Before a certain virus stopped European life in its tracks, there was a race happening. The winning title: “Vegan Capital of Europe”. Cities like London and Amsterdam were on the verge of taking over from our home base, the former posterchild Berlin. That’s what we get for resting on our laurels too long, guys.
“One of veganism’s best kept secrets: Entry Warsawa!”
When it comes to thought-through and innovative gastronomy concepts, creativity, overall quality and especially diversity, both Amsterdam and London are now leading the way and there’s no doubt about it. Even our Parisian friends have been doing their homework and are killing it on the croissant-and-cheese-front. And then there’s another European capital nobody’s really looking at but that has been, overshadowed always, evolving into one of veganism’s best kept secrets. Entry Warsawa!
Soviet Architecture meets Modern European Culture
The capital of Poland is a vibrant mix of old school Soviet architecture on the one hand, what with its broad streets clearly built with military parades in mind and with the almighty Palace of Culture towering over the city center. The skyscrapers and very Western European malls and oversized billboards on the other hand, are a counterweight to the reminders of a Stalinist past.
It’s a city that, just like Berlin, has a certain cold-war-vibe still hanging in the streets, torn between the old world and the new. Or, to put it simply: Socialist housing units meet luminous advertisements for an American soda giant.
”Torn between Western influences and a Socialist past, the city has a tangible cold-war-vibe to it, still.“
While Poland, just like its neighboring country Germany, is generally known for its meat-heavy cuisine, things are different in Warsaw. An eclectic mix of young creatives from all trades populate the city center, especially the area south of the Palace of Culture, Śródmieście Południowe, known for its Parisian-style bistros and Jugendstil architecture.
This neighborhood has some of the best vegan spots in town as well as all the young urban hipness you can ask for… craft beer bars, local designer boutiques, bourgeois barber shops, you name it.
Where to stay in the City
And so, we highly suggest getting a hotel room or an apartment around Wilcza or Hoża, as these two streets pack some of the top addresses of the city for the plant-based traveler. But be warned: You might become terribly lazy and never even leave the neighborhood after you tasted the Middle Eastern-inspired breakfast options at Tel Aviv, the incredible selection of burgers at Krowarzywa or found out that Youmiko, arguably the best vegan sushi in all of Europe, is just two minutes from where you’re staying.
And that would be a pity. Obviously, Warsaw is so much more than just the city center. A stroll through the old town for example feels like you walked into an everlasting postcard motif, especially when you go in the early morning hours before herds of tourists from all parts of the world flood the cobblestone streets of the oldest part of town.
“In the summer months, Warsaw really comes to live on the riverbanks of the Vistula.”
In the warmer months, it can feel like the whole city collectively seeks out the banks of the Vistula River to hang out, drink, laugh, smoke and have a good time. Complete with sandbanks imitating in-town beaches and little pop-up bars scattered all over the riverbanks, Warsaw really comes to life here.
The Praga Renaissance
Same goes for the part of the city on the right side of the river, particularly the up-and-coming neighborhood of Praga. Tucked away behind the towering football stadium right next to Poniatowski bridge, which was damaged in both World Wars and rebuilt twice, Praga is going through what we like to call a Bushwick-esque renaissance.
This part of the city has been evolving from a run-down, poor neighborhood with a through-the-roof crime rate to one of Europe’s most buzzing creative hubs, alive with art galleries, upscale restaurants, clubs and bars. The city’s artists and creatives favor the vast spaces in the abandoned factory buildings over the old town vibe on the other side of the river.
That certain Berlin-10-Years-ago-Feel
Again, for us here at Antagonist, Warsaw is probably the most underrated city in Europe. The Polish capital definitely deserves to be in the spotlight more, especially when you look at it through the lens of veganism. It’s astonishing to see the local scene flourish and new locations pop up left and right. In a rather conservative political climate, the city vibrates with the energy of an intellectual big-city youth with a drive for sustainable change and we, for one, love to be in the middle of this as frequently as possible. Luckily, Warsaw is just a few hours by train from our Berlin headquarters.
