Hosting international events has not come easy to Poland. Although the country regained its democratic government almost 30 years ago and joined the European Union more than 12 years ago, many meeting planners are just now becoming aware of the strength of Poland’s economy and the vibrancy of its urban centers since breaking its ties to the former Soviet Union. In fact, Poland boasts one of the strongest economies of any former Eastern Bloc nation, and Warsaw, with its investment-friendly policies, attracts hundreds of multinationals to a revitalized city center with 10 5-star MICE hotels and a beautifully restored UNESCO-designated Old Town. Its savvy, new, gourmet restaurants put to rest the rumors about Warsaw’s eateries serving only pierogi, kiełbasa and cabbage (although traditional cuisine is still available); and the strikingly modern, three-year-old Museum of the History of Polish Jews, designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki, offers one of Europe’s most interesting off-site venues for MICE groups. “Too few professional conference organizers around the world were aware of what Warsaw had to offer,” said Mateusz Czerwinski, director, Warsaw Tourism Organization’s Warsaw Convention Bureau. “But that changed in February 2015 after we hosted over 80 international MICE buyers and showed them all the benefits that Warsaw can offer their groups.” The Warsaw Convention Bureau impressed buyers with the Palace of Culture and Science, the PGE National Stadium, the Expo XXI Convention Center, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and several high-end, downtown hotels and new office towers. The MICE buyers enjoyed Warsaw’s superb cuisine and its historic attractions and took notice of the close proximity from downtown to Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, a distance of only six miles, 15–20 minutes by car. Warsaw’s 5-star hotel properties offer excellent accommodations as well as state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities. The Warsaw Marriott Hotel is a deluxe property across from the Palace of Culture. In addition to the 528 guestrooms, MICE groups have access to the hotel’s conference center, featuring 28,000 square feet of high-tech spaces, including 19,171 square feet of event space in 21 rooms. The Sheraton Warsaw offers 350 guestrooms, including 60 Club rooms and 24 suites as well as the fine-dining InAzia restaurant, one of the best in Warsaw. Other 5-star properties include the InterContinental Warsaw with 414 deluxe rooms in the heart of the city. It features two full restaurants and three other food and beverage venues, with a catering department that services 13 conference rooms (11,937 square feet) and the Opera Ballroom (4,714 square feet). The hotel makes good use of its upper floors, providing a private meeting room on the 41st-floor Club Lounge and the exclusive RiverView Wellness Centre and Spa on the 43rd floor. The downtown Westin Warsaw offers 361 guestrooms, including 17 Westin Guest Offices and 14 suites. Ten modular function rooms and the ability to create completely sustainable meetings make the hotel stand out for MICE events, along with its location close to the Palace of Culture and Science and the Zlote Tarasy shopping mall. For planners who prefer more traditional lodging, the 168-room Hotel Bristol has stood as a city landmark hotel since 1901, redesigned and updated by acclaimed London designer Anita Rosato. Its Neo-Renaissance façade and public spaces filled with Art Nouveau flourishes provide a historic ambience. The venue offers the formal Marconi restaurant and the Viennese-style Café Bristol, plus 10 conference rooms designed in the Art Nouveau style with high-tech amenities.
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“Before World War II, Warsaw was more beautiful than Prague, than Budapest,” said Joanna Maria Olejek, a translator living in the heart of the city. But then, of course, the Nazis came in and destroyed 85 percent of the city, pinpointing the most important cultural attractions. Stalin swiftly followed Hitler to clean up the mess and give the city a nice communist sheen. Look at the expanse of multistoried apartments, sprinkled with high-rise hotels, and you yearn for a more compelling skyline.