We spent our 4-day Easter weekend (thanks Europe!) exploring a little slice of Poland—road tripping from Berlin to Kraków and back again with Heidi in tow. Unfortunately, the weather decided not to work with us, and our time in Poland was largely gloomy and rainy. On the plus side, that gave us ample excuse to find cozy places to fill our bellies with potatoes and vodka.
Places to Eat in Kraków
Hamsa. Located in the Kazimierz, or Kraków’s Jewish quarter, Hamsa is an Israeli eatery that prides itself on hummus and happiness. It delivered both in spades. Their mezze platter was a light and perfect breakfast: spicy hummus, falafel, and labneh, a very soft cheese that was rolled into balls, soaked in olive oil, and served with pillowy pitas. If you head over to Hamsa in the evening, they also have a lounge space with a bar and a beautiful patio that looks like it’d be a wonderful spot to enjoy a warm evening.
Other favorite spots in Kazimierz: Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu (“Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz”, a trio of former shops torn down to become one long, unique restaurant), and Moment (mid-century/modern bar and resto with delicious pastas).
Street Food Market. While most of the cloth hall booths were closed for the Easter holiday (except the one selling relics of Pope John Paul II, perhaps Kraków’s most famous inhabitant), outside the arched colonnade a robust little food market had all the snacks you could possibly dream of. We snagged some pierogis and some roasted meat, washing them down with a few beers from Okocim brewery.
Carrots with Peas (Marchewka z Groszkiem). This was a high recommendation from a Kraków-born colleague of mine. They serve authentic Polish food in a cozy atmosphere (it looks a little like grandma’s dining room). Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed by the time we arrived, but the food smelled heavenly, and the space was beyond charming.
Places to Drink in Kraków
For me, Poland was a sleeper hit in terms of drinks. I hadn’t heard anything specific about the country’s “official drinks”, so I wasn’t prepared for anything particularly extraordinary. That left me open to being blown away, and blown away I was! Polish beer and vodka are where it’s at, and the city is chock full of authentically cool places to enjoy both.
Alchemia. This corner bar in the Kazimierz would be equally at home in Berlin—it had a loose techno soundtrack, a sort of shabby bohemian look, and amazingly cheap drinks. The main difference is that where Berlin can feel a little forced sometimes, Alchemia had an unapologetically easy cool. Groups of older locals, young students, and foreign tourists all feel right at home. We liked it so much, in fact, that we went every night we stayed in Kraków.
Wodka. If you want to sample some Polish vodkas, look no further than Wodka, located a 5-minute walk from the main square. Inside this snug little bar are hundreds of bottles for sampling. We did a vodka flight with seven different variants ranging in flavor from peppery to syrupy.
We asked all of our bartenders for their favorite vodka, and nearly unanimously they recommended us Piołunówka, a unique type of vodka made by macerating wormwood. It has a sharp spice not unlike licorice or cinnamon, but is entirely smooth going down. Our favorite beer was Książęce, an offshoot of Tyskie. We tried several different types: all are light and full of summery flavor.
Things to Do in Kraków
We found Kraków to be extremely dog-friendly; Heidi was welcome everywhere we took her except for the grounds at Wawel Castle.
If you are planning to visit Kraków over Easter, keep in mind that a lot of things will be closed for the holiday. Some restaurants were closed Sunday-Monday, others will closed the entire weekend. Plan ahead with reservations so that you’ll have a spot to sit in the places that are open.
I imagine this city to be outstanding in the summertime, with the trees in bloom and the cafés spilling into the sidewalks. But in the winter it can look and feel a little drab—just keep that in mind for planning your trip!
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