Most visitors come to Kraków for sights – the imposing Wawel Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Church on the grand, medieval Main Square, or bustling Sukiennice Cloth Market to name just a few. But especially for those new to Poland, Kraków also provides a great introduction to that key aspect of exploring all foreign lands: food. The Main Square, where most people start their city adventure, has plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from but you can do much better in terms of originality and selection, not to mention price-to-performance ratio, by venturing out a bit. Here a foodie’s guide to some of the best restaurants and places to eat in Kraków, Poland.
Breakfast (and Second Breakfast) in the Old Town
One perfect place to start the day is Dynia Cafe located just a short walk from the Main Square (Krupnicza 20). Scrambled eggs with bacon and onions, cottage cheese with cucumber and chives, or a selection of sweet and savory omelets are sure to please. The atmosphere is great, too. Exposed brick walls and pumpkin-themed orange and red décor (dynia = pumpkin in Polish) give the interior a cozy, warm glow. If the weather is nice, don’t miss an awesome patio in the courtyard.
After a few hours of sightseeing, it’s time for a break, and in that respect Poles and Hobbits have one thing in common: second breakfast. It is a light meal typically consisting of a sandwich or pastries. A great choice, especially for vegetarians, is Greenway, a hip urban chain right off the Main Square (Mikołajska 14) with plenty of healthy choices, including a variety of delicious Polish soups such as barszcz (borscht) and krupnik (barley soup). If you have a sweet tooth, a stop at Czarodziej confectionery (Karmelicka 15) is a must. Unassuming interior conceals one of the best-kept secrets of Kraków, kremówka cream cake – Pope John Paul II’s favorite.
Discover Culinary Traditions in Kleparz
In the afternoon take a leisurely stroll to Kleparz, a district just north of the Old Town. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, it was a separate town and as such had its own main square, which is still there. Surrounded by historic buildings including the School of Fine Arts and St. Florian Church, it is of prime culinary interest. Jarema restaurant is the key highlight. Famous for serving traditional fare, it makes great bigos (hunter’s stew), żurek (sour rye soup), gołąbki (stuffed cabbage rolls), and grzaniec (mulled wine), which are perfect for chilly evenings.
Season permitting, stop by at the Kleparz fresh produce market to enjoy local goodies from Mother Nature. The market is right on the Kleparz square. Juicy berries, vine-ripened tomatoes, golden hazelnuts, giant sunflowers, and aromatic forest mushrooms form a delightful mosaic.
Dine with the Angels
There are certainly many excellent dinner choices to select from. But whatever you do, don’t missPod Aniołami – Under the Angels (Grodzka 35).
Hidden in a gorgeous gothic cellar, this Kraków institution offers classics done to perfection such as Polish dumplings (pierogi), or wood-fired grilled duck filet with baked apples. It ain’t cheap, but it’s well worth it. The restaurant is conveniently located half way between the Main Square and Wawel Castle along lively Grodzka street with many shops, restaurants, and beautiful churches like the one below, Romanesque-style St. Andrew’s. And on every street corner you can spot someone selling a perfect snack – salt, poppy seed, or sesame-sprinkled obwarzanki (Polish bagels).
It’s not just vodka that is famous in Poland – the country is also Europe’s third largest producer and consumer of beer. Tyskie, Zywiec, and Warka are just a few of the many brands you can sample in pubs across the country.
Late Night Noshing in Kazimierz
Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Kraków, is a thriving district just south of the Main Square with charming narrow streets, historic synagogues and museums, atmospheric cafes, and lively bars. After dark, the place to be is Plac Nowy, a market square by day that becomes a popular hangout place when the sun goes down. Cool-crowd cafes and pubs surround the square so it’s easy to explore different venues. The top one is Alchemia (Estery 5), a cult destination for artsy types fond of good beer and good music, and timeless candle-lit atmosphere.
For a late-night bite right on Plac Nowy, nothing beats Grill na Kazimierzu – Kazimierz Grill – an inviting open-air stand that attracts bohemian pub-crawlers with a sizzling selection of sausages and other simple, yet sumptuous, specialties. Don’t miss grilled oscypek, traditional smoked sheep cheese served with cranberry sauce. Amazingly good!
If, after a full day, you still have the energy and stomach capacity left to explore after dark, head back to the Main Square and hop between many bars and clubs that inhabit its mysterious cellars. Treat yourself to zapiekanka – open-face sandwich on a baguette topped with the basic combo of cheese, mushrooms, and ketchup. Vodka tasting is also mandatory, with the number one item to try being Polish bison vodka, Żubrówka.