Once a decrepit no-man’s land, Powiśle has matured into the area all others aspire to be: welcome, you might say, to the future of Warsaw. (Text: Alex Webber | Photos: Kevin Demaria)
Not that far back in time the streets of central Powiśle were best skirted. Not because they were dangerous, but simply because there wasn’t much there: it was little more than a waste ground of grey tenements and failing or derelict factories and warehouses. But just look at it now…
It all began a few years ago. Squeezed out of the center by rising rents, a small crop of bright young things set up home here: designers, stylists, NGOs. Cafes and restaurants followed them. Before long, it was being hyped as something of an independent republic, a creative zone for people with ideas.
Its character continues to evolve yet further. While still predominantly working class, the seeds of gentrification have been sown: luxury penthouses, wine bars, even a Lamborghini and Bentley dealership. It makes for compelling contrasts: shops selling mops and fire extinguishers stand next to dinky, little bistros and fashion-forward labels; hole-in-the-wall lotto shops and faded barber shops flank upcoming design studios and hipster bike dealers.
But for all the gated new build springing up, central Powiśle retains a strong sense of soul; an identity and atmosphere that sets it apart. It crackles in the air. That’s especially true at night, when steam rises from manholes and halos of light form around the tungsten street lamps. As trains rattle and rumble over the shadowy viaducts one thinks of London’s east end. Yet London this is not. Powiśle is Warsaw, and the city’s all the richer for it…
Copernicus Science Center
ul. Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 20, kopernik.org.pl
There are occasions when queues and crowds become ridiculous, but everyone concurs that they’re well worth the hassle. Survive an earthquake, fly on a magic carpet or stand on the moon – all these pleasures and more await. One of must the do’s of Warsaw, the Copernicus does the impossible and makes science fun.
ul. Dobra 56/66, hulakula.com.pl
Bowling alleys, pool (as in the game, not the thing you jump into), play areas and climbing walls – Hula Kula is a quick-fix solution for families asking, “what shall we do today?” Bar and restaurant as well.
ul. Dobra 56/66
“One of the largest and most beautiful rooftop gardens in Europe,” claims the tourist board. They have a point. The one hectare park on top of the university library is a splendid affair of water features and plant life. Warning: in November only the lower garden
Warsaw’s official mascot, the mermaid, stands defiantly at the mouth of Świętokrzyski Bridge. Cast in bronze, it was the last monument to be unveiled in Warsaw before the outbreak of WWII. Sculptor Ludwik Nitschow used 23-year-old poet Krystyna Krahelska as his model for the work, though it’s said he ‘beautified’ the sculpture so as not to offend Krahelska. Krahelska died on the first day of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, though the statue survived having sustained only token damage: 34 bullet holes.
Completed in 1962 to a design by Arszeniusz Romanowicz and Piotr Szymaniak, Powiśle train station is a marvel of post-modernist style. The architects were, apparently, inspired by Soviet forays into space, which explains the more cosmic looking angles.
Set at the bottom of a curly wurly road, the Stanislawa Markiewicz viaduct is iconic of Powiśle. Opened in 1904 (though the date under one of its statues declares 1905), its ornate architecture and cobbled road make it a favorite landmark for photographers.
FASHION & STYLE
ul. Browarna 6,femistore.net
Aimed at the young, active woman of today, Femi Pleasure’s dynamic range of clothing is both urban and outdoorsy. ‘Unique design, quality and comfort’ are the sacred three pillars upon which their philosophy is built.
ul. Dobra 11,hampersbay.com
Fit out and fit into the local scene by stocking up on clothes from this Powiśle staple. Brands include Komono, Dynomighty, Uggly, Happy Socks and Wemoto. No-one knows why, or too whom, but they also sell surfboards.
ul. Radna 10, kateroxs.eu
Beyond the slightly creepy / fetishistic window display (leather Roman body armor), this store has earned a reputation for high quality, natural leather bags. “Our inspiration,” says Kate, “comes from women, not trends.”
ul. Radna 12
You know those weird haircuts that people like David Bowie and Lady Gaga have? Well, here’s the place to make that ultimate fashion statement and get one yourself. Henna art, manicure / pedicure also available.
