A Hipster Guide To Warsaw


Plac Zbawiciela / Saviour Square, photo: Grzegorz CzaplickiPlac Zbawiciela / Saviour Square, photo: courtesy of author Grzegorz Czaplicki

Forget the Old Town and the National Museum. Here are directions to the hotspots of counter-culture where you will encounter the laid-back yet edgy lifestyle and the rich underground scene that make Warsaw the ultimate hipster destination.

Jump straight to the map

The role of independent culture, design and lifestyle is becoming more and more important. In recent years, Warsaw has become filled with a vast number of venues and clubs which, apart from selling coffee and a wide range of spirits, decided to form groups of their regulars by binding to a specific genre of art or group of art creators. Moreover, the popularity of ‘underground’ galleries and off-theatres, presenting exhibitions or plays which do not fit in national institutions, has never been so large or significant before.

Young Varsovians with intellectual aspirations are willing to identify themselves by becoming devoted followers of a certain genre of art. An in-depth knowledge of  totally unknown, promising and uncompromising artists is key to being widely respected and regarded as ‘someone valuable’.

On one hand, such an attitude is marked with the trait of snobbery but on the other hand, it can be also considered as an idealistic manifestation of a firm opposition to the mediocre ‘mainstream’ (which is as bad in Poland as everywhere else). This pursuit of being ‘off’, ‘arty’, or ‘sophisticated’ in every aspect of life may seem to be to some point clownish, but it certainly does make Warsaw a city full of intriguing places and events.

Starting point. Central Station Area.

Whether you arrived in Warsaw by plane, car, or train, sooner or later you will find yourself looking at the incomprehensible architecture of Central Station. Better leave this place as soon as possible and go to the nearby Café Kulturalna, located on the ground floor of the Palace of Culture and Science.

The Palace itself, being the biggest souvenir of the so-called Polish–Soviet friendship, despite being rather ugly from outside, has quite an original interior, with strange columns, solid wooden floors, stuccos and other accessories ‘made in the USSR’. The owner of Café Kulturalna has made good use of this inheritance by creating a stylish and eclectic space.

The programme of this venue is simply terrific: concerts of remarkable bands from all around the world (just last year, amongst others: Konono no.1 (Democratic Republic of Congo), Balmorhea (Austin, US) and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Chicago, US) and Poles such as Kuba Ziołek and Mikromusic, and parties with carefully selected DJs as well as, during the day, discussions, workshops etc.

In any case, if you find that Kulturalna’s offering is not sufficiently ‘indie’ for you, that the jazz you have heard over there is not experimental enough, direct your feet to Pardon, To Tu– home of Warsaw’s improvisational musicians, where nothing is too complicated or niche to be presented. Marcin Masecki (one of this years Polityka’s Passport laureates) and musicians from the celebrated LADO ABC artistic group and record label often appear on Pardon, To Tu’s stage.

Grab the image to take a 3D  look around the Palace of Culture and Science

Cafe Kulturalna is located on the left side of the court in front of you. 

The Next Step. North of Downtown.

Even though avoiding commonly known places is a key factor in being a true hipster, it is never a shame to show up at Zachęta National Gallery Of Art – it is just so good. As proof, here is a list of a few artists who have presented their works here in recent years: Tadeusz Kantor, Paweł Althamer, Wilhelm Sasnal, Zbigniew Libera and Jan Lebenstein as well as foreign artists such as Daniel Liebeskind, Luca Tuymans, Anette Messager, Wolfganga Tillmans and many more.

Visual art is not the only thing you may see in Zachęta. The gallery offers a wide range of accompanying events, such as meetings with artists, film screenings and concerts. Quite recently, Nancy Interview by Claude Bardouil was performed here several times.


Zachęta National Gallery Of Art

Before you cross the river. Powiśle

Before it gets dark, a visit to Praga district - once almost deserted and treated as ‘that worse’ part of Warsaw – is definitely a good idea. However, just before you cross the river, you reach Powiśle – the summer capital of hipsters. On the banks of the Vistula during summer, numerous clubs are open day and night (BarKa, Cud nad Wisłą, Niedorzeczni 500od1500).

For other seasons, 1500m2 is a must see. Several dozen times a year you can watch the worlds’ biggest music stars perform here, both live acts and DJs. Disclosure, Ellen Allien, James Blake, Jamie Woon, Jessie Ware, John Talabot, Photek, Steve Aoki and XXYYXX are only a few from the long list of those who have performed at 1500m2. Moreover, 1500m2 is open to granting its huge space to anybody who comes up with something interesting. If you are lucky enough, you can witness the emergence of the most intriguing artistic projects.

Another venue in Powiśle that is worth popping into is a whiskey and cocktail bar - Syreni Śpiew (Siren Song). The interior design is the best part of it. It is truly captivating, mixing aesthetics from the 1960s with sophisticated elegance. If you are craving a taste of Warsaw's highlife you should not miss it. If you want to spend time in a relaxed and casual atmosphere, you rather would not like it here.

Instead, have a coffee at OSiR, a tiny cycle culture café. Even though the club is pint-sized, it organises concerts and exhibitions and besides, it is just a very cosy and friendly place.


This is Tamka street. If you continue going downhill you will reach Powiśle. OSiR is on the left side, hidden behind the parking lot.

