Discover Krakow’s Hidden Gems
January 1, 1970
by Stefanie ARoy
The best places are often the ones hidden from view, the ones that require a bit of extra effort to find. When visiting Poland’s beautiful cultural city Krakow, you would think that the beautiful Old Town Square with its lines of colorful houses was all that there was to contemplate. You would also head to Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, and revel in its history and bohemian lifestyle. Although these are both things I encourage you to do, in reality, Krakow has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye. Upon closer look, it is a city offering a full network of those delicious restaurants, quirky bars and even museums, all tucked away into passageways and underground spaces. To be found, you will need to explore alleyways and inner courtyards.
I had to live in Poland for a few years to discover the best places hidden right in the center of busy streets. Over time, they have become favorites for lots of reasons ranging from their fun atmosphere to their great products. Some others I love because they are totally unique or perfectly traditional.
Magia – Something sweet or salty
To start the day, Magia is a perfect choice. The café starts off in a space somewhat similar to a greenhouse, becomes a carpeted corridor leading to a steep staircase that tumbles into a cellar, which is refurbished with comfortable couches and lighting. It is easy to lose track of time here. To find the correct doorway to the café, look out for a sign opposite Mariacki Church. When you do find Magia, you will be pleased to order one of their very tasty wraps, sandwiches or cakes accompanied by a hot chocolate or fresh coffee.
Sukiennice – Underground Museum
The Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall in English, is the beautiful building in the center of the town square. The center space was once used as trading post for textiles, hence its name. Today, the Sukiennice has multiple functions. As well as acting as gift shop and selling the obvious souvenirs, it hosts an art gallery and restaurant on the first level and an Underground Museum in its basement. The restaurant offers a nice view on the Old Town Square. The underground museum, for its part, shows the excavated remains of the streets of Krakow in Medieval times, as if you were walking in the true medieval Krakow!
Gospoda Kokos – Local Restaurant
Gospoda Kokos is a good option for both lunch and dinner. At first, Gospoda Kokos seems to be a tiny local restaurant of 5 tables on a quiet street in the town’s city center. Truly, the restaurant has four different rooms, the bigger one being underground, often crowded and noisy with locals. This is a usual meeting point for students. Don’t worry though; the cramped space is part of the experience. Plus, the food is traditionally Polish, inexpensive but filling and tasty.
St-Stanislaw Fountain – Legend and Culture
The Skalka and Pauline Monastery – or simply the Church on the rock – is imposing and graceful. Located near the Wisla River, it is often quiet in its glory of whitewashed walls and pistachio-colored roof. It is also home to one of Krakow’s legends; located on its grounds is the magical St-Stanislaw Fountain. The tale says that King Boleslaw the Bold ordered the murder of Stanislaw, Bishop of Krakow. When attempts to kill him failed, the King took matters into his own hands by cutting Stanislaw’s body into pieces and throwing them into the fountain. Stanislaw then became a martyr. Legend says he might have also risen from the dead. Since then, the water of the fountain is said to possess healing powers. A sign next to it declares the water to be pure drinking water. There really is no harm in trying!
Viva La Pinta – Burger and Beer
Though nothing is traditional here, Viva La Pinta is great to enjoy the perfect combination of burger and beer. Found through a small alleyway on the popular Florianska Street, the inconspicuous sign announcing the bar means you’ll probably walk passed it a few times before spotting it. The terrace is covered with green trees in the summer. Even just mere meters from the bustling city, the noise seems to be completely extinguished. As the name says, Viva La Pinta celebrates beer and more precisely ale. They offer a variety of choices on tap and great burgers to accompany them.
Babcia Malina – Traditional Food
Walk through a wide wooden doorway, down a corridor lined with sculptures of important Polish figures and to your left through glass sliding doors. Then, walk out into an inner courtyard where you will find yet another doorway and a small set of stairs leading down to Babcia Malina – in English, Grandma Raspberry. Here, the waitresses are dressed in traditional Polish wear and the décor is of clear rustic wood. Long, wooden cafeteria-styled tables fill the space. It is cozy and warm. The traditional food is served in hearty quantities just like you would have it at your Babcia’s or, in English, at your Grandma’s. You have to try the Zurek served in a bread bowl. It is the best thing you will eat all day!
Spokoj – Local 70’s Hideout
In the evening, head to Spokoj. Spokoj means “calm” in Polish. After any day visiting a new city, a nice vintage bar is always a good place to sit and go over the highlights of the day. Please take a minute to admire the 70s-style wallpaper and the interesting gummy bear lamps. Sit in a retro chair and put your drink on a retro table. Or go to Spokoj just to see the bartender who is rocking a very well groomed mustache.
This remains such a tiny list of all the places left to find in Krakow. Districts such as the Jewish Quarter and Podgorze all have a lot to offer and deserve to be discovered. Krakow is a city well worth exploring again and again and time is always easily spent here. Come and discover it!