Dobry dzień my dears, I hope to write up something more detailed and evocative about our stay in Krakow but until then here are some quick tips if you happen to find yourselves in this delightful Polish city for a few days…
We found Alchemia looking for it’s other half – Alchemia Od Kuchni – a quirky looking cafe that would sit neatly within a UK city, and instead found it’s rebellious sister, with secret doors that look like wardrobes, and old photos that make you feel like you’re sitting in an early 20th century living room. A place you could imagine talking art and politics with Scott, or Hemingway. Most importantly- it was my favourite meal of the stay, a breakfast of toast drizzled in oil, and eggs done just right, suitable for veggies too. I wish we’d gone back for drinks.
The other food worth talking about (I didn’t get to have pierogi – a regret), was at Cafe Bunkier. On a dark cold night the perfect place to feel cosy and European is within these walls. The word “walls” I use loosely here as they were made from that thick plastic, often reserved for the doors of a butterfly house. Dinky little tables were lit by candlelight and heaters beamed down on you, as you sipped from large glass tankards of beer. I chose a creamy chicken and mushroom gnocchi, and it was excellent. A must-go-see for atmosphere alone, and a modern art gallery sits next door, if that takes your fancy before a drink. Be prepared for it to be busy.
I’ll say it now in case I haven’t said it yet, but I’ve told most people I know at least twice – pints in Krakow are cheap, and not just “for a city”. In the centre square they are roughly £2.80, just outside the square £1.65, further out? Apparently even cheaper. I wouldn’t say we took full advantage of this, but we stopped for a pint or a half when we needed a break, or after our tea. We stopped in Artefakt Cafe for a pint out of the rain, and to go for a wee. It had black and white photography lining the walls, deep green leather seats and a wall full of books. It’s how we’d like rooms in our home to look so it was a perfect stop out of the wet. We always chose a local-to-Poland lager (though I can’t actually remember if they even offered non-local if I’m being honest) and truly enjoyed every one. Even a dark lager in Cafe Philo, which is not usually our thing. Check out Ambasada Sledzia, and TramBar for two little bars in the centre with great beer prices, and cosy spots to sit (in windows, or on tram themed chairs).
The Jewish museum has a cafe so beautiful and luxe, with blue velvet seating and exposed red brick walls, it should be it’s own bar, which brings me neatly on to…
The museums do not cost much at all, or if you’re lucky they’re free. A nice surprise to the 25 euros or something we’d had to pay each in Amsterdam, one gallery offered us tickets for half price as they were replacing some exhibitions. At the MOCAK gallery there was an exhibition on artists’ work pre, during and post being in a concentration camp. I found the work they did during particularly fascinating, thinking what they could have been risking to create.
Fact and photo heavy – We visited the Jewish Museum, purely because it’s pretty exterior caught our attention, and I’m so glad it did. The facts of horror from the WW2 I’ve been reciting are from here more often than from Auschwitz. Yet it’s short so the misery isn’t over bearing, and the cafe and venue are very beautiful.
If you can face it, I think a visit to Auschwitz is a must. Take snacks and tissues. It is horrific, but I think it should horrify us into remembering to stand up when bad things happen. A lot to take in. Keep whatever you do after light.
Walk the streets of beautiful Krakow. We didn’t go inside Wawel castle, though I’m sure one of the exhibitions may have suited us, but we did look around the grounds at the architecture. I liked how all the buildings and steeples right next to each other were so different, and colourful. The streets are like this too, they look old and quaint and well, European in the best way. Outdoor seating areas for cafes frame the square, and horse-drawn carriages circle it, it’s pretty picturesque.
I quite like popping into shops in cities, be it the local grocery shop, market or clothes shop. It’s how I might spend my time at home so I personally enjoy seeing a different country’s version of it. Oh magazine shops are another! They smell so good, all that freshly printed paper… Anyway, Krakow is not for a shopper. With a big commercial mall by the station as you enter (worth avoiding if you want a drop of culture) Krakow was very thin for stores elsewhere. Do go and see the markets that may be in the main squares, there were beautiful hand-crafted mugs I wish I’d had room in my suitcase for; and the Cloth Hall has all the souvenir goodies you could ever need. The museum shops can offer you books, and most shops have a nice eclectic choice of postcards. The one thing Krakow shone for was pre-owned – Flamin Vintage, and some second hand stores in Kazmiriez, the Jewish quarter, made up for all my disappointments, a coat I’d been after £14, quirky shirts £8, a velvet cord red blazer £11.50. You’ve saved all your money at this point. Why not spend it here?
If you search for a map of Krakow, you’ll see in the centre is an ear shape surrounded by greenery, if you’re near there you’ll be fine accommodation wise. I’d recommend to the west, the lower east (Jewish quarter) and the south, to be in best walking distance of everything. We stayed in an Airbnb – like everything else in Krakow, they were cheap and there were plenty to choose from.
Well that was decidedly less brief than I meant it to be. I hope it was informative as well.
Much love, Lynsey X