Don’t be afraid of doing nothing
There is no better place in Europe to get rid of the guilt of doing nothing.
Thousands of nice bars, cafes, restaurants, sausage stands (my favourite!), tables in the middle of every street, clubs open till 11am (and yes, I mean that people actually finish their night at 11 in the morning).
Start with a little breakfast and then just change from bar to bar, from café to restaurant to a club and then nest morning close a club with bar tenders who happened to become your best friends now. It really feels like you overpaid for a hotel as you probably haven’t really been there yet.
I wouldn’t miss seeing the sun rise – you will see it on the way home from your party – it makes the city orange and extremely beautiful and peaceful (the only people who will be watching it with you are going to be cleaners who are making sure that more ‘mature’ visitors don’t see much of that night chaos you created last night)
I like starting my weekend in Krakow with a breakfast in Kolory (Les couleurs) at the main Kazimierz Square (Plac Nowy). This is my sister Marta’s favourite place (you can find her at the table next to the door with her Mac drinking espresso– say hello from me and I am sure she will write a proper review of this place in her section soon as well).
There are many interesting people always there (no matter what time of a day or night it is) and they have free access to internet if you want to take your laptop with you (generally most bars in Krakow offer free internet – just ask at the bar for password). If you are lucky enough to get a place close to the windows you can watch people doing their Saturday shopping at the little square.
They have a flea market there almost every day and Saturday is dedicated to second hand clothes.
In the old centre I recommend Cafe Camelot (ul. Sw. Tomasza 17) – in a beautiful little corner, run by a famous family a very artistic place. In my opinion they have the best apple pie in the city, wonderful tea with raspberry juice (Polish people drink it to get warm in winter, in addition to our vodka of course) and very good selection of breakfasts as well (Who would eat breakfast in the hotel if they had Camelot!).
There is gossip that once The New York Times called them the most snobbish café in the world (not snobbish in the traditional sense of this word but as something different and original I guess – and why? Just go there and check their collection of countryside art) – true or not but I always use this as a nice anecdote to encourage people to visit the place.
There are two things I should warn you about. First, that famous collection of traditional countryside art mentioned above– not everyone finds it comfortable. A number of people I took to this place commented especially on their wooden dolls with hair.
Secondly, it takes a while for the staff to actually notice you. To be very delicate – they are not the most attentive people in the world. But the place, atmosphere, the food and the experience is definitely worth it. Just treat this as a part of your experience. You won’t get this in London!
In the same little corner (it’s somehow unofficial name is Zaulek Niewiernego Tomasza – Unfaithful Thomas Lane, probably the coolest conrenr in the whole city) there is another interesting place ‘Cherubino‘ – an institution in Krakow and I am probably not very original saying that it’s my favourite restaurant in Krakow. Well, it was my first ever favourite restaurant and we have had ups and downs in our relationship but I am still coming back whenever I am in the town!
It’s Polish and Italian food – this mixture really works and sometimes even I have a problem to recognise the origins of their food apart from some obvious cases of course.
You should try their panna cotta (the one with caramel sauce and almonds. If it’s not on the menu just ask and they should still be able to bring it to you) or tiramisu for desert! And grilled meat served with much too much garlic.
I wouldn’t plan any important meetings the next morning either – the taste of garlic in your mouth will accompany you till at least lunch time.
I used to visit this place regularly with my sister on Friday nights, after arriving to Kraków from Wroclaw where I worked that time, we would start with just a little salad and one modest bottle of wine and gradually ask for more wine and then finish when the place was closing.
Ad this is the magic of this place.
Grab a table somewhere close to the door on a warm summer evening and just let the place do its job.
Girls, I am sure you will love their very romantic décor with real old carriages (you can sit inside them as well but I wouldn’t recommend to order anything else but some drinks) no almost no electric light (only candles).
Zaulek Niewiernego Tomasza (Unfaithful Thomas Lane) has another little gem – a bar called Dym (Smoke). Often crowded and indeed full of smoke but if you are in a strong need of telling people about something you can definitely find someone there to listen to. I like sitting at their tables outside in summer just before I go to have my dinner at Cherubino.
By the way, Cherubino and Camelot belong to the same extended family – they own much more than this but their taste is actually quite similar to mine so I won’t complain about this expansion.
I would recommend also Miod Malina (ul. Grodzka 40) with more traditional Polish food (like a very good Polish soup called Zurek served in bread) and even more traditional design.
Usually quite crowded, so I would recommend to book if you are planning dinner there, lunch should be ok.
Take a look at that little street near by – Poselska. Quiet and mysterious and with at least two restaurants really worth visiting.
Paese – a Corsican (!) restaurant, a bit old fashioned and with a serious need of some redecoration but with an amazing lazy atmosphere and surprisingly good food.
And Ancora (at the edge of the street) which was opened quite recently by one of the Polish celebrity chefs who escaped from busy Warsaw life to the provinces. Expensive and a bit posh but definitely good for celebrating something special!
After a dinner there I like to take a walk in Planty (the park which goes around the old town) starting at the Dominikanska, to the castle and then to the river (check on the map – to be updated soon!). If you are not of course in a rush to start a night of Polish drinking in one of Kraków clubs!
For part II click here