Warsaw is figuratively and literally the connector between Europe’s East (Vilnius, Minsk) and West (Berlin). The obvious Cold War associations are still there, but the Polish capital is becoming less and less of a grey city and more one that’s full of life and colors, with notes of Polish tradition next to Communist and retro cool. Come explore what one of Europe’s most up-and-coming capitals has to offer with some tips by Warsaw locals.
Kick up a Polish Storm!
“I actually feel it is unfair to promote this tiny place here as it is meant to be small and ‘off’ but I just can’t do without it,” admits local Magda. Neighborhood bar Bar Wieczorny is supposedly a place where locals go to have a last drink before going to bed. In theory, at least: they’re well known for their “Polish Storm” (a cocktail with 7 different types of alcohol!) and “Surprise Me”, where you just name a single drink or ingredient and let the barmen do their magic. These “last drinks” are guaranteed to be legendary!
David Bowie in an underrated district
Żoliborz is just 15 minutes away by tram from the city centre, but that seems to be enough to scare away most of Warsaw’s visitors. Not you, though. This area is not cool just because of this huge crowdfunded David Bowie mural that’s been around since January 2016; the reconstructed district is pleasant to go for a walk around as a whole and has a few noteworthy cafes we’ll leave it to you to discover.
Have lunch with the locals
“Milk bars” are very popular in Warsaw for lunch and have been so since Communist times: they offer traditional Polish food for affordable prices at a no-frills environment. Bar Bambino strikes a good balance between authenticity and modernity: their prices aren’t dirt-cheap as they’re often elsewhere, but the super-central location and the amazing food (try the pierogi, especially the sweet “leniwe” ones with cinnamon) more than make up for it.
The “skinniest” house in the world
Do you know Etgar Keret? He’s a famous Israeli writer who also happens to own a house in Warsaw. His house also happens to be the narrowest one in the world, ranging from 152cm to 92cm at its very thinnest! The story is that decades of development had left a tiny space between two buildings which Keret didn’t think should go unused… When Keret’s in Warsaw he lives there, but the rest of the time, Keret’s House is a creative studio for artists. Keep an eye out for the open house days.
An unusual local museum
Praga (not to be confused with the Czech capital) is thought to be one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Europe. But it has a long history. It used to be a separate town from Warsaw, on the other side of the river Vistula. But it has a long history as part of the city, as it escaped WWII relatively unscathed. You can find out more about the history of this district at the Muzeum Pragi, which has over 1,500 everyday objects, many of which have been donated by the local inhabitants themselves. It’s a very lively example of cooperation between people living in an area and an institution.
A cultural cafe in the Palace of Culture
Warsaw’s iconic Palace of Culture and Science holds a lot of secrets inside its giant interior, and one of them is the aptly named Cafe Kulturalna. It’s a bar with a rich selection of beer and drinks (even, strangely, Polish wine) but also organizes concerts on the weekends. It’s also great for lunch, and because of its proximity to a lot of cultural institutions, it’s frequented by artists and art amateurs alike. So come mingle.
“Did you know that Warsaw was ranked the 3rd most vegan-friendly in the world by Happy Cow? Yes! Not just Poland, not just Europe — the whole world! Just a few years ago, I would’ve said that would be impossible, but now…” If you’re as excited as local Nitzan with Warsaw’s unlikely but exciting development into a vegan hotspot, here are some hot recommendations. Vegan Bistro with international cuisine; Dela Krem for desserts, Krowarzywa for burgers, and
Vege Stacja for ice cream!
Elegant and local shopping hall with a history
Hala Koszyki started its life in the 20th century as an elegant shopping hall; after having undergone many changes before and after 1989, it’s still all that and more — 18 trendy restaurants call this place home, as well as already-popular shops and bars. You shouldn’t miss going up to the second floor to take photos of the industrial roof, either. Local Magda gets to the point: “These days being in Warsaw and not knowing Hala Koszyki is a social faux pas. Make sure you visit to have an opinion”
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
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