Cool Polska: a snapshot of the (other) hip city districts in Poland
After the Guardian selected Warsaw’s Powiśle district as among the top ten coolest neighbourhoods in Europe, Poland Today decided to take a stroll through the other instagramable locales around Poland.
Built in the early 1900s, Nikiszowiec was once a settlement for the miners and their families who worked at the nearby Wieczorek (previously called Giesche) coal mine – which was in operation until March 2018. Now the unique red-brick cottages and small tenement houses have become the domain of art studios, cafés and boutique shops.
For an inside look at the working-class life of people from this region (Silesia), the Museum of Katowice History is a good place to start. Inside, visitors can check out reconstructions of a typical worker’s flat with furniture from the 1920s-1950s.
With an aim to improve the district, Centrum Zimbardo, which is a non-profit organisation, hosts various events, educational programmes and conferences, as well as provides guided tours.
The Wilson Shaft Gallery has three halls which include exhibitions from foreign and Polish artists. For excellent coffee and desserts, Cafe Byfyj is one of the best cafés in this area.
Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one Old Town in Warsaw. On the right bank of the Vistula river in Praga, there are buildings which date back to the 1860s. Looking to capture the look of pre-war Warsaw, Roman Polański and the producers of The Pianist (2002) used the old tenement houses called ‘kamienicy’ in the small Ząbkowska district as a backdrop for their Oscar-winning film. A lot has changed since the shoot in 2001, but there are still one or two relatively unchanged streets providing photo opportunities.
For a different kind of history lesson, the Polish Vodka Museum provides tours and vodka tastings in the restored 19th-century Koneser Vodka Factory. The old factory complex has been transformed into a new entertainment and business precinct where video game producers and tech startups share space with Warsaw’s Google for Startups Campus.
For art lovers, the Soho Factory is full of exciting artistic attractions such as art studios, original theatre stages, designer shops, and of course, the Neon Museum which has an edgy collection of neon advertising signs from the 60s-70s – click here for a complete review of the museum.
The Warsaw Zoo dates back to the 17th century and was featured in the novel and film adaptation, The Zookeeper’s Wife, which tells the story of how the zoo was used as a hiding spot for Jews and escapees during World War II.
When it comes to food, the best selection of restaurants is located on Francuska street, located in Saska Kępa, one of the more hip areas in North Praga. For drinks, 11 Listopada 22 is a hip, artistic area with various hole-in-the-wall bars.
Piotrkowska Street, Łódź
At 5 km long, Piotrkowska Street in Łódź is the longest pedestrian street in Europe. Full of shops, restaurants, food trucks and beer gardens, it not only attracts tourists but also Poles from other cities.
OFF Piotrkowska is an alternative mixed-use project which is housed in a former cotton mill. This alternative complex contains clubs, independent design companies, bars, and music venues.
Next to the oldest hotel in the city, Hotel Grand Łódź, which was popular among celebrities such as Roman Polański, Josip Broz-Tito and many others, there’s the Walk of Fame which is Poland’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One more quite unusual hotel is the Cinemahotel which, as the name suggests, has its own in-house cinema. Each floor has its own style ranging from different time periods, styles and genres.
The Music District, Bydgoszcz
The music district is a symbol of Bydgoszcz, a city filled with culture. There is Jan Kochanowski Park, named after the Polish poet, which is full of statues of famous composers, as well as the Pomeranian Philharmonic, the Academy of Music and the Polish Theatre.
During the warmer months, there is a multimedia water fountain and light show with classical music every day. Those who plan to stay overnight can easily find a hotel or a hostel in the Old Town which is a 10-minute walk from the district.
3 Maja Street, Rzeszów
For those who enjoy taking a stroll along streets lined with beautiful architecture built in the 18-20th century, 3 Maja Street has to be your first port of call. Packed with cafes and restaurants, this location also is home to the oldest cinema in Rzeszów, luxury shops, and other sightseeing attractions such as the Regional Museum, the Church of the Holy Cross, and at the end of the street, Lubomirski Castle. A bit further from the main street is the Paniaga shopping centre (Galeria Paniaga) as well as the Museum of Bedtime Cartoons, which has a unique collection of Polish and foreign animations for children.