Warsaw, Poland’s capital and most vibrant city, has been changing and developing very rapidly. Nowadays, it is full of innovative and unique places, ranging from jazz clubs to archival cinemas to a neon museum. If you want to explore the lesser known spots and venues, check out this list of the 10 best-kept secrets of Warsaw.
Skład Butelek (Polish for ‘Bottles Storehouse’) is a quirky jazz club and gastro-pub located in the Praga quarter of Warsaw. It’s located in an artsy quarter on a side street, and from the outside there aren’t any clues as to what awaits you inside. Its old, modest-looking doors conceal a unique concert venue and meeting place, where events called Spontańce (spontaneous shows) are hosted. These shows feature a group of musicians and vocalists on stage (or even just in the bar) without any previously scheduled set. They improvise in all kinds of ways from poetry readings to magic tricks to live music. The venue serves up fine beers and juices to guests, who need a break from the usual run-of-the-mill bars in Warsaw. This is a unique venue, and one of Warsaw’s best-kept secrets.
Banjaluka is a modern, casual-looking restaurant owned by Maciej Żakowski. It specialises in Balkan cuisine and is renowned because of it. Its new chef, Hrvoje Barčanec, comes from Croatia and takes the most pleasure in preparing rich seafood and meat dishes. He admits that the Balkan cuisine is often characterized by its unique spicy flavour, created with a lot of dry paprika and pepper.
This place is Warsaw’s first trampoline park and a local gem. Located in the former hangar of one of the city’s airports, Hangar 646 spreads out to almost 3,000 square meters (32,292 sq ft), incorporating all kinds of trampolines, acrobatic paths, sponge pools, and space for skateboarders. The attractions have been designed in such a way that both amateurs and fans of various acrobatic sports can enjoy it and appreciate the adrenaline that inevitably comes with trampolines.
The guys behind MOMU.gastrobar have keenly observed the popular trend of street food, and decided to apply their own twist by serving it indoors. MOMU.gastrobar is a cosmopolitan bistro that combines an eatery with a bar. The menus are interestingly published in consecutive chapters, each one focusing on a particular street food tradition within a certain region in the world. For example, currently, in Chapter 4, MOMU is transporting diners to the streets of the Middle East, where they can try the Mo’Mezze consisting of hummus, tabbouleh, Israeli chopped salad, guacamole, tapenade, Korycinski cheese and flatbread. In the evenings, MOMU continues to flourish as it takes a serious interest in cocktail mixology.
Iluzjon, located in the famous Mokotów quarter of Warsaw, is both a unique archival cinema and a cinema museum. It is under the patronage of the National Film Catalogue. The cinema offers a range of films, including old, new, and documentaries. It also hosts special events like meetings with film directors, film festivals, and silent films accompanied by live music. One recent Iluzjon project was an educational series of documentary films aimed at young students to familiarize them with this important film genre.
The Neon museum, located in the Soho Factory, is dedicated to the preservation of neon signs from the Cold War era in Poland. Most of them were created by famous designers, but did not survive in their original placements, on the streets. The museum’s collection comprises over 100 signs, and is still expanding. The organization also takes care of Warsaw’s existing neons that disappear very quickly despite their artistic value.
Mysia 3 used to be the address of a Communist office that controlled the information in the media and censored it. Today, in the very same place, exists a cultural/shopping center designed to promote a starkly different idea: that of a life where everyone can artistically and ideologically express themselves freely. The three floors of this modern center comprise a variety of fashionable boutiques, accessory shops, and designer retailers, whereas the fourth floor is dedicated to exhibitions and concerts that promote uncensored media and culture.
The cool bar zone Pawilony is situated on a poky alleyway off the famous Nowy Świat (New World) street in central Warsaw. This area has about 15 bars all tightly packed into a cosy little enclosure. The bars all take on a theme of their own, from Manhattan with its New York skyline to Komix, which features Superman and the Incredible Hulk to the cheap Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa, which offers beers for 4 zlotych (1 Euro). The area itself has free WiFi that works in almost every bar, even in some of the basements.
Take the backstreet to the right-hand side of the Warsaw Barbican Gate entrance and you’ll uncover this gem. With over 15 craft beers on tap, Restauracja Maryensztadt Craft Beer & Food is a new bar that specialises in craft beer in a cosy and modern setting. The venue has an excellent range of locally crafted beers, all detailed on a blackboard style menu. Beers range from hoppy ales to frothy stouts. The food menu focuses on unusual dishes, as well as quality over quantity. Elegant little plates are filled with fine vegetables and bites of masterfully prepared meats, including corned beef with carrots, potato and broccoli or the kapusta (black pudding) with spices and vegetables. The venue has indoor and outdoor seating, as well as free WiFi.
A little hidden treasure across the river from Warsaw’s Old Town is Bazar Klub in the up-and-coming Nowa Praga (New Prague) district. Bazar, which is in a renovated building, advertises itself as the only place on this side of the river where you can get food and drink 24 hours a day on the weekends. This means you can grab a shot and a bit of Polish food at four in the morning. The bar itself also specialises in whiskey and cocktails. The staff members are very welcoming and speak good English.