Warsaw central station after sunset

Is Warsaw Safe? Everything You Should Know for 2024

As you plan your trip to Warsaw, Poland’s entertaining capital city, you may ask yourself “Is Warsaw safe?” In fact, if you were like me before I first came to Poland, you might not know much of what to expect. But Poland, and Warsaw by extension, is a safe place to visit for your next trip. Warsaw is a large modern city but has much lower crime rates than other major cities in Europe. This is due to an excellent social welfare system, as well as its rapidly growing economy providing further stability for Polish families. Warsaw especially is the land of opportunity in Poland, and thus Warsaw is a safe place to visit. 

If you were to Google about which places to avoid in Warsaw when visiting, you will likely find very few answers. Having lived in Warsaw for almost 2 years, I can agree with the idea that all of Warsaw is safe. Of course, some areas might be better avoided at certain times of day, or during certain events. These 5 areas (and I struggled to come up with 5) will be covered in small detail. In addition, Warsaw has very few scams to watch out for, but I will cover 2 small ones you might encounter. 

I will also cover general safety information. Unfortunately, some people who identify with certain nationalities or sexualities might face discrimination in Poland. However, Poland’s tolerance for those different from them has grown in recent decades and should continue to rise in the foreseeable future. But, I will provide some information about this from what I have seen and heard to the best of my ability. But, overall, the answer to the question “Is Warsaw safe” is a resounding yes.

Crime and Safety Information in Warsaw

Poland is known for being a safe country. In fact, by European standards, most Polish major cities are amongst the safest cities in all of Europe. In fact, the mid-sized city of Częstochowa is a top-3 safest city with more than 100 thousand people in all of Europe. Warsaw is not far behind. Violent crime rates are extremely low, theft is also low, and you should not have to worry about pickpockets at all. The only crimes with any level ranked as moderate are property crime and vandalism, two crimes you do not need to worry about as a tourist in Warsaw.

In reality, the most dangerous part of Warsaw is being a pedestrian. In most parts of the city, sidewalks are wide and open, often with separation from the roads. However, general awareness is definitely required while walking around Warsaw. In one given location, you may have to watch out for cars, bikes, buses, trams, and other people. The easiest way to be safe is to follow common road safety. Do not jaywalk, and look two ways before crossing. Be especially wary of cars. With some brief experience driving in Poland and Warsaw, car drivers are a bit erratic compared to other places in the world (unless you are from Asia or Latin America). 

However, there are a few areas where traveling to Warsaw, or anywhere in Poland, might be unsafe. In general, Poland is tolerant of people who are different from the traditional Polish norm (so imagine straight, white, and Catholic). However, there are certainly individuals in Poland, and in Warsaw, who might discriminate against you based on your nationality, race, or sexuality. As a straight, white, male, I am not the best person in explaining issues you might run across, but I will do my best.

From what I have seen, people from the Middle East are likely to face the largest problems. There is a population of Polish people who erroneously believe that Poland is safer because of fewer people from the Middle East than other European countries, and may thus behave negatively towards you if you are from there. However, I think the average Polish person who thinks this way is unlikely to act in public, keeping their vitriol to social media.

If you are a person with darker skin, you might also notice that people will stare at you. In general, Polish people, especially the elderly, stare at everyone who looks different, and in 99.9% of cases this staring is not with bad intent, but rather out of curiosity. Other ethnicities that may face problems are those from Russia or Ukraine. Despite Poland’s support of Ukraine, the two countries have some past negative history, and there are some Poles who view Ukrainians very negatively. Otherwise, you should be fine. 

The largest area of concern might be if you identify as part of the LGBT+ community. There are certainly some Poles that are homophobic just like in any place in Europe, whether for religious or personal reasons. Homophobia was especially bad for the past 8 years during the previous government, which was blatantly homophobic on public TV, and also saw the placement of “LGBT-free” zones in some small rural cities in Poland (which were later ruled to have no legal basis). 

