In another article we have already introduced you to the best Warsaw sights. Most of the tourists stay in the western part of the city, to see places like the historical Old Town, the skyline with the distinctive skyscrapers and many romantic parks. But in this article we will take you to the other side of the Vistula river, where only few tourists go so far – to the Praga Warsaw district.
Best Warsaw Praga sights to see
Praga is the new in district of Warsaw and attracts artists and creative people from all over the world. New design and art hotspots have sprung up, creating a district that is so different from the fancy tourist world of the Old Town. So off you go with the most beautiful sights in Praga, Warsaw’s most exciting district!
Just a few years ago, the part of Praga where the Soho Factory is located was considered one of the grubbiest. Now, restaurants and co-working spaces have settled on the site of a former factory. By now, more and more tourists are coming, to see the unique Neon Museum and other beautiful Praga Warsaw sights.
Neon advertising has a long-lasting tradition in Poland. In the decades after the Second World War, neon signs were considered the latest fashion and could be seen everywhere in the city. They marked the beginning of better times after the Second World War, which was catastrophic for the city. Most of them have now disappeared from the cityscape though, but here in the neon muzeum in Praga they have found a new home. You can admire about 200 neon signs from Warsaw and the whole world. A unique experience!
Besides all the hip places in Warsaw Praga you can also find the old spirit of the neighborhood. You can feel it most easily when you stroll through Ząbkowska street. Warsaw was almost completely razed to the ground by the Germans during World War II and there are only a few buildings from the prewar era left. However, in Ząbkowska Street in Warsaw Praga, some of them survived the war and from time to time serve as film sets for movies set in the old Poland.
In this neighborhood you will also come across a phenomenon that is still often seen in Praga: In the backyards of the apartment buildings, religious residents often built elaborate altars, where people pray to the Virgin Mary or Jesus. Poland is a strict Catholic country. During socialism, it was not at all easy to live out one’s faith openly. But here in the backyards the police couldn’t control what was going on so easily and secret masses were held in these backyards. It is one of the most beautiful Praga experiences to walk through Ząbkowska and the neighboring streets and look for the altars, which also make great photos!
In Ząbkowska street there is another sight that reflects the old Warsaw Praga. The Różycki bazaar enjoys cult status in Warsaw. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, many deals were made at such markets and by far not all goods were available officially. Even today everything imaginable is offered here and still a few products sold are fake. The sellers therefore don’t like it when you take pictures. So do not get caught! By the way, the city council plans to close the bazaar from time to time. But so far this has always failed due to the strong resistance of the residents. That’s quite fortunate for you, because there hardly is another market like this in Poland!
Already in the 19th century a vodka factory was built in Ząbkowska street. It quickly became one of the largest in Poland, where, as you probably know, indeed people like to drink vodka. Recently the area was revamped with quite some funding and is now the second hip spot in Warsaw Praga next to the SOHO Factory. The factory has received several awards for its renovation. There is a branch of the tourist information office, a Google campus, numerous cafés and bars and a funny vodka museum.
Luksosowa and Wyborowa are two of the most famous brands produced here and they are still among the most popular in Poland. An ideal place, to launch the Polish Vodka Museum. In the modern and interactive exhibition you will learn everything about the production and history of the “fire water” and you can also take part in a vodka tasting. You should therefore plan your visit to the museum rather in the late afternoon, otherwise your Praga excursion may look a bit blurred.
Besides the Neon Museum and Vodka Museum, there is also one dedicated to the history of the Warsaw Praga and its inhabitants. It is aimed more at Warsaw residents, but is interesting especially for an authentic insight into life in Praga today and in the past. We especially liked the many accounts of Praga citizens that tell stories and anecdotes about life in Praga even in English.
We have already told you about the yard chapels and altars. But of course there are also churches worth seeing in Praga. One of them, the Cathedral of Saint Florian (Katedra Św. Floriana) is located in the street of the same name. It was built around the turn to the 20th century in the neo-gothic style. Destroyed during the Second World War, it was one of the few churches in Praga to be rebuilt afterwards.
Let the music play!
