- Exploring the Kasmierz and its nightlife
- Traditional, cheap, Polish food! Huge bowls of borsht, perogies and shnitzel with garlic butter sauce
- Strolling around the beautiful Old Town
- Vodka tasting in an alcove just off the main square
- Wawel Castle/Fire Breathing Dragon Statue
- Eating Polish cookies, sipping coffee & watching snow flurries from our Kasmierz apartment
- Splurging with a luxurious dinner and carriage ride in the Old Town
Krakow is enchanting. Our first introduction to eastern Europe, Brad and I instantly felt a connection to this beautiful, bohemian city. Krakow’s history hits you like a thunderbolt to the chest. Its past is evident everywhere – in the street art of the Jewish Quarter, in the candle lit pubs of the Kasmierz, in the rubble of the apartment blocks, still rebuilding after Communist reign. Krakow is a survivor. Its strength and resilience is intoxicating. It’s a transporting place, one that often occupies my thoughts and dreams.
We visited in October which I think added to heighten the Gothic ambiance. I loved Krakow in winter. Though I will say, the surprise snow in October was quite the shock to our tropical loving hearts!
I’m going to begin this post with nightlife, because the nightlife in Krakow is so unique and unlike anyplace else I’ve visited. Strolling through the Kasmierz, stepping into bars like Eszeweria and Alchemia feelt like stepping foot into the 1950s. You are instantly transported to another time, another place. We spent hours in these pubs, sipping bubbles or vodka, watching the snow fall and soaking in the ambiance of the Kasmierz.
The Kazmierz: our favorite part of Krakow. The bohemian Kazmierz is the former Jewish District of Krakow and the place for boutique shops, traditional Polish restaurants, and otherworldly bars and cafes. We have found that in many Eastern European cities, the Jewish Quarter is the place to base yourself. It has heart and culture in spades. It also has a great local vibe, plenty of young people and is budget friendly.
Eszeweria – Atmospheric to the max, filled with flickering candles, antique decorations and candelabras, serving mulled wine and other spirits. This place is 100% for the bohemian at heart.
Wodkka Bar – This little bar is right off the Old Town square. I have never truly understood the appeal of Vodka until visiting Poland. We chose six vodkas to sample (and then another six because we liked them so much), with rich flavors like pineapple, cherry, pomegranate and pear and took them to our private little alcove filled with bright, jewel colored plushy pillows. We sipped (and I may have grimaced a tad at first), as the snow fell silently outside.
Where to eat:
We loved the food in Poland, particularly Kuchnia u Doroty and Polakowsi: – cozy, rustic restaurants with delicious homemade Polish food – creamy borsht with a huge scoop of mash potatoes, shnitzel the size of your plate covered in garlic butter, potato and onion perogies. Order at the counter at the former.
Trattoria Zyklop: well priced Italian food
Loza: Splurge at this 1950s diner in the main square, designed to look like a luxury cruise. Everything is delicious. I ordered the pesto tortellini with sun dried tomatoes.
What to See:
Explore the Kazmierz (are you seeing a trend here?)
Try the restaurants, browse the shops, check out the street art and cafes. Stop at the Judah Square food truck park if you’re brave enough! It was snowing as we frantically ate our steaming chimney cakes. We saw an entire family feasting in the outdoor courtyard The New Square one Saturday evening around 11pm. They shared snacks and toasted Vodka as the snow fell. The Polish are some hearty people. Twoje zdrowie!
Stroll the Cobblestone Lanes and Explore the Beautiful Old Town
Krakow is very walkable. We walked from the Kazmierz, to the Old Town, to the Castle, albeit with frequent pop ins to cafes and bakeries for frothy coffees and flaky Polish treats because we needed to warm up as the weather was freezing!
Check Out Wawel Castle and the Fire Breathing Dragon Statue
So, as we headed up to the Castle Grounds, the weather was definitely brisk, but skies were blue, and the sun was shining. We popped into the castle to use the restrooms and came out to snow!
When visiting Krakow, touring either Auschwitz or Schindler’s Museum is a must. Schindler’s Museum is incredibly well done – transporting the viewer to 1939 Krakow instantly, and taking them on a journey through five years under Nazi rule. It brought me to my knees.
Where to Stay
We stayed at in AirBnB in the Kasmierz, and absolutely loved it. We stayed in a top floor walk up. It felt very authentic, and gave us a true taste of what it might feel like to live in the bustling Jewish Quarter. Bonus – it cost less than $40 an night.
Krakow captivated us instantly, and began our love affair with Eastern Europe. I find my thoughts frequently flitting to this beautiful city, and cannot wait to return.
More Krakow Photos
Next up for Eastern Europe/The Baltics blog posts: Winter in Beautiful Budapest and Five days Exploring Riga.