Every year, annual traditions take over Poland as buildings and houses are decked in decor while colorful and cobble stone streets are flooded with lights. Massive Christmas trees take over charming squares while horse drawn carriage becomes the Uber of town. The fatty and fried oil smell of delicious pierogi dances through the air as people use mulled wine as a source to stay warm physically and mentally. The colorful buildings of famous and historical streets lead you through town during the day, becoming engulfed in Christmas illumination by night. Throw a little snow into the mix to create a real life snow-globe and winter wonderland masterpiece. The Polish know how to celebrate the holiday season while the capital city of Warsaw annually hosts one of the best overall scenes.
Nov 21 2020 – Jan 1, 2021
(CANCELLED DUE TO COVID)
Sunday-Thursday: 11 am – 8 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11 am – 9.30 pm
December 24: 11 am – 4 pm
December 25-26: 12 pm – 9.30 pm
December 31 and January 1: 11 am – 8 pm
The Christmas decorations span across the city, but the main scene sits in the Old Town Square. You will find market stalls lined up along the buildings while most of the food will be found in Rynek Starego Miasta next to the ice rink. The Royal Way, probably the most famous street in Warsaw, is illuminated all season as it leads you right into Old Town. The colorful buildings are decked out in holiday spirit as this popular walking strip is full of castles, culture and pierogi.
As mentioned before, you will find most of the food and hang out spots in Rynek Starego Miasta, which is just a few steps from away from the Royal Castle and surrounding square. Here you will not only find a lot of food and souvenirs, but a skating rink. It can become pretty busy throughout December, but it is really cool to get up close and personal to Syrenka Warszawska. The mermaid of Warsaw is one of the most iconic images and symbols of Warsaw and during the winter, she is right smack in the middle of the scene. During the summer months you can eat next to her while in the winter she is a good skating partner.
Another popular spot to visit Warsaw in any season is Nowy Swiat. This street is known for its night life and is well lit up with Christmas lights throughout the holidays. Make sure to stop in for a few drinks of vodka before heading out for the night to check out the holiday decorations around town. The vodka only makes it that much more fun 😉
Warsaw has a great selection of food, mostly of the Polish variety. You can find Polish sausages, soups, meats, specialty dishes and of course, Pierogi. It is all delicious, but I highly suggest the Gołabki and Bigos.
Gołabki is one of my favorite specialties in Poland, and the Christmas Markets do it best. The recipe is quite simple as it is nothing more than stuffed cabbage, but the Polish do it right.
Bigos, also known as “Hunters Stew”, is a very popular dish served through out Poland consisting of cabbage, sauerkraut, kielbasa, pork, tomato paste, garlic, onion and sometimes more. All of these ingredients are thrown into a large pot and cook slowly until all the flavors merge together into a delicious dish. It is the perfect accompaniment, along with your hot wine, for a cold day exploring a Polish Market.
Pierogi. Do I really need to get into detail? Isn’t the word alone enough to explain what these are? These boiled, fried or sautéed dumplings are filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables, sauces, sweets and just about anything else you can think of. Pierogi SCREAMS Polish as they are not only the most famous food from Poland, but one of the more popular from the entire continent. You’re going to find them in any Polish restaurant, but there is something special about eating them in the cold streets of Poland during the holiday season.
One of the biggest Polish delicacies, especially this time of year, is Smalec. Not the prettiest or most appealing of dishes, but I promise you, it’s worth trying. The bread alone probably makes the quirky snack as it comes fresh and homemade out of the oven, fluffy on the inside with a crunchy crust. The next ingredient is what typically scares people away: Lard. That’s right, this delicious country bread is SMOTHERED in lard, otherwise known as 100% pig fat. The spread that is made for smalec contains a lot of lard, spices and I guess, love…? After the lard covers up that once beautiful piece of bread, it is then covered in some meat and pickles. Does this sound appetizing? No, probably not, but it is EXCELLENT! There is something about that salty and creamy fat flavor, accompanied by the crunch of bread, that really helps that hot wine go down.
Speaking of meat and fat, if you know anything about the Polish then you know that they adore their meats. Walk into any market and you’re guaranteed to see a pig hanging somewhere. If there is any specific meat Poland is known for, it’s Kielbasa. There are many different kinds of these massive sausages such as white, red, garlic and even cheese. They might leave your breath smelling like garbage, but hey, they go well with beer. Cheers to anyone sleeping in bed with you that night 😉
Just like every other Polish market, you will find a lot of Oscypek, a smoked cheese from the Polish mountains. The cheese is served straight from the grill, topped with some cranberry jam. It melts in your mouth and has a very smokey taste. It is more of an acquired taste, but the Poles absolutely love it.
For those with a sweet tooth, make sure to try a Rogal świętomarciński Poznan. This pastry is traditionally from Poznan, but you will find them at just about any market in Poland. A Rogal shaped as a croissant and filled with nuts, raisins, poppyseeds, heavy cream and a lot of sugar. The overwhelming treat feels as if it weighs a few pounds in your hands and will quickly add a few pounds to your butt if you’re not careful. It comes fresh out of the oven weighing in at about 1300 calories per pastry. It may be delicious, but you have been warned
The tree in Warsaw’s Old Town Square is one of the biggest I found all of December and I love a big tree. The remodeled square is colorful and beautiful enough on its own, but that tree really helps. During the day, the green is vibrant and commands the scene while during the night it illuminates the square.
Just a few steps away stands a smaller tree, but don’t mistake it for being less beautiful. In the Rynek Starego Miasta you will find a skating rink surrounded by colorful buildings, a famous mermaid and another gorgeous Christmas tree. This is always one of the best spots to hang out in Warsaw as there are plenty of souvenir shops and outdoor restaurants. The tree only adds to a good Christmas photo.
Among every Polish market, you can find traditional tree decorations or some extremely warm winter essentials like scarves and hats. Other gift options include Santas, nutcrackers, reindeer, Polish pottery, ornaments, you name it! Market Square serves as the perfect outdoor mall every December.
Warsaw is a good size city and there is plenty to find. However, I don’t know what it is, but I felt like Warsaw had the best selection of scarves and hats among the polish markets. Look, Poland can get extremely cold in the winter and a handmade scarf makes life easier. Did I mention how cheap it can be in Poland? A handmade wool scarf can go for as cheap as $10 in the right place. Talk about a bargain.
The atmosphere at any Polish Market is great, so it isn’t weird that the capital hosts one of the best annual events. This time of year in Warsaw can be very gloomy, dark and cold, but the illuminations and decorations through out the city really do a good job of lighting it up and creating positive vibes. Walking the Royal Way and Nowy Swiat transport you to a holiday movie, while enjoying a hot win in the Old Town Square feels like a vintage Christmas. Warsaw is a very casual market scene. Nothing is overbearing or in your face. The most enjoyable thing to do here during the holidays is head into a cafe, grab a drink or two, eat some pierogi and explore the city. It may not compare to those of Krakow and Wrocław, but those are extremely hard to live up to. If ever visiting Poland, Warsaw is a must and it is even better during the holidays.
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