In front of the church there is one of the funniest Praga Warsaw sights: A small monument of a street band that is playing one of 100 songs that used to be sung in Praga. You need to send a SMS to the number that is provided on the monument. Many people often gather here to revive the sound of old Praga.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Next to the huge shopping center Galeria Wileńska, which is symbolic of the new Praga, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene rises on Wileński square. The orthodox church was built in the 1860s and offers a great contrast to the modern surroundings. The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is the seat of a Metropolitan and the most important Polish Orthodox church. Before the First World War, this part of Poland belonged to Russia – the main reason why there are quite a few Polish Orthodox believers in the country. It for sure is another beautiful place to get close to the old Praga Warsaw.
As you are leaving the center of Praga you can discover some other famous sights in the district. For the European Football Championship 2012, the National Stadium was built from scratch. The project became a political issue, the construction costs had exploded and it was long unclear what would happen to the National Stadium. Today, the Polish national team plays its most important games here, and there are concerts with up to 60,000 spectators.
What worries the Polish taxpayer is amazing to look at and is illuminated every evening in dozens of colors. When the Polish nation team is playing, the LED lights on the outside show a waving Polish flag – a fantastic Warsaw sight! You can convince yourself of the beauty of the stadium on an English-speaking tour and take a look into the changing rooms of the famous football players.
In winter, the National Stadium is transformed into one of the largest ice skating rinks in the country. You can not only do your rounds here, but there are often parties.
For the 2012 European Championship a separate subway line had been planned, which of course also stops at the stadium. Unfortunately it was not finished in time, so the football fans didn’t get to use it back then.
Is Praga Warsaw dangerous?
Warsaw Praga was long considered dangerous and ugly. But that has changed a lot in recent years. The danger of becoming a victim of crime is not significantly higher here than elsewhere in the city. So you do not need to worry. However, we recommend that you don’t get drunk and stumble around the district alone at night wearing an “I love Cracow” shirt. That might be a problem elsewhere in Warsaw as well anyways.
Best things to do in Praga Warsaw
Praga is a lively district where there is always something going on. Apart from bars and restaurants, there are of course also many alternative possibilities to explore the district, for example on one of the interesting guided tours we have listed for you.
Where to eat, drink and party in Warsaw Praga
Praga by now offers quite a respectable number of restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs. It is a good place to spend the day or the evening – especially in bad weather. But also some classics, like a real Polish milk bar are among our Warsaw Praga tips!
Ząbkowski Milk Bar
Milk bars are something of a Polish tradition by now! In these Polish canteens you can find amazing local food and pay small amounts. Our favorite milk bar in Warsaw is located in Praga on the legendary Ząbkowska street. Here you can get delicious classics of Polish cuisine at absolutely unbeatable prices.
W oparach absurdu
On Ząbkowska street you will also find one of our favorite pubs. To describe W oparach absurdu (In the mist of the absurd) is not so easy. Here you can get cheap beer and delicious pierogues, but that’s probably not the reason why this pub is so popular. It’s most likely more due to the uniquely cosy and crazy interior, the concerts that take place here and the very special spirit that this place offers.
Disco polo, a very danceable mixture of electronic and folk music, has long been discredited and considered the music of simple people, but in recent years it has made a real triumphant return. YouTube views of some videos often exceed the population of Poland by far. Several music channels are trying to score with viewers by offering shows and music videos with disco polo.
In Explosion Club in south-east Praga, one of the biggest disco polo clubs in the country, you can party like the Poles. Even if you don’t understand the mostly shallow lyrics, it’s definitely worth a visit, also because one or the other star of the industry almost always gives a concert here. The club is also known as the setting of a popular telenovela of the country, which is about the employees of the club, for music videos that were shot here and as the set of the casting show “Disco Star”.
The best Warsaw Praga tours and excursions
Praga is a district for explorers and therefore there is hardly a better way to explore the district than on foot. On this walking tour* you will be guided through Praga in English and also visit the Praga Museum.
If you prefer to explore Praga sitting in a charming vehicle, then the Retro Bus Tour*, might be the right one for you. Discover the district in two and a half hours in the comfort of a cult vehicle and get to know the place with a personal guide.
- Bingel, Markus (Author)
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