Shopping in Warsaw
Hundreds of new shops have sprung up all over Warsaw since the political transformations of 1989. There are also licensed and illegal street vendors that offer wares ranging from cloth napkins, wooden sculptures, cooking pots and freshly picked mushrooms.
The main shopping streets areas lie in the maze of streets between the Palace of Culture and Science and swanky Ulica Nowy Świat. The eastern end of Aleje Jerozolimskie and the southern part of Ulica Marszałkowska are also good bets. Check out the restored Ulica Chmielna too.
With the demise of one of Europe's largest flea markets, known locally as the Russian Market, Warsaw's market scene is a little bare. There are still a few spots worth visiting, however, such as Bazar na Kole (Ulica Obozowa) in the western reaches of the city, which has mountains of junk and antiques to sift through, ranging from CDs and old postcards to farm implements and WWII relics.
Shopping arcades, both in and outside of Warsaw, have become very popular, including Galeria Centrum, Ulica Marszalkowska 104/122, the biggest department store in the capital; Arkadia, Aleja Jana Pawla II 82; and the very central Złote Tarasy, Ulica Złota 59. These malls and stores have both national and internationally known brands including H&M, Levi's and Zara, and often in-house cinemas and restaurants.
Shops in Warsaw are generally open Monday to Saturday 1000/1100-2100/2200 and Sunday 1000-2100. Usually open seven days a week, Warsaw's shopping centres and hypermarkets are the best places to stock up on Polish staples - such as pickled herring, preserved meats and, last but not least, vodka.
More than any thing else, arts and crafts are the main things to shop for on a visit to Warsaw. Particularly popular items that are widely available include glass and enamelware, hand-woven rugs, silverware, jewellery made with silver, dolls in regional costumes, woodcarvings and clay and metal sculptures.
Probably the best spots in Warsaw for souvenir hunting are in the Old Town, among the colourful facades and artists' stalls. But the nationwide chain Cepelia, with four branches in the capital, including one at Ulica Marszałkowska 99/101, is a good place to start - its shops stock a good range of local handicrafts. Another much-loved item available widely is amber from the Baltic Sea. This can be sold in many forms, from large lumps to exquisitely carved necklaces. For art, bric-a-brac, curios and the odd real antique check out the chain of shops called Desa Unicum; its most central outlet is at Ulica Marszałkowska 34/50. Bear in mind that the export of anything produced up until the end of WW11 in 1945 is strictly controlled (though the people at Desa Unicum are very familiar with the procedures and will help with the necessary paperwork).
Tax-free shopping in Warsaw is available to non-EU residents spending a minimum of 300 PLZ or equivalent in one transaction at participating outlets. Cash refunds are given out at airports on presentation of the tax free documents.