Those new to the capital should start with a bang. For a lunch that will get you off on the right footing, then Bibenda has long been one of Warsaw’s favorite venues – with queues for tables stretching out the door in the evening, pre-empt that entirely by visiting hours ahead for your first meal in town. Sourcing ingredients from the city’s most celebrated producers, their menu is an adventurous gambit that entwines itself around Polish and occasionally Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences. Informal but on-trend, their angle is well-expressed through an engaging design and drink options that number craft beers and on-edge wines.
Slightly more upmarket, but never straying into the realms of the prohibitively posh, Ale Wino is a darling of the food press and has over-the-years stubbornly maintained a golden reputation for its food and wine.
What better way to familiarize yourself with the streets than by trolling around for decadent desserts? Sticking to the center, that should mean wacky NYC-style donuts at MOD, heavenly cream puffs at Kukułka, flamboyantly artistic eclairs from Am’or, traditional delights at Słodki Słony (as recommended by supermodel Anja Rubik!), or the homemade tarts of Miss Mellow – we’ve missed about thirty-five other favorites, but those are good to start with.
For a dinner that will act as a benchmark for those to come, think of nothing but the best. For this, look no further than the Insider’s roll-call of previous Best of Warsaw winners. Of these, our admiration for Rozbrat 20 is unceasing and rooted strongly in this restaurant’s perfectly polished formula: exceptional and inventive dishes that remain understandable in spite of their complexities; a sublime wine list that’s not afraid to get playful; and an atmosphere that feels special but never intimidating.
Get to know the new side of Warsaw at two of its newest hubs. Set a stone’s throw from each other, Norblin and Browary Warszawskie occupy former industrial plots and have given the immediate area (well, the city as a whole), a new swagger with their umpteen food and drink options. Penned in by glitzy skyscrapers, exploring these vast, impressive complexes leaves no doubt that Warsaw has now fully shed its grey image of old. Teeming with all kinds of modern day night creatures, its in this duo you’ll feel the energy of New Warsaw.
You might be staying there already, if not, then take a glimpse at how the other half live by taking breakfast at the Europejski Grill. Found inside Warsaw’s outpost of the Raffles Hotel, these are seriously swish surrounds in which to start the day with their uber-posh take on the traditional British breakfast.
Head to the historic Tsarist era market halls known as Hala Mirowska and Hala Gwardii. Once a boxing gym, the latter has since been turned into a food hub containing a farmers’ market and several street food units. Directly outside, Hala Mirowska presents a labyrinth of market stalls that’s as popular with undercover chefs as it is with queue-jumping pensioners wielding walking sticks like sabers. Both Gwardii and Mirowska have managed to harmoniously co-exist, feeding off each other to add a richness to the area’s spiritual fabric.
At the Insider, we call it The Square Mile… and we recommend that you explore it. Loosely covering that south central area where Wilcza, Koszykowa, Piękna, Hoża and Wspólna streets all collide, you’ll discover what some have claimed to be the largest concentration of vegan venues in the world: there’s simply too many highlights to pick out, but if we’re forced then we’d recommend either the sushi tasting sets at Youmiko or the Italian vibes of Leonardo Verde. More leftfield in their tastes, Peaches Gastro Girls is also a standout but liable to be closed on Sat (check their FB before!). Eating in any of those, you’ll understand why Warsaw is rated by the Happy Cow portal as the sixth most vegan-friendly city in the world!
Seeing you’re in the area, use the opportunity to scout out Warsaw’s first modern food hub: Hala Koszyki. Opened over five-years ago, it revolutionized the city’s food scene by gathering together a selection of hip food units and housing them inside a revived historic hall. Still worth a nose around, have a wander before committing the rest of the afternoon to sightseeing: for those that want to keep foodie-oriented, then this can be accomplished by visiting POLIN’s exhibition tracing the history of Jewish cuisine.
Invariably, you’ll probably want to head to Old Town; softly-lit in hazy spring light, its cobbled alleys are a delight to explore but it’s restaurants maybe less so. Instead, use the area for pre-dinner drinks. Looking raggedy but warm, Same Krafty is one of the city’s best-loved craft beer venues, though for something more sophisticated make a beeline towards Lane’s Gin Bar in the Bristol Hotel. Plush and pinkish in its design, you will not find better cocktails anywhere in the city.
