SRAS Guide to Living in Warsaw

Published: April 4, 2019

The following is a quick overview to some of those services and products that students often need in the course of a semester or summer abroad: everything from haircuts to pharmacies and gyms to computer repair.

SSI-bannerIn This Guide

  1. A Practical Introduction to Warsaw
  2. Eating and Going Out
  3. Shopping
  4. Services
  5. Official Holidays

See also:

 

1. A Practical Introduction to Warsaw

Warsaw’s historic districts were rebuilt from their ruble after WWII. After decades of Communist rule, the Polish market economy is now growing fast and is the first in the former Soviet bloc to be reclassified as “developed.” Warsaw is booming with coffee, foodie havens, and green spaces filled with culture. While still facing many economic, political, international, and demographic challenges, Warsaw is a true case study in resilience.

Warsaw is perfect for those students interested in security studies in their full range – from cyber and military security to managing economic and demographic trends to produce a stable society in a changing world.

The climate in Warsaw (humid continental) is quite mild and similar to what you would experience in the Northeastern United States or eastern Canada. Winters are cold and summers are warm, while spring and autumn are mild. Expect to see snow from late November to the end of March. There is not usually a huge difference between night and day temperature. Rain is not uncommon. Come prepared.

Warsaw has experienced tragedy and resilience in abundance throughout its history. Still facing major challenges today, the city is obviously the capital of a country that has managed to rebalance international and domestic interests to its advantage. For more on the history of Warsaw, see this article on GeoHistory, also part of the SRAS Family of Sites.

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2. Eating and Going Out

Polish food can also be found at the chain Zapiecek which has various locations, but the one on Nowy Świat 64, one of the city’s main drags, is recommendable. Czerwony Wieprz is a sort of kitschy, retro restaurant in a Polish-Communist setting. Zapiexy is one of the most popular joints for Zapiekanki. Zapiexy, the name of the joint, is Warsaw slang for Zapiekanka, which are basically mini Polish pizzas on oval shaped bread and typically topped with cheese and mushrooms, although you can get nearly any toppings you want. Milk bars” are Polish cafeterias known for being cheap sources of traditional Polish food. For more on these culturally rich establishments, click here.

Food Trucks are big in Warsaw. Foodies should check out Yelp Listings for Warsaw’s various trucks.

Coffee is also big in Warsaw. Kawiarnia Kafka is a hip student café near the campus of the University of Warsaw. You’ll find yourself surrounded by bookshelves lined with books (many in English) and students. F30, artfully named for its address (Francuska 30), is a popular café in Praga (east of the river) where you can drink coffee outside under a their famous canopy of umbrellas in the warmer months. Other major coffee chains scattered about Warsaw are Green Café Nero and Costa Coffee.

Sweet Tooth affectionados should check out E. Wedel, Poland’s most famous chocolate manufacturer. They have coffee shops with delicious European-style hot chocolate (basically melted chocolate in a cup) – the original store (opened in 1851 by E. Wedel himself) is in Warsaw at 8 Szpitalna. Grycan, a famed local brand of ice cream, has shops that offer ice cream and good coffee.

For the Homesick, the Pink Flamingo is a 50s-style diner tucked away in a park and a longtime staple for Warsaw’s expats.

Music can be found at Warszawa Powisle, a café/bar located in the old ticket office of the Warsaw Powisle train station. There is almost always live music playing there and is definitely recommended. Café Kulturalna is located inside the Palace of Culture and Science and certainly worth a trip. There is always good music playing there, often live.

Vegetarian food can be found around around Warsaw and even in traditional Polish cooking (look for cabbage or potato-based foods. Make sure to check out Krowarzywa has a couple of (delicious) vegan burger locations. There is always a line but it’s worth it. W gruncie rzeczy (ul. Hoża 62) have cheap and very tasty soups and vegan cakes.

