City Guide: Krakow, Poland

Krakow (or “Cracow”) is a party city and a cultural hub located in southern Poland. From bars, clubs, museums, and art galleries, Krakow has everything you’d ever want from a city and more. I’ve lived here for over a year, and am still exploring everything this city has to offer. Here are some of my favourites places to take friends from out of town that you really must cross off your list when you come visit! 

What to see:
Wawel Castle is the main feature in any photo of Krakow, and it’s what you’ll see on most of the postcards you’ll send home. And rightfully so, as it is hauntingly beautiful. The home of Polish dynasty for centuries, Wawel now functions as a museum, which offers tours of estate rooms and Polish national treasures. If you don’t feel like paying the admission fee, do at least take a walk around to take in the beauty. 

Bunkier Sztuki is an art gallery, the biggest in the province  of Malopolska, and home to some great modern art. When you’re done wandering the corridors looking at things that are (usually) quite weird and artsy, make sure you pay a visit to Bunkier Cafe. It’s attached to the gallery itself, and has no walls, just huge plastic sheets which are the only thing between you and the outside elements (Krakow gets very cold, and very hot) while offering an open view of the park and streets around. The food is excellent, and the beers are are plentiful. Have a pretzel sandwich with a honey-cinnamon latte, try a hot spiced wine, or maybe a hot chocolate with fruits and nuts.

The Schindler’s Factory Museum is arguably one of the best I have ever been do. It doesn’t have much to do with Oscar Schindler himself, the museum is a tribute to Krakow during wartime. Krakow, unlike Warsaw, survived the war largely intact, so the buildings you can see now, were around before 1939 and the outbreak of World War II. It’s fun to look at photos of streets and storefronts that still exist and you can see today. The exhibitions are informative, interactive, and visually appealing. 

Where to eat:
Poland is definitely not known for its ethnic cuisine. A largely homogenous population, finding anywhere international to eat is quite difficult. That being said, it’s not impossible. Yellow Dog (9 Krupnicza st.) is the perfect place to start. With seasonal menus, highly trained and innovative chefs, and quality cooking, you really can’t go wrong with anything that you order. The staff speak fantastic English, and the head chef can often be found visiting guests and making sure everything is going well. Have the Chicken Tikka Masala, or the Duck Udon. Trust me. 

For a sweet treat, check out Cupcake Corner. Great organic coffee, American style cupcakes, and fun, fresh, bright decor “ what more could you want? Flavours are mouth-watering and range from moist Vanilla, to Peanut Butter Cup, all the way to White Chocolate Pistachio (my favourite, and only available on Sundays) with more than a dozen in between. 

If you want to try some local fare, you have two options. If you want fine dining in a beautiful restaurant, try Miod i Malina. Often cited as the best restaurant in town, it may actually be that. The menu isn’t exactly completely authentic Polish, and is dressed up for tourists and foodies, but it is delicious and fine dining at its best. If you’re willing to give up ambiance and fancy food in favour of authenticity, hit any of the many Milk Bars (Bar Mleczny) in the city. A tradition since the late 1800s in Poland, milk bars have stood up to the test of time and function as a cheap cafeteria. Here you can get classic dishes like borscht, pierogies, potato pancakes, and crepes (naleszniki). Milk bars don’t typically employ wait staff so you have to go up to order your food and return to pick it up, but this is where Polish food is most like something mom would make. My personal favourite milk bar in the city is Kuchnia u Doroty (Dorothy’s Kitchen) located at 4 Augustianska st. 

Where to shop:
Krakow is great for tiny boutiques where you can buy unique items. Noa Noa (17 Sienna st.) sells clothes and accessories of the label by the same name. Cute, intricate, high quality pieces, the fashion is timeless with clean lines and modern colours. You can check out an interior shot of the store and some of the collection here.

Next on the list is Pepita (Grodzka st.). This is the mecca of handbags and accessories in the city. I have to pass this shop 4 times a week, and I go in probably 50% of the time just to drool over the beautiful non-leather handbags in any colour imaginable, the beautiful earrings, and dozens of bracelets. I’m pretty sure that if I go in there again and don’t buy something, I will be permanently banned or they’ll start charging me an entrance fee. But it’s all just so pretty!

If you’re as much of a makeup lover as I am, Inglot Cosmetics has a huge store at Galleria Krakowska (the main shopping centre). Inglot is a Polish makeup giant, recognized worldwide for quality, with locations from New York to Mexico City to Baku. If you’ve never heard of them before, you’re in for a huge treat. I am personally obsessed with their nail polishes and makeup brushes, but everything they have is top quality and worth a try.

Krakow is really worth visiting. The exchange rate is great, which makes your visit affordable since $1 comes to about 3.20zl. To put things in perspective, an Inglot nail polish is around 20zl, and a nice main course at a sit down restaurant is 25-40zl, and a pint of beer ranges from 5-10zl. Low-budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir fly from here to a number of other major European cities including London, Madrid, and Paris, so you can make Krakow a main destination, or a jumping off point for a greater Eurotrip. The city is rich with culture, history, fashion, and good food, so come on over. Do zobaczenia!

Tags: City Guide, Krakow, Poland, Tourist Guide, What to Eat, where to go, Where to shop

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