Warsaw’s markets reveal a lot about Warsaw itself. Markets were once the lifeblood of the city, and although their roles are changing today there remain no better places to get a feel for the city and its people. And in Warsaw, the changing nature of its markets reflects the wider changes in the City.
We look at three of the best markets in Warsaw, each on very different and all worth a visit.
The Nostalgic – Koło Bazar
In a hidden corner of a quiet residential district lies the Aladdin’s cave of Koło Market. Every weekend this corner of Warsaw comes to life with traders selling antiques and collectables from a ramshackle collection of wooden market stalls. More unofficial sellers line the streets leading to the market, giving the whole area a sense of occasion.
This market is all about the past. At times the place resembles a giant antique car boot sale, with anything from swords and chandeliers to ancient record players and books being sold.
The range of items on sale is enormous – and dark reminders of the city’s past can be found amongst the uniforms, medals and weapons from the Second World War and the communist times that followed.
While the sight of a swastika still has the power to shock, and a glimpse of the hammer and sickle serves as a reminder of Poland’s communist past, these remnants of another time are now sold as curiosities.
Perhaps the most fascinating artefacts are the faded photographs and old portraits of Warsaw. The handful of recognisable buildings that were reconstructed or survived are surrounded by the grand buildings of pre-war Warsaw.
This is the kind of market where you could easily lose a few hours browsing without buying anything, immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the place. The characters selling their wares can often be as interesting as the goods they’ve come to sell.
Prices are flexible, and if something takes your fancy then bargain hard to get the best deal.
Best for…. those with a love of history, an eye for a bargain and the time to navigate the stalls and alleyways of this hidden gem.
Saturday and Sunday – 07:00 – 14:00
Tram 12, 13 or 24 to ‘Dalibora’
The Survivor – Hala Mirowska
Hala Mirowska is a Warsaw landmark and the most traditional market of our three. The two grand and distinctive halls were built between 1899 and 1901, and the market has been supplying Varsovians for generations.
During the occupation the Market was just outside the ghetto and was visible from the bridge linking the small and large areas – a mocking sight for those trapped inside and ravaged by hunger.
The halls were damaged by fire during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, but the walls somehow remained standing. They were repaired in the 1950s and bullet scars are still visible in the brickwork.
For all the grandeur of the exterior, the stalls inside are pretty unremarkable – a mix of mobile repair shops, hairdressers and bored looking shopkeepers.
The real adventure starts when you exit the main hall and pass into the outdoor market behind. Here you will find rows of stalls selling fresh fruit and veg, and a mesmerising cross-section of Warsaw society trawling the stands for the best bargains.
The produce comes direct from the growers, and the prices are the cheapest in the city. You will easily see what is in season, as each stall tries to outdo the other on price.
Make the most of the competition and sample some delicious seasonal delights at rock bottom prices.
Best for….people watching, stocking up on fresh produce and experiencing a slice of everyday life that hasn’t changed much in a century.
Monday to Saturday 10:00 19:00 Closed Sunday
Trams 1, 17, 33 – Stop ‘Hala Mirowska’
The Rennaisance – Hala Koszyki
Hala Koszyki – known as ‘the people’s bazar’ – was built in 1906 and has traded in different forms ever since.
In 1964 the last private retailers were forced out as the whole building became one state-owned store.
With the fall of communism after 1990 the private traders returned with a vengeance, ushering in the age of consumerism with new products and bright adverts.
Its latest incarnation is stunning. Exposed brickwork, low hanging light bulbs and industrial furniture provide a backdrop which wouldn’t look out of place in London or Berlin, but the real attraction here is the food. The pure, mind-boggling variety of food.
Fresh high-quality produce with a focus on world cuisine is served in surroundings that must qualify as a hipster’s paradise. Amongst the staples of gourmet burgers, modern Polish and Latin-influenced cuisine are treats such as vegan, sushi, Thai and British-style fish and chips. An ice cream parlour and a chocolatier cater for those with a sweet tooth.
Thirsty? You’re in the right place. Bar Koszyki straddles the centre of the market and serves a fine selection of whiskeys and cocktail rarities – pisco sour anyone? With the market being open until 1am every night you have no excuse not to sample a few exotic beverages.
This is one market that has become a destination in its own right; a place to spend a few hours with friends, or to grab something tasty and wholesome on the go. Finding a table can be difficult at peak times.
Best for….devouring a portion of Thai sticky rice and mango while sipping a cocktail and stocking up on quinoa.
Open 08:00 – 01:00, Sun 09:00 – 01:00.
‘Plac Politechniki’ or ‘Plac Konstytucji’ Tram stops
When it comes to markets, Warsaw has a great selection. Whether you are looking for a slice of everyday life, a reminder of the past or a glimpse into the future, you can find the market to suit you. Given Warsaw’s ability to reinvent itself, the next great market could be just around the corner.
Which is your favourite market in Warsaw? Which is the best? Let us know using the comments below.