Top 10 Reasons to Love Living in Warsaw
1. Cost of living – This is one of first factors that attracted us to living in Warsaw. Our cost of living has been cut in half compared to living in Istanbul. Rent, eating out, drinks, international groceries are all much cheaper here. For example, on average, a half liter of Polish beer costs 8-10 zl ($2.50-$3) compared to 8-10 tl ($4.50-$5.20) for an Efes in Istanbul. Doesn’t take long for this stuff to add up!
2. Green spaces – Warsaw is green! According to this study, Warsaw has almost 20,000 hectacres (50,000 American acres) of green spaces and as such has earned the nickname “green city.” In fact, 14 percent of the city’s urban area (7,258 hectacres) is covered by forests – much more than any other European city. Because of all this green space, you constantly see people running, riding bikes and relaxing in the city’s numerous parks.
3. Polish pierogies, piwo and pork – You knew food would be one of my top reasons, right? Polish food is hearty and reminds me of a grandmother’s homecooking. We’ve eaten our fair share of delicious Polish pierogies washed down with half liters of piwo (beer). Piwo was one of the first Polish words I learned.
4. Pubs in Parks – The Poles certainly got this idea down pat! As you stroll through the city’s numerous parks, you often will stumble upon a small pub. Our favorite is the Flinstone-like Pub Lolek located in the large Pole Mokotowskie Park. Just park your bike, order some beers and kielbasa and you’re set. We also like the small beer tents set up along the Vistula River.
5. History – After World War II, Warsaw was left in ruins by the Nazis. Nearly 85 percent of the city was destroyed. Then, the country was under harsh Soviet rule for 40+ years. The Poles have endured a lot (too much) and their spirit is one of total perseverance.
6. Classical music – I think you could catch a live classical concert every night if you wanted to in Warsaw. Since the city is home to the famous 19th-century composer Frederic Chopin, classical music plays a big role in life here. I like wandering behind the University of Warsaw where you are bound to hear students practicing classical melodies. On Sundays through Sept. 29, you can catch either the noon or 4 p.m. outdoor piano concerts featuring Chopin’s music at Warsaw’s Royal Łazienki Park. A wonderful free activity! (More info: http://www.estrada.com.pl)
7. Renting bikes – In order to get to those free Sunday concerts, we often ride bikes thanks to the city’s convenient rent-a-bike system by NextBike. After paying an initial 10 zl annual fee, we can rent bikes from more than 50 stations around the city. Rentals for less than 20 minutes are free. Warsaw has numerous bike trails and wide sidewalks that are perfect for long bike rides or quick trips down to the river or the market.
8. Farmer’s market – I visit my nearby farmer’s market at Hala Mirowska at least twice a week for the freshest Polish produce. I don’t know much Polish yet, so shopping at the market is pretty comical and involves a lot of pointing and smiling. I love having this market just five tram stops away from our apartment!
9. Ease of getting around – Although Warsaw is a large metropolitan city with a 2.7 million population, I find it relatively easy to get around. Much, much easier than Istanbul, thank you very much! Warsaw’s public buses, trams and subways are just easy to use and inexpensive. For 250 zl ($80), I use a 3-month unlimited, refillable transportation pass.) Also with smart phone apps such as itaxi.pl and jakdojade.pl, with just a click, I can order a taxi or figure out the fastest way to get somewhere via public transportation.
10. International foods – Lastly, we have been impressed with the city’s selection of American burgers and steaks, Vietnamese food and pizza. International food isn’t “Turkified” like it was when we lived in Istanbul, so I actually can eat a decent bowl of pho or bánh mì sandwich. Now, if only, I could find some authentic Mexican food somewhere.