Did you know that in the past, the Vistula River served as the main communication and transportation artery? Wooden boats transported goods and sand across the city, and grain traveled as far as Gdańsk. Today, that’s history, but you can still experience a river cruise and see the city from a new perspective. If you want to learn about old traditions or just relax, there are many options available during the summer season.
From traditional flat-bottomed boats to historic ships and comfortable catamarans and gondolas, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for a more thrilling experience, you can rent a motorboat or yacht. There are also mobile kayak rentals available for volunteers. The boats dock in various places, mainly on the Vistula’s left side. In most cases, you can book and pay for your trip online.
Make sure that after the cruise you spend great night in one of the best clubs or a pub in Warsaw: Nightlife in Warsaw: The 12 Best Clubs for a Night to Remember
An Intimate Experience – Catamarans, Gondolas, and Cruise Ships
Every day, you can embark on a scenic cruise on one of the intimate ships „Po Wiśle” from the floating barge „Kurier” (El Chapo), moored at Bulwar Karski at the foot of the Old Town and the Royal Castle. You can check the cruise times on their website. During the one-hour tour, you’ll see the panorama of the Old and New Town, the Copernicus Science Center, the entrance to the Czerniakowski Port, and the unique Gruba Kaśka waterworks station.
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Let me say, it’s a great way to enjoy the sun, drink tea or coffee, and taste juicy Polish apples – all included in the price. On evening cruises, you’ll admire the sunset, colorfully illuminated bridges, and the famous PGE National Park. This could be the perfect way to start your evening entertainment.
On holiday Sundays, you can also go on a cruise in the characteristic, glazed iBarka with two decks and a sunny terrace, where even live concerts have been held. The catamaran with a dozen or so seats is moored in the Czerniakowski Port, at Czerniakowski Promontory, or Nowa Fala Harbor (next to the Copernicus Science Centre).
From the marina on the Vistula’s right side, near the Śląsko-Dąbrowski bridge, you can sail on a romantic cruise in a comfortable, roofed gondola from the Aquatica fleet. Sit back on a comfortable couch and see how the Vistula boulevards, Warsaw’s Old Town, or the magnificent Copernicus Science Center look from this perspective. Airy curtains add atmosphere to the expedition. If you’d like to enjoy a meal or a drink on board, please let them know when booking your boat.
If you want to feel the spirit of history, take a trip on a beautiful replica of the oldest unit of the Masurian white fleet – the 19th-century steamer Loewentin from 1892. Up to 80 people can fit on its four decks. During the one-and-a-half-hour cruise, you’ll listen to interesting facts about Warsaw and order beer or grilled snacks. In even more comfortable conditions, you can eat in one of the two exclusive cabins finished with natural wood.
The ship runs on weekends, and the cruise starts and ends at the „Barka Warszawska” on Jan Karski Boulevard at the foot of the Royal Castle. The route is determined each time by the captain (typically running between the Gdański and Łazienkowski bridges).
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You can also charter these and other ships by booking a group dinner cruise. You choose the starting and ending point of the cruise yourself and determine the route.
If you want to feel like a captain but don’t have the appropriate qualifications, rent a smaller vessel: the RT5 catamaran, which can accommodate 10 people, or the GAMMA pathboat – a five-person boat. Both moor at the WIR barge at Patton Boulevard.
You’ll find tables on both – bring your own provisions and have a picnic on the river. Sonar will help you avoid shoals. Just in case, you’ll receive two fuel tanks, an oar and grappling hook, and an anchor. Arrive 10 minutes early to familiarize yourself with the boat and sonar operation and the trail rules.
Kayaking and Motorboats – Thrilling River Experiences
For a more active experience, you can try kayaking on the Vistula. There are mobile kayak rentals available, and you can paddle along the river while admiring the city’s beauty. It’s a unique way to get closer to nature and feel the river’s power beneath you.
If you’re in search of an adrenaline rush, consider renting a motorboat or yacht. These options allow you to explore the Vistula at a faster pace, and you can enjoy the thrill of speeding along the water while taking in the city’s stunning views. Remember to follow safety guidelines and regulations while operating these watercraft.
Traditional Vistula Boats
Taxi Wisła offers a unique opportunity to experience a traditional Vistula boat cruise, allowing you to travel from almost anywhere on the Warsaw section of the river. Call and make an appointment for a specific time to see for yourself how boats in the past used to transport residents, goods, animals, or sand to the other side of the river.
The 12-meter bull-type vessel, called „Olęder” – named after medieval settlers from the Netherlands – has a roof to protect against sun and rain, and a large open deck where you can relax during the cruise. You can even choose which stop to get off at, or perhaps you want to cross the river? That’s possible too. For early risers, there’s even the option of a cruise up the river and having your own breakfast at sunrise.
The Barge – A Nod to Tradition
The so-called barge, a stable flat-bottomed boat designed with traditional Vistula vessels in mind, will take you on a one-and-a-half-hour cruise from the Nowa Fala marina or from Cypel Czerniakowski.
