Walking down the southern end of Nowy Świat after dark can feel like an obstacle course. You’ve politely declined the invite to a strip club from a girl with an umbrella. You’ve resisted the temptation to eat pierogi in yet another branch of Zapiecek. You could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about in Warsaw. The antidote lies in nearby Pawilony – a parallel world existing in a courtyard a few short steps off Nowy Świat.
Pawilony (Pavilions) is a collection of small independent bars in a traffic free precinct that is open until the small hours every night and really comes to life at the weekend. Prices are cheap and the crowd is young, local and thirsty.
The units were built in the 1970’s as a place for craftsmen to sell their creations. Fast forward to 2017 and the craftsmen are all but gone, replaced by independent bars attracted by the low rents and central location. The atmosphere is laid back – people sit on the kerb sipping from their own bottles of vodka and it’s a great place to strike up a random conversation with the people drinking next to you.
Bars come and go, and there are about thirty of them in the area. Each has a different theme and atmosphere, and the best way to explore is to try a few.
Happy hours and drinks specials rotate between bars, so hit the right ones at the right times and drink cheap all night. Many bars serve a bewildering range of imaginative shots and cocktails, as well as the usual Polish beers. There’s even an ever-present burger van for the hungry, and a couple of shisha bars for those looking to smoke a few hours away.
The area feels a million miles away from the sanitised organisation of NowyŚwiat. This is what you imagine many places were like in the first few dazzling years of freedom after the fall of communism. Huge street art murals adorn the bare brick walls adding to the alternative and anarchic atmosphere.
Rumours come and go that the area will be sold off for development, and that local residents want the place closed down due to the noise and problems that come with two thousand people descending here every night at the weekend. Enjoy this unique Warsaw institution while you can.
Have you been out in Pawilony? Got a favourite bar to recommend? Share your experiences in the comments below.