As we re-enter the world from our quarantine, there’s no better time to rediscover all there is to love about the Polish capital.
Covering the four corners of the city, we continue to bring you the undisputed glories that everyone needs to know…
It’s a right squeeze is the world’s skinniest house. Measuring just 92 centimeters at its narrowest, Dom Kereta (Chłodna 22) was named after its artistic patron, Israeli author Etgar Keret, and was – until you know what – open to receive visitors each weekend over summer. One of Warsaw’s wackiest attractions, potential visitors are advised to follow them on Facebook to await news on opening hours.
With the city locked down for the duration of April, it was easy to miss the opening of the city’s latest metro stations: Młynów and Płocka. Setting an aesthetic benchmark that all other transport hubs in the city have no hope of matching, both are rich in neon trimmings that are stunning on the naked eye.
On The Walls
Established as an artist specializing in surreal watercolors of a dreamlike Warsaw, Tytus Brzozowski has in recent years found his work going XXL. West of the center, two murals of his creation exist, one a 35-meter homage to the Wola suburb on the side of The Spark office building, and the other on Chmielna 120. Incorporating a series of neon-lit circles, the latter is particularly striking at night.
Sunday’s Kolo Antiques Market is your No. 1 source for attic finds that may or may not be worth what’s being asked. Aside from antiques in different stages of disintegration and Da Vinci reproductions (or are they?), rummage about for creepy war finds, old postcards, wigs you won’t wear, 60s vinyl, empty picture frames and rusting bayonets.
Join The Cult
There’s not one self-respecting local that isn’t familiar with the name Zagoździński (Górczewska 15). Such is their reputation for producing donuts (the founding father of the modern Polish nation, Józef Piłsudski, was a fan), that lines often stretch outside. Founded in 1925, it’s a glorious old school throwback.
I Don’t Believe That
Making his only visit to Poland in 1948, Pablo Picasso’s tour of Warsaw included a housing estate in Kolo. Suitably impressed, he took out some charcoal and drew a hammer-waving mermaid inside an apartment on Deotymy 48. “My God it was massive,” exclaimed one eyewitness, “her bosoms were like two balloons.” Increasingly irritated by the 400 people that would knock on their day each day to see it, the owners eventually hired a handyman to paint and plaster over it. Doh!
No doubt about it, The Rising Museum is the most important museum in the city. No need to introduce it given its oft-repeated story, but there is possibly a need to remind people as to the existence of its viewing platform. With Wola earning a reputation as “Warsaw’s Manhattan”, there’s no finer place to marvel at the city’s growing skyline.
If you’re the kind of person that counts trespassing as a pastime then you won’t be able to resist sneaking through the fence to visit the Wola Gasworks. Known by some as ‘The Warsaw Colosseum’, duck the security guards to discover two derelict rotundas that present an eerie flashback to the industrial age. As shafts of light stream through the dozens of slit windows, the effect isn’t dissimilar to entering a ruined, ancient Cathedral: serene and unsettling, upload a pic and watch the shares go crazy.
Kiss Me Quick
Of all the public spaces that have been added to Warsaw’s map in recent years it is Pl. Europejski that arguably does the best job. Scissored with ribboning paths and bestowed with tinkling water features, its defining feature – aside from the Warsaw Spire that looms above – is the Kocham Warszawę sign. It’s become customary for romantics to stick their heads through the heart-shaped O before stealing a kiss and the ubiquitous selfie.
Take A Street
There can be few places that do a better job of presenting the full range of the city’s visual contrasts than Chłodna. It has it all: a skyscraper at one end, Socialist Realist buildings on the other, and in between everything from cobbles laid with pre-war tram lines, ugly 60s housing, luxury flats, a scuzzy brothel and dirty looking stores selling power drills and mops. Add to that a row of pavilions in the process of being bulldozed and the beautiful Church of St. Andrew the Apostle and you have pretty much Warsaw’s story in a nutshell.
There are some that claim Warsaw’s hipster revolution of many moons back was born in Chłodna 25. They have a point – for much of the mid to late 00s it was a seething cauldron of creative events, eccentric fashions and long, wild nights. The glory years are over, but it remains part of a small clutch of cafes that feel they offer something truly alternative in their overall vibe.
Inexorably associated with the city’s Jewish past, the area should be high on the agenda for anyone with a fleeting interest in history. Though now rarely illuminated at night, the crossroads at Chłodna and Żelazna feature an installation that commemorates the overhead bridge that once connected the small ghetto with the larger one, while down the road, visit Waliców 14 to view one of a handful of buildings that survived the area’s subsequent flattening. Bearing heavy signs of war damage, its most photogenic point is a 1,400 sq/m mural depicting a red balloon floating off into the air. Beneath, an inscription humbly announces, “Jews, we miss you.”
Set inside a line of post-industrial lock-ups and warehouses, the Pinball Museum on Kolejowa 60 is a kaleidoscope of retro noise and color. Dating from the pre-digital age, mostly from the 80s and 90s, these beautiful machines are there to be played – for a modest admission fee, visitors can spend as much time as they have testing their talents on machines such as Dirty Harry, Buck Rogers and Dr. Dude & His Excellent X-Ray (“If you’re ready to get hip,” reads the display, “turn on, power up and drop into my kinetic clinic!”).
The redevelopment of Wola has been swift and aggressive but for all of the skyscrapers, gated compounds and shiny offices, its eastern border remains best-known for the over-powering presence of Żelazna Brama, a walloping post-war housing estate comprised of nineteen 15-storey residential blocks. The estate was a bold attempt on a vast scale to mold the socialist man through his environment – fans of communist aesthetics will be wowed.