What makes Krakow such an amazing and appealing city? Many visitors of this city spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the beautiful architectural buildings, cathedrals and the great museums that Krakow has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists.
Our Spotters will tell you it’s the city’s ability to seamlessly blend old and new together; it’s the city’s international, but somehow still elegant and down-to-earth vibe; and it’s the constant change happening all around you. Here are 12 picks for some of the unique gems of Krakow, in the words of our very own team of locals.
In an area of Krakow with a desolate vibe that doesn’t get a lot of tourist attention, you can find many hidden gems. One of these is Teatr Barakah Art Café, located in a former mikvah building (a type of Jewish bathhouse).
Barakah is a unique theater – different cultures and means of expression are brought together, and they’re not afraid to raise difficult questions. The acts they show are bold and executed by the city’s best artists. All the plays are in Polish, but if you want to get an authentic feel for the local drama community, there’s no better place to go.
The entrance to Kabaret is hard to find, making it all the more worth it when you do. Reminiscent of an old-fashioned French cabaret club with a beautiful mezzanine above, this venue offers a variety of events. It’s a great place to dance, with music ranging from tango to Polish retro evenings. They even organize drag shows! There is something on almost every night. Grab some friends and enjoy a night of drinks, typical Polish snacks, and entertainment.
Quarry oasis in the city center
Spots like these are always great: the contrast with concrete city life is so huge that visiting a place like this can make you feel like you’ve traveled to another country. Zakrzowek is a water-filled quarry surrounded by rock. The combination of turquoise water and steep cliffs gives off a vacation vibe and makes for some great pictures.
You can usually spot (or join) some rock climbers around here. If you make your way to the top of the cliff you’ll find an amazing view over Krakow. If all this is not adventurous enough for you, you can even take scuba diving classes here, and maybe find some old sunken treasures underwater.
A classic Polish experience
You might have heard of Polish milk bars. To put it briefly, these are cheap establishments usually associated with the communist period, serving home-style food.
There are several of these in Krakow, usually packed with tourists, so if you’re looking for something more off-the-beaten-path, Bar Mleczny Krakus is where you should go. You’ll find classic, authentic Polish lunch dishes of good quality for very cheap prices. It has a social atmosphere and is a great place for people-watching. The interior is very basic and milk bar-ish (so don’t expect anything fancy), but if you want a true Polish experience, in terms of food and getting to know the society a bit more, Bar Krakus is the place.
Pagan burial mound with a view
Krakow’s Christian history, dating back to pre-966, can still be found in the city’s landscape. Some of the most visible historic remnants are mounds that you can find throughout the city.
One of these, Kopiec Kraka, is an ancient burial mound, thought to be the final resting place of Krakow’s founder. The mound gives you an amazing panoramic view and unlike the other mounds, this one is free of charge. Even if you’re not into the history of Krakow, it’s worth a visit for the view alone!
Cafe with an arboreal theme
During a long day of exploring the city, you might find yourself in the mood for an afternoon coffee break and desperately looking for a coffee shop that doesn’t exist in every single other city (*cough cough* Starbucks). If so, try out this local gem. Cafe Botanica is a great place for an afternoon coffee or tea by the huge windows in summer, or to warm up with a hot wine or mead in winter. It is known for its food – tarts, quiches, ciabatta sandwiches and more.
And of course, the namesake of the store, its trees, give it a nice atmosphere. Some are real but most are sculptures, metal fancifully twisted together. Together, they make an unusual contrast and provide a unique vibe.
Folk is an art form that is inspired by nature and day-to-day life, and is therefore a good reflection of culture. In Krakuska Sztuka Ludowa you can find a little paradise of folk art from Poland and Krakow, which sells items like dolls, sculptures, jewelry, scarves and much more. This is a great place to go if you want to support local business and find some nice souvenirs that aren’t just touristy, but actually closely connect to the city’s culture.
Harris Piano Jazz Bar is a place with a real passion for jazz. Enter the bar and expect to hear some great music, whether it’s jazz, soul or blues. They feature 3 different rooms – the biggest one has a stage (and I say big, but it is still quite small), while the second room is more of a lounge or chatting area, and the third sports a long bar.
You can even join in the concert – if you can play something and have the nerve, try joining the musicians on stage during a jam session. If not, just listen to them, see and feel the joy of life that pervades every tune they play.
Philosophy and a cup of coffee
There is a certain sublime pleasure in combining together two of the nicest things in life – coffee and books. De Revolutionibus Books&Cafe is located on Bracka, a street usually associated with the city’s artists and intellectuals. The name is an extract from the the magnum opus by Nicolaus Copernicus, who studied at the local academy. The store frequently hosts fascinating events surrounding scientific, theological and philosophical debate.
And the cherry on top – their selection of both books and coffee beans is superb. They offer books in English too, so come over, browse the shelves, sit down with a treat prepared with love, and enjoy the moment. Surrounded by great minds and thoughts, who knows what kind of questions and answers you might encounter?
Drinking beers and playing games is indisputably a great combination. Domówka Café takes this concept and elevates it. You can find the place in Miodowa street, near Love Krove. Their simple concept of combining a chill atmosphere, board games and beers is just great.
They serve a diverse range of beers, featuring anything from regional to niche to more popular brands. The staff is also nice, and has great recommendations (for both beers and games!). In short, if you want to spend time with your friends, this may be just the right formula.
Drinks in a bar like a boat
This bar has a truly unique old tavern climate. Entering Stary Port is like boarding a ship, and it attracts all kinds of fans of boating and the sea. The pub organizes a lot of events, such as shanty music concerts, where you can listen and sing along to the music of sailors. Aside from drinks, of course, it also offers a wide range of toasts (Captain’s toast is a favorite) in case you get hungry. This is a great place to hang out with friends – not too loud, not too bright – with a special mysterious climate.
Insight into an artist’s mind
Zdzisław Beksiński was one of the biggest Polish contemporary artists, a painter, photographer and sculptor specializing in the field of surrealism. Nowa Huta Cultural Center (NCK) shows a selection of his paintings in their Beksinski Gallery.
The paintings on display in Krakow can be disturbing; they show surrealistic environments with detailed scenes of death, landscapes filled with skeletons, abandoned buildings and deformed figures. And yet, they’re so original that you cannot stop staring at them.
Beksinski’s life was as tragic as his work, and the selection of works in this exhibition are a rare trip through the mind’s eye of an artist expressing his pain.