Whacked between the city center on one side and the river on the other, for years Powiśle had something of a reputation as an area to be skipped – not because of any deadly dangers it posed, but rather because it lacked any significant reason to linger.
But where once this was a sleepy dormitory of faceless flats and failing factories today it has become the embodiment of modern Warsaw. Raw around the edges yet beating with creativity and dynamically developing by the minute, today it has come to reflect the very essence of the city.
Housed in a former power plant that once fed electricity to the Palace of Culture, the Elektrownia Powiśle is a supreme example of post-industrial development. At its heart lies a neon-lit food hall, while beyond swanky Polish concept stores fill the cathedral dimensions. In the evening, gather outside for drinks on the lawn, watch the dazzling fountain, or just chill in front of big-screen film projections.
It can’t be stressed what a special part the riverfront boulevard holds in Warsaw’s heart. Once a muddy mess, this stroll is most celebrated for its nightlife, and come dusk thousands drink not just in trendy bars like Paloma and Kalima, but on the terraced steps. Daytime reveals another side, and will take you past sculptures, fountains, hammocks and arty installations.
Ambling from the Bristol Hotel, Karowa street (featuring a brilliant Tetris-style apartment block at 18A), soon breaks into a helter skelter thrill of hairpin bends. At its climax, the cobbled Stanislawa Markiewicz Viaduct is the iconic mouth of Powiśle with its intricate trimmings making it a classic beauty. Opened in 1904, the crowning glory of this thoroughfare is a statue of a sword wielding mermaid.
Powiśle has three best-in-class attractions for tourists. Seen a white cube overlooking the river, the Museum on the Vistula presents modern art exhibitions that are often challenging, witty, provocative and amusing. Practically next door, the Copernicus Centre makes science fun with a family-friendly approach and fun interactive challenges. Finally, the Chopin museum delivers the minutiae of the composer’s life inside a striking palace.
Reinvented following its wartime destruction, the Mariensztat sub-district was rebuilt as a prototype Socialist Realist settlement inspired by the small-town architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. Often decorated with mosaics and murals, the pastel-coloured buildings of Warsaw’s first post-war housing project are arranged in an easily-navigable grid that makes for a pleasing and uncrowded walk that should finish at its square.
Hit The Water
Ride the waves and cross the river courtesy of a trio of water trams that depart from jetties at Cypel Czerniakowski, Poniatowski Bridge and just beyond the multimedia fountain park. Free to use, they’ll take you to the other side. For a small fee, longer cruises leave from various points along the riverfront boulevards and promise great views of the city.
Insider Recommends Food & Drink
Naturally, Elektrownia is the go-to with highlights including the Tex-Mex Blue Cactus and the cosmopolitan resto-bar Dock 19. Going further, Bez Gwiazdek is a pioneer, presenting modernized versions of regional Polish classics. For an Aperol and slice of Roman pizza, join the throng in front of Va Bene, or queue for Poland’s best gelato at Dal Dalla Gelateria. Finally, lose yourself in the arty atmosphere of Mlodsza Siostra bar.