DO try gofry. They’re waffles (made in front of you) with toppings such as whip cream with nuts and hot fudge or with various types of fruit (depending on what’s in season). They’re the perfect mid-morning snack (or meal) after a bit of walking in the park or around the Old Town Market Square.
DON’T go during shoulder season in the spring. We made this mistake (late April) and many of the trees weren’t yet green and the flowers weren’t in bloom (or in some cases, even planted).
DO find a map of Lazienki Park. The park is extensive and you can easily miss places, such as the palace or Chopin Monument if you don’t know where to look. You could spend almost an entire day in the park if you really took the time to stop and enjoy it, but you could also cover it in a few hours if you move at a rather clipped pace.
DON’T take the tour in Lazienki Park if you’re limited on time. We didn’t take it, but ran into the same group a few different times. They weren’t being told any more than what could be read on the signs and were still moving much too slow (as many people take the time to read the signs anyway).
DO find a hotel closer to the city center or, if you’re just planning to do the attractions, then stay nearer to Old Town Market Square.
DON’T be put-off by the stern faces you encounter on the streets. It isn’t customary to smile at people you don’t know as the culture (as a whole) tends to be more reserved, but people will become friendly if you approach them with respect.
DON’T spend more than 2 days in the city if you’re only planning to do the more “tourist” activities. That’s enough time to see everything on your list and still explore some of the side streets I mentioned in an earlier post.
DON’T plan to visit the Copernicus Science Centre unless you have children with you or you enjoy the how and the why behind technological advancements. It is interactive and can be a great deal of fun, but only if it interests you more than the average person.
DO carry zloty. Most of the places take only cash and there are few reputable currency offices in the main tourist centers. You can do currency exchange at the airports (check with your bank first as the fees can be exorbitant), in your bank’s European counterpart (again, check with your bank), or directly at the ATMs if you have the proper carriers.
DO pay attention to the signs for public restrooms. There are a few of them near the tourist locations, but they’re relatively nonexistent outside of those zones (and many restaurants won’t have them either).
DON’T plan to have lunch or dinner at the restaurants nearest the castle or Old Town Market Square. They’re overly-crowded and the prices are ridiculous due to location. Instead, wander a few blocks off the main road and you can get a much better meal (even in the same vein) for a more reasonable price.
DO be wary of shops selling “souvenirs” even on the side streets. There were many places that claimed to have hand-painted ceramics and porcelain but whose wares were actually made in China, Japan, etc. They may have been hand-painted, but they weren’t painted in Poland.
DO get lody before wandering Old Town Market (unless you’ve already gotten gofry). Ice cream seemed to be one of the big treats people were carrying around with them, so we tried it. It’s popular for a reason.
– M. Ray Hall