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3. Shopping

Groceries: For low prices, see Biedronka or Lidl. If you are looking for something specifc, try the larger chains of Tesco or Carrefour. The local chain Piotr und Paweł are akin to Walmart, with a large range of goods in addition to groceries. Vegetarians should have no problem finding what they need in any of these locations.

Phones and Electronics: Orange, Play, and T-Mobile all have branded shops where you can buy inexpensive cell phones. Play is currently the market leader in terms of offering discount prices.

Antiques and Souvenirs: Look for Cepelia, a reasonably priced chain of stores specializing in Polish folk art, ceramic, and other souvenirs. There is one across from the Palace of Science and Culture.

Reading, Electronics, and more can be found at Empik stores, including books in English.

Shopping Malls are common in Warsaw and can serve most of your clothing and electronics needs. Some of the biggest and most central in Warsaw include Złote Tarasy, which is across from the main train station and the Palace of Culture. Also see Galeria Mokotów and Arkadia for other options.

Eyeglasses / Contacts: Information coming.

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4. Services

Cell Phone and Internet: For more on cellphone and mobile Internet service, see our Guide to Warsaw Budgets.

Public WiFi is everywhere in Warsaw. The train stations and shopping malls as well as most coffee shops/cafes offer it. The whole of downtown Warsaw is also basically a giant free hotspot.

Public Transport and Navigation: Jakdojade.pl is the map and navigation service that locals use. It has the only public transportation route planner for the whole city (including the subway, busses, etc.) There are now 2 metro lines in Warsaw. They run until 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends. Buses run 24hours, with most lines running until 11pm, but night lines operating after that. You can find out more information about Warsaw’s public transportation system here. There is also a good city bike system in Warsaw that is available from about March until November. You can register online and the first hour every day is free. For more on public transport costs, see our Guide to Warsaw Budgets.

Private Transport: Uber and Lyft work in Warsaw. For a more local variant, try the EuroTaxi app.

Housing: A couple of websites to help with finding longer-term housing in Warsaw include this Facebook group and this one, which is technically for ERASMUS students but other international students use it too. Pepe Housing is a company specialized in helping foreigners (and especially students) find apartments in Poland.

Laundry: Warsaw has many self-service laundry facilities. You can comparison shop on Yelp.

Haircuts: A list of affordable hairdressers in Warsaw can be found at Fryzjer.me. Most hairdressers and barbers won’t be able to speak much English though, so bring a picture of what you want your hair to look like.

Charitable Giving: You can give used items to Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in Poland. They are headquartered at Krakowskie Przedmieście 62 in Warsaw but have big bins labelled “Caritas” throughout the city, especially in residential areas. Your items will be distributed to those in need.

Doctors, etc. Healthcare International Family Practice offers doctors and nurses that speak English. The best list of larger, 24-hour pharmacies is provided by the US Embassy in Warsaw. Otherwise, just look for the word “apteka” – that’s Polish for “pharmacy” and, surprisingly, many pharmacists in Warsaw speak English.

Fitness: Recommendations for gyms needed! For outside running, try the Wisla River front or one of Warsaw’s various parks (Park Łazienkowski and Ogród Saski are particularly recommended).

Computer Repair: information coming..

Gyms: information coming.

Post: The main post office in Warsaw is at ul. Świętokrzyska 31/33. It is open 24/7. You can find other a post office near you by typing in your address here.

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5. Official Holidays

Those marked as state holidays are official days off.

DATE HOLIDAY TYPE
January 1 New Year’s Day State
January 6 Ephiphany State + Religious
Always on a Sunday Easter Sunday State + Religious
Always on a Monday Easter Monday State + Religious
May 1 Labor Day State
May 3 Constitution Day State
50 Days After Easter Pentecost Sunday State + Religious
9th Thursday after Easter Corpus Christi State + Religious
August 15 Assumption Day + Day of the Polish Army State + Religious
November 1 All Saints Day State + Religious
November 11 Independence Day State
December 25 Christmas Day State + Religious
December 26 St. Steven’s Day State + Religious

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