For your all-star dinner, only one name deserves your consideration: opened earlier in the year, Nuta is a surefire bet to collect a star during the next round of Michelin ratings, and it’s absolutely guaranteed that even more will stand to follow. Why? For that, Andrea Camastra should take a bow. Previously inducted into Le Liste’s rundown of the world’s Top 100 Chefs, this Italian virtuoso will take you on a blistering rollercoaster ride of exceptional tastes inspired by Poland. You won’t leave with much change, but this is a world class experience where the impossible happens.
Nuta’s tasting menu will take up most of your evening, so after stay close to re-engage with The Square Mile once more. It’s on these streets you’ll find superb cocktail dens such as Aura and Charlie, or more versatile do-it-all bars like Foton, Pacyfik, Beirut and Kraken. In these, you’ll find a diverse and international crowd taking their weekend to the max. Alternatively (literally!), Worek Kości further south offers unforgettable jazz nights inside a skull-decorated interior straight from the pages of Edgar Allen Poe.
Hangover did you say? Use The Cool Cat as your first aid point. For breakfast, their shakshuka, avocado toast and banh mi are recognized for their restorative qualities, but so too are kick-ass cocktails that will rebuild your world. The rum-based Tomejto Tomato will make you feel new. After, the area is honeycombed with cafes primed for lazy Sundays, but none more so than the hip, liberal-minded Stor.
At this point, you really need to be working out what it is you really want. Come Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere at the Elektrownia Food Hall is delicious to be part of, as is much of the street food on sale in this gloriously converted power plant. But you’re in Poland, so we say be Polish! In that regard, two recommendations spring immediately to mind: Muzelana in the bowels of the National Museum is a belting way to sample modern Polish cuisine (and wine) inside an artsy setting inspired by the museum’s Gallery of Polish Design, though for something truly traditional get thee to the district of Praga! At Pyzy Flaki Gorące, find little dumplings squeezed into glass jars in a basic interior frequented by local oafs, foodies roughing it and the odd random tourist. It’s an ‘in the know’ gem.
If you’re in Praga, its decrepit pre-war streets are a canvas of wild outdoor mural art and provide much to see and view. The essence of the area though is contained on Ząbkowska street and it’s here you’ll find the former Koneser vodka factory. Reborn as a swanky mixed-use project, pencil in a visit to its flagship attraction: the Polish Vodka Museum. After, road test the stuff you’ve learned about in W Oparach Absurdu, a dive bar whose dusty Persian rugs and second-hand fittings hide an atmosphere permanently set to ‘crazy’.
Peeling yourself out of Absurdu is a tricky business, but do so by promising yourself dinner at Źródło. Located within staggering distance, the casual, retro interior is ideal for a Sunday evening chillout over soul-warming, reimagined Polish classics and domestically produced bio wines.
Warsaw has over 40 dedicated craft beer bars listed on the outstanding ontap app and you should use your last night to get to know the best. Credited with brewing Poland’s first commercially available craft beer, Pinta are legendary and after a string of covid-enforced delays their portfolio can be enjoyed at their eponymous downtown bar. Above all else though, make space in the diary to visit Nowogrodzka street which has come to be seen as the throbbing heart of Warsaw’s craft scene. Far easier to digest on an easygoing Sunday night, the bars that can’t be missed are Jabeerwocky, Kufle i Kapsle and Drugie Dno.
After years of doing breakfast badly (and several years before of hardly doing it all), Warsaw’s morning scene has woken up. Use your final day wisely to check out one of the legends of the city’s A.M. hours: Charlotte on Pl. Zbawciela arguably kick-started it all ten-years ago when they introduced the idea of freshly-baked breads, communal tables and homemade spreads, and their name continues to be one of the first on the lips despite occasionally varying results.
Also French-inspired, Krem are a veritable legend with their Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame something of a best-seller. A little more maverick, Forum is a specialty café first and foremost (and one of the best in the biz), but do visit for some light, fresh snacks, many of which are sourced on the day from one of Warsaw’s premier bakers (Cała W Mące).