Thursday, March 5, 2015

WARSAW, POLAND: Polonia Palace Hotel

The Polonia Palace Hotel in central Warsaw clearly deserves the accolades it has been accorded. And if I had to choose, I would say it was my favorite of the three hotels at which I stayed during my recent trip to Warsaw.

Polonia Palace at night
The Polonia Palace is lovely in both architecture and its appointments, staff members provide excellent service and it is conveniently located in the heart of the Polish capital city.

Built in 1913, the French-style hotel is situated just east of, and across the boulevard from, Warsaw Centralny, the main train station. It took me a few minutes after getting off my train from Kraków to figure out that I had to take stairs down and pass under Al. Jerozolimskie, the major thoroughfare on which both the train station and hotel are located. Once I'd figured that out, it proved to be a quick walk, even with luggage in tow.

Greeted warmly by the front desk attendant, she glanced at my American passport after I had introduced myself in Polish, then asked “Polsku lub angielsku?” Polish or English? She had discerned correctly that, even though my accent is good and my looks proclaim my Polish heritage, my Polish language skills are minimal at best. But she was very gracious and noted my language preference for future contacts, whether in person or by phone.

Sleeping area of the guest room
I had booked the room on-line before leaving the U.S. and obtained a rate equivalent to US$112 for the two-night stay for a standard King room, which included breakfast each morning, which I though an absolutely outrageously good value. But then, it was winter. Of course, rates will vary with season and availability.

However, booking a room at the Polonia Palace on-line provides guests with a number of benefits including a free welcome glass of house wine at Bojangles Bar and Lounge off the lobby, free Wi-Fi access, 10% off dinner at the on-site Strauss Restaurant, and a space-available room upgrade. I was upgraded to a room with a view of the park and the Palace of Culture across the road, and the Warsaw skyline beyond.

Rooms are nicely appointed in restful neutral colors. While the main area of my room was approximately 10 by 16 feet, it was well laid out and the space efficiently used. High ceilings contributed to an overall feeling of spaciousness while modern (probably triple-glazed) windows kept out the noise from the busy street below. The closets are ample and include an in-room safe large enough for laptops and tablets.

Workstation, TV and minibar
The work station is adequate, with multiple power outlets to charge the electronics with which we travel, though the number of units we can charge at any given time is likely limited by the number of plug adapters we brought with us to Eastern Europe.Wireless Internet connectivity is faster than most hotels, at about 2 Mpbs, as measured by SpeakEasy.net/SpeedTest. For those who need even faster speeds, the guests' business center in the lobby provides wired connections for laptops and an upload speed of 18 Mbps, which is helpful when emailing large documents or presentations.

A hot pot with a variety of teas, instant coffee, creamer and sugar stand ready to help guests greet the morning. The large flat-screen TV offers access to TV programs in multiple languages as well as Internet radio from the world over at no charge. Movies are available on a pay-per-view basis.

A robe and slippers were waiting on the foot of the bed and another on a rack in the bath. Complimentary chocolates and bottled mineral water were on the nightstands which, somewhat oddly, were without any type of clock. My hotel room in Kraków was also lacking timepieces, so perhaps the thinking is that we all carry cell phones, which have clocks on them, so bedside clocks have become unnecessary. I disagree, and so did a number of other guests at the Kraków property; owners are planning to add clocks in the near future.

High-end bath amenities
The bath has a large soaking tub and shower combination, which is not my preference in upmarket properties. However, given that the hotel is over 100 years old and that the in-room guide notes that non-slip mats are but a phone call away, that can be forgiven. The bathroom is also appointed with high-end amenities by Chopard. Sound from the TV is also piped into the bath, so guests can either catch up on the day’s news or listen to music while getting ready each morning or soaking away the remains of the day.

Access to the hotel’s health club is included in the room rate. Looking to investigate the facility for future use, I was greeted by a member of the housekeeping staff whose English was no better than my Polish. Still, with some pantomime, I was able to communicate what I wanted and she was able to direct me to the minus 1 level – one floor below the ground floor. The attendant at the gym was equally gracious and showed me around to the extent she could, though she left me on my own to explore the men’s locker room and shower facilities.

One caveat worth noting is the prices for on-site food and drink. I thought the prices, both at the restaurants and from the minibars, were higher than they needed to be. Experienced travelers realize that there is a "convenience premium" one often pays when traveling. In this case, though, there are a number of restaurants and delikatecy (convenience stores) along Al. Jerozolimskie so there are plenty of options for more economical dining and snacking. On my first night, I picked up a bottle of vodka and some snacks from a local shop, then requested a bucket of ice upon my return. It was delivered very quickly; again, an indication of the hotel’s excellent service.

Champagne breakfast!
The on-site breakfast was lovely with extensive offerings ranging from hot items including bacon, eggs, and several kinds of sausage to traditional European fare including muesli, cold cuts and cheeses. One of my personal favorites is paszte, which translates to paté but is closer to the German liverwurst. In addition, guests were welcome to pour themselves a glass of sparkling wine or vodka to start their day. While I’m not inclined to throw back a vodka first thing in the morning, I do find a champagne breakfast a delightful way to start my day.

In addition to its proximity to the main train station, the Polonia Palace is only two tram stops or a modest walk from the trendy Nowy Swiat, or "new town" area. It is convenient to the Stare Miasto or Old Town, shopping, and other popular areas of the city, making it an excellent choice for those who want to be where the action is in Warsaw. 

For gracious service in an excellent, convenient location, I highly recommended the Polonia Palace.
 
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Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images.

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