December 2020 in Warsaw: tips, ideas, and recommendations for making the most of your time in Warsaw
The Viewing Platform of the Palace of Culture and Science
Location: Plac Defilad 1 (city center). The platform is located on the 30th floor (114 m high) of the Palace of Culture and Science. Opening hours in December: 10 am – 8 pm. Online tickets. Our tips about visiting the platform.
Location: Ratuszowa 1/3 Street (Praga), opening hours in December: 9 am – 4 pm (weekends and holidays), 9 am – 3.30 pm (Monday-Friday). Last admission one hour before the Zoo closes. Online tickets. The Zoo is open every day, including all public holidays! Two entrances/exits are open: from Ratuszowa Street and from the Gdańsji Bridge. The ticket office on the side of Gdańsk Bridge is open only on Fridays and weekends. Website in English.
Mini zoo/petting zoo
Location: Mini Zoo, Kolorowa 19 lok. 156 Street, poziom/level -1 (Ursus), Monday – Friday 11 am – 7 pm, Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm. At the Mini Zoo, you can feed and stroke the animals. The visits take place in the company of a Mini ZOO employee who will show and teach how to deal with animals. The Mini Zoo is located in the indoor heated room; tickets available for purchase on-site, no reservation required. Facebook page. Website in Polish.
The Garden of the Royal Castle
Location: the Garden is located at the back of the Castle. You can enter the lower garden from Wisłostrada Street / the Vistula Boulevard side. Opening hours in December: 10 am – 6 pm. Free entrance. More about the Gardens of the Royal Castle in our post.
Park of the King Jan III’s Palace in Wilanów
Location: Stanisława Kostki Potockiego 10/16 Street (Wilanó). The park is a part of the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace – a baroque summer residence of King Jan III Sobieski and his wife, Queen Maria Kazimiera (the museum building is closed). It’s a vast park (45 hectares!) with gardens of different styles (Baroque, English landscape garden, rose garden, Anglo-Chinese garden) as well as Wilanowskie Lake, and lots of beautiful nature. The park’s opening hours in December: 9 am – 4 pm (last entry 3 pm). Regular ticket 7 PLN, reduced ticket 4 PLN (children up to 7 years old – free entrance), tickets for children from the European Union – 1 PLN. The ticket area begins in the courtyard (it used to be free). On Thursdays free admission based on tickets to be collected at the ticket office and ticket machines. It’s recommended to buy tickets online. More about the park and beautiful photos in our post.
“The Royal Garden of Light” – the illuminations festival in the Wilanów Palace Park
Location: Stanisława Kostki Potockiego 10/16 Street (Wilanów). Opening hours in December: 4 pm – 9 pm (last entry at 8 pm). Although the exhibition is located in the park (where masks are not mandatory in Poland), you must wear a mask in the exhibition area. Click here to read Kids in the City tips in English about the illuminations festival (mappings hours, tickets, parking lots, etc.). The festival runs until February 28, 2021.
Botanical Garden of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Powsin
Location: Prawdziwka 2 Street, 02-973 Powsin. The Garden is located in Powsin, in the suburbs of Warsaw – between Wilanów and Konstancin. Opening hours in December: 9 am – 4 pm (weekends), 10 am – 4 pm (Monday-Friday). The orangery opening hours: 10 am – 3 pm. In December, only the main entrance is open, from Prawdziwka 2 Street (the entrance from the Culture Park in Powsin/Park Kultury w Powsinie is closed). Our tips on visiting the Garden (ticket info, location, photos).
The Łazienki Royal Garden
Location: Agrykola 1 Street (city center). The museums are closed, the park is open every day: 6 am – 8 pm, free entrance. More about the Łazienki Park in our post.
The Foreign Languages Library
Location: Meissnera 5 Street (Praga). The Library is reopened from December 1. All are welcome! Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1 pm – 7 pm; Tuesday, Thursday 11 am – 4 pm. It’s the biggest library in Warsaw offering books in different foreign languages Library. It has over 50,000 books, audiobooks, and films, including books for children and teenagers. Most of their collection is in English but there are also books in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Croatian. Facebook page in Polish & English. Website in Polish and English.
Artificial skiing slope in Ochota – Górka Szczęśliwicka
Location: Górka Szczęśliwicka, Park Szczęśliwicki, Drawska 22 Street (Ochota). Opening hours: 10 am – 8 pm (open every day). Website and Facebook page in Polish.
An indoor ice skating rink ‘Figlowisko’ in Ursynów
Location: Aleja Komisji Edukacji Narodowej 60 Street (Ursynów). Opening hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including bank holidays. Ice skates can be rented on site. Website, info about tickets, and Facebook page.
