Kasia McCormick, Polish-born importer and retailer
Flight time:9 hours on LOT Polish Airlines
When to go:Winter
Poles know how to do Christmas.
Where to stay:Hotel Bristol
Old World grandeur in a turn-of-the-century landmark. From $93; Krakowskie Przedmiescie 42/44; hotelbristolwarsaw.pl/en
After the fall of Communism, Polish people really reclaimed the power to create things for themselves and embraced their country’s deep artistic traditions—especially when it came to the decorative arts. Nowadays, Warsaw is one of Europe’s best cities to find elegant blown glass, artisan-crafted jewelry, handmade baubles, and intricately patterned Fabergé-style eggs. In fact, the majority of the high-end Christmas ornaments in fancy stores in the United States, like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, are crafted in Poland. Warsaw is also a great place to find Boleslawiec, an ornate style of handmade pottery from the southern part of the country.
The best way to get a feel for Warsaw’s arts and crafts scene is to walk down Nowy Swiat, a gorgeous shopping thoroughfare that leads north to the city’s Old Town, and explore the blocks nearby. The streets are bursting with life—galleries, clubs, cafés, and bars filled with artists—and lined with shops selling handicrafts. One of the most famous is Cepelia, which has been in business since Communist times and sells fine linens, wickerware, and Boleslawiec pottery. Another shop, Silver Line, specializes in jewelry made from Baltic amber. Las Rak, also nearby, sells handwoven dolls and bags. A love for beautiful things has always been a part of who Poles are, and now it’s thriving like never before.