Immortalised in song by popular tunesmith Marek Grechuta, despite being an absolutely ridiculous exclamation, this saying aptly captures the collective ecstasy all Poles feel when the long, gloomy winter gives way to spring’s natural rebirth and cultural awakening. After a sort of societal hibernation, suddenly (ach!) flowers and beer garden umbrellas are in bloom, temps and hemlines are on the rise, merchants, musicians and melodies fill the public squares, couples are caterwauling along the boulevards, events are back on, the capital is bursting with energy and simultaneously basking in its release. It’s certainly a great time to travel, but why visit an urban centre full of glass and concrete when you could choose one of the greenest cities on the European continent instead? Warsaw, ach to ty!
Urban Parks & GreeneryThe 2018 Travelbird Green Cities Index ranked Warsaw as the 12th greenest city in the world, while the Husqvarna Urban Green Space Index ranks Warsaw 18th out of 171 European cities; the only cities of over 1 million inhabitants that did better were Prague, Hamburg and Munich. With 51% of the city covered in greenery for an average of 134.4m2 of green space per resident, Warsaw well exceeds the likes of New York City (19m2) or Paris (a pathetic 9.8m2), despite the two metropolises having iconic urban parks. Though they may not be as famous, Warsaw is home to its share of iconic parks as well, so let’s take a look at the best places in the capital to celebrate spring, and do some sightseeing while we’re at it.
Foremost among the latter is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - the only surviving remnant of Saxon Palace and once part of its lower colonnade. Here the ashes of unidentified soldiers who died for the Polish cause are interred and an eternal flame is kept lit and guarded by stone-faced soldiers. If you enjoy a bit of military theatre, you can watch the official changing of the guard every hour, on the hour, 365 days a year.
More impressive (in our opinion) is the large fountain located just behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Created in 1855 by renowned Warsaw architect Henryk Marconi, this fountain is and was the centrepiece of the gardens, the alleys of which are lined with blooming flowers, ancient trees (many of which survived the war) and neoclassical sculptures.
Lastly, in the northwestern part of the park, on a little hill, you’ll find the park’s Water Tower, also designed in 1825 by Marconi. If the structure reminds you of an ancient Roman building you’re quite right – it’s modelled on the famous Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. Ignacy Jan Paderewski at the park’s entrance. Other monuments include a memorial to the Polish victims of the September 11 attacks, and another commemorating British pilots whose B-24 Liberator was shot down here in August 1944 while delivering supplies to the Polish resistance during the Warsaw Uprising.
Located next to the popular district of Saska Kępa, the southwest corner of the park leads right to the neighbourhood’s trendy high street, ul. Francuska, where you’ll find plenty of hip cafes and restaurants, as well as some of the best ice cream in the city. Fans of modernist architecture and charming villas are encouraged to explore this affluent but artsy area.
Outdoor Food FairsThe arrival of warmer weather is also the signal for Warsaw’s outstanding open-air food markets to resume operations. An increasingly popular urban trend, these hip gastro markets are as much about socialising as they are about shopping for local food products or filling your belly, and definitely worth checking out if you’re brave enough to go beyond the centre of town. If you’re here ahead of the season or the weather’s rubbish, you can (and should) always check out one of the city’s plentiful indoor food halls as well.
ul. Towarowa 3 | fb.com/nocnymarket.
Open Thu 17:00-24:00; Fri, Sat 17:00-01:00; Sun 16:00-23:00. Vistula Boulevards. This huge multicultural culinary market offers a bounty of tastes, with a bent towards seasonal, ecological and organic products from Warsaw’s best local eateries, food concepts and caterers. A street food fair on the river, there is always something for everyone (including plenty of vegan fare) as long as you have good taste. Open late on weekends, this place tends to turn into a bit of a party after hours, making it a great nightlife option on warm evenings.
In 2021, Slow Market was located in Solec near the Słonka ferry station, but it’s a bit early at the time of publishing this to confirm if they’ll stay rooted there for 2022, so best check online for updates and events. Organised by Jestem Slow (jestemslow.pl), they also do monthly vintage markets at Elektrownia Powiśle, so check them out to see if you’re lucky.
Open Fri 18:00-02:00, Sat 12:00-02:00, Sun 12:00-22:00.