A Christmas tree, festive illuminations, and decorations along Warsaw’s streets
The lights are switched starting from dusk, from around 3.30 pm (starting from the weekend of December 5-6). The main attractions focus on the “The Royal Route”, from the Castle Square/Plac Zamkowy (including the Christmas tree), Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, Nowy Świat Street to the de Gaulle roundabout (Rondo de Gaulle’a). The Old Town is also decorated (including Piwna Street, Świętojańska Street, Old Town Square, Nowomiejska Street, Freta Street, New Town Square, Kościelna Street to Podzamcze). Find out more in our post on Warsaw’s illuminations in the 2020/2021 season.
In 2020, astronomical winter begins on December 21 with the winter solstice – it’s the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in Poland in the whole year. On a positive note – starting from December 22, the days in Poland get longer and the nights shorter. The length of the day goes from 7 hours 42 min. on December 22 to 10 hours 50 min. at the end of February.
Winter in Poland is cold and usually snowy. To stay cozy in cold weather in Poland, you will need a hat, coat, scarf, gloves, and winter boots. The lowest temperature is recorded in eastern and southern Poland. Remember that the temperature in the wintertime in Poland drops significantly at night!
The weather during the winter in Poland differs. Usually, the temperature is around freezing or a few degrees below, but it happens that the temperature drops below -20 °C (-4 °F). Recent years have seen an increase in average winter temperatures compared to previous years. Trends also indicate that we can start getting used to relatively warmer December in Poland and winter shifting for the period from January to March.
Because of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, December is a favorite month of many people in Poland. The name of the month – grudzień – comes from the Polish word gruda, meaning frozen ground. The average temperature in December in Poland drops below zero: -0,16°C / 32°F. The average rainfall level in December in Poland is 38 mm (similar level to March and April). Sunset on December 1: 3.27 pm, December 31: 3.32 pm.
In December 2020, there are two shopping Sundays in Poland: December 13 and December 20. There is a bill on additional trading Sunday – December 6. The Polish parliament will vote on this law at the last minute (probably the final vote will take place on December 4!). You can check the update in our post which will be updated once the decision is made: our post about shopping Sundays in Poland in 2020 and 2021. Since our readers are asking about online stores offering home deliveries we have prepared a post with a list of online stores in Poland delivering groceries to home.
- December 6
St. Nicholas’ Day (Mikołajki)
The name Mikołajki comes from Mikołaj (Polish for Nicholas), meaning little Nicholas. On the night of December 5-6, small gifts are secretly given to children while they are sleeping (little treats – toys but most of all sweets). One of the traditions is to hide treats in shoes. Children should clean them the night before and the next morning (on Mikołajki day) they would find inside their shoe a small surprise. Chocolate Santas are most often such a gift – they can be bought in Polish stores already at the end of November. In Polish schools on December 6 there is a custom of exchanging small gifts between students. Children decide in advance the amount for which they will buy a gift and draw a person from the class to be given a gift.
- December 21
The beginning of astronomical winter
The shortest day of the year.
- December 24
Christmas Eve (Wigilia)
Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in Poland. However, most shops and businesses are open no longer than 2 pm. Christmas Eve Dinner – kolacja wigilijna – is the most important Christmas celebration in Poland. Click here to learn more about Christmas traditions and celebrations in Poland. The Christmas Eve traditions include waiting for a first star, the Christmas wafer (opłatek), 12 meat-free courses, an extra seat for an unexpected guest, hay under the tablecloth, a special midnight mass (pasterka).
- December 25
Christmas Day (Boże Narodzenie)
A public holiday in Poland. Stores, malls, shopping centers, public institutions, schools are CLOSED. People in Poland usually visit family and friends to celebrate together, they go to church, sing carols (kolędy), spend long hours at the table. Find out more about Christmas traditions and celebrations in Poland.
- December 26
Second Day of Christmas (Drugi Dzień Świąt Bożego Narodzenia)
A public holiday in Poland. Stores, malls, shopping centers, public institutions, schools are CLOSED.
- December 31
New Year’s Eve / St. Silvestre’s Day (Sylwester)
Start of the carnival season in Poland. People usually go out to parties and balls. At midnight or even before, fireworks shows start, arranged by the city authorities but also outside of apartments, in parks, playgrounds, etc. Stores are usually open no longer than 5-6 pm.
Read more about public holidays and dates to remember in Poland in the wintertime (December, January & February).
The Christmas illuminations in 2020 in Warsaw will be launched on December 5 and will stay on until mid-February 2021.
The largest Christmas tree in Warsaw will be lit on Castle Square (Plac Zamkowy) in Warsaw’s Old Town.