Luckily, Warsaw is perhaps the friendliest city in Poland for LGBT+ persons. While you will not have an environment such as in Scandinavia, people are more tolerant. There still may be intolerant persons (more on this later), but you should feel comfortable. Other popular cities like Kraków are places where you are more likely to be discriminated against if you publicly show signs of affection or dress flamboyantly. In Warsaw, you should be okay, but caution is still advised. 

In addition, you may wonder if solo travel to Warsaw is safe. Having explored much of Warsaw on my own, it should be safe in my opinion. Even for solo female travelers, you should not run into any problems during the day. At night, there might be more issues if you are by yourself, and I would not personally recommend going to a bar, or anywhere near the center by yourself if you usually feel uncomfortable in such situations. But in reality, you should be pretty safe, as crime rates related to gender-based violence are very low in Poland. 

5 Places to “Avoid” in Warsaw

Firstly, as was already mentioned, Warsaw is relatively a safe place. There are not really any places you need to avoid in Warsaw. Older articles might say to avoid the Praga part of Warsaw, saying it is full of mobsters and dangerous persons. Praga is no longer an unsafe place to visit (although its grungy look may look spooky at night) and actually is a cool place to avoid crowds, with the Warsaw Zoo, the interesting Neon Museum, and a few nice parks and beaches.

In this section, you will find six different places in Warsaw to avoid in certain circumstances, as Warsaw is generally safe. You might want to avoid these places due to certain events, persons, or the nighttime atmosphere. But, all six places on this list can be visited safely, just not all the time!

Warsaw central station after sunset
Central station of Warsaw. Taken by Poland Insiders photographer Andrzej Tokarski.

1. Patelnia: Metro Centrum

Patelnia is the nickname for the small area located outside the entrances to the Centrum Metro station that supposedly looks like a frying pan (hence patelnia). As the busiest transport point in the city, with buses, trams, the metro, and trains at nearby Warsaw Central Railway Station all within walking distance, this is a place where many people will be walking at any given time. Thus, if there is anywhere in the city you have to worry about pick-pockets, it might be here. 

In addition, some “interesting” people can hang out here at any given time. Protestors, firebreathers, panhandlers, street vendors, and large groups of children may all be found here at any given time. While this also makes Patelnia the best place to people watch in Warsaw, it might also be a place where you have a bad encounter with a local or tourist. At night, this area especially can fill up with drunk people, who while usually harmless, might be best avoided, especially if you are a female solo traveler. 

In general, you will most definitely have to travel through this metro station while in Warsaw, especially if you are visiting the landmark Palace of Culture and Science. My advice is to just walk through quickly, and not loiter. In addition, be aware that this metro station is the most common spot for ticket checkers to be posted, so make sure you have a validated ticket before entering the metro! In general, this station does have safety in numbers, but just be cautious as you travel through this area. 

2. Nowy Świat

Nowy Świat is perhaps the best place for nightlife in Warsaw (although other cities certainly have better nightlife). Why should you avoid it? As someone who frequents this area quite often, it is a cool place to hang out, with so many bars and restaurants of all price ranges nearby, and lots of public spaces for sitting and relaxing on a nice summer’s evening. However, there are also some disadvantages. Drunk foreigners are the most likely to be stopped and targeted by local police (and Nowy Świat has so many police stationed it is like it is a prison rather than a public street). 

If you are someone who gets rowdy or angry when drunk, Poland is not a great place to come to drink. The police can be very aggressive here, and the fines are quite high. The last thing you want to do is get a felony in a foreign country. Polish people are also generally fed up with people coming to Poland only to have cheap drinks and ignore the rest of the country, hence new laws that have been enforced that prohibit the sales of alcohol outside bars after certain times. 

So, if you are planning to come to Warsaw just to drink, don’t. Come to Warsaw to see many of the other great things, and then have a drink or two (or three) in the evening. Nowy Świat is a great place to hang out, but be careful, and do not over-drink too much, as your time in Warsaw might not be quite as fun.

