Aimless wondering is the best way to discover Powiśle, but it helps to have a guiding hand when it comes to the absolute essentials and hidden little diamonds!
Editorial note: for the avoidance of doubt, we’ve used Google maps to define what constitutes the boundaries of Powiśle.
Instagram… A Mural
Like the rest of Warsaw’s upcoming areas Powiśle is sprinkled with murals, the most famous of which is Captain America on Zajęcza 8. Painted in 2012 by Krzysztof Borkowski – a graduate from the nearby Fine Arts Academy – it purports to ask weighty questions relating to consumerism and mass culture.
Hunt… A Mermaid
Of Warsaw’s three major mermaid statues, two are in Powiśle (the other being in the Old Town’s Rynek). Looking somewhat like a Manga character, the first of these is found on the Stanisława Markiewicz Viaduct, while the other stands at the beginning of the Świętokrzyski Bridge. Cast in bronze, the latter was the last monument to be unveiled before the Nazi occupation and was modeled on a 23-year old poetess named Krystyna Krahelska. Krahelska was fatally wounded on the first day of the ’44 Warsaw Uprising and while the statue fared better, 34 bullet dents can still be counted.
Become… A Coffee Guru
The local café culture is nothing if not to be admired. Leading the way is Stor (Tamka 33), a heaven for freelancers and people watchers. Serving some of the best specialty coffee in the city, this neighborhood warrior draws custom from all over Warsaw. And while you’re there, don’t miss Asfalt up the road on Tamka 37. The combination of vinyl and coffee ain’t nothing new, but at Asfalt you feel that the very heart of the concept has been completely remastered. Take stock of your purchases over alt. coffees served inside mugs crafted by the nearby Fenek ceramic studio.
Dine… On The Best
Once a gastronomic desert, the Powiśle district now competes with the center when it comes to not just diversity but quality as well, a point proved by such spots as the tiny noodle emporium Soba, slow food experts Zielony Niedźwiedź, the outstanding Veg Deli, the hip, riverside Paloma Nad Wisłą, and the achingly brill Pastrami Bistro. And that’s before you consider the excellent pizza options provided by the likes of Cytryny na Powiślu, Ave Pizza and Va Bene. But for true foodies, the first port of call is always Bez Gwiazdek. Focusing each month on a different region of the country, Robert Trzópek’s tasting menu takes diners to the very heart of the Polish soul and does so via tastes that betray his fine dining background.
Go… For A Spin
About as straight as a pile of spaghetti, ul. Karowa breaks out into a helter skelter thrill of hairpin bends and bumpy cobbles: it’s just brilliant by car. At its climax, the Stanislawa Markiewicz Viaduct is the iconic mouth of Powiśle with its ornate architecture making it a favorite landmark among serious photographers. Opened in 1904 (though the date under one of its statues declares 1905), the crowning glory of this intricate thoroughfare is a statue of Warsaw’s official mascot: a sword wielding mermaid.
Learn… Your Legends
Paying homage to one of Warsaw’s enduring legends, the (waterless) fountain that stands by Tamka 37 honors a princess that was turned into a… duck! Waaay too long and convoluted to relate to readers in this short space, Google around to get the full story of the Golden Duck. Spoiler: it involves bag of gold ducats, a young cobbler and a feelgood ending!
Get… With The Now
Epitomizing the new live-work-play urban model, the long-awaited launch of this stunning mixed use Elektrownia Powiśle project has given the district a spectacular calling card. But beyond the impressive retail offer, sceney bars, trendy food hall, and swanky offices, it is the retention of its historic character that stands out the most to make it so visually enticing. Set in a former coal-fired power plant that was revealed in 1904, it looks simply stunning.
Walk… The Wisła
Once seen as little more than a muddy, slimy mess, the reinvention of the Wisła boulevards has been one of modern Warsaw’s biggest triumphs. Though more widely celebrated for its nightlife, it’s during daytime that the full scope of its greatness becomes apparent: mined with sculptures, fountains, hammocks and arty bits and pieces, its become the city’s summer playground no matter what the hour.
Head… For The Heights
A number of places offer bird’s eye views, among these the dizzying top floor from the crane tower at Elektrownia Powiśle and the labyrinthine outdoor pathways set on the roof of the Copernicus Center. But for the best, look no further than the BUW Garden on Dobra 56/66. “Distinguished by its colors, scents and moods,” the one hectare garden that sits on top of the University Library is breathtaking. Featuring sloping, metal walkways and leafy alcoves, hang around till scarlet sunsets settle over the Wisła right ahead.
Punch… A Ticket
Actually, you’ll have to pretend. Defined by the deliciously rotund shape of its external shell, the former ticket hall of Powiśle Station is one of the area’s most iconic sights. Allowed to fester into dereliction, it was revived in 2009 as a café-bar and for years served as an influential hipster powerhouse of ideas and fashions. A recent casualty of the lockdown, what will become of this mythical venue has yet to become clear. Instead, look around the rest if the station, a place whose 60s modernist architecture was inspired by Soviet forays into space. Swiss architecture critic Werner Huber called it “a pearl on rails”, a point not lost on the city’s conservator who inducted the stop into Warsaw’s list of protected buildings in 2018.
Channel… Your Inner Boffin
Survive an earthquake, fly on a magic carpet, stand on the moon or learn to tell if your partner is lying (best avoid that one, possibly) – approaching its tenth anniversary, the Copernicus Science Center (Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 20) keeps to its promise of making science fun by presenting a staggering amount of interactive displays and exhibitions.
