Warsaw boasts an incredibly diverse shopping experience, from the vintage shops of the Old Town to bold fashion statements like the designer VITKAC center. Look out for the buys that Poland is known for: quality vodka, Balkan amber and distinctive ‘peacock eye’ pottery. Warsaw’s markets should also be on your shopping check-list; try Kolo Bazar for characterful traders and rare oddities.
Warsaw’s Old Town is the place to head if you’re looking for independent shops selling vintage items, quirky souvenirs or quality Polish trinkets. Find the appropriately named World of Amber store here – the only stop you’ll need if you’re after amber jewelry or just about anything made of the fiery stone; on display are unique treasures such as amber pirate ships and chess sets. The Old Town is also scattered with vintage bookshops; these dusty treasure troves are packed with old tomes, ancient local maps, Polish sketches and postcards. Don’t forget to look out for antiques, art and traditional Boleslawiec pottery too.
Warsaw’s most distinctive shopping street, Nowy Swiat is a mile long stretch of the ‘Royal Route’ – a series of streets connecting old royal buildings. Linking historic Warsaw with its modern counterpart, Nowy Swiat is lined with a great selection of shops, from luxury boutiques to entertaining souvenir stores. The flagship of the EMPiK department store is here, stocking surreal Polish toys together with dolls and games recognised the world over. For the traditional Polish spread ‘smalec’ and local hams and cheeses, head for upmarket delicatessen Krakowski Kredens, while a detour into the maze of Pawilony will satisfy any desire to buy tourist tat and amusing souvenirs.
Warsaw doesn’t have a high-end shopping avenue like Bond Street or Rodeo Drive. Instead, the city’s luxury labels gather in the VITKAC shopping center, right in the heart of Warsaw. If the swish architecture and glowing Gucci sign fail to reveal its designer status, the exclusive atmosphere and endless realm of luxury brands will. Four floors of VITKAC house numerous international clothing labels, making it the perfect spot for fashionistas, while the main floor features Likus Concept Store, a leading Polish brand displaying cutting edge fashion in a vintage setting.
Head to this quality flea market north-west of the center for those strange treasures you won’t find elsewhere; Prussian helmets, pre-war bathroom fixtures and postcards galore. Open from dawn to dusk every weekend, Kolo Bazaar features sellers from around Poland hawking all kinds of trinkets, useful or otherwise. Find vinyl records for next to nothing – perfect for alternative DJs – plus wacky souvenirs and rare antiques. Arrive early for the best finds, and make the most out of your Kolo Bazar experience by meeting some of the eccentric traders who have been selling here for decades. Don’t forget to haggle; if you pay the asking price, you’ve paid too much.
Targowisko Bakalarska began life in Warsaw’s crumbling communist-era stadium – as Europe’s largest open-air market. The gathering gained a reputation for shady black market dealings and was Warsaw’s go-to spot for clothing, souvenirs and media. After the 2008 demolition of the stadium, many of these stalls joined the bazaar at Bakalarska, transforming this market into one of the city’s most popular. Over 700 market stalls jostle under huge tented awnings; find cheap clothes, tourist tat, authentic Polish snacks, and a mixture of unusual oddities found at such sprawling market places.
One of the biggest shopping malls in Central Europe, Arkadia brings a global retail experience to Warsaw. Found north of the city center with superb transport links, this shopping giant houses pretty much everything you could ever want to buy – it’s said that if you can’t find something in Arkadia, you never will. Explore five floors of fashion, food and electronics, plus books, home supplies and plenty of local services. You’ll find all the top American and European brands mingled in amongst local Polish labels. Don’t miss the cutting edge cinematic experience at the 15 screen multiplex, while the Bierhalle microbrewery will keep beer lovers happy.
If you spend time hunting through the many vintage stores in Warsaw, remember to ask the shopkeeper about the restrictions on certain pre-1945 items that have to remain in the country. You don’t want to get caught out at the airport.