3. Vistula Boulevards (at night, in the summer)

Do you like avoiding drunk people in general? Most Polish drunks are harmless, but if there is a spot to avoid if you want to avoid them, especially if you have kids, the Vistula Boulevards should be avoided on spring and summer evenings with nice weather. This is a popular place to drink and have fun on such nights. The Boulevards are an amazing place to visit during the day. With the many steps perfect for sitting, and the long paved pedestrian and bike path right along the water, on a sunny day, this place is a paradise.

But, as mentioned, at night people come here to drink, especially young people. But, people of all ages drink here. It should be mentioned that it is technically illegal to drink outdoors in parks or public places anywhere in Warsaw. This does not stop people from doing so. And people here can get quite drunk. Thus, avoid this area if you do not like interacting with drunk people. I also do not recommend drinking. As with Nowy Świat, if police were to decide to care, you can bet your wallet that they would target non-Polish-speaking drinkers first. 

However, you should visit here during your trip to Warsaw during the day. The recently opened pedestrian bridge between the area below the Old Town and Praga has quickly become one of the most popular places for a walk, offering stunning city views and benches to sit on while on the bridge. There are also many bars on boats where you can legally drink while still getting the Vistula River atmosphere (although this is of course more expensive). I fully recommend these two activities over joining the locals in drinking by the river.

4. Legia Warszawa Games

If you are looking for a rowdy European football atmosphere, attending a Legia Warszawa match can provide one of the best such atmospheres in all of Poland. In general, football matches in Poland are rowdy affairs, with ultras with crazy artistic displays (and sometimes vulgar displays as well). For Legia, this is especially the case. Legia has been a very successful team in top Polish football and is the only Warsaw team playing in the top Polish league. Thus, its fans are the rowdiest you will find in the city. 

If you do choose to go to a Legia game, you must follow some rules to avoid sitting with the Ultras, an experience I would not recommend. So, avoid the Trybuna Północna “Żyleta” area of the stands, as this is where the ultras are, loud and proud every game. It is also important to note that you should be aware of what the rival team’s colors are for the game day, as wearing rival colors could attract ire from the ultras. The home colors are white and dark green, so these are safe colors to wear. Finally, note that you may see pretty offensive messages here, whether xenophobic or other, as the Legia Ultras tend to be pretty far right.  

It is also important to note that you can only buy official tickets from the ticket box office on the day of the game if you are a foreigner. Only those with a PESEL number (the official ID number for Poles and foreigners living in Poles) can buy a ticket online. You will also need your passport to be able to purchase the ticket. So, come prepared. When you buy the ticket, they will not even let you buy a ticket with the Ultras, so you will be able to avoid them in this way.

5. The city center during major marches and rallies

Warsaw is a European capital city. Not only are there lots of tourists, but locals come to the capital to participate in democracy (a reminder that Poland has not been communist for over 30 years, and is a modern, developed country). Thus, at times, there are massive events in Warsaw that take over and shut down the entire city. Since I have lived in Warsaw, some of these events have included rallies in support of Ukraine, rallies in support of Polish farmers and against Ukraine, pro-Palestine and pro-Israel rallies, political rallies related to abortion rules or rule of law issues, and yearly marches that happen on November 11th, Poland’s Independence Day. 

When such rallies and marches happen, it is best to avoid anywhere that these marches are happening. If you are a US citizen like me, you should sign up for the STEP program, a free program that sends alerts and warnings while you are traveling or living in a foreign country. Other countries may have similar programs as long as your country has an embassy in Warsaw. If you do not have such a program, it might be hard to know if such a rally is happening. Keep an eye on local news during your stay to find out. But, be aware rallies tend to happen around major political events (such as national elections), and on November 11th. 