“The city vibrates with the energy of intellectual big-city youth, in pursuit of sustainable change.”
What’s interesting about this is that at times, Warsaw can actually feel like what Berlin must have felt like ten to fifteen years ago, back when living costs still were nowhere near other major world cities. A time when Berlin was poor but, by that circumstance, so very vital, free and creative.
Big City Tourism on a Budget
After all, you can score a beautiful holiday apartment smack in the city center for very traveler-friendly prices, then take the tram across the city for a steal, get a high-quality meal for a fraction of the price of other European cities and then catch a movie in a nearby theatre for just a couple Zloty. (Movies are not dubbed here, but come with Polish subtitles instead, so no language barriers in sight.)
“People will love it if you learn a couple words of Polish, but you’ll manage without it.”
While we’re at it: Everybody speaks English here, (As long as you don’t hit the suburbs.) So yes, learn a couple words of Polish if you’re into it, people will love it – but no worries if you didn’t squeeze in a course before making the journey, as you’ll manage just fine.
It’s an exciting time in the history of the city and we urge you to visit the Polish capital rather sooner than later. On the following pages, find a couple more tips for your stay. You won’t regret it. We’ll see you there.
And now for some of our Favs in the City:
When the number one burger joint of the city, the hip go-to spot for everybody, omnis and veggies, bankers and hipsters, is vegan by default, you know something extraordinary is happening. First and foremost, the burgers here are one thing: super tasty!
Made without preservatives or artificial flavor enhancers, but seasonal whole food ingredients instead, these burgers are packed with fiber and quality plant protein. They serve Beyond Meat here, but we would highly suggest going for one of their homemade seitan or bean-based patties and definitely be adventurous with their selection of sauces.
Beware, or you’ll be getting a burger or hot dog here every night before you know it. Five locations in the city.
Hoża St. 29/31
(see website for other locations)
All the hummus and falafel you can stomach in this 100% plant-based Near Eastern cuisine restaurant. Come here for lunch or dinner, but definitely try the amazing breakfast options as well.
With a come-as-you-are philosophy and dishes perfect for sharing, this food concept with six locations in the city combines an easygoing vibe, beautifully prepared dishes, a charming interior and a full-on vegan mission aligned with some of the best Israeli food we’ve tasted so far.
Tel Aviv Urban Food
(see website for other locations)
Founded by Magdalena Juda in 2016, Youmiko Vegan Sushi has developed into one of the more upscale plant-based staples of the Polish capital. The quality of the creations served here, the artistic approach, the taste and textures, the combinations, the fresh ingredients and the thoughtful composition of their menu selection makes Youmiko one of (if not the) best destinations for vegan sushi in Europe.
You need to eat here!
Youmiko Vegan Sushi
In the hippest part of town across the river, one of the newer vegan establishments of the city, Eden Bistro has an offering consisting of healthy, fresh and creative vegetable cuisine. Beautiful plates in an even more beautiful location, complete with a rustic greenhouse, filled with plants.
Drinks are great here, so is the brunch offering. An absolute must-visit for your Warsaw bucket list.
Nice Cream Factory
Ice cream parlor using liquid nitrogen (!) to turn a milk-base of choice into ice cream. Not entirely vegan, but with vegan options for both the base and toppings. Nitrogen Oreo ice cream anyone?
Chmielna 9/5, 00-027 Warsaw
Warsaw’s second all-vegan sushi spot is just up the street from and a tad less up-scale than Youmiko, but definitely one of the city’s go-to for the plant-based traveler. Definitely try their purple rice sushi!
Wilcza 11, 00-538 Warsaw
Healthy, fresh and comforting food close to Warsaw’s old city.
Aleja Solidarności 60A, 00-240 Warsaw
All-vegan Italian restaurant in a nice, bright location and a menu with very solid quality pizza, fun pasta creations and a tempting selection of desserts.
