Poland is not a top tourist destination and the capital city Warsaw is always in the shadow of the more architecturally attractive Krakow. Recently though this industrial setting has become home to many culturally ambitious and successful projects. The city has been destroyed more than once and the proud and patient Poles have rebuilt a glorious new “old town” for whimsical wandering. The landmarks are sparse and yet explore a little deeper and you will find cool contemporary art collections, trendy and cheap underground bars, design focussed concept stores, and daring and delicious eateries. Even after three days in Warsaw there was more to do and see, and discovering this lesser known city brought me great joy and excitement.
H15 Boutique Hotel – the only design hotel in Warsaw starts from just £50 a night. Housed within a transformed 19th century building just south of the city centre it has 46 spacious rooms and suites imaginatively designed by Mariola Tomczak.
Salto – this is the creative venture from Argentinean-born Martin Gimenez Castro, winner of the 2013 edition of Poland’s ‘Top Chef’ competition. Passionate and innovative, Martin has thoughtfully designed every aspect of the venue. The food, though intricate is full of bold flavour combinations and unusual cooking techniques.
Concept 13 – found on the fifth floor of the smart Vitkac shopping centre, this stylish restaurant offers panoramic views of the city. The food lives up to the luxurious location with indulgent international dishes including foie gras with quince and sichuan pepper, and tagliatelle with truffles. The service and atmosphere are lovely ensuring you will have a special evening.
Kraken Rum Bar – just across the street from our hotel Kraken provided us with a hearty lunch in Warsaw. Wonderfully fresh fish dishes are available, and next door at Beirut Hummus bar you can feast on Middle Eastern delicacies. Kraken is a lively evening venue too, filled with young locals.
Warszawa Wschodnia – one of the places I discovered in the Soho Factory area of Warsaw. Chef Mateusz Gessler offers a delicious three course lunch for the equivalent of £4. Sit at the bar and enjoy the show from the open kitchen.
Ministry of Coffee – arguably the best coffee in town, this café serves coffee from Sweden’s Koppi and is also the host of the Polish AeroPress Championship. I had a smooth and tasty Flat White here after arriving off the flight from London.
Pies Czy Suka – a little design shop with an in-house bar. We tried the unusual molecular foam cocktails one night before going on to dinner, and the classics looked good too.
Café 6/12 – this sophisticated venue has a grand marble floor and high ceiling, and with 76 types of smoothies it is the ideal stop for breakfast. I had a punchy freshly squeezed juice here in between shopping stints.
Filtry Café – a 10 minute tram ride from the city centre, this speciality coffee shop was the first of its kind in Poland. Filtry opened in 2007 (apparently the first venue to serve brewed coffee) and has had many renowned Polish baristas behind the bar. It is a charming café serving a variety of seasonal blends and the Kofi brand.
Palace of Culture and Science – built in 1955 this impressive building is the tallest in Poland. Travel up in the lift to the terrace on the 30th floor to see amazing views over the whole city.
Museum of Modern Art – we wandered around the intriguing building on New Year’s Day and saw a great architecture exhibition. Offering temporary thought-provoking shows it is definitely worth checking out whilst in the city.
Wilanow Palace – this royal residence was built in the 17th Century. As well as the impressive palace building itself, the accompanying gardens are worth seeing (in either sun or snow!)
Neon Museum – based in the Soho Factory complex, the Neon Museum displays a huge collection of cold war neon signs. These important signs which were used to glamorise consumerism in the mid-century slump and illuminated the cityscape.
Poster Museum – Opened in June 1966, The Poster Museum is the oldest institution of its kind in the world, and has a collection of over 55,000 posters.
Fotoplastikon Warsaw – A Fotoplastikon allows viewers to watch changing three-dimensional images. Built in the early 20th century, The Warsaw Fotoplastikon is one of only a few in the world still in working condition.
Galilu Olfactory – this airy and bright little shop stocks a wide range of wonderful perfumes. The sophisticated scents are from unique brands all over the world and the staff will give you expert help choosing the right bottle for you.
Horn & More – a seductive girl’s boutique stocking fine underwear, statement jewellery and aromatic scented candles. It is a treat for all the senses.
Magazyn Praga – Located in a former glue warehouse this little shop features relics from its industrial past that mix with their high-profile selection of new and vintage fashion and furniture. There are irresistible design items everywhere, I wanted it all!
Wedel – this renowned Polish confectioner is the ultimate chocolate emporium. Leave the chilly streets and head inside for the creamiest cup of hot chocolate, or a taste of the famous handmade torte with layers of wafer and chocolate. We returned several times for more.