Being away from home on the holiday season can be tough, especially when you are in a foreign country. To counter the blues felt by this, my friends and I decided to strap on ice skates at the National Stadium in Warsaw where they were hosting festive ice skating! In this article I’ll share background info about the stadium, all the details you need about skating in Poland, our experience skating, and of course, pictures!
The National Stadium
The PGE Narodowy, known in English as the “National Stadium,” is the largest football arena in Poland, with a seating capacity of nearly 60,000. Its construction began in 2008 and opened in time for the 2012 EUFA Euro Cup. The opening ceremony attracted many Polish celebrities and finished with fireworks. The National Stadium also hosted several 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification matches with Poland vs. England being the most well-known as bureaucracy prevented the closing of the stadium’s massive retractable roof before rain started to fall. The roof itself cannot be retracted while wet, meaning it had to be left open as torrential rains turned the pitch into a swamp. The match had to be rescheduled to later in the week and the stadium is now sometimes jokingly called “the national swimming pool,” especially by soccer fans.
In the off-season, the stadium is often used to host concerts by such stars as Madonna, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Cold Play, etc. Ed Sheeran performed in August of 2018 and drew a record high concert attendance of 104,836 over two performances. The National Stadium is also used for other large events too: American football, the Science Picnic, volleyball, motocross, and, of course, holiday ice skating festivals!
During the winter the National Stadium serves as Poland’s largest indoor skating complex. Two ice rinks are set up where the pitch usually is; rink A, a traditional oval rink for children and adults, and rink B, a smaller, circular rink used for children and skating classes. The rinks open in December and are used until early March on Mon-Fri from 15:00-23:00 and on Sat-Sun from 09:00-00:00. On Friday and Saturday evenings there is a disco skating event with a live DJ. Skating lessons take place on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Tickets are purchased for a session of up to 75 minutes. Rink A sessions cost 14 PLN ($3.66) on weekdays at 16 PLN on weekends. Rink B sessions are slightly cheaper. There is no student discount for ice skating, but the price is also already quite low and includes skate rental.
Also available is a curling rink, a small Christmas market (selling hot beverages and snacks), and an ice hill, which is a sloped sheet of ice for tubing! The easiest way to book tickets is online but you can also go to the ticket counter at the stadium and purchase them there as well.
Our Ice Skating Trip at the Stadium
The CC (Collegium Civitas) Student Integration Organization planned the ice-skating trip to the National Stadium for a Saturday afternoon in December. I, and several of our friends booked our tickets online and met up at the nearby metro stop Centrum Nauki Kopernik and walked across Świętokrzyski Bridge to the National Stadium. Seeing the National Stadium up close was very impressive. We initially struggled to find the skating entrance, which turned out to be on the northeast side, facing downtown Praga. After we got in, and had our e-tickets checked we had to wait about 20 minutes for our time slot to begin. In that time, we got our skates picked out and strapped on. Putting them on was very easy, just two claps at the toe and ankle. Seeing the National Stadium from the inside was very impressive too. This was the first European football stadium I had visited and I could only imagine the atmosphere during a national match.
Once our time to skate began, we hit the ice! Literally! I fell within the first minute of skating. I used to play hockey when I was younger but apparently my legs forgot how to skate. However, none of us turned out to be experts. After about 30 minutes, it all came back for me and we skated to the music, raced, tried some figure skating moves, and had an all-around great time! We even rented Bobby the Seal (only 10 PLN/ 2.5 USD) to help our more novice friends balance and we took turns pushing them around.
Towards the end of our skating session the ice rink got quite crowded. There were a couple near misses with some young kids who were darting in and out of those who were skating a little slower. I’d say if you do not have that much experience with skating come earlier in the day when it will be less busy or look into lessons on the weekends! I guarantee it will be a fun time!
After we finished skating, we were all quite tired and a little sore and decided to head over to Praga to eat. We had a nice Vietnamese meal and joked about some of our wipeouts we had on the ice.
Being away from family during the holiday season on study abroad is tough, but there are great activities that you can do with friends to overcome this homesickness. Ice skating at the National Stadium is one of these! It’s a great way to form new traditions, get a little exercise, and make fun memories with friends while on study abroad. If you are in Warsaw in the winter give ice skating at the National Stadium a go!