Part art deco tenement, part sci-fi space cruiser, Nobu Hotel Warsaw cuts a show-stopping dash in Srodmiescie, Warsaw’s trendy downtown residential district.
Warsaw Chopin Airport is seven kilometres from the hotel – the drive will take somewhere in the region of 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic. Transfers can be arranged on request, with pick-up prices starting at PLN320 for up to three passengers.
The S2 train shuttles passengers from the airport to Warsaw Central train station, a 10-minute stroll from the hotel, for just PLN4.40. Warsaw Central serves cities around Poland and beyond, including Wrocław, Berlin, Prague and Vienna.
Rental cars are available at the airport and there’s an underground car park a short walk from the hotel. However, Warsaw is a very walkable city with reliable bus, tram and metro services aplenty, so rolling up in your own set of wheels is probably an unnecessary extravagance.
Worth getting out of bed for
Ultra-hip concept stores and gleaming boutique hotels rub shoulders with crumbling communist-era dive bars and bullet-pocked tenements in trendy Srodmiescie, where many buildings still bear the scars of Warsaw’s bloody past. The eclectic mish-mash of styles, complemented by some of the city’s finest supersized street art, invites aimless, camera-roll-filling wanders.
Direct your feet (and camera) towards the oft-overlooked Warsaw Fotoplastikon. A fascinating preserved relic of the city’s pre-war (and pre-cinema) era, and one of just a handful of city-centre buildings to survive World War II, this stereoscopic theatre became something of a symbol of Polish grit, serving as a clandestine meeting place for the wartime resistance movement. Viewing century-old three-dimensional images in this deeply atmospheric space is quite the unique thrill, regardless of whether you can read the descriptions (in Polish) or not.
The Fotoplastikon serves as an outpost of the extraordinary Warsaw Rising Museum, essential to any deeper understanding of Poland’s devastation during World War II. Through immersive exhibits and soundscapes, the museum tells the story of – and pays tribute to – the heroes of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a 63-day struggle by Polish resistance fighters to drive out occupying Nazi forces. Exhibits include weapons, love letters, full-sized fighter planes, replica sewage tunnels and a moving memorial wall.
Revered for its striking Soviet-era architecture, the Palace of Culture and Science is equally reviled by many Varsovians. Joseph Stalin ‘gifted’ this opulent skyscraper to the Polish capital in 1955, and it has long been viewed as the defining symbol of Soviet oppression here, a permanent monument to a little man’s giant ego. Step inside this divisive landmark, where gleaming marble floors, elaborate staircases and car-sized chandeliers speak of Soviet decadence, and the 30th-floor observation terrace offers panoramic city vistas from what is still one of the tallest buildings in Poland. The quirky Museum of Technology and Museum of Evolution here are also well worth an hour or two of your time.
It’s a 30-minute stroll from the hotel to Warsaw’s atmospheric old town. Almost completely destroyed during the war, it was carefully and meticulously reconstructed afterwards, resulting in a colourful mix of mediaeval-style façades, cobbled market squares and oxidised copper-green rooftops. Dodge camera-toting tourists along its narrow alleyways and don’t miss the lavish Royal Palace, fascinating Museum of Warsaw, and gothic St John’s Archcathedral, final resting place of Poland’s last monarch, the 18th-century king Stanislaw Antoni Poniatowski.
Just around the corner from Nobu Hotel, Hala Koszyki is a veritable Warsaw institution. This early 20th-century Art Nouveau-style market has been fully restored, its pre-war brickwork dusted down and its bullet scars patched up to give it a second lease of life as a hipster food hall par excellence. Inside, the building’s industrial iron framework is softened by festoons of foliage and decorative hanging lamps. You’re spoiled for choice here with dining options that cover all the major food groups: sushi, burgers, burritos, tapas and more. Hit up Ćma for some of the best modern Polish cuisine in town: belly-busting portions of classic meat pierogi (dumplings), zurek (sour rye soup) and bigos (hunter’s stew with sauerkraut) served against a backdrop of exposed brick walls, colourful street art and… giant metal insects. It’s open 24/7 so you need never wonder where your next Bison Grass Sour is coming from.
For something a little more intimate, try supper at Nolita, a monochrome-chic bistro that’s also within stumbling distance of the Nobu. The contemporary dishes here draw influence from world cuisines: Poland, the Med and Southeast Asia are all up for grabs. The tasting menu dazzles with grilled teriyaki octopus, Wagyu pizza and bluefin tuna tartare. Or go à la carte for the tempura langoustines and chargrilled Wagyu fillet.
One of the great benefits of staying in a neighbourhood as cool as Srodmiescie is that you’re all but guaranteed top-tier coffee joints on your doorstep. Case in point: Coffeedesk is close enough to the hotel that even the most caffeine-deprived of morning people should be able to manage the short walk. This light-filled café with colourful seating and exposed brick walls is a relaxed space for no-nonsense speciality brews and pastries, as well as boxes of teas and ground coffee to take away.
Nearby Relax na Wilczej is the younger sibling of perennially popular Warsaw institution Relaks, and shares a similarly artistic outlook, boasting as its centrepiece an eye-popping mural by local artist Mariusz Tarkawian. It’s also much closer to the hotel, and its short-but-effective coffee menu is well worth the 10-minute stroll.
Jazz fans should make their way to the basement of the hotel building, where the Jassmine club awaits. An industrial mecca for thirsty office workers, Bar Koszyki sits at the heart of the hall, allowing you to immerse yourself in its sights and sounds and indulge in a spot – OK, a lot – of people-watching. Elbows at the ready to jostle your way to the bar for a signature Koszyki cocktail or beer, neither of which are available anywhere else. Head upstairs to the mezzanine, where Upper Deck offers additional cocktail options in more refined surroundings.
Sud-lovers and historians alike make a bee(r)line for Cuda na Kiju, a multi-level craft beer mecca set in the former headquarters of the Polish Communist Party on Nowy Świat (but don’t let that put you off). Bright, airy interiors, more than a dozen Polish and international craft brews on tap, and a solid line in late-night pizzas mean this place has long shaken off the spectre of its previous occupants.