In recent years, Warsaw been called “the next Berlin,” with an increasingly hipster vibe, repurposable old buildings, and a serious culture of entrepreneurship on the rise. And like Berlin, Warsaw has a difficult recent past.
The city was occupied by the Germans from 1939 to 1944 and utterly obliterated after the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, earning it the title of the most bombed city in the world. The Uprising Museum and numerous other memorials throughout the city recount the harrowing truths of the systematic extermination and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people. The city was painstakingly rebuilt after the war, though when the bricks for the Old Town ran out, buildings had to be constructed with low-quality materials in the drab, uniform, industrial style of the Communist regime. But at the turn of the century when Poland joined the EU, esteemed international architects undertook massive projects to reinvent Warsaw as a contemporary city filled with color, green spaces, and skyscrapers. Sure enough, Warsaw has become an architectural potpourri of styles that unites as a stunning, modern, highly livable city.
It may be that this constant transformation of Warsaw has brought about an adaptability in its citizens, who have recently jumpstarted their own tech and bootstrapping scene. While Warsaw’s economy has not been notorious for evolving and innovating in the past, a growing number of dedicated young entrepreneurs are optimistic about transforming their underdog city into a major startup hub. Further galvanizing the startup ecosystem, Google just launched a campus in Warsaw in November 2015, where the company is providing training, mentorship, business contacts for aspiring entrepreneurs. The campus is a part of Google’s continuing investment in Poland, which includes a similar program in Krakow and coordination with Warsaw University’s Digital Economy Lab. With the unique opportunity to create its own startup market, Warsaw is definitely an exciting place to be as an entrepreneur today.
In this small-feel big city, you can find plenty of Western amenities, cheap food, fast wifi, and a shared flat in the hipster Praga district all for $1000/month (or less for a $300 room elsewhere). 24-hour restaurants, organic shops and markets, marvelously rustic bars and cafes, and sincerely welcoming Varsovian people –most with excellent English skills – all make for a chilled-out yet vibrant atmosphere. Maybe it’s the buzz of fresh creative spirit that is helping this city leave its heavy baggage behind, but it certainly feels like Warsaw is emerging into modernity with optimism, vitality, and promise.
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