Alexandra Chin’s Travel Black Book

Sad songs

Warsaw's tragic history tugs at the heartstrings of Alexandra Chin, president of an accounting association

Who: Datuk Alexandra Chin, 55, president of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The Malaysian is married to Datuk Peter Thien, 60, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Sabah, with whom she has two children.

Favourite destination: Warsaw, Poland

Why: Warsaw has a rich history and every corner sings a sad tale. Never have I been on a trip where my surroundings evoked so much emotion in me. The city's strong and intriguing culture also makes it extremely memorable.

Warsaw is just starting to gain popularity as a destination. We saw few other Asians during our trip and I enjoyed the exclusivity of the location. The low cost of living in Poland is also a huge draw.

Favourite hotel: I stayed in the Regent Warsaw Hotel (www.regent-warsaw.com), which was in the tree-lined Belwederska Boulevard in central Warsaw. It is a stone's throw away from Lazienki Park, a favourite spot of mine in Warsaw. The Baroque-style park is a spectacular place to take a walk among tall trees and peacocks.

Favourite tourist site: The Warsaw Old Town is the oldest part of the city and was famously re-built as a replica of the pre-war days after most of the original buildings were destroyed during World War II.

The food in Warsaw tells the story of the city’s history – humble ingredients of flour, potatoes and cabbage take centre stage.

The rebuilt square retains elements of mediaeval architecture, such as the old city walls, St John's Cathedral and the Barbican.

Today, the streets and alleyways offer row after row of shops, cafes and restaurants.

Favourite shopping spot: Head to the quaint little boutiques that line the Old Town Marketplace. The shops here sell myriad trinkets, local art, sculptures and a good range of jewellery. Warsaw is famous for amber gemstones. The beautiful art pieces by local artists are great for collecting too.

Favourite museum: The Warsaw Uprising Museum (www.1944.pl) in the Wola district is a museum dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when the Polish resistance Home Army fought for 63 days to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. I spent more than four hours in the three-level museum. The emotions I felt then were overwhelming.

The museum is expertly curated with interactive displays, original exhibits, photographs, film archives, artefacts and personal accounts. A highlight is the 3D movie, The City Of Ruins, which runs continuously in the museum.

Local delights:The food in Warsaw tells the story of the city's history - humble ingredients of flour, potatoes and cabbage take centre stage.

The Polish potato dumplings (pierogi) are a must-try, though my favourite food was zurek, a soup made of soured rye flour and meat (boiled or smoked pork), which tasted exotic to my Asian palate.

Beyond the basics, Warsaw is known for its own rendition of European meat favourites - the pork knuckle and sausages, both of which were extremely tasty, served with lots of potatoes and cabbage.

Everywhere we went - whether on the streets or in the hotels - red Polish apples were found. Be sure you grab one to sink your teeth into.

Best hidden find: Polish ice cream from a small ice-cream parlour named Lody Prawdziwe (www.facebook.com/LodyPrawdziwe), which means real ice cream. It was mentioned by friends and we were elated when we chanced upon it near Swietokrzyski Park. The selection of flavours is amazing and the flavours are fresh yet creamy.

Ideal length of stay: Three to four days are enough to explore the place in depth. Don't book tours online before your trip. Book them when you arrive with the help of local advice and tourist information desks.

Traveller's advice: Warsaw's weather can be unpredictable, so check the forecast before your trip. Use only licensed taxi operators to avoid being ripped off.

Best souvenirs: Local produce makes fantastic gifts. There are unique cheeses and sausages that can be taken home if packed properly.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'Sad songs'. Print Edition | Subscribe