No longer the grey city of Eastern European stereotype, the Polish capital Warsaw is a forward-looking, ebullient and multi-layered kind of place, where gleaming corporate skyscrapers rub up against time-capsule neighbourhoods that have remained unchanged for decades.
Above all, it's an increasingly engaging summertime city, thanks to its riverside bars, expansive parks, strollable urban spaces… and surprisingly wonderful ice cream. Alongside these attractions, come fine accommodation choices suited to whichever aspect of the city you would like to experience. Here's our guide to the best places to stay in Warsaw.
Best area for historic splendour: Krakowskie Przedmieście and Nowy Świat
If you want to be close to Warsaw's handsome Old Town, painstakingly rebuilt after World War I destruction, then the grand neoclassical sweep of Krakowskie Przedmieście (Nowy Świat in its upper reaches) is the place to be. Lined with fine churches, former palaces and a host of restaurants and cafés, it's Warsaw at its most elegant; the kind of place you'll find yourself strolling along more than once during your stay. The Vistula riverbank, with its waterside paths and open-air bars, is a short walk downhill to the east.
Old-school glamour: Hotel Bristol
Opened in 1901, the legendary Hotel Bristol is an arresting dollop of nineteenth-century neo-everything. Though it's been completely modernised, the rooms have retained a lot of historic character and are supremely comfortable.
Bags of character: Chopin Boutique B&B
The Chopin lives up to its name, with daily piano recitals in a room next to reception. Featuring parquet floors and vintage furnishings, the guest rooms are certainly not lacking in personality.
Cute and comfy: SleepWell Apartments Nowy Świat
Bold interiors with a discreet touch of kitsch bring an arty sense of cosiness to SleepWell Apartments. You can't get better than the location in a courtyard behind Nowy Świat, which is on the Royal Route to the Old Town and lined with excellent restaurant choices.
The Nowy Świat area of Warsaw © trabantos / Shutterstock
Best area for urban bustle: Centrum
Modern Warsaw's main point of reference is the Centrum metro station, right below the oversized Stalinist wedding cake that is the Palace of Culture and Sciences. Many of the capital's hippest bars and restaurants are on Poznańska, which runs south from here into a grid of buzzing downtown streets.
Top-floor hideaway: Apple Inn
On the top floor of an apartment block in a perfect location, Apple Inn offers large-ish rooms with neat contemporary decor. Breakfast is in the Vincents café downstairs, but there's a shared kitchen (with free tea and coffee) in the B&B itself.
Domestic charm: Between Us Bed & Breakfast
Located in a converted apartment above the mellow Między Nami café, Between Us offers a combination of down-to-earth domesticity with arty touches; works by contemporary photographers adorn the walls.
A beautifully converted 1892 building featuring high ceilings, a Pop Art design theme and some genuinely attractive artwork on the walls. Set on Poznańska, Warsaw's most happening street.
Palace of Culture and Sciences © posztos / Shutterstock
Best area for post-war architecture: MDM
The site of a major Stalinist-era construction project in the early 1950s, the MDM or 'Marszałkowska Residential District' is characterised by coolly imperious lines of grey-brown apartment blocks, many decorated with socialist-realist reliefs of workers, architects and other builders of socialism. At its southern end is plac Zbawiciela, a pretty colonnaded piazza boasting a brace of hip bars, while just round the corner is Hala Koszyki, a beautifully restored Art Nouveau market hall.
Staying in the heart of Warsaw: Motel One Warsaw-Chopin
A charming boutique hotel located close to the Copernicus Science Center, one mile from Krakowskie Przedmieście and a 19-minute walk from Presidential Palace.
Creative hub: Autor Rooms
An imaginative apartment conversion that offers both class and kookiness at the same time. Rooms boast a mixture of original pre-World War I features and modern design touches (including graphic art on the walls), and there's a lovely communal breakfast table and a small kitchen.
Best area for a glimpse of the future: Mirów
Warsaw is the one East European capital that looks like a city of the future as well as a monument to the past. This is nowhere more evident than in Mirów, west of Centrum, where many of Warsaw's recent skyscrapers are located – notably the haughty 220m-high corkscrew that is the Warsaw Spire. There is one unmissable tourist sight out here in the shape of the gripping Warsaw Rising Museum; the recent extension of Warsaw's metro system ensures that you're never too far from the centre.
Living the high life: Hilton Warsaw
Right opposite the Warsaw Spire and almost as tall, the Hilton Warsaw on Grzybowska is the ideal hotel for those who want to stay amidst the new Warsaw of soaring office blocks and corporate ambition. With a gym, a pool, and the kind of attention-to-detail service that you would expect at this level, it's a difficult place to tear yourself away from.
Modern Warsaw skyline including the Warsaw Spire © TTstudio / Shutterstock
Best area for modernist architecture: Saska Kępa
Over on the eastern bank of the Vistula, the interwar suburb of Saska Kępa is a unique and period piece, boasting street after leafy street of Bauhaus-inspired, white-cube urban villas. It's only a short tram ride from the centre, and there are enough chic cafés on Saska Kępa's main street to ensure that there's always something going on this side of the river.
Self-catering in suburbia: Saska Kepa Apartmenty
Saska Kępa Apartamenty offers smart and airy two-person studios and four-person apartments in a quiet residential street by the river, convenient for local cafés and tram stops too.
Top image: Old Town of Warsaw © S-F / Shutterstock