landed in Warsaw, Poland where they had to choose between either "tuning pianos or hauling and x-raying mannequins." (i.e. running out of challenge ideas.)
The hipppest place to stay is probably the Hotel Rialto which is the city's first boutique hotel. But if you're looking for a more mainstream stop to relax (hauling mannequins gets tiring) and a place that has ironing boards, the Westin Warsaw in the city's business district is a reasonable stop.
You'll be able to use your SPG points here, as well as expect all the comforts of a Westin Hotel and you'll even learn about Polish pierogies as part of the hotel's unwind program.
Room rates average around $175 and gets pretty kickass reviews. The one thing it might not be good for is an "amazing honeymoon." Then again, who would go to Warsaw for a honeymoon?
Bradomir's photo stream has some more candid shots of the hotel if you are interested in staying there. Or if you are picky about what toiletries the hotel offers its guests.
The Hiltonization of the world continues in Poland. The Hilton Warsaw Hotel and Convention Center will be the first Hilton in the country, and is slated to open in Autumn of 2006.
Along with a convention center, there will also be a spa, health club, and casino. All 314 rooms come equipped with all the bells and whistles: flat screen TV, with satellite cable, high speed internet, individually controlled air-conditioning.
Now, we just need to find out who's traveling to Poland.
· Hilton In Warsaw [Warsaw Voice]
· Hilton Continues Expansion In Eastern Europe: Hilton Warsaw Hotel And Convention Centre To Open In Autumn 2006 [Hospitality Net]
· Poland Hotels [HotelChatter]
Remember Hotel Rialto in Warsaw?
Here is his summary in words:
· Bed in the room at Hotel Rialto. Mattress was nice. Linens a bit thin but of good quality.
· Flat panel LCD television with full tv package. DVD player, CD player, radio.
· 8" rain shower head. Feels good.
Yeah, the words alone make it sound a like a caveman reviewed this place. Do yourself a favor and check out all his Rialto photos and commentary.
Whatever you do, don't call Warsaw "the new Prague." The city does not want to cash in by marketing themselves as a cheap Eastern European alternative for parsimonious westerners, instead, Warsaw is aiming to become a true cultural capital.
Ya know if you wanna be a cultural capital you gots to have a hot boutique hotel, right? The 44 room Hotel Rialto is Warsaw's first boutique hotel. The property doesn't skimp on amenities--flat-screen tvs, cd players, heated towel racks, marble floor, and spacious stone baths all make the Rialto a top notch Warsaw crash pad.
What else? You can snag a room for around $120 US dollars, and the Rialto has a young, eager to please staff, plus the property is the only boutique game in town.
So what is missing? An ironing board in the rooms. Then again, who has time for ironing while touring through Eastern Europe?