The rumors are indeed true. Warsaw is all about the beer budget, Champagne lifestyle. It’s cheap. Like almost offensively so. You can expect flights from Glasgow for £35 return, and 4 nights in a (very nice) hostel for pretty much the same. Eating out here? Trust me when I say this is the one place where you won’t be having to pinch your pennies. Understandably cool (think of it a bit like a hybrid between Berlin & Paris) you won’t be short of things to eat, see and do in Warsaw.
Where to Stay
Cheap, cheerful and centrally located, Press Hostel is a firm favorite for the budget traveler. Decked out with kitsch and colorful 70s fare and with a 24 hour reception, you’d be hard pushed to find a better hostel for your trip. With rooms from as little as £6 a night, Press Hostel is clean, airy and with plenty of plug sockets for charging phones/cameras the lot. The WiFi isn’t amazing but real talk? Who wants to spend time on their phone when you can be out exploring amirite?
What To Eat
Experience a milk bar
How to you even begin to describe a Polish milk bar? Left over relics from the communist era, Milk Bars are a staple of Polish culture and frequented by business people on their lunch, students, tourists, the lot. It’s a low priced canteen which serves everything from peirogi to pork cutlet. It’s good, traditional hearty eating and around lunch expect queues out the door for more popular spots (Bambino’s was my personal favorite.) Do your research before you go because an English menu (spoken or otherwise) isn’t necessarily a given. You’ll be expected to place your order and move along to pick it up from a small window to pick up your tray. Cheap as chips, you’ll be getting change from £5 easy.
Michelin on a budget
Warsaw boats two incredible Michelin star dining restaurants, Atelier Amaro and Senses. I booked in for Senses where mid-week you’ll be treated to a 4 course dining menu for £60 (they say 4 course, there’s definitely more than 4 courses going. In short, you will not leave hungry.) If you want to be utterly enchanted look no further as Senses blends culinary theater with a carefully crafted menu that celebrates the very best of Polish dining. There isn’t much I can say that won’t end up sounding gushing and hyperbolic, but to say this will be one of the best meals of your life? Totally and utterly fair. The cocktails are great and for those fizz lovers the house Champagne is a Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. It’s utterly brilliant and bold statement, worth the trip to Warsaw alone.
Instagramable Sweet Treats
For those with a sweet tooth (guilty) Warsaw has you covered. Odette is a patisserie that has the most incredible looking (and tasting) cakes. From passion fruit and vanilla to dark chocolate and salted caramel, they are delightfully moreish and you’ll find yourself going back for seconds (and thirds.) A must for anyone who likes a sugar fix. Mod Donuts also deserves to be on your bucket list. The lavender milk donuts is a my personal favorite and is best enjoyed with a glass of wine while people watching. If there is one sweet food you need to eat in Warsaw though it’s paczi – basically a giant filled donut of dreams. Stara Paczkarnia are among the best and have the classic filling (a rose jam) to blood orange or coconut.
When you think Poland, vegan isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. I mean, come on, the dumplings come with a side of pork fat here. The vegan options here though are pretty good. Better than good really. Krowarzywa is Warsaw’s local vegan bar and popular with locals while Tel Aviv is great for small plates.
Breakfast in Warsaw ain’t no joke. Charlotte off Plac Zbawiciela make fresh bread on site daily and the Charlotte breakfast (a selection of breads with homemade jams) is a must. AiOLI has queues out the door but it’s more than worth it for the generous portions, relaxed atmosphere and purse friendly breakfast options. Expect breakfast and a coffee here to set you back less than £3. Looking for something a little more dramatic? The Cool Cat infuses Asian inspired flavors in to their dishes while Mr Pancake’s options are the very definition of food porn. Think pancakes stacked sky high with sweets, whipped cream and glitter. Oh, and the prosecco is on tap so there’s that.
What To See
Communist Era Neons
Nestled away in artist hub Soho Factory is a museum designed to preserve and promote some of Poland’s most spectacular communist era neon signs. The Neon Museum is the largest collection of neon signs in Europe and features work from some of Poland’s most prominent artists and graphic designers of the time. It’s a wonderful oddball insight in to Polish history as neons continue to disappear from their landscape. Utterly surreal and well worth a visit.
A little bit of culture
I’m not usually one for museums, but I found myself in a fair few in Warsaw. The museum of cartoon art and caricature is a delightful little oddity with an ongoing rotation of their impressive archives and benefits from having free entry on a Tuesday. The Fotoplastikon is one for lovers of cinema which boasts being the oldest stereoscopic theater in Europe still working out of it’s original location. It’s a lovely little curiosity with free entry on Sunday’s. The highlight for me was Warsaw’s Poster Museum. The first of it’s kind, Warsaw’s poster museum is home to over 55,000 posters – however like the cartoon museum tends to feature rotation exhibitions. I was lucky enough to catch the Women’s rights are human rights exhibition on my trip and while this has now finished, a trip here will be far from wasted.
Warsaw is packed to the brim with curiosities that are worth taking a detour to check out. Warsaw’s Polyteknic is a little bit of Potter in Poland and great to have a goosey gander before heading over to Mod Donuts. The street art throughout the city is incredible, and while some of it has been replaced or knocked down, there’s a few to keep an eye out for, especially on Tamka Street. And while Chopin may be buried in Paris you can find his heart encased inside a pillar at the Holy Cross Church.
What To Drink
Death before Decaf
Get your caffine fix with some of the best coffee Warsaw has to offer. Ministerstwo Kawy is a bit of an institution however I ended up with a taste for Kofi who were serving their own roasts outside of a shipment container at Soho Factory. Rakieta coffee deserves your money and time and is the perfect pick me up when rummaging Warsaw’s vintage stores.
Time for something stronger
Plan B is a bit of a hipster mecca. Expect excellent (and cheap) cocktails with a focus on beer. If you’re looking for a wider selection of craft beers though then Piw Paw should be top of your list which should satisfy even the fussiest drinkers. No trip to Warsaw though would be complete without a trip to a shot bar and the kitschy Pulp Fiction complete with deck chairs outside is one of the best.
Warsaw may not have been on my list before but it certainly will be meriting a repeat visit.