Keep… Your Eyes Peeled
It’s the under-the-radar peculiarities that keep Powiśle interesting, whether they be random bits of sticker art, back passage murals of pizza eating space men (Solec 50 should you ask), gnomes stenciled onto the pavements or the random posters and paintings that appear on the walls.
Soak Up… Some Culture
Known by some as the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum On The Vistula (Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 22) has become embedded in the city’s cultural psyche since opening in 2017. Appearing from the outside as a white cube splashed with the artwork Sławomir Pawszak, exhibitions are as challenging as they are often witty, provocative and utterly baffling.
Join… The Revolution
The beer revolution has not bypassed Powiśle, and you’ll find converts to craft flocking to Kufle i Kapsle on Solec 46A. Though this is the area’s spiritual HQ for weird and wonderful beers, there’s no shortage of other alternatives specializing in the alt. beer. To feel wobbly before even reaching Pint No. 8, bounce across the gangplank to access Barka Wynurzenie, a gently rocking beer barge moored at Bulwar Gen. Pattona.
Warsaw’s mania for retro-style neon (which best manifests itself at Elektrownia Powiśle where EVERY unit has been signposted with glimmering signs) has blessed the area with beautiful signage often complimented by stunning lettering. Our fave sign of all though isn’t neon at all: at Teatr Ateneum (Jaracza 2): behold the juxtaposition of wonderous, classic typography and ghastly clashing colors!
Respect… Your History
“It happened here” plaques abound, but it’s the posh-looking Krzyża 6 that’s perhaps the most beguiling. Revealed in 2016, the tablet on the wall commemorates the joint efforts of Jan Karski (credited with revealing the extent of the Holocaust to the Western Allies) and Jerzy Choróbski, who together used this house during the war to broadcast illegal news bulletins.
Feel… The Energy
Sparked by the stage-by-stage redevelopment of the left bank promenade, the Wisła has evolved from a meat headed danger zone to the country’s biggest party. Though this summer promises to be quieter for obvious reasons, nowhere does a better job of capturing the spirit of the season than the floating bars and riverfront hangouts. Attracting all walks of life, its growing nocturnal reputation saw the Wisła namechecked by The Guardian as having one of the ten best European riverside scenes in 2016.
Poke… Around Mariensztat
Mariensztat’s near total destruction during the war gave town planners the chance to reboot from scratch, and this they did with gusto, creating a prototype settlement based on a Socialist Realist template yet simultaneously inspired by small town architecture of the 17th and 18th century.
Warsaw’s first post-war housing project opened amid much fanfare in 1948, with architect Zygmunt Stepiński’s design incorporating playgrounds, schools and other community-minded infrastructure – and even the city’s first escalator. Seen as a major propaganda coup, the area’s pink pastel colors have faded, but many of the original details remains they were: among them, quirky murals and mosaics, a fountain fringed by three stone children, and a statue of a hen-clasping woman.
See… The Contrasts
The clash between old and young is never far from the mind while walking Powiśle, though from an architectural view nothing illustrates this better than the Grey Villa at Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 47 – built in 1905 but ravaged during the war, its modernization in the 90s saw the addition of glass ceilings and a transparent tower.
Soak… Up The Atmosphere of ul. Solec
Finished in 1933 after a decade of stop-start building work, the shadowy viaduct that runs across Solec street marks the border between Powiśle and the Solec district. As stinky as it is gloomy, there’s something engagingly atmospheric about this entrance, not least at night when steam rises from the manholes and halos of light form around the street lights. As trains rattle and rumble overhead, it’s a scene reminiscent of Jack the Ripper films in London’s East End.
Discover… A Discovery Park
That’s the name awarded to the park outside the Copernicus Science Center, a green little refuge whose distractions include strange decorative sheep and outdoor exhibits such as The Whisperer – a series of metal tubes that encourage experimentation with sound.
Take… A Seat
Relive the times when teachers ruled the classroom with a cane at Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 35. Made from bronze to honor the work of the Polish Teachers’ Union, the old-fashioned school bench that sits outside the entrance is – apparently – the only such sculpture in the country. A replica of a bench from 1905, it’s various features number an abacus, notebook and a hole for an inkwell.
Cross… Świętokrzyski Bridge
Suspended via 48 ropes from a pair of 90-meter pylons, Świętokrzyski became the capital’s first suspension bridge when it was completed in 2000. Reputedly ‘the most filmed bridge in Poland’, the slender silhouette of this 479-meter project has become iconic of modern Warsaw, and as such it’s not uncommon to find it starring in commercials, pop videos and, above all else, cheesy romantic comedies.
Walk… Tamka Street
Regarded as Powiśle’s principal artery, the 18th century Ostrogski Palace is the last building you pass before stepping into Powiśle. Now housing the ultra-modern Chopin Museum, this looming hulk of a building has seen it all over the years: rebuilt after the war, its previous functions have included that of a police HQ, a Napoleonic hospital and a homeless shelter. Veteran expats, meanwhile, will remember its basement as the home of Morgan’s, a dungeon-like space well-suited to the riotous shenanigans that often took place (ah, the memories!).
Hike… Up Bednarska
If you’re seeking a scenic route into Powiśle, then Bednarska wins hands down. Largely rebuilt after the war as part of the Mariensztat housing estate, this steep, cobbled street is adorned with street lamps that hang from the pastel colored tenements that line this narrow route.