This year, due to savings, illuminations light up fewer streets in Warsaw than in previous years, so we can expect changes this year. This season’s Christmas illuminations include light ornaments on trees and lanterns, free-standing decorations, projections on the walls of buildings, and of course a Christmas tree on the Castle Square.
The main attractions on Warsaw streets focus on the “The Royal Route”, from the Castle Square/Plac Zamkowy (including the Christmas tree), Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, Nowy Świat Street to the de Gaulle roundabout (Rondo de Gaulle’a).
The Old Town will also be decorated (including Piwna Street, Świętojańska Street, Old Town Square, Nowomiejska Street, Freta Street, New Town Square, Kościelna Street to Podzamcze).
Compared to previous years, in the 2020/2021 season illuminations will not be installed in the following locations: Trzech Krzyży Square, Aleje Ujazdowskie Street to Belweder next to the Royal Łazienki Garden, Aleje Jerozolimskie Street (from Warszawa Centralna Railway Station to Rondo Waszyngtona Roundabout and Poniatowskiego Bridge), Bankowy Square, Marszałkowska Street, Targowa Street, Solidarności Street (from Bankowy Square to Wileński Square, including Śląsko-Dąbrowski Bridge).
“The Royal Garden of Light” (Królewski Ogród Światła) is Warsaw’s must-see sight in winter evenings and both adults and children will love it. It’s located in the gardens of a baroque royal palace called the “Polish Versailles”, in the Wilanów district of Warsaw.
The Wilanów festival is a unique open-air exhibition with thousands of diodes forming tunnels, trees, installations, and sculptures. The illuminations are accompanied by classical music and mappings on the palace façade (3D shows featuring sounds, images, and lights).
- Although the exhibition is located in the park (where masks are not mandatory in Poland), you must wear a mask in the exhibition area
- The Festival runs until February 28, 2021
- Opening hours: 4 pm – 9 pm (last entry 8 pm)
- “The Royal Garden of Light” is CLOSED in 2020 on December 24 and December 31
- “The Royal Garden of Light” is OPEN on the following bank holidays: December 25, December 26, January 1, January 6
- Mappings (illumination, picture, and sound) on the Palace façade on Saturdays and Sundays at 6.30 pm, 7 pm, 7.30 pm, 8 pm, 8.30 pm
- Tickets Monday – Friday: regular tickets 15 PLN, reduced tickets 5 PLN
- Tickets Saturday – Sunday, holidays: regular tickets 30 PLN, reduced tickets 10 PLN
- Free admission for children under 7 (every day)
- Tickets can be purchased at a ticket machine or online
- It can be crowded especially during weekends, buy tickets online to skip the line to the ticket machine
- Please note that during weekends “The Royal Garden of Light” attracts many visitors – it can be crowded and finding a free parking spot is very difficult – it’s recommended to use public transport or a taxi during weekends
- The Palace is located in Wilanów district of Warsaw, the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace (Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie), Stanisława Kostki Potockiego 10/16 Street (location on a map)
- By car: It is not always easy to find a free parking spot. There are two PAID parking lots: public parking at ul. Stanisława Kostki Potockiego 31 (open daily) and the museum car park at ul. Stanisława Kostki Potockiego 6B, entry from ul. Przyczółkowa (open on Saturdays and Sundays)
- By bus: 116, 130, 139, 163, 164, 180, 200, 251, 264, 317, 339, 519, E-2
Where to buy a Christmas tree in Warsaw (including options to order online & home delivery) & tips for picking the right Christmas tree
In December, you can buy a Christmas tree in Warsaw on a street corner – pop-up tree lots appear overnight on street corners or in front of shops. There’s no standard pricing so if you like you can bargain a bit about the price;)
Major supermarkets and home improvement stores in Warsaw typically set up their live Christmas trees either in the garden section or in the parking lot. You can also buy a tree from your local garden center.
They will cut the stem of the tree you pick, net it and help you secure it to the top of your car if needed. You can buy a cut tree, a potted tree (grown in a field, dug up, and placed in a pot) or if you know that the Christmas tree will later go to your garden, you can buy a “rooted” tree (choinka ukorzeniona) – a pot grown tree (which has been planted in a container as a seedling).
A glossary of terms useful when buying a Christmas tree: choinka – a Christmas tree, w doniczce – potted, obsadzanie – putting a real Christmas tree in the stand, stojak – stand, lampki – lights, bombki – Christmas baubles, utylizacja – the service of picking up the Christmas tree after holidays.
