WARSAW, POLAND: Hilton Hotel & Convention Centre

For my first night in Poland – a country whose language I do not speak and which I had never before visited – I wanted the comfort of more or less familiar surroundings so I could recover from my jet-lag and get my bearings before plunging headlong into my next adventure. The Hilton Hotel & Convention Centre provided just was I was seeking.

Before leaving on my trip, I exchanged several emails with hotel personnel to get directions and guidance about how to get to the hotel. The concierge was quite specific about which cabs to use from the Warsaw Fryderyk Chopin Airport (WAW), and it may have saved me some grief.

Heading to the curb where taxis waited, I was approached by two different men in plain leather jackets and asked if I needed a taxi. In Warsaw, gypsy cab drivers are common – and unregulated. Using one means foregoing any protection you might have from local regulatory authorities in the event that anything untoward happens.

Having been advised to use only taxi assistants wearing yellow jackets, I walked past the men without the uniforms and was shown to a fully licensed, regulated cab for the short ride to my hotel. The hotel’s concierge had told me a taxi ride would be about 40 złoty (the unit of Polish currency, pronounced ZWOH-tay) plus tip. Arriving at the hotel, my driver told me the fare was 42 zł, which was more or less in line. I didn’t see the fare meter during that first trip but since learned that it is often located next to the driver near the floor.

Guest room living area

Checking in, I was given a corner room on the 24th floor overlooking an area of the Mirów district that has apparently been cleared for upcoming development but which, given the history of the city, evoked images of an area bombed out during the war. The vacant city block stood in stark a contrast to the development going on at the other side of the property.

Under construction, the new Warsaw Spire is a complex of three new upmarket office buildings with more than 100,00 square meters of space, intended to be, “A modern landmark and a powerful symbol of Warsaw’s energy,” according to the developer.

My room included a separate living areas, a large master bath with separate tub and shower, an extra half-bath, flat-screen TVs in both the living and sleeping areas, a coffee bar with a Nespresso coffee maker (one of my favorite indulgences) and a hot pot, an in-room minibar, iron and ironing board, and robes and slippers waiting at the foot of the bed.

Welcome snack

On the corner desk, a snack was waiting for me consisting of kabonosky wieprzowe (meat sticks similar to Oberto beef sticks) accompanied by spicy brown mustard, horseradish, and a bottle of Żywiec, a popular Polish beer. What a tonic! A welcome note from the property’s general manager was also a nice touch.

In keeping with Hilton service standards, everyone I met bid me a “Good morning,” or “Dzień dobry” (the Polish equivalent), and were more than happy to answer my questions, give me directions, put me in a taxi, or meet whatever need I had. Eeryone spoke English to one degree or another, which is important for many of us.

The property also has an Illy Café off the main lobby, an on-site health club with a Caffé Nero in its lobby, an Olympic-size lap pool, and a large soaking pool and a hot tub. Health club facilities are free for guests to use.

A dinnertime snack at the lobby bar included a bowl of żurek, a traditional Polish sour soup made with rye, white sausage and egg. The soup was well-prepared and its slight sour flavor profile as tasty as any I had later at several other restaurants in Poland.

Breakfast at Meza

My room rate included breakfast in the Meza restaurant, which was primarily a buffet. I am not particularly a fan of buffets because the food too often grows cold. Unfortunately, that was the case with many of the steam table items I tried but the restaurant also offers made-to-order omelets, so I was able to get the hot breakfast I was after. A number of typically European items were also on offer including cold cuts, cheeses, pickled herring, smoked salmon, vegetables, yogurt, muesli, and others.

While it is a hotel and conference center, facilities are arranged vertically throughout the 27-story building rather than horizontally, meaning there are no long walks between meeting spaces, restaurants and guest rooms. Everything is very conveniently situated.

The property is near several tram lines that can whisk guests most anywhere in the city, as well as several major thoroughfares with their shops, stores and restaurants for those who want to go off-property. It is just a couple of blocks from the Warsaw Uprising Museum and within walking distance (or short tram ride) of the city’s stare miasto or Old Town, which is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

All told, I found the Hilton Hotel & Convention Centre an excellent first stop for my inaugural trip to Warsaw.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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