Royal With Cheese
ul. Solec 50, royalwithcheese.pl
Owner Ola Andrykowicz designs wallets, hip bags and hats that have become must-have accessories for Warsaw’s fashionistas. As an occasional set-costume designer, her workshop can also cater to other fashion whims.
ul. Dobra 56/66, vintagestore.pl
Owner Andrzej Czułkowski has amassed a brilliant collection of used, quality finds: Hermes scarves, Barbour jackets and mad, pimp-style outfits like leopard-print coats with big, furry trims. The clincher is the collection of vintage Adidas.
ul. Ludna 9, antik-bazar.pl
Walking in here you get the idea you’ve interrupted something important. “Do they even want me here?” you ask. Surly service aside, this antiques store is a treasure trove of restored furniture and knickknacks: the Art Deco pieces are magic.
ul. Leszczyńska 12, asphaltbikes.com
A quite wonderful range of bikes and accessories from Aerospoke, Brooks, Mash, Michelin, Velocity and many others. And there’s street fashion as well from the likes of Lazy Oaf, Staff by Maff, Rebel 8 and Only NY.
ul. Dobra 56/66, poster.pl
Original, vintage and contemporary posters designed by leading artists from the acclaimed Polish School of Posters. Run by Darek and Włodek, both are delighted to share their knowledge with passing punters.
ul. Dobra 26, ksiegarnia.historyczna.com.pl
Like history do you? Step right in. While the majority of titles are Polish-language, English books are available, as well as numerous picture-heavy hardbacks that don’t require a Berlitz.
ul. Solec 58/60, lepukka.pl
For interior inspirations take a look at Le Pukka: highly original furniture and decorative pieces for the home come from the likes of Smeg, AreaDeclic, HK Living and Zuiver.
ul. Lipowa 7A, lipova.pl
Products from Bolon, Vitra and Philips take center stage in Lipova, an edgy store that will reinvent your home / office. From Bolon, find unique 3D flooring, from Vitra, modern Swiss furniture pieces and from Philips, Lumiblade OLEDs and other innovative lights.
ul. Leszczyńska 12, polishdesignnow.com
Anyone doubting Poland’s growing reputation in the world of home design hasn’t been to Product Placement. Ceramics, furniture, textiles, kitchenware, bags and gadgets – everything is worth a look.
EAT & DRINK
ul. Topiel 12, avepizza.pl
That’s Aldo and Gabrielle in the kitchen, the duo behind what’s often argued as being Warsaw’s top pizza. The calzone, which could easily substitute a pillow, supports this theory.
A nuż widelec
ul. Dobra 14/16
So snug is A nuż widelece, the feeling is of being round at a friend’s house. The food is nothing fancy, but fresh and made with love – and it feels even better while the owner potters about, chatting with his guests and stoking the fire.
By The Way
ul. Lipowa 7A
The pared down interior of gun-metal greys and houndstooth touches shouldn’t work in winter – yet it does. For that credit the right lighting and the right wine. Think of BTW as the little, local bistro you’ve always wished for.
ul. Dobra 19
Is there such a thing as the perfect pancake? If not, then Crepe Café certainly comes close. Enjoy them in a contemporary interior that’s tiny in size: grab a seat up on the mezzanine level.
Dziurka od Klucza
ul. Radna 13
An inviting Italian restaurant in which curious doors sit embedded into the walls, as if waiting to be opened by the keys that hang on the tree outside. Striking a lavender look, the magic of this restaurant is affirmed by its wonderful pasta and intimate style.
ul. Oboźna 3, www.kawiarnia-kafka.pl
A chessboard floor and a collection of antlers on the wall characterize Kafka, a bookstore / café whose literary collection is composed of paperbacks rescued from recycling plants. Books are purchased by weight: zł. 10 per kilo.
ul. Fabryczna 28/30
Penning your memoirs? Here’s the place to do so. With its natural wood floors, muted lighting and retro-style chairs, Fabryczna is just about the definitive café. Order an Ethiopian drip coffee and get that notepad out.
ul. Solec 50, www.mrpancake.pl
Sugar overload is guaranteed in Mr. Pancake, a place that insists on serving pancakes with infantile doses of M&Ms, swirls of whipped cream and a heavy drizzle of chocolate sauce – and how brilliant is that!
ul. Lipowa 7, sam.info.pl
A quintessential part of Powiśle life, many would nominate SAM as their favorite Warsaw bakery. But with its cool crowd, buzzy bistro vibe and organic eats it’s also so much more than that – it’s a scene you want to be part of.
ul. Solec 44, solec.waw.pl
No-one really knows what Solec 44 is: what it does have are new wave beers in abundance, shelves filled with zany board games and a devoted following. And then there’s Aleksander Baron, a maverick chef with a passion for nose-to-tail cooking. Basically, it’s fantastic.
ul. Browarna 4, tarabuk.pl
“I come here to escape Warsaw,” confides one Insider. And yeah, there’s a quality to Tarabuk that allows one to do just that. Heaving with books and raggedy furniture, it’s a place in which to order an eco-tea, maybe a slice of cake, open Chapter 12 and then let hours slip away.
ul. Radna 14
An entrance beset with candles, plant pots and seasonal veg charms people in, and they tend to stay to dine on creative, vegetarian options such as curry with roasted buckwheat and shiitake mushrooms.
ul. Kruczkowskiego 3B
Otherwise known as The House of Hipster, this concrete rotunda enjoys its prime moments in summer. But beyond that, this one-time train ticket hall still gets busy with the bushy beard brigade.