The Weekender: 48 Hours in Warsaw

By Mary Lussiana

9 months ago

This vibrant city is full of surprises


Warsaw always seems to dig deep into the hearts of its visitors, says Mary Lussiana. It surprises them perhaps with its vibrancy, its rich cultural heritage and its thriving food scene. In summer, restaurants and cafés spill out along the streets and leafy parks like the Łazienki come into their own with Chopin concerts on Sundays, while pleasure boats criss-cross on the water in front of the last King’s Summer Palace. In winter, as snow descends, shops pull heavy velvet curtains across their doors, restaurants offer sharp trade with warming soups like Żurek (a sour-rye soup and crunchy potato pancakes with sour cream), and – if you want to indulge – caviar.  Plus, the frosting of white frames in the old town always looks postcard-perfect.

STAY

Bedrooms at Raffles Hotel Warsaw.

Raffles Europejski Warsaw

Raffles Europejski is perfectly located, sitting on the wide avenue that runs from Warsaw’s Old Town to its best shopping street, offering views onto the Presidential Palace on one side and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with its constant flame, on the other. Originally built in 1857, the hotel was extensively renovated, and it opened as a Raffles in 2018. It boasts sumptuous rooms, a restaurant designed by Lázaro Rosa Violán, a fascinating modern art collection (ask for a tour) and a spa using Sisley and Aromatherapy Associates products. There is also, of course, a Long Bar, where you can try the Warsaw take on the famous Raffles Singapore Sling. Doubles start at £398 per night on a B&B basis.

Meanwhile, new this year is Hotel Verte, an Autograph Collection hotel housed in an 18th-century palace right opposite the Royal Castle. Each of its ninety-four contemporary rooms have been skillfully created to retain a sense of history. With the Old Town on your doorstep, this is an excellent location for those wanting to explore Warsaw and its heritage. Doubles start from £244 on a B&B basis.  

EAT

Navy blue-painted dining room at Epoka, Warsaw.

Epoka

Kuk (situated on the ground floor of Hotel Verte) shakes up the Warsaw food scene with a novel approach. This includes a local, seasonal menu divided into salty and sweet; an omakase option where a selection of tiny dishes come on an airplane-style tray; and an array of blind tastings. Make sure to try the ravioli of broad beans and chanterelles or the venison with gooseberry and baby potatoes. 

At Kieliszki na Próżnej, wine does, as they say, play first fiddle. But the sleek, contemporary interpretation of modern Polish cooking on offer here is affordable and well worth trying. Sample the beef tartare with buckwheat and smoked mayonnaise or the sea trout with cucumber, buttermilk and sorrel.  And, naturally, allow plenty of time to dip into their impressive wine list.

If you are in Warsaw for a special occasion, Epoka is where you should celebrate. With the darkly lit, stylish stage set for the drama of Chef Marcin Przybyz’s tasting menu, here is where you can get under the culinary skin of the country. Dishes represent eras of Polish history with fun, contemporary twists.  The beautifully presented veal with caviar sauce was a highlight, but so too was the pickled cucumber.

DO

Warsaw old town.

Image: Unsplash

Chopin fans have plenty to keep them busy in Warsaw. Visit the Church of the Holy Cross where Chopin’s heart is buried in one of the pillars before heading to the Chopin Museum. You can even visit the pretty manor house in Żelazowa Wola, outside Warsaw, where the composer grew up. If you’re visiting in summer, enjoy a concert under the Chopin monument in the Łazienski Park. 

For more history, Marie Skłodowska-Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the 18th century house she was born in, in the Old Town, has been turned into a small museum.  

Nicolaus Copernicus (famous for suggesting that the sun rather than the earth was the centre of the universe) was born in Torun, a couple of hours north of Warsaw, but the interactive Copernicus Science Centre is well worth a visit.

The Old Town is somewhere to wander around slowly. It has been brilliantly reconstructed after the devastation of WW11, with many details drawn from existing paintings. Start at the art-filled Royal Castle, where the Lanckoroński Collection includes two Rembrandts.  

SHOP

Amber is sold in all shapes and sizes all over the Old Town, from bold jewellery to tiny animal figures. Look out also for the charming blue and white polka dot bolesławiec pottery.

Meanwhile, foodies should stock up on the excellent smoked hams and sausages and everyone should keep a bottle of Polish vodka in their freezer for emergencies.

GETTING THERE

British Airways fly daily from London Heathrow to Warsaw.