To discover Polish art including 19th-century masters such as Jan Matejko – known for his large-scale historic Battle of Grunwald painting (425cm x 987cm) – and contemporary artists such as Wilhelm Sasnal, head to Warsaw’s National Museum. Here, you’ll find over 830,000 works dating from ancient times until the present from both Polish and international artists.
Insider Tip: The museum also houses a lovely Lorentz & Wine café, where you can grab a drink post-visit. In the summer, enjoy your coffee outside on a sunbed in the museum’s green courtyard.
National Museum, Aleje Jerozolimskie 3, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 621 10 31
For contemporary art aficionados, The Centre for Contemporary Art (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej) is a must-see. Located in a former royal residence of Ujazdowski Castle and in close proximity to Warsaw’s most beautiful park Łazienki, the space is great for exploring a more experimental approach to art by both local and international talent.
Insider Tip: If you have more time, take part in one of the workshops or film screenings organised by the gallery, or take a leisurely stroll through the Łazienki Park to spot red squirrels, swans and peacocks. Don’t miss the gallery’s on-site shop, which has a great selection of art books and gifts.
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Jazdów 2, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 628 12 71
Zachęta is another great venue in which to discover Polish contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The gallery was established in 1860 and is housed in a neo-Renaissance building, where the first Polish president Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated in 1922 by a right-wing painter Eligiusz NIewiadomski. Its cultural offering encompasses both temporary and permanent exhibitions, workshops, and educational programmes for kids and adults.
Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Plac Małachowskiego 3, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 556 96 00
Foksal is one of Poland’s most important contemporary art galleries, which since its launch in 1966 has been showing avant-garde art by both domestic and international artists of the likes of Miroslaw Balka, Tadeusz Kantor, Henryk Stażewski, Douglas Gordon and Anselm Kiefer. It takes its name from the Foksal Street on which it’s situated.
Foksal Gallery, Foksal 1/4, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 827 62 43
This gallery will let you discover the works by artists from the Polish School of Posters (the most well known talents include Henryk Tomaszewski, Jan Lenica and Waldemar Świerzy), which significantly influenced the development of poster design in the 20th century and beyond. Current exhibition displays works inspired by the films by iconic Polish director Andrzej Wajda (who in 2000 was awarded with an Honorary Oscar for his contribution to world cinema). It’s a must for any graphic designers visiting the city.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave empty-handed. The gallery shop is stocked with a vast collection of posters (including film, theatre and music posters), which will make an excellent gift for your friends or family.
Graphic Art and Poster Gallery, Hoża 40, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 621 40 77
Get inspired by the vibrant use of colour and light at the Neon Museum. The museum is located on the east side of the Vistula River and its collection includes over 60 neon signs from the Cold War era.
Insider Tip: Walk around the hip Soho Factory complex, where the museum is located, to see some of the neons hung up on the buildings’ exterior walls. The area also boasts some great restaurants (such as Warszawa Wschodnia housed in one of the complex’s post-industrial buildings) and cafés (such as Kofi Brand, filled with the creative crowd that work in nearby offices).
Neon Museum, Mińska 25, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 665 711 635
Warsaw is also perfect for exploring Polish street art. Most notable murals in the city include Żołnierze-Marionetki (Soldiers-Marionettes) created in 2010 by local artist Blu (ul. Sienna 45), Let’s Colour by Swanski, which covers the 2,000-sq.-m. exterior façade of a 1970s parking lot on 27 Nowogrodzka Street, and the monochrome Castle by British artist Phlegm, which adorns a side of a building on Minska 12 in the alternative Praga district.
MiTo is a part café/part gallery/part bookstore, where you can enjoy a cup of great coffee and snacks while reading a design magazine and can browse an extensive collection of art books selected with art lovers in mind. It boasts an all-white minimalist interior, which provides a contrasting backdrop to the colourful books on display.
MiTo, Ludwika Waryńskiego 28, Warsaw, Poland, +48 22 629 08 15
Mokotów neighbourhood’s favourite café Relaks features a wood-panelled interior filled with Polish posters and mismatched mid-century seating. It attracts the local creative crowd, who come here to host meetings, work, and taste the delicious coffee for which the place is known. Make sure you pop in to the Reset design store next door stocked with vintage furniture, design homeware and gifts.
Occupying a space in one of the Museum of Modern Art buildings (the museum is partly closed now and will be reopened in a new location on the nearby Defilad Square in 2020), Emesen is a coffee shop and art bookstore very popular among local art lovers, who come here to work and socialise.
Emesen, Pańska 3, Warsaw, Poland, +48 664 997 556
For those wanting to venture out to the artistic Praga district located east of the Vistula River, W Oparach Absurdu (meaning “in the fumes of absurdity”) is a great spot to grab a coffee by day and have a drink by night. Its cosy interior features antique furniture, religious memorabilia and walls covered with paintings of flowers – creating a much more alternative vibe to most of Warsaw’s central cafés.
W Oparach Absurdu, Ząbkowska 6, Warsaw, Poland, +48 660 780 319