The right side of the river – Praga

Praga remains terra incognita for most people inhabiting the left part of the city. Even though the district is undergoing an intense process of revitalisation and is being willingly inhabited by artists and all kind of adventurers, its huge size and number of places to visit may seem quite overwhelming.

To start, go to Soho Factory. It is a resurrected post-industrial zone, now a home for art galleries, designers’ and stylists’ boutiques, restaurants, food and fashion markets and lofts. The idea of the founders of Soho Factory was to create a space that would evoke the atmosphere of the New York SoHo and so far, it is working surprisingly well. For the beginning of your ‘tour de Soho’, you can take a look at Magazyn Praga, an original concept & lifestyle store.

In Praga, places where interesting things happen are usually grouped together -  like islands of culture in a sea of poor blocks and sloppy streets. One of these oases can be found on 11 listopada street where, behind gate no. 22, you will find at least three decent music clubs: Hydrozagadka, Skład Butelek, and Chmury (Clouds).

Similarly, you can stroll along Ząbkowska and discover one of the following: Łysy Pingwin (Bald Penguin), Opary Absurdu (Fumes of Absurdity), Sen Pszczoły (Bee’s Dream) and nearby Bazar Klub. Check out this map and take your pick.

The Czułość Gallery (currently residing at Hala Koszyki) is certainly the icing on the cake of Praga’s arty initiatives. It is a ‘grassroots initiative, and an independent, avant-garde movement in contemporary photography, a self-organised group of photographers who come together with other young people active in various supporting fields of culture’. Witek Orski is one of its founders.


Famous courtyard no. 22, 11 listopada street.

Back on the bright side. Downtown

After coming back to the left side of Warsaw, you will probably land on Charles de Gaulle roundabout (that one with a palm tree in the middle). Closeby, you will find Powiększenie (Blow Up) – a very popular venue with a mostly very ambitious programme. Among musicians it is regarded as the best place to play. In any case, all kinds of high-quality artistic initiatives are warmly welcome here: poetry slams, movies screenings, discussions, plays, performances… It is the perfect place for a weekend party as well, thanks to a perfect selection of DJs.

On the other side of the touristy Nowy Świat, you can (preferably late at night) lurk in Pawilony, where you will not find much culture but you can test some local beers and enjoy a perfectly laid-back atmosphere.

Before you reach the final destination – the hipster Olympia (details are soon to be revealed) – seize the opportunity to fill up your stomach. If you prefer cooking by yourself do your shopping at Hala Koszyki - a popular market with fresh and healthy food. If you are in a hurry go straight to Krowarzywa the best place to have a delicious eco-friendly vegan burger. The place is usually so crowded that you will be forced either to eat outside or standing up, but it is worth it. Tasty, huge, healthy, classy and reasonably priced. Once you are full, look for Mokotowska Street to do some window-shopping on your way to…


Walk straight ahead to reach Plac Zbawiciela

Olympia!

So now, once you made a tour of Warsaw you are eligible for the honour of climbing the Hipster Olympia – Plac Zbawiciela (The Saviour Square). Here, on the edges of a roundabout with the famous and controversial rainbow in its centre, you will find The Hipster Cornerstone – Plan B. It is not clear why it all started here, and of course, many claim that it started somewhere else, but it is an undeniable fact that Plan B was a driving force behind big changes in Plac Zbawiciela, which was not a very attractive place a few years ago. The New York Times confirmed the status of this place by shooting its reportage about Warsaw’s hipsters here.

 Soon after PlanB’s success, several other venues sprung up here and Plac Zbawiciela got its nickname: Plac Hipstera (Hipster’s Square). What else do we have here? Next door to PlanB is a café/bakery Bistro Charlotte (with more of a posh ambiance). On the other side of the roundabout there are oriental food restaurants – Que Huong and tuk tuk, along with the French Bastylia and many more places to discover.

 


Plac Zbawiciela / Plac Hipstera

So that is your hipster guide to Warsaw. Put on your vintage clothes, grab your iPhone, launch Instagram and explore the city. Or maybe listen to this song before you go…

Dr.Misio Lyrics: Krzysztof Varga. Music: Dr Misio

Na Placu Zbawiciela // On the Saviour Square

Zbawiciela w Warszawie // The Saviour’s, in Warsaw

Są takie fajne knajpy // The venues are so cool

I ja też strasznie chciałbym być fajny // And I’m trying to be as cool so hard

 

Kupuje wszystkie ciuchy // I buy all of my clothes

Tylko w second handzie// Exclusively in second hand shop

Jem oczywiście tylko w Berlinie // I eat only in Berlin

Gdzie nabywam też stare vinyle //where I buy vintage vinyls

 

Jestem za gruby na hipstera // But I am too fat to be a hipster

A niech to jasna cholera! // Bloody hell!

I kocham Teatr Rozmaitości // And I love Teatr Rozmaitości

I wszystko co zrobił Krzysztof Warlikowski // And all the works of Krzysztof Warlikowski

 

Lubię offowe gallerie // I am keen on off - galleries

Sztukę, gender i queer // Art, gender and queer

Kilkam fotki na flikrze // I snap photos on Flickr

I książki wszystkie znam Żiżka // I know all the book by Żiżek

 

Jestem za gruby na hipstera// But I am too fat to be a hipster

A niech to jasna cholera // Bloody hell,

I kocham Teatr Rozmaitości // And I love Teatr Rozmaitości

I wszystko co zrobił Krzysztof Warlikowski // And all the works of Krzysztof Warlikowski

 

 

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