If you’re looking for a few budget-friendly extras on your Warsaw stag then cultural, classic or quite frankly crazy, there’s plenty going on throughout the year to keep the crowds fed, watered and entertained.
Mar – Karnawal (Warsaw Carnival)
Food, drink, stalls, music, mischief and mayhem when the good, the great and the thirsty take to venues and streets across the city for feasting and merriment on an epic scale.
Mar – Tłusty Czwartek/Śledziówka (Fat Thursday and Herring Night)
We’re not entirely sure exactly how it was decided that ‘Fat Thursday’ should amount to a donut-filled frenzy of sugary overconsumption, but in true stag-style (over a pint or three) and based very loosely on actual facts, we’ve come to the conclusion that back in the 1500’s on a record-breakingly, frostbite-inducingly cold March afternoon, Warsaw’s historical ‘Fat Week’ forever changed its greasy spots when head chauffeurs Tom, Dick and Harry (identities protected), fed up with freezing their kecks off ferrying the locals for the annual bacon-filled, vodka-fuelled ride around town grabbed their fuzzy dice, leapt out of their souped-up wooden beasts and took a stand, declaring to the waiting masses that bacon, lard and sleigh rides shall be no more. Several tense music-filled minutes passed while residents and standees glared steely-eyed at each other across the city square. Tom, entrepreneur and handily also the local baker, sensing mutiny on the bounty (history was never our strong point) and the formation of icicles in the most unseasonable of places, keen to put an end to this madness (and rake in the Zloty) invited the entire township to his bakery for a civilised discussion over a donut and shot of something fire-inducingly potent. And so, we absolutely unofficially imagine, ‘Fat Thursday’ was born.
Or officially; successor to ‘Fat Week’, Warsaw’s deep-fried, sugar-coated equivalent to Shrove Tuesday and the perfect excuse for every man Jack of us to gorge ourselves on pączki (donuts) and faworki (thin donuts) and take the obligatory post-snack bar tour around town. Swiftly followed by ‘herring night’, when the town’s bars and eateries serve up an abundance of the simple fishy foodstuffs to be chased down with the obligatory shot of vodka.
Mar – Topiene Marzanny (drowning of Marzanna)
Not high on the partying list but worth a gander if you’re enjoying a cold one on the banks of the Vistula, when in staunchly Pagan Slavic fashion the locals high five the end of winter with the mass burning and drowning (or both, just to be sure) of effigies of the ‘winter witch’ Marzanna.
May – May 3rd, Constitution Day
Festivities, parades and a carnival atmosphere hit the capital in celebration of one of the city’s most significant historical events.
Jun – Orange Warsaw Festival
Full-on mainstream music fest takes over the National Stadium, with crowds past and present rocking out to the likes of Kasabian, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, David Guetta and Outkast.
Jun – Noc Swietojanska (Midsummer’s Eve/St John’s Night)
Assemble the troops and head riverside for one of the biggest events of the year. Fire-jumping, fairs, concerts, good food, great drinks and fantastically up for it locals add up to the highlight of the Polish summer calendar. Also the night when local maidens fair launch wreaths into the Vistula’s waters in the hope said flowers will be found by their knight in suitably shining and polished to within an inch of its life armour (or at the very least a suitable singleton willing to risk falling headfirst into the murky depths to grab a wreath or two).
Jul – International Street Arts Festival
Billed as arty ‘happenings with the city’s infrastructure and architecture’, July heralds the mass takeover of every inch of Warsaw’s streets, parks, tunnels, stations, bus-stops, markets and pavements when top notch performers from across the globe arrive to entertain and amaze (and drag poor unsuspecting stag-goers in from the watching crowds) for 6 days of dance, film, fire, comedy, circus, acrobatics, live music and carnival events across the city.
Jul/Aug – Summer Jazz Days
Keep an ear out for top dollar open-air concerts in and around Płac Zamkowy (Castle Square), Congress Hall and the Palace of Culture and Science.
Jul/Aug – Old Town Jazz Festival
Jazz connoisseurs can throw more soulful shapes when the end of summer brings more than 50,000 fans into Old Town for their world class Saturday series of the best in funk, fusion, blues, soul and swing.
Sept – Autumn Fest
Cultural cats can indulge in every classical whim and fancy with a series of contemporary concerts across the capital.
Oct – Warsaw International Film Festival
Fast making its mark on the global stage, October’s film fest brings a slice of Hollywood to the capital with top flight screenings and a €5000 Grand Jury prize for best film.
Oct – Jazz Jamboree/JVC Jazzfest
Completing the hat-trick of nods to Poland’s love affair with jazz, Warsaw’s key venues fling open their doors for a further three days of blues’ gigs around town.
By bus and tram
Without doubt the easiest way to navigate the capital, the clean and efficient ZTM bus and tram systems provide regular reliable transport around the city, operating 5am – 11pm with services roughly every 5-20 minutes, and additional night buses running every half hour from ul Emilii Plater(next to the Palace of Culture and Science). Grab your tickets beforehand from any Ruch and Relay kiosk, post office, newsstand or store displaying the ‘Sprzedaży Biletów ZTM’ sign. You can try to wing it and buy a ticket onboard at the last minute but you’ll have to stump up more moolah for the honour and the drivers don’t/won’t/can’t (?) give change, so make sure you’ve got the right cash on you. Once onboard validate your ticket in the yellow metal box and you’re good to go (not to mention also avoiding the wrath and on-the-spot fines favoured by the local plain clothed inspectors).
If you need to grab a cab there are several reputable companies and a bunch of ranks throughout the city, with prices starting at around 6zl. But a couple of words to the wise; as with pretty much every city on the planet, there are a fleet of illegal taxis in operation about town, so keep an eye out and give a wide berth to any vehicles not displaying the company logo and phone number, and if you can it’s advisable to book by phone – you’ll end up shelling out up to 30% more for the honour of jumping in at the rank.