Briefly put aside Krakow’s extensive, captivating history and the horrors which bring 1.4 million fascinated tourists to the area each year, and the city itself can best be described as, well, a lovely place.
While the Auschwitz museum and memorial is responsible for the majority of these visitors, I couldn’t think of a nicer place to return to after perhaps one of the most overwhelming and emotionally exhausting days of my life. Though it doesn’t take long to complete TripAdvisor’s Krakow ‘must-do’ list – we found we had ticked almost everything off in a couple of days – it is the diverse selection of “hang-outs” which will keep you enthralled day after day. Oh, and the vodka is pretty good too.
Eszeweria, Jewish Quarter
I confess, I had a little help from The Guardian in finding this little gem, suitably hidden in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, this bar is the archetype of the bohemian bar. One gloomy, bare-walled room, leads to the next, winding through the dusty antiques and clusters of locals chatting in the candle-light. Screaming character and authenticity, Eszeweria is no attempt at capturing the spirit of Kazimierz, it is the real deal.
Alchemia, Jewish Quarter
If you have been to Kazimierz at night, you have probably been to Alchemia, as it is the place to go to enjoy a drink whilst experiencing the atmosphere of the former Jewish district. This it does exceptionally well, with its candle-lit rooms, forgotten photographs and intriguing furnishings, the only downside is, every tourist in Krakow is doing the same thing.
La Habana, Jewish Quarter
Looking for something a little bit more Cuban? No, I wasn’t either, but La Habana was just across the street from our hotel and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this shabby looking little den. A super-friendly barmaid offered us a selection of vodkas to try (but they also have a extensive menu of beer cocktails,) while subtle lighting and Latin American tunes offered a laid-back but cheerful atmosphere and the locals puffed away on hand-rolled Cuban cigars.
Staropolskie Trunki Regionalne, Old Town
This place is somewhere between a bar and an alcohol shop, with a friendly sign outside inviting passers by to come and try traditional polish tipples, namely, vodka. Though pretty intimidating at first – the selection of flavours is quite spectacular – after a couple of free taster shots we were happily sitting, sipping and watching the world go by. I challenge anyone to leave this bar without falling in love with vodka all over again.
Cryano de Bergerac, Slawkowska 26
We spent our last evening dining by candlelight in the brick-lined cellar of one of Krakow’s many old buildings. This cellar has been transformed into one of Krakow’s premier restaurants, serving gourmet French and Polish cuisine in spectacularly authentic surroundings and has seen guests such as Roman Polanski and Prince Charles dine at its tables. Although a bit on the more expensive side for Poland prices, the ambience and location, not to mention the mouthwatering food, were worth every zloty.