24 hours is a whirlwind visit to a big city like Warsaw, but when we haven’t got much time there’s one thing we like to do, and it’s to walk. It might seem counterproductive when it might be quicker to take a metro, taxi or bus to a few select spots. But when you walk you get to really absorb what’s going on and see what ordinary people are up to in their daily lives, against the grand buildings, that after a while when you’ve been to a lot of cities, start to look like each other.
So we walk. We walk to Srodmiesce, the revitalised heart of the capital filled with glamorous independent stores, bustling cafes and boutique bars that attracts the city’s skinny-jeaned wearing, Macbook carrying types. This Guardian article, declaring Warsaw the cheapest city for culture in Europe, sums it all up, and proves invaluable for pointing us to Beirut, a Lebanese themed bar decorated with old record covers. It is said to do the city’s best hummous and we couldn’t argue with that, especially not when sat outside in the sun with a cold craft beer.
We walk to the picturesque Old Town, across its cobbled streets and take in the perimeter of the old fortress as well as watch buskers and vendors as we eat spinach and onion pastries from a local cafe. On the way out, we momentarily join the crowd of eager fans waiting for Lana Del Rey to exit her room in Hotel Bristol.
We walk all the way across the Poniatowski Bridge and watch locals sunning themselves on the urban Poniatowka Beach on the riverside. Some families, taking advantage of the good weather, have even brought buckets, spades and fishing lines.
From high up on the bridge, we also spot the Viaduct Pizza Bar, part of a seemingly regenerated area that is home to a series of bars, eateries and shops attracting even more trendy young locals. We climb the stairs down from the bridge to take a well earned break with beer and pizza at the Pizza Bar. Curiously exploring its little corners and alleys, we spot the No Comment bar and club that’s closed when we walk past but looks promising for a night out.
We walk again, all the way up to Stara Praga in search of the famous Brzeska Street, known not just for being the city’s most dangerous and rundown street but for being part of its burgeoning street art movement. We find its famous duck mural, and hover around just long enough to marvel at the old school market just across the way selling anything from underwear to bridal gowns. The car heads that seem to have congregated at the parking lot of the football stadium nearby also make for interesting people watching.
Polish Army Museum and National Museum
I’m not one to get excited about planes unless they are taking me somewhere exciting, but as we happened to be walking past the Polish Army Museum and entrance happened to be free, we couldn’t help but take a stroll around the huge contraptions, from planes to army trucks. Usefully, each one contains a sign with information about its history in both English and Polish.
Conveniently, the National Museum is right next door, and in keeping with our fast walking tour, we were able to admire the sculptures in the front garden before carrying on with our whirlwind city experience.
Grand Kredens restaurant
Our second last stop is dinner at the Grand Kredens restaurant, compelled by its bright red façade and hanging gardens, giving it a permanently summery feel. We made a choice between this or walking back over to Srodmiesce to eat at the upmarket Signature restaurant, but we’re glad we passed on the fancy to settle on something more rustic. Delicious veal dumplings and tart herring three ways give us an old school taste of Poland to balance out the modern parts of our day. The little enclave it is part of, while underneath an ordinary looking apartment building, is worth a visit any way thanks to its little cluster of cute cafes and restaurants.
Radisson Blu Hotel Sobieski
Finally, we rest our heads just metres away at the Radisson Blu Hotel Sobieski, which is worth mentioning for the novelty of its candy coloured exterior that our train conductor even points out to us before we arrive.
Ironically, our train from Warsaw to Moscow whizzes us past a lot of these areas on our way out, but rather than just going in one eye and out the other, they actually mean something because we saw them up close. And that’s the beauty of walking.