The 3-meter width of the boat allows for the addition of tables – when booking the boat, decide whether you want to order brunch or dinner from the organizer. During the evening cruises (up the river), you’ll enjoy a bottle of Prosecco and an unforgettable view of the Warsaw skyline against the setting sun.
A Journey Back in Time – Traditional Vistula Gallar Boat
Embark on an hour-long trip on a traditional Vistula gallar boat from the marina near the Mermaid statue and the Copernicus Science Center metro station. Modeled after eighteenth-century galleys, the wooden boat has a deck divided into two parts – closed and open. Thanks to its flat-bottomed structure, it allows sailing at the lowest water levels and provides direct access to beaches and islands. Along the way, you’ll see the Old Town, stop at a Vistula island, and in good weather, you’ll even set up a traditional sail with the helmsman. You’ll also listen to stories about the Vistula and Warsaw, and receive water as part of the cruise price.
Did you know that all you need is an ID or passport to go on a motorboat cruise? These polyethylene boats with 13-horsepower engines are designed for recreation and rescue. If you haven’t done it before, acquaint yourself with the rules of navigating on water, such as yielding to other vessels, handling grounding, and managing the engine lock lever when changing gears.
To reach maximum speed, limit the number of passengers to three. When booking a boat by the hour, consider that you’ll travel downstream three times faster than upstream. Pick up the boat near the Słonka ferry port on the Vistula Flotilla Boulevard at km 511.
For a group motorboat cruise, you can book from the Nowa Fala marina at Bulwar Pattona (near the Copernicus Science Centre) or on Cypl Czerniakowski at the Miami Wars bar. Besides the helmsman provided by the organizer, up to nine people can fit on board, and the cruise lasts either one or two hours.
Opt for an evening cruise to enjoy an unforgettable view of the Warsaw skyline, complete with wine and a picturesque sunset. If you prefer, embark on a 1.5-hour upriver cruise with brunch or dinner served on board. With special requests, you can sail even further, reaching Zalew Zegrzyński.
High-Speed Thrills: Jet Go and AIRBOAT
Experience entertainment straight from New Zealand, where the first jet-powered boat was constructed. Feel like you’re on a roller coaster during a 15-minute ride in the ultra-fast, 11-passenger, 380-horsepower Jet Go flat-bottomed speedboat. At speeds of nearly 80 km/h, the vehicle rotates around its axis (horizontally, of course) and performs dynamic turns, so it’s a good idea to bring a towel. Departures are from the WIR harbor near the Poniatowski Bridge, with a minimum of three passengers required for booking.
From the „SUM” port at ul. Wał Miedzeszyński 297, sail up the river in a 12-passenger AIRBOAT propeller boat – one of the fastest vessels on the Vistula. During the 20-minute cruise, you’ll feel like you’re flying rather than swimming due to the boat’s unusual structure. This rare vessel can also be chartered exclusively with a helmsman, but reservations require two days advance notice.
Active Adventures Along the Vistula River
Discover the rich history of Omega, the most popular Polish sailing yacht built in occupied Warsaw in 1942. Used for sailing training for Home Army soldiers and for transporting goods and soldiers across the Vistula River during the Warsaw Uprising, Omega continued to serve for training, multi-day cruises, and canoeing trips after the war. It remains a popular regatta class today. Charter Omega exclusively with the skipper and find the marina near the Mermaid statue on the boulevards.
Canoeing Along the Vistula
All you need is to be an adult or have permission from a legal guardian to explore the Vistula River by canoe. Reach places inaccessible to others, visit canals, old slipways, sluices, and explore the islands and various river nooks of the Vistula’s right bank. Choose a 1.5-2 hour route for beginners or parents with children, or a full-day route for experienced kayakers seeking a challenge. Pick up a 1 or 2-person kayak and set out on your adventure.
For picturesque views, paddle downstream, where the river flows near the Kampinos National Park and numerous smaller nature reserves. The many islands along the river are a paradise for birds building nests or finding refuge during migration. Alternatively, sail upstream towards Otwock, where clean water and a wide riverbed attract camping enthusiasts. The Świder basin near Warsaw offers a strong current, narrow meanders, and fallen tree branches. Order kayaks for these and other routes at kayakwstolicy.pl and nakajak.com.
Cruise to Serock with Warsaw Tourist Lines
For those who enjoy long, leisurely trips, embark on a day cruise to Serock. Operating on weekends, the „Zefir” ship accommodates over 100 passengers, each with a covered seat and table access. During the cruise, enjoy nature views and spot the ruins of a 1897 bridge, blown up by the retreating Russian army in 1915. Purchase grilled food and drinks on board.
Upon arriving in Serock, experience the picturesque Zegrzyńskie Lake, bustling with motorboats, sailboats, and kayaks during the season. During the 2-hour break, sunbathe on the local beach, stroll along the shore, or explore the charming town. The ship departs from the marina in Żerań at the beginning of the canal at 9:00 am and returns at 6:00 pm.