Originally known as Pl. Leńskiego after the Communist agitator Julian Leński, Pl. Hallera was rechristened in 1991 and named to honour Józef Haller, a general that played a decisive role in vanquishing the Red Army in the 1921 Battle of Warsaw.
Built to accommodate employees of the nearby FSO car factory, the wider settlement weighed in at 50 hectares with enough housing for 25,000 people. Starting in 1950, the design was initiated in Socialist Realist style, though with Stalin dying half-way through the project, this guiding architectural doctrine was abandoned. Sometimes nicknamed Praga’s MDM in comparison to Pl. Konstytucji, it shares the same Orwellian, dehumanising architecture, but none of the grand colonnades or reliefs.
From an architectural point of view, Hallera impresses as a thoroughly preserved fragment of 50s Warsaw. At its heart lies a long shard of parkland and it is this that glues the community together. Chillout by the graduation tower, leave a manuscript at the book share point, or cool your fingertips in a small fountain crowned by a gold-painted ornament.
When it comes to food and drink, what Hallera lacks in choice it makes up for in quality. In the form of Trzy Kruki, the area has a standout café dealing specialty coffee and bio wines to a cool crowd engrossed in books and tablets. On the other side of the square, Tu Mi Wolno offers homemade pastries, craft beers, and smoothies in a room decked out with theatre seats and posters. For food, Centrum Nepal looks gloomy and barebones but cooks up some great Nepalese and Indian food – our tikka masala was every bit as good as most found in the centre.
Plac Hallera can strike the Warsaw novice as a lifeless void. More appreciative are the connoisseurs who see it for what it is – a living time capsule to be savoured and enjoyed. Lacking the wanton commercialism that defines modern Warsaw, being here can feel like travelling back to the Cold War period.