Have you exhausted the list of all the top touristy things to do in Warsaw? Are you looking for some off-the-beaten path experiences? You’re in the right place. Here is a list of unusual and quirky spots, attractions and activities you can explore on your next visit.
Warsaw is full of surprises. The concrete blocks and wide, busy streets may seem unapproachable at first, but it’s worth getting to know the nooks and crannies of the city to connect with its past. This is a dynamic place fuelled with the energy of the young people who come here. If you’ve willing to look beneath the surface you might just discover the charm underneath.
Immerse Yourself in the World of Optical Illusions
In short – an interactive museum of optical illusions and immersive experiences. That was a mouthful. This is definitely a mecca for selfie-hunters. Here you will find infinity rooms, light and perspective installations, but also some items from the history of illusions such as a zoetrope or cylinder mirrors.
This place can get quite busy during high season, so you might need to equip your patience.
Address: Łucka 15/3, 00-842 Warsaw, Poland
Spend the Day Relaxing on a Beach
Straw parasols, refreshing cocktails and palm trees – La Playa will transport you to an exotic Hawaiian resort in the heart of a city. This riverside beach bar is the perfect place to spend hot summer evenings in Warsaw.
There is lots to do here – you can play beach volleyball, boule or frisbee, just ask at the bar and they will provide you with equipment free of charge. Relax on a deckchair and enjoy fantastic views of the old town. On the weekends you can dance the night away to the latin vibes of salsa and samba on the outdoor dance floor.
This place is seasonal, so make sure to check opening times beforehand.
Take the Iconic ‘Toddler’ for a Spin
Adventure seekers and connoisseurs of vintage vehicles will appreciate a ride in Poland’s most iconic car – the Maluch (meaning ‘Toddler’). The Fiat 126 is a design gem from the 60s and bears a strong connection to the Communist era.
The self drive tours depart from the Palace of Culture and Science and they come with an English-speaking guide to give you fascinating facts about the city. There are different routes available including Must See Sights, Off-the-Beaten-Path and Communist Warsaw. To find out more you can visit the WPT1313 website.
Dine Out at a Romantic Backyard Glasshouse
Hidden away in the backyard of an unassuming 1920s house in a quiet residential neighbourhood is Eden Bistro. This vegan destination will entertain your tastebuds with dishes like corn ceviche, mushroom paté brûlée and laksa as well as sophisticated third wave coffee.
London-trained chef in residence – Michał Gniłka has in the past worked with catering to the stars on Hollywood film sets. However, the most fun part is having your meal inside the backyard greenhouse filled with lush succulent plants.
Address: Jakubowska 16, 03-902 Warsaw, Poland
Visit the Resting Place of Chopin’s Heart
Before his death in France, the world famous Polish composer Frédéric Chopin requested that his heart be removed from his body and taken to Poland. To accommodate this wish, his sister Ludwika smuggled his heart in a jar under her garments.
She brought it to the Holy Cross Church in Krakowskie Przedmieście where it still lies buried beneath a plaque on one of the pillars inside. In 2014 the heart was exhumed in great secrecy for fears that the preservation liquid had evaporated, however it has been confirmed that the organ is still in good condition.
Travel Back in Time to the Era of Communist Neon Signs
The Praga District used to be a no-go area, however it has seen a revival in recent years due to ongoing regeneration projects. You could say it’s now become the go-to hipster destination, where former industrial buildings have been converted into restaurants, shops and cultural facilities. One such is Soho Factory, where you can find the Neon Museum.
The Neon Museum is a time capsule that will transport you to the communist era of the 60s and 70s, where neon signs were a defining element to Warsaw’s identity. Often created by famous architects and designers they were the symbol of a forward-thinking, modern society. During post-communist times the Poles distanced themselves from anything connected to the ideology and a lot of these signs ended up forgotten and locked away.
Today retro is making a big comeback and the museum is a great place to feed your nostalgia. Take some time to walk around Soho Factory as the largest neon signs have been installed on the facades of various buildings here.
Ride an Alpine Coaster in the Middle of a City
You don’t have to go to Switzerland to ride an alpine coaster. If you are looking for some thrills all you need to do is to go to the local Szczesliwicki Park in the Ochota District, which not only has an alpine coaster, but also an all-year-round skiing slope. On your way down you can get a glimpse of some great views of the Warsaw skyline.
Taking a walk through the park itself is a great way to spend the afternoon. It’s a lively place full of activity with rollerblading areas, beach volleyball courts and a water park. At the same time there are many peaceful spots by the lake, where you can relax and watch fishermen do their thing.
Address: Drawska 22, 02-202 Warszawa, Poland
Taste Real Polish Food at a ‘Milk Bar’
For a hearty home-cooked Polish meal visit a Milk Bar (Bar Mleczny). These cafeteria-style establishments were launched during communist times to provide subsidized, low-cost meals to the people. In times when meat was hard to come by the Milk Bars focused on serving dairy products and substitutes such as cheese cutlets.
Increasingly Milk Bars are having to compete with many trendy and exotic restaurants springing up all over the city and many have disappeared. They are great places for an authentic experience and perfect for vegetarians. Some of the best staple dishes you should try are traditional soups like żurek, pierogis (Polish dumplings) stuffed with cabbage and mushrooms and gołąbki (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls).
Address: Multiple locations
Marvel at the Beauty of Industrial Architecture
Situated on the site of the former Wola Gas Company, this museum will offer you a glimpse into Poland’s history of gas production. Opened in 1977 it boasts a collection of gas lamps and other industrial machinery.
A treat for urban explorers – Wolskie Rotundy are historic 19th century gasholders built as part of the Warsaw gasworks. Since 1888 they served to protect the gas containers stored inside, but have fallen into disuse in the 70s when the city switched to using ground gas. This may be the last chance to see them untouched by gentrification, as the site is earmarked for development into a Centre of Technology and residential space.
The museum is accessible to everyone and entry is free of charge. The gasholders however can only be admired from a distance, apart from on special events like the recent Danuta Karsten exhibition. The museum has been undergoing renovation. Check in advance for opening information.
Dine as the Communist Leaders Would
When it comes to cashing in on the communist nostalgia Oberza Pod Czerwonym Wieprzem does it really well. With an aristocratic, yet welcoming charm of the 50s, red accents and a massive portrait on the wall entitled “The Last Communist Supper” it provides a humorous take on the era. On the walls you will find proudly displayed pictures of the restaurant’s celebrity clientele including the likes of Bruce Willis and John Malkovich.
The name, meaning ‘The Inn Under The Red Hog’, comes from the original tavern that existed here pre-WWII and served as a meeting place for ‘red’ communist leaders. A menu inspired by some of the gastronomic favourites of the most prominent comrades as well as Polish culinary tradition offers dishes such as pork knuckle, wild boar and duck in cherry sauce.
Address: Żelazna 68, 00-866 Warsaw, Poland
Have you visited any quirky, off-the-beaten path places in Warsaw? Share with us in the comments below!
Looking for more inspiration? See out article on the Top 9 Tourist Attractions in Warsaw.