The Flat, Food, Fun, Festival – our Krakow!
We will miss Krakow despite its legendary air pollution (better come in warmer months before inhabitants start working their old chimneys).
Life’s amenities have been fully met in this lively city.
Wed had found a cosy place to sleep, some great places to dine and the best place to hang out and party.
This post is about our apartment rental, our favourite restaurants and the hippest location for eating, shopping, dancing and relaxing.
Fun comes first.
Which all comes down to the Hotel Forum
Despite its name, it is not a hotel anymore.
If you haven’t heard of it, you will undoubtedly see it, when walking down the river boulevards. A monstrous, wide and forlorn structure, sitting on Krakow’s riverfront will appear.
This massive building was the most modern hotel in Poland in 1989. Designed in the 80s, it came with a computerised checkin/out system, halls were adorned with dark wooden panelling, floral carpet pattern disasters, a gloomy colour palette, bad lighting, taupe-pink bathrooms and other atrocities of the era. This documentary (in Polish) about the hotel’s high-tech is fun to watch, if you plan to check out its current decaying state.
Communist relics at Hotel Forum.
Its splendour long gone, it would solely be a terrifying ruin, if it wasn’t for the private initiative of Artur Michałowski and the help of other cool people, who have reanimated 200 m2 of the hotel and turned it into a relaxed bar-restaurant-hangout.
The new place has revamped the retro vibe and is a thorough success. Forum Przestrzenie (Forum Spaces) is feeding and sheltering hipsters, families and their dogs alike. Inviting beach chairs outside, inside, the location has a stage for weekend concerts and DJs and a neon bar labelled “recepcja” in old style. Guests get free internet access, comfy sofas and big tables. Their pizza is to die for but the hummus and seasonal dishes aren’t bad either.
Location: Marii Konopnickiej 28, Krakow.
In the remaining space, boutique areas with fashion and design from fresh Polish designers fill the vast halls. This is where I picked up two sweaters, a snug grey and black one with soft lining, just perfect for the chilly evenings. Love to wear them with my new folk bead necklace souvenir from Krakow at the moment. I liked the hey duvet bed and creative lights.
On special occasions, music events are held at the Forum. We went to the Sacrum Profanum Festival. Visual treats supporting electronic sounds, live instruments and digital signal processing by LFO, Autechre, Battles, Darkstar, Plaid, Bibio, Hudson Mohawke and more artists. Some of it I perceived as noisy experiments, way too experimental for my liking, but some of it was actually very cool dance music combining jazz, classic, funk, drum’n’bass and breakbeat.
And it was sooo loud! Going 125 dB did strain my ears. We only found out at the end that you could pick up free earplugs at the counters.
The audience seemed to take in the sounds with all their senses, lying on the floor, sitting, rocking back and forth, dancing, moving about or, as this one guy, standing completely still with his arms spread out wide – sort of receiving sound waves.
One thing I learned at Sacrum Profanum is that after you have finished your food, you can eat the plate as well. Avantgarde plates are made of fibre, look brownish and are incredibly dry.
A good option to dine out fancy is Duzy Pokoj, a nicely decorated Big Room indeed, with sophisticated Italian cuisine. We stumbled upon on it on our first night, then went back for the next evenings. We had very decent pastas, gnocchis, delicious tortellinis, snails, scallops and salads. The pretty interior is always filled to the brim. One waitress looks like out of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movies – adorable much.
Location: Izaaka 3, Kazimierz, Krakow.
Our favourite non alcoholic drink was the bottled pear juice.
For healthy dinners, we ate at Glonojad. This vegetarian restaurant makes the best pear lassi in the world.
Location: Plac Jana Matejki 2, Old Town, Krakow.
The other veggie option was Momo. The interior has a spiritual Indian touch and food is vegan delicious.
Location: Dietla 49, Kazimierz, Krakow.
After a visit to the Manggha Museum, we were inspired by Japan again and went to Musso Sushi, where we shared a miso, ramen and sushi plate which were okay.
Location: Zwierzyniecka 23, Krakow.
More food samples can be found at and around the Rynek. I very much like pierogi (with kapusta i grzybami – cabbage and mushrooms or ruskie – with cream cheese – are the best) and can never resist hot oscypek (smoked cheese) with cranberry jam.
Whenever we are in Poland, we drink yummy kefir everyday, which is a tasty fermented milk drink.
Sweet black currant juice was our energy source when walking around the city. Don’t miss the hidden fun: every bottle of Tymbark and Tarczyn have short messages under their cap!
You can spend less time in supermarkets in Krakow. There are many small booths, functioning as mini groceries. This is where we looked out for local fruits and vegetables which were tastier than the imported supermarket stock.
Unique to Krakow are blue stands selling obwarzanki, the local bagels, sprinkled with sesame or poppy seeds. To satisfy our sweet tooth we occasionally visited Sowa, the Polish confectionery chain.
This time in Poland, we tried a drink we have never had before, sok z brzozy. It simply looks like water but the taste is strange, like drinking pączki (sweet doughnuts).
The other choice was apple juice or just plain apples… to get back at Putin. The jedzjabłka (eat apples) campaign shows support for Poland’s apple producers and protests Russia’s ban on fruits from Poland.
For the perfect dinner/dance/bar combination, we went to Alchemia. They also make decent halumni burgers. Right on Plac Nowy, in the club and party scene in Krakow.
All those places were conveniently close to our home in Kazimierz. Once the prospering centre of a Jewish diaspora in Krakow, in 1939 its inhabitants were wiped out by the Nazi invasion, and after WWII Kazimierz was in a pitiful state, left to stray dogs and morose alcoholics. But the squatters’ quarter has undergone a renaissance and is now a Bohemian district with restaurants, bakeries, bars, neat little shops and vinatge-chic.
There are plenty historic sights, the Corpus Christi Church, the Temple Synagogue and ulica Szeroka – the heart of the old Jewish district, the Remuh Cemetery and new Galicia Museum.
Kazimierz by night. I thought the moon looked big that night but I got fooled by Krakow’s High Flyer Balloon!
On ulica Meiselsa, the popular bakery Piekarnia Mojego Taty (My Dad’s Bakery) makes traditional simple bread. Sometimes, we would buy a piece here, especially when passing on our way home, surrounded by the scent of freshly baked bread – they do bake very late at night! For our soft sesame-whole-grain loaf, we would go to Awiteks, the bakery and confectionery that looks like communism interior design never passed.
Our home on ulica Paulinska was in one of those wonderful old buildings, facing St. Catherine’s Church (Kościół św. Katarzyny). We had a small two storey attic flat and apart from the occasional head bang and everyday stairs-workout, it was a cosy place. For which we paid 481 Euros for 12 nights.
The apartment did not have a shower cabin but a generous bathtub. It felt a bit like being in our old home.
When renting through airbnb, we like flats that were not just made to rent out but inhabited by the owners. This was the case here and we enjoyed a fantastic music collection, and all the utensils that you would need for cooking and really feeling at home. The book selection was great, with guidebooks and lots of literature from the countries our hosts had been too, many of the countries in Asia we had travelled, too.
Funnily enough, we finished our Cambodia experience here! We found two books about Pol Pot’s regime – bold photocopies, just like the majority of books you can buy from street sellers in Cambodia. After a depressing read on Khmer Rouge horrors, we finally watched the Killing Fields, a movie based on the book of Cambodian photojournalist and survivor of the Killing Fields Dith Pran.
One other thing I won’t forget, was the sign that greeted us everyday upon entry.
Don’t forget to wipe your shoes.
Krakow has more puzzling signs.
I will miss Krakow ❤