The most popular real Christmas trees you can buy in Poland include: the Norway Spruce (świerk pospolity), the Blue Spruce or Colorado Spruce (świerk srebrny or świerk kłujący), the Caucasian Fir or Nordmann Fir (jodła kaukaska).
- The Norway Spruce (świerk pospolity) is the only species of spruce that grows naturally in Poland and is the traditional Christmas tree (although recently overtaken by no needle drop fir). Spruce is completely resistant to low temperatures, which makes it, apart from Scots pine, the most common coniferous tree in Poland. It’s a quick-growing species so usually, the spruce is a bit cheaper than the fir. It has a rich green color and a stronger festive aroma compared to fir. When placed in a room, Norway spruce gives off a wonderful fragrance that many people think of as a forest and Christmas. If you value the fragrance of the tree you should go for the Norway Spruce. Compared to the Caucasian Fir, the spruce drops its needles faster so it’s important to keep the tree well-watered every day and located away from the radiator and other sources of heat.
- The Blue Spruce or Colorado Spruce (świerk srebrny or świerk kłujący) is a silver variety of spruce. Due to its easy cultivation in Poland and availability, as well as its dense needles, it is a species often chosen for the Christmas tree in Poland.
- The Caucasian Fir or Nordmann Fir (jodła kaukaska) is an increasingly popular Christmas tree in Poland – it’s a low-maintenance tree (the best option for those who want to put up their Christmas tree as soon as possible and not wait the last minute to start decorating). The fir Christmas tree does not drop needles (unlike spruce trees) but dries them over time and keeps them long after Christmas is over. You don’t need to worry about vacuuming during the holidays;) Its needles are soft and rounded so in general, the fir is more child and pet-friendly. It is usually more expensive than spruce and doesn’t have any fragrance. Last but not least, the Caucasian Fir has a wide base to accommodate lots of presents…;)
Stores offering home delivery of Christmas trees in the Warsaw area
In addition to delivering the Christmas tree to your home, stores offer additionally paid services: the service of putting a Christmas tree in a stand (obsadzanie) – this service covers adjusting the trunk of the tree to the stand as well as adjusting the tree properly (stable and straight) in the tree stand. Another service covers the utilization – after the end of the holidays, the store will take the Christmas tree from your home and take it to the appropriate point, where it will be converted into biomass.
- http://wypozyczalniachoinek.eu/ (Christmas tree RENTAL – you can rent a tree which will be delivered to your door or you can collect it yourself; after the holidays, the store will collect the tree, or you return it to a store and it will go back to the farm to be specially cared for until next year).
Marche De Paris
Le Marche de Paris is a company run by Bernard Strassel, a Frenchman living in Poland. They offer home delivery in the Warsaw area each Thursday. Orders placed by Sunday will be delivered on Thursday. Besides seafood, the store offers cheeses, hams, ready-to-eat meals, and more. The store invites you to contact them if you would like to order something that is not in the store’s offer on the website. Website (available in English), Facebook.
Portside by Port Royal restaurant
The store delivers fresh fish and seafood to homes and restaurants, including “Port Royal” – a restaurant located at Hala Koszyki. They offer home delivery in the Warsaw area each Wednesday (the order should be placed no later than 7 am on Monday). Website, Facebook.
The store brings to Poland with its own transport directly from France fresh fish and seafood, as well as fresh meat, poultry, cheeses, and many other products. Orders placed by 10 am on Wednesday, the store delivers home on Friday. Website, Facebook.
The fish are bought straight from fishing boats in Portugal in the evening before transport. The next morning the plane leaves Portugal and in the evening customers receive fish (less than 24 hours after the fish are unloaded in Portuguese ports). The store has one delivery a week, most often on Thursday, sometimes on Friday (the store depends on the now frequently changing timetable of flights from Portugal). Orders are accepted on the day before transport by 1 pm by SMS (+48 519 899 666) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can contact Fish Lovers in English. Website, Facebook.
In addition to delivering organic groceries, “Lokalny Rolnik” also offers fresh fish and seafood, including various shrimps, mussels, octopus, etc. The home deliveries (click “dostawa na adres” tab) take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays (each day two delivery slots to select: 4 pm – 7 pm or 7 pm – 10 pm). Delivery area: Warsaw (except for the following districts: Rembertów, Wesoła). Website, Facebook.
The shop has a wide range of fresh fish and seafood. Fish is not delivered only on Mondays following non-trading Sunday. In the last days, the available delivery slots are more distant. However, Frisco releases new delivery slots for the next day at 9 am and 7 pm every day (you have to be quick because the available slots disappear very quickly). Website (available in English), Facebook.
