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The City of The Dragon

Founded on the legend of a dragon lurking beneath the fairy-tale Wawel Castle that overlooks the bending river; Krakow is definitely one of those cities that has an air of magic to it. The Old Town has one of the largest medieval market squares in Europe, and churches that soar high above all the other buildings - it is hard not to be impressed. In fact even the Nazi’s fell in love with Krakow and made it their home during WWII, preserving it while the rest of Poland was bombed to rubble. Nowadays it is home to hundreds of thousands of students, so there is a modern buzz filling up the hundreds of restaurants, bars and clubs.

Top Tips

  • Snack on traditional obwarzanki (Krakow's take on a bagel which is now on the EU's protected food list).
  • Krakow is said to have more bars per capita than any other European city.

1. Main Market Square

The market square (Rynek) is the centre of Old Town and serves as a great starting point to explore the city. Known as one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, many events throughout history have taken place here amongst the beautiful buildings. Make sure you check out the Market Hall, Town Hall Tower and St Mary’s Church.

2. St Mary’s Church

This 13th century church in the Main Market Square is a site not to be missed. Take a tour inside to see the fantastic stained glass windows and the blue starred ceiling that will take your breath away. Be sure not to miss out on the legends that surround the two towers and the trumpeter that plays his tunes on the hour..

3. Kazimierz

Kazimierz is a district southeast of the Old Town and is the place of the old Jewish Quarter, where Jewish life flourished for over 500 years. Nowadays it is a bohemian neighbourhood with fascinating Jewish architecture and culture, and a heaving student population visiting all the restaurants, bars and clubs that have popped up all over Kazimierz.

4. Jewish Ghetto

Approximately one quarter of the city’s population pre WWII was Jewish. During WWII, Nazi’s occupied the city and new regulations came into place in order for Krakow to become a ‘Jew free city.’ The Jewish population were forced to live in this Ghetto. It is an interesting place to wander around and absorb the sad history.

5. Wawel

The fairy-tale castle that is perched on top of a hill to the south of Old Town is a fascinating building and well worth a visit. The castle holds some important information about the country’s past as it was the ancient seat of royalty and contains a vast wealth of treasures inside. There is also a great view from the castle over Old Town and the river below.

Eats

1. Explore the Polish Milk Bars

Polish Milk Bars are ex-Socialist era workers’ canteens where workers could get a good meal at an affordable price. There are a few still around in Krakow today, keeping history alive. One to try is Bar Mleczny Pod Temidą. This Milk Bar is fairly central and a no-frills kind of place that gives you wholesome Polish food in seconds.

2. Stodoła 47

A rustic Polish barn-style restaurant with cosy décor which includes chopped wood, animal skins and hay bales. The menu itself is delicious with grilled meats, soups, salads and the usual polish classics.

3. Food Truck Square

For something a little different, food trucks are a new trend in Krakow. In Skwer Judah, named after the massive street mural that looks upon the square, you’ll find several meals on wheels to choose from. There is the Big Red Busterant (a vintage UK double decker bus where you can sit upstairs and sample British food), burger trucks, jacket potato trucks, crepe vans, coffee vans, bakery trucks and more. A classic favourite is Andrus Food Truck that serves maczanda, a Cracovian pulled pork sandwich to die for.

4. Chata

Chata is a Polish highlander folk restaurant just outside Old Town with a very homely interior. It has a great budget menu with a lot of choices for the carnivores out there as well as a traditional Polish menu.

5. Wedel

There is one thing you will learn when visiting Poland, and that is the locals love their sweets. Wedel is Poland’s oldest chocolate brand and has restaurants throughout the country. The one in Krakow’s Old Town is a classy establishment where you can indulge in your deepest chocolate fantasies from cakes, sundaes, hot chocolates, to chocolate sample platters. A must for all chocoholics!

Drinks

1. Szpitalna 1

A club in old town with many different rooms for socializing and dancing the night away. This place pumps the tunes every night and is a great place for the true electro music lovers.

2. Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa

A huge student hang out, Pijalnia is flooded round the clock due to it being a trendy and extremely cheap vodka bar. This is essentially a bar that is rebelling against all the modern clubs and lounge bars that fill the city and provide a fun filled place to socialise and drink.

3. Eszeweria

In the heart of Kazimierz, Eszeweria embodies the bohemian spirit of the district with its old world charm and classic décor. It’s a sleepy little place perfect for a quiet drink and for soaking u the atmosphere. There is also a large garden oasis out the back to relax in.

4. Forum Przestrzenie

This very original venue is in a formerly abandoned Soviet era hotel, and has attracted a lot of attention from the hip locals. There are beach chairs, bean bags and sofas dotted around to relax in. The walls of the bar are decorated with graffiti art and neon signs. This is one trendy place to be visited day or night to relax, enjoy the riverside views and meet some locals.

5. Diva

Split over two levels: a cocktail lounge upstairs and 2 clubrooms pumping downstairs, Diva is a young person’s paradise. The décor is rather sexy with disco balls, leather seats, red velvet and a private room you can hire with a seat / bed in the middle.

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Recommendations

Such a hidden gem, and the nightlife was fantastic!"

Caitlin, New Zealand