After reveling in Warsaw’s boozy nightclubs, spend a day exploring the cultural gems on the side streets of Nowy Świat. Start with a breakfast at Bar Bambino, a Communist-era relic decked with paintings of eighteenth-century Warsaw, where nothing on the menu costs more than $2.30. Next, walk to 5-10-15 (Mokotowska 73; +48 69 448 7554), a contemporary art space housed in a crumbling prewar building. Here, the holes and rubble are incorporated into murals, and absurdist poetry is written in beautiful calligraphy. Then head to Brzozowskich (Bracka 20a), an aristocratic Baroque palace that now houses bar-café Huśtawka (the oldest gay club in Warsaw resides downstairs). Take a coffee break among ornate chandeliers and gray velvet banquettes in the parlor room. Afterward, pause at the intersection of Górskiego and Złota, where you’ll get an unobstructed view of the Palace of Culture and Science, a towering, controversial building complex commissioned by Stalin in 1952. Hook a right on Chmielna—a former high-fashion street—and stop at the 127-year-old leather shop of Jan Kielman, who still stitches custom-made shoes and bags by hand. Then walk across the street for an enormous bowl of Vietnamese pho ($6.30) at market favorite Toan Pho (Chmielna 5/7). After lunch, continue east to the renovated Chopin Museum, which reopened in April. Play among the interactive exhibits, like music sampling stations ($7 admission). End your day at the ivy-laden botanical garden atop the University of Warsaw Library, one of the largest roof gardens in Europe, with sweeping views across the Vistula River (open until 8 p.m., April to November).
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Published on Aug 12, 2010 as a web exclusive.