On our website, you will also find a list of organic stores delivering groceries in the Warsaw area and regular stores delivering groceries in the Warsaw area: Grocery home delivery in Warsaw.
Pan Bochen – online store by Piekarnia Piwoński
Online store of the Piekarnia Piwoński – a family bakery, operating in Łomianki, near Warsaw, for over 60 years, offering healthy bread baked according to traditional, old Polish recipes. The bakery also offers Spanish pastries (a Spaniard joined the family of bakery owners). Couriers deliver fresh bread from 2 to 6.30 – the bread ordered by 9 pm will be delivered the next day before 6.30 am at your door. Deliveries are made from Monday to Saturday. The bakery’s website. Website to order online.
Kup Chleb – online store by Chlebodawca
It’s a one-man business – the Chlebodawca bakery recreates old Polish recipes for traditional sourdough bread (chleb an zakwasie), the ingredients of their bread are flour, water, and salt. The bakery’s website. Website to order online. Instruction on how to order (Importantly – in the first step of the order, you choose the day/date. Thanks to prior orders, the bakery will only bake the right amount of ordered bread and nothing will be wasted).
Charlotte offers fresh, home-baked bread, prepared according to a traditional French recipe. Orders are processed on an ongoing basis from 10 am to 11 pm, delivery within 7 km from the restaurants. In addition to bread, other Charolotte products can be ordered for home delivery, including croissants, salads, jam, etc. The bakery’s website. Website to order online.
Products ordered by 2 pm are delivered the next day. Free delivery for purchases over 70 PLN. Bread is delivered and baked on the same day. Deliveries are made from Monday to Thursday. The offer includes over 70 types of bread, rolls, and buns and over 80 pastry and confectionery products. Website to order online.
Patisserie and bakery with Italian roots. Their bread is shipped only on Tuesdays or Thursdays (this is due to the fact that they bake bread only on Tuesdays and Thursdays). If you place an order no later than Monday by 12 pm, the package will be sent by courier on Tuesday morning. In addition to bread, the online store offers a wide selection of sweets, cakes, pastries. Website to order online.
On our website, you will also find a list of organic stores delivering groceries in the Warsaw area and regular stores delivering groceries in the Warsaw area: Grocery home delivery in Warsaw.
Restrictions in Poland from November 28 to December 27:
- On December 24 (Christmas Eve, stores are usually open until 2 pm), there will be NO “senior hours” (stores from 10 am to 12 am open only to seniors 60+) in stores.
- Re-opening of libraries (1 person/15m2).
- Events/meetings organized at home – with a maximum of 5 people/guests (the limit of 5 people does not include the host and people who live with the host).
- Re-opening of stores in shopping malls and furniture stores (including Ikea) from November 28. There is a limit of people in shops and shopping malls – a maximum of 1 person/15 m2. The exception are playrooms in shopping centers which remain closed.
- Schools are closed (remote learning) until December 22 (from December 23 until January 3 there is a holiday break – no online classes). This applies to all primary school grades (grades 1-8; children 7+) and high schools. The date of the winter school break in Poland has been changed. Usually, the winter break (ferie zimowe) times differ for each Polish province/voivodship each year. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has decided that in 2021, winter break throughout Poland will be in the same 2-week period: January 4-17, 2021. This means that the children will be at home until January 17, 2021 (either with online classes or as part of the Christmas and winter break).
- Kindergartens and nurseries remain open.
- Travel by international trains outside the EU’s external borders is suspended (rail traffic within the European Union’s internal borders remains unchanged).
- Restaurants, bars, pubs closed. They can only sell take-away meals.
- Hotels are closed (hotels available only to guests on a business trip).
- Night clubs and discos closed.
- Cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries, cultural centers are closed.
- Swimming pools, aquaparks, gyms are closed.
- Amusement parks and recreational parks are closed.
- Beauty, hairdressing and tattoo parlors remain open in accordance with sanitary rules.
- From 8 am to 4 pm (Monday to Friday, on school days), children up to 16 years of age are not allowed to be outside alone without an adult. This rule does not apply on weekends and when the child goes to school or comes home from school.
- Public transportation -> 50% of the seats or 30% of the total number of seating and standing places.
- The limit of people in shops. 1 person/15 m2.
- It is forbidden to organize weddings, funeral banquets, first communion receptions.
- Sporting events without an audience.
- Trade fairs, congresses and conferences can be organized online.
- Shopping hours for seniors. From 10 am to 12 am, from Monday to Friday, the stores (grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies) will be open only to seniors 60+. They apply to post offices as well. “Hours for seniors” do not apply to clothing stores, household appliances stores, furniture stores etc.
- The limit of people in churches: 1 person/15m2.
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