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Warsaw's bohemian district

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Praga used to be Warsaw's hottest district for all the wrong reasons - until artists and musicians started moving into its abandoned warehouses and factories.

Some Varsovians still think that a night out in Praga is a bit too edgy for comfort, remembering the days when the neighbourhood's soaring crime rate earned it the nickname "the Bermuda Triangle". For decades, it was home to the poorest of Warsaw's poor, and the derelict streets were ruled by the criminal underworld.

But in recent years, those who have ventured across the Vistula River have found that Praga is blossoming into one of new Europe's creative capitals. Today, renovated pre-war factories and warehouses are the favourite haunts of the artistic, as bars, clubs, galleries and restaurants have transformed the historic back alleys.

The scene couldn't be more different from polished downtown Warsaw, where the almost total devastation of the second world war has ensured that everything – including the "Old Town" – is brand new. Praga is both genuinely antique and genuinely decrepit. The beautiful old buildings are crumbling, rusting iron bars jut out from walls pitted by wartime bullets and the delicate art nouveau facades are thick with grime. But the streets themselves burst with life. This is a neighbourhood of small shops and street markets, where children play unattended in the alleys and every courtyard shelters an icon of the Virgin Mary.

After dark, Praga really shines. Its nightlife, weaving between the cutting-edge and the downright surreal, pulls in revellers from every corner of the city. The walls may be cracking, the furniture rarely matches and there's a good chance the bartender is a volunteer, but for many, Praga's bars and clubs fill a void left by Warsaw's headlong race toward westernisation.

Some popular nightlife venues in Praga include: Fabryka Trzciny, Cafe Melon, W Oparach Absurdu, Koneser, Porto Praga, Sklad Butelek and Pasta Cafe.

"This is the real city. Here you feel a pulse," said local artist Marta Wojcicka. "I think that in 20 years it will be like Tribeca or Soho, but right now Praga is still the wild district of Warsaw."

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