Already a few weeks before Christmas, Warsaw starts getting into the proper mood. The main alleys of the Old Town and biggest streets are decorated with millions of fairy lights, shops start playing Christmas setlists, and some installations start showing up around the city. What to do when you are visiting Warsaw during the last week of December? Here are a few options that will make you feel the festive atmosphere and explore some parts of the capital.
One of the best places to feel the Christmas spirit is the Old Town. Starting from Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, leading to the Market Square, you will see hundreds of fairy lights accompanied by festive decorations installed on the pavements. In front of the Royal Castle, there is always a massive Christmas tree, dressed up in colorful bulbs. Next to it, by the old city walls and the barbican, you will find a market where you can buy some handcraft gifts, such as pottery or wooden toys, together with some wintery treats: mulled wine, sweet nuts or waffles. The best spot to go to in this area is the Old Market Square, where each year, around the legendary mermaid statue, a circular ice rink is created. You can skate accompanied by famous Christmas melodies, under a picturesque roof of fairy light strings. Once you get tired, you can have some nibbles from the surrounding stalls. You should try grilled 'oscypek' - a sheep milk salty cheese from the region of Polish mountains served with cranberry jam. In the Old Market, you can also try some Polish sausage and a wide variety of beverages.
Another place to try for ice skating is the National Stadium, where each year, a whole winter town is opened. Not as picturesque as the Old Town, but it is still a great place for sports enthusiasts, where you can find a few rinks, slides and a place to play the game of curling. They also have a cafe serving goods from the most popular Polish chocolate brand, Wedel.
One of my favorite ways of tuning into Christmas is watching 'The Nutcracker'. The best spot for doing that in Warsaw will be the Grand Theatre that stages the magnificent ballet each year. What can be better than spending an evening, surrounded by the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky in a stunning 19th-century opera building in the middle of the Polish capital?
You should also keep your eye on the local events, as there are multiple concerts and Christmas neighborhood festivals organized in the districts of the city. On the square next to the Grand Theatre, each year, a big stage emerges to host the city New Year's Eve party.
If you are really into the fairy lights, there is definitely a place for you, located a bit outside of Warsaw. Next to the famous Wilanów baroque palace, each year, the town of lights opens its doors for the visitors. Visiting the Royal Garden of Light is surely one-of-a-kind experience, where you can see the whole area arranged by the light installations and accompanied by the most famous classical music. The entry costs only 10 zloty, and it allows you to see the whole garden made of illuminations and the main facade of the palace being covered in mapping visuals (to see only on Saturdays and Sundays). The Garden is open every day from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Being in Warsaw around Christmas time might be a great chance to explore the city and Polish culture from another point of view. Surely, it is a good place to get into the holiday spirit amongst the countless fairy lights and the smell of mulled wine!
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