Measuring in at a pokey 6 sq/m, Poland’s smallest café can really pack out: so far, 12 is the record for the number of people to squash into Dobro & Dobro (ul. Puławska 11), a feat unlikely to be repeated anytime soon given the ongoing pandemic. Oleg and Ina, the super friendly Ukrainian owners, stress the place was never meant as a gimmick: “This was our first business,” says Ina, “so we didn’t want to take the risk on something bigger.”
Stunning architecture awaits those who step beyond the doors of the Warsaw School of Economics: capped by a pyramid-shaped glass roof, the 224 windows that the ‘parachute hall’ is magnificently lit at night courtesy of innovative LEDs added in 2010. Your followers will go bananas!
Everyone loves a picture next to a ridiculous life-size dinosaur, and by God that’s what you get growling on the corner of Banacha and Żwirki i Wigury. The dude’s not there at random but to signpost the location of a Geological museum filled with rocks donated by Tsar Alexander I and other such thrills.
To learn exactly what NOT when designing a new building then make a beeline to TVP’s HQ on Woronicza 17. Widely hailed as the most stupidly monstrous building in Warsaw (and let’s face it, that takes quite some doing), it’s a mind-boggling example of Gargamelizm, a grotesque architectural style perfected in post-commie Poland. Known by some as The Tower of Babel, and by others as Gargamel’s Castle, this glass vulgarity must be seen to be believed.
Be Part Of A Cult
The word cult must have been invented at Lotos (Belwederska 2). Operating since 1952, this haven of nostalgia has a madcap interior that mixes scarlet with wicker and a longstanding reputation for its steak tartar and vodka-fueled sessions. Roman Polanski once partied here, and today it still pulls a broad range of punters that swing from grizzled locals to cool cats intent on being ironic. Damn right nights leave an impression.
Built on the instruction of Augustus II (who, if rumors are correct, ended up using it for debauched orgies), the palace at Królikarnia is surrounded by a shaded parkland festooned with contemporary sculptures and strange odds and ends. The rules posted at the entrance firmly state it’s legal to fly kites, read books and hug the statues: we encourage doing all three (and preferably around the ‘have I just taken LSD’ monument of a spiral-eyed dog! ).
There’s some tremendous choices when it comes to stocking the pantry ahead of Doomsday, and these include the vast Bio Bazar (Wołoska 3) which adheres to an almost lunatic commitment to eco-certified produce, as well as the far more modest but internationally-minded Bazar Olkuska (Olkuska 12).
Pretend you’re a social revolutionary that’s going to change the world by paying ADA (Puławska 37) a visit. Occupied by squatters since 2013, joys include gigs from bands with names like Appalachian Terror Unit, bike repair workshops, indy book fairs, and lots of general lounging around amid colorful graffiti and junkyard furniture.
Forced to edit your retail choices in the south to one, then its Reset that comes to mind. Referencing the PRL heyday of Polish design, pluck through retro screen prints, 50s tea sets, circus posters and all manner of assorted weirdness in this compact but frankly unparalleled design store.
Warsaw’s mania for neon has been clear for some time, but found itself asserted once more at the end of the year with the ceremonial return of the E. Wedel sign on Puławska 28. A replica of the one first positioned here in the 30s, it comes a close second to the Mozaika sign (Puławska 53) as our favorite in the area – when you’re done with marveling at it, step inside to enjoy a PRL vibe and Saturday dance nights playing Polski golden oldies. Eclectic is the word.
Accessed by Warsaw’s longest staircase, climb to the top of Kopiec Powstania Warszawskiego (ul. Bartycka) for endless city views. Built on war rubble, the 141-meter mound is crowned by a monument to the Warsaw Uprising. Lit on August 1st of each year, the ceremonial pyre at the top is kept burning for 63 days to honor each day of the doomed insurgency.
On The Walls
Playing catch-up, Ursynów has got in on the mural game with some style to spare: check Grzegorzewska 1 and 3 to find art that celebrates a wacky 1980s TV satire called Alternatywy 4. The show, a gem of Polish pop culture, was filmed on this estate. For all that, Mokotów has the real biggies with standouts including a Mechanical Centaur by Italian artist Pixel Pancho at Dolna 37 and a black & white work titled The Rooster’s Egg on Racławicka 17.
When Skies Turn Red
Connecting Mokotów with Wawer since 2002, find the cables of Siekierkowski Bridge painted migraine orange so as to prevent birds from smashing into them. Rather pretty ugly, the crossing is best-known as offering postcard perfect views of Warsaw’s skyline – photographers both amateur and pro swoon at the opportunities it presents for sunset shots.
Lord knows when cinemas will reopen, but even while they’re closed it’s worth committing the name of Kino Iluzjon (Narbutta 50A) to the memory. Designed in Socialist Realist form and opened in 1956, it’s since been magically restored so as to evoke the yesteryear’s air. Famed not just for its architecture, the repertoire is slanted towards arthouse flicks and classics such as Singing In The Rain and Belle De Jour.
Tell Me A Secret
At Sobieskiego 100 find two seemingly abandoned blocks rising like a pyramid and connected at their apex by an inter-linking bridge. What’s it all about? The property of the Russian government since forever, rumors say this apartment complex was built at the height of the Cold War to house diplomats and spies. Now derelict but keenly guarded, videos secretively shot by urban explorers have recorded nefarious looking handovers and revealed discarded Russian printed matter dating from this century. Oo-ee-oo.
It’s hard to grow bored of Mokotów when its features include such famous hangouts as Relaks (Puławska 48). Clad with 70s poster art and wood-paneled walls, find it serving pretty much Warsaw’s favorite coffee. Not far off, red-lit Regeneracja (Puławska 61) has a funky, kitschy look that attracts an effortless mix of students, ex-pats and young professionals. On occasion, evenings become wild. More current, Fort 8 (Fort Służew 1B) houses a super cool collection of restaurants and stores inside a set of revamped buildings built for a Tsarist garrison, as does the pretty epic Fort Mokotow – if nowhere else, make it your life’s mission to visit Restauracja Forty: it’s by far the finest restaurant the Insider has visited this year!
Kiss Me Quick!
Positioned over a drainage ditch (yep, how’s that for romance!), Wilanów’s Mostek Zakochanych is a cutesy 12-meter bridge embellished with illuminated heart shapes that arch above. With the kissing done, escort your paramour to the lake adjoining Wilanów Palace. It’s their you’ll discover a redbrick Neo-Gothic pumphouse complete with a pier jutting out onto a calm, placid lake. Hire a boat and paddle the inky waters to feel for a moment as if partaking in a Hugh Grant romcom.