The sprawling capital of Poland is often overlooked as a travel destination of choice. Many opt instead for the southern city of Krakow, well known for its preserved medieval core, impressive market square and proximity to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. But Hip and Healthy have the inside scoop on what could be the new go-to health hub of Eastern Europe – Warsaw! Vibrant, vegan friendly and full of life despite a difficult history, this cheap as chips holiday destination is one to add to the list for 2017.
While doing your research on Warsaw, you might be inclined to head for the Old Town, but Hip & Healthy recommends sticking to Centrum for accommodation. It’s the thriving hub of modern Warsaw and home to all the cool and trendy bars and restaurants frequented by locals. Accommodation is cheap cheap cheap in Poland, making it a great budget getaway. You can stay in name brand hotels with city views for motor inn prices. A standard double room at the Novotel, which is in a stellar location overlooking the Palace of Science and Culture – will cost you no more than £50. Side note: the hotel’s gym has an absolutely magnificent bird’s eye view of the palace, and is stocked with all the equipment you could want, along with a reading nook and relax and rehabilitation room.
For something more in keeping with the architectural feel of Warsaw, this boutique property is a lovely place to stay. Its modern design is encased in a restored 19th century building, it’s perfect if you’re after a touch of luxury, but still want to be close to the action.
Poland’s cuisine is not usually its biggest drawcard, but with traditional dishes like beetroot soup, potato pancakes and sauerkraut dumplings – it definitely sparked our interest. Even more surprising is the way Poland has embraced vegan cuisine and healthy alternatives.
If you’d prefer to dabble in polish cuisine in a more restaurant setting, look no further than Michelin recommended Qchnia. The mouth-watering menu will allow you to sample all the traditional dishes, with a touch of luxury. The restaurant has a spectacular setting with a view over Warsaw, in summer there is a terrace to spill onto. Better still, the food is delicious and once again, very cheap. A set three course lunch, is no more than an English fiver.
Visiting a traditional milk bar is the done thing for experiencing the ‘real’ Poland, and should be high on your food to do list. This is as local as they come, so don’t expect the staff to speak English. The food is cheap, traditional and will give you a feel for communist Poland, with a modern touch.
Much to Hip & Healthy’s delight, it’s never been cheaper to eat real, natural, quality ingredients free of preservatives and hidden nasties. An absolute favourite (and daily staple while in Warsaw) is Krowarzywa – aka foodie heaven. The ambiance is oh so cool, and the food is to die for. Patties range from millet pumpkin and sunflower seed to breaded wheat meat and chickpea with parsley. They even make their own sauce – the BBQ made of plums is our recommendation. The best part? The equivalent of £2.35, for a huge, delicious made to order vegan burger. Do they do life membership? Sign us up!
Sushi seems to be the other staple cuisine being embraced by the Polish, and boy – do they do it well. You’ll find a Japanese restaurant at every turn in Warsaw, but Hip & Healthy has a special preference for the strawberry and salmon rolls wrapped in Japanese omelette at Oto. This restaurant is quite small, but beautifully decorated, and the food is made right in front of your eyes in an open plan kitchen. The udon noodles, seaweed rolls, edamame – it’s all out of this world.
According to the Ministry of Treasury in Poland, the country has the most dynamic fitness market in Europe. There are options at every turn to hit the weights or the treadmill, but there are also plenty of ways to include a sweat session into your sightseeing while staying in the Polish capital.
Without a doubt this beautiful sprawling park is a must see in Warsaw. Stretching across 80 hectares it’s full to the brim with stunning greenery and architecture, the perfect place for a leisurely stroll or a morning run. Lazienki Palace, one of the symbols of Warsaw, sits smack bang in the middle and is surrounded by a pretty as a picture lake. There are also numerous pavilions, amphitheatres, orangeries and barracks to stumble upon. But the big attraction is the wildlife, the park is teeming with the cutest (and tamest) red squirrels and peacocks all more than willing to creep up and eat nuts and seeds right out of your hand.
Old Town to Centrum
Built during the 12th century, Old Town is the most prominent tourist attraction in Warsaw. It’s actually a lot prettier to visit by day, so as not to miss all the beautiful pastel colours on the ancient building facades. With a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic and neo-classical design – it’s an interesting and beautiful centre.
Ulica Nowy Swiat is one of the main historic thoroughfares of Warsaw, and runs right through to Warsaw’s Royal Castle and into Old Town. Nowadays the street is lined with all of the mod cons in fashion and food, and is a great area to explore. Whether you start at Centrum, or Old Town – it’s a good way to walk off all of the amazing food you’ve just read about….
Words by Gemma Bath www.sunliteyes.com @gembath