The Polish capital is a cool and affordable minibreak destination.
‘The new Berlin’, or so my Warsaw tour guide tells me, and I’m inclined to believe her. There’s a good vibe here, there’s loads to do, it looks nice and it’s not as achingly hipster – a good thing in my opinion. The Polish capital is cheap and easy to reach with direct flights from Dublin or Shannon and accommodation is reasonable too. I like to get my bearings soon after arriving in a new city, so once I’d dumped my bags at the new Vienna House Mokotów and ate lunch at their lush Greenhouse restaurant, I was straight back out for a walking tour.
The ‘Old Town’ was only rebuilt in the fifties after being almost entirely destroyed during WWII, so you’re looking at what looks like 17th Century Warsaw, built only 60 odd years ago. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s amazing to see. The University Library rooftop gardens are worth a visit too, for great views over the city and on a nice day you can take a stroll down Vistula Boulevard, Warsaw’s riverside promenade. In warmer weather, there are open-air bars, sun loungers and barbecue areas, plus sailing and kayaking on the water.
Tired from walking, it was time to check out Warsaw by car and see another part of the city. Not any old car though, but a classic retro Nysa van that you can hire (with a tour guide) by the hour with Adventure Warsaw. We were Praga District bound, a grittier side of the city where you’ll find the Neon Museum, some quirky bars and cafés, lots of murals and boutiques. Well worth a visit, especially to see the Polish Vodka Museum, because it wouldn’t be a trip to Poland without a tasting of their most famous export. Housed in the historic old distillery, make sure you leave yourself time to head up to Bar 3/4 on the top floor – it’s one of the best in the Praga District and the Earl Grey Sour cocktail is divine.
For a quick traditional snack, eat Pirogi (Polish dumplings) in a ‘Milk Bar’. They’re retro canteen style cafes where locals eat a lot of their meals on the way to and from work. Comforting, home-style cooking at unbeatable prices, with a hefty serving of nostalgia. For a much more bougie dinner, head to slick N31 Restaurant, rated number one in Warsaw on TripAdvisor for good reason. The Belvedere Restaurant in the New Orangery inside the Royal Łazienki Park is another option for a fancy Sunday brunch.
Back across the river, the newly housed Communism Museum makes for an interesting visit. See how families lived in the seventies and eighties in tiny apartments and how resourceful they had to be, keep an eye out for the hidden vodka cabinets too. Most visitors to Warsaw will head up to the top of the Palace of Culture and Science to the viewing platform for views of the city, but smarter ones will pop up to one of the rooftop bars for sundowners and an even better view. Try the Panorama Sky Bar on the 40th floor of the Marriott Hotel or The View on top of the Spectrum Tower.
If you stay at Vienna House Mokotów and you need a bit of a kick back into action, make sure you try one of their spicy mezcal cocktails in the lobby – they’re strangely addictive. The guys behind the bar have years of experience from the likes of Soho House in London and they’ve brought their wealth of mixology knowledge back to Warsaw.
Where to stay: Vienna House Mokotów Warsaw from €80 for a single room with breakfast, upgrade to a superior room for €25
Getting there: Dublin to Warsaw Modlin from €19.99 with Ryanair