While these rallies tend to stay mild, they can at times get violent and aggressive. This is why I do not recommend participating in the rallies and protests. If you run into one, which is easy to do as they tend to march from the Old Town to the Sejm (Poland’s government) building via the town center, just observe from the sidelines. Unfortunately, when such an event happens, visiting the city is a bit harder, as many of Warsaw’s best things to do. But, all these rallies eventually end at the Sejm, so with patience, you will be able to fully access everything in Warsaw in a short time.  

2 Potential Scams to Avoid in Warsaw

Unlike many European cities, Warsaw does not have many scams to look out for. You will not find people tying a string to your wrist or giving you a rose and expecting you to pay even if you did not ask for it, or find fake police trying to clear out your wallet. As mentioned, pick-pocketing is also rare, so you do not need to always be on guard of strangers who might be talking to you (although most Poles would rather drink pickle juice than talk to strangers). However, there are two things to know about in Warsaw that you might run into. 

1. Donation Scams

As a traveler, you should always be aware of people asking you for money on the street. Unfortunately, while the cause such persons seem to be supporting might be worthwhile, it is hard to say whether this person is actually canvassing for this organization or not. In recent years, after the onset of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, there was a large group of people with Ukrainian flags asking for donations to help Ukraine. I am sure some were legit, but it is unfortunately not always the case. Thus, I recommend not donating in person. See what cause they claim to be supporting, and if you feel moved to donate, say you will do so online.

2. Bar/Club “Scams”

When you go to Nowy Świat, you may notice there are people on the street inviting you to their bars or clubs, or occasionally a “ladies club”. If you stick around enough, you also will notice that these people only approach people they believe are foreigners (whether based on appearance or speaking a language other than Polish), and rarely approach Polish people. Such an observation should always be a red flag while traveling. 

Never go to a place that is asking you to go in. This is a likely expensive place and is created to take as much money as possible from you. There are many great places in Nowy Świat, so try to find the ones with locals and high energy rather than ones mostly empty with people begging you to enter (although there are some great smaller bars in Nowy Świat that are often emptier than others).

Andrzej enjoying a Żywiec in Warsaw
Poland Insiders founder Andrzej Tokarski is enjoying a glass of Żywiec in a rooftop bar in Warsaw, Poland.

My Personal Experiences with Safety in Warsaw

Being a member of no minority groups, I have unsurprisingly never felt unsafe during my time in Warsaw, or for that matter, anywhere in Poland. I have been out late into the night, walking home by myself, and never felt I was in danger. Compared to my homeland, the US, Poland feels at least 10 times safer (that is no exaggeration). However, there have been two times where I noticed behavior that might lead to unsafe situations for persons other than me, but for me did not result in anything bad happening. 

One time while I was walking with my girlfriend (who is Polish), we were speaking English, and an older man started muttering under his breath some bad words about how we were speaking English. We quickly walked the other way, and nothing came of it. In general, Poland has one of the highest perceptions of people from the US than any other place in the entire world. Warsaw is not a place where you need to pretend to be Canadian. But, be aware that xenophobic people still do exist. I assume this man thought I was from a place in Europe he didn’t like, but either way, such situations are dangerous as long as you quickly remove yourself from them. 

A second potential negative situation occurred whilst I was walking with my male German friend around Nowy Świat one night. As we were doing so, a drunk man who heard us speaking English started singing “YMCA.” While harmless ultimately, the insinuation was obvious. With neither of us being a part of the LGBT+ community, this did not affect us, but this sort of situation may occur in Warsaw in popular nightlife spots, especially if you are a gay man. But, these drunks are generally harmless. Unfortunately, any serious hate crime cannot be reported, as there is no such recognition by Polish law of hate crimes against LGBT+ persons.

Is Warsaw Safe? Most Definitely

In conclusion, the answer to the question of “Is Warsaw safe” is most definitely. There are a few areas that you might want to avoid at certain times depending on your preferences. People from the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa, or members of the LGBT+ community may face discrimination or abuse from certain people (most likely drunks), but such persons should generally be fine visiting Warsaw (living may be a different issue). So, if you are looking for a safe place to visit in Europe or Poland, it is hard to do better than Warsaw.

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