Poznańska 13, 00-682 Warsaw
Vegan Ramen Shop
Pop-up turned brick-and-mortar with two locations in the city. Serves arguably the best ramen in the city as well as Japanese deli food.
Finlandzka 12 a, 03-903 Warsaw
Kazimierzowska 43, 02-572 Warsaw
100% plant-based Mexican comfort food. Get your burrito or quesadilla on at this cute basement bistro right in the center.
Poznańska 16, 00-680 Warsaw
Get an enormous BLT Tempeh sandwiches and a creamy matcha latte for brekkie, or score some thick and nauseatingly sweet baked goods after your burger up the street at Krowarzywa.
Hoża 27A, 00-521 Warsaw
Classic, traditional Polish cuisine, veganized. From Schabowy with potato salad to sauerkraut pasta. Big portions, very hearty. Come hungry.
Krucza 23/31, 05-800 Warsaw
Other Things to do:
Helpless architecture romantics, the Technical University of Warsaw is for you. Some solid Hogwarts-vibes await you.
Plac Politechniki 1, 00-661 Warsaw
Palace of Culture
Rather obvious, but if you don’t walk a couple circles around the city center’s most prominent landmark, you’re missing out. Cinemas, museums, art exhibitions, mesmerizing Soviet architecture and an observation deck you can’t miss, all in one.
Plac Defilad 1, 00-901 Warsaw
Swimming with a View
Find a fitness center complete with swimming pool and jacuzzi on the 43th floor of skyscraper Hotel Intercontinental, looking over the city and granting a great view on the Palace of Culture. Sneak through the lobby and find the right elevator. Once you’re up there, you’ll look like you belong. You’ll still have to pay an admission fee for a swim here, though.
Emilii Plater 49, 00-125 Warsaw
Drinks on the Waterfront
Follow the locals toward the water and to a lineup of multiple pop-up bars that stretch along the banks of the Vistula in the summer months. Hang with an eclectic mix of hip locals and world travelers visiting the city on one of the many strand bars close to the water or along Poniatowski Bridge.
Copernicus Science Centre
Finally, a museum where you can touch everything, play, jump and try out things. A highlight for kids as well as adults that don’t mind looking as excited and surprised as the five-year-olds surrounding them. So. Much. Fun.
Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 20, 00-390 Warsaw
Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews
An architectural highlight of the city, this museum takes you through centuries of a culture that has deep roots in Warsaw. Prepare for the 1939-45 section of the museum, covering the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany though, it’s tough. Definite trigger warning.
Anielewicza 6, 00-157 Warsaw
Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery
Established in 1806 and the resting place of spiritual leaders, political activists, creators of Jewish culture and thousands of nameless victims of the German occupation and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Not only a place of remembrance and a stronghold of Jewish culture in Warsaw, but a mesmerizingly beautiful destination also, as the cemetery has become a dense forest in the post war period and looks like it fell right out of a fantasy novel. Please bring your best behavior and act quiet and respectful of the community while exploring.
Okopowa 49/51, Warsaw
Massive post-industrial site in the cool Praga district, formerly home to the Pocisk Munitions Factory and Warsaw Motorcycle Factory, completely reclaimed as an artistic sub-district and home to creative studios, museums, theatres, organic food markets and cultural events. Check the events schedule beforehand.
Mińska 25 / Budynek 44, 03-808
In the inter-war period of a post-Stalin Warsaw, the city became the European capital of neon signs, the ruins of the war-torn city illuminated by “neonisation”. This show, an integral part of Soho Factory, has an astonishing selection of historical illuminated signs.
Mińska 25 / Budynek 44, 03-808
Got more for us?
We want to keep this guide up to date, so if you’re a local, have been to Warsaw before and think we forgot the city’s best kept secret, make sure to share it in the comments.
Additionally, all on-location research and photography for this guide has obviously been conducted before the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, so if any of the mentioned businesses had to shut down due to the pandemic, we’d like to know, mourn and update this doc. Thanks for your help!