Name National Stadium Warsaw
Year Completed 2012
The newly built National Stadium in Warsaw did not prove to be the smoothest of construction projects, but the 58,000 capacity venue rising from the rubble is certainly a vast improvement on the outdated ground that used to stand on the eastern bank of the River Wisla.
It may have been five months behind schedule and the subject of much debate about its future en-rote to a ribbon-cutting moment, but Warsaw's spanking new amphitheatre should provide a fitting setting for three group stage Euro 2012 games, a quarter-final and semi-final. Thank goodness the powers that be decided to abandon ship on Warsaw's original soccer stadium, the Dziesieciolecia (10th Anniversary), as the old place quite had literally fallen to bits, eventually morphing into a tatty flea market before its overdue demolition.
In its place stands a 21st century offspring that is another world entirely; luxurious, comfortable, multi-functional, technologically advanced - its retractable PVC roof is an impressive feature - and classy appearance, this stadium's red-and-white facade (the colours of the Polish flag) give it an eye-catching finish.
At a cost of €500 million, the 'Narodowy' has not come cheap, but it is an arena the nation can be proud of. Located in the Praga district, north-east of the city centre, the National Stadium is reached in various ways.
Trains run direct to the ground from the central Warszawa Srodmiescie station on al Jerozolimskie; you can board a tram (numbers 7, 8, 9, 22, 24 or 25) or bus (158, 507 or 517) at the Centrum stop close to the rail station, getting off at Rondo Waszngtona; or drive yourself, heading eastwards on the al Jerozolimskie, crossing the Poniatowski bridge and homing in on the stadium on your left.
Where to go, what to see
Warsaw is very well served by a fully-integrated bus, tram and one-line metro network. Tickets, available from any newspaper or tobacco kiosk sporting the 'MKZ' logo, cost 2.40 zlotys for a single journey and 6 zlotys for a pass valid for 90 minutes; make sure you validate your ticket in one of the little yellow machines on the bus or tram.
The main train station, Warszawa Centralna, is a little to the west of the central shopping area on al Jerozolimskie and conveniently, one of the city's two bus stations is located by the National Stadium. The city's airport, named in honour of the composer Frederic Chopin, sits 10km south of the city centre.
The best - and cheapest - way into town is to catch bus 175, which leaves for the Old Town (Miodowa stop) every 10 to 15 minutes. Tourist offices are found at the main railway station, at Terminal 2 of the airport and near the Old Town on ul Krakowskie Przedmiescie 36. The atmosphere at the city's huge Fan Zone on Plac Defilad close to the iconic Palace of Culture and Science should be just as feverish as at the stadium. Catering for up to 100,000 football lovers, it will feature two stages, eight large screens, catering facilities galore, as well as vast programme of shows and events.
A large, sprawling type of city, Warsaw boasts an abundance of drab, grey and soulless concrete blocks, the sort of uninspiring urban landscape that is light years away from the magnificence of a Vienna or Prague. However, first impressions are not always the best indicator and anyone who takes the time and trouble to get to know the Polish capital invariably ends up falling for its charms; the great hospitality of the people, the raw history on the streets, its dynamism and ever-increasing cosmopolitan character.
Must-see sights include the Soviet-style Palace of Culture and Science, where you should take the high-speed lift to the rooftop viewing terrace for the best view of the city. A trip to the beautiful Old Town Square (Rynek Starego Miasta), which after being razed to the ground by the Nazis has been lovingly restored, is also well worth a visit, as is the Royal Castle.
The Warsaw Rising Museum is a cultural must see, as it poignantly retells the story of the failed attempt to liberate Warsaw from Nazi rule in 1944. One of the few remaining parts of the Warsaw Ghetto, where some 450,000 Jews were subjected to unimaginable brutality during the Second World War, it is a harrowing and thought-provoking scene.
Whether it be Polish cuisine or a vast array of international cooking options, Warsaw can cater for every conceivable taste, though it has to be said that restaurant prices are edging up towards those in western European capitals. Eateries abound on and around the city's main shopping street ul Nowy Swiat and south of al Jerozolimskie.
The Old Town has more than its fair share of tourist traps with only inflated prices on the menu, so be adventurous and look further south. Try the good food and ales at the Germanesque Bierhalle on Nowy Swiat - here they like to throw a shot of caramel into the alcoholic mix - the soild Polish-Jewish fare served at Pod Samsonem (ul Freta 3/5); the cut-price 'pierogi' and soups at Podwale 5 (ul Podwale 5) or the never-disappointing Tex-Mex at the Warsaw Tortilla Factory on ul Wilcza 46. Close to the centrally-located Marriott Hotel, Legends British Bar and Restaurant does a tasty full English breakfast and has a number of beers from the old country.
Champions, on the ground floor of the Marriott is a decent sports bar and restaurant, while the Old Town has several above-average watering holes, notably Metal Bar (Rynek Starego Miasta 8). For as much retail therapy as you can handle make for the swanky Zlote Tarasy mall by the main train station. Arkadia is another cavernous complex by the Dworze Gdanski metro station. There is plenty to do and see in Warsaw, but that is the story at every Euro 2012 venue this summer.