Culture more your thing than consumption? These are the very best things to do in Krakow.
U Muniaka Jazz Club
Meet Poland’s intimate answer to Ronnie Scott’s. Opposite the vaulted arches of St Mary’s Basilica are the vaulted ceilings of U Muniaka, Krakow’s premiere jazz-and-juice venue. Its previous owner, Janusz Muniak, was one of Poland’s chief saxophonists, and you can hear his legacy every time the brass brand strikes up (which is every day, from 9:30pm until 1am). Understated table service means you don’t have to tear yourself away from the stage, as your double Jazz Ball cocktail will be lifted almost to your lips.
Totter down the streets of Kazimierz, the former Jewish district, and you’ll stumble across Eszeweria – a real local’s joint. Smoke, both of the cigar and incense variety, percolates through shabby-chic rooms, and plenty of hidey-holes and secluded sofas make it a great place to grab a drink with a loved one. But don’t let the artistically antiquated decor fool you. Fresh flowers on every table, a cool courtyard, plus pretty garnishes on handcrafted cocktails add a touch of elegance to this day-to-night establishment.
Krakow’s cafés are masters of duplicity: by day, classy coffeehouses, by night, dizzying dancehalls. Singer, one of the oldest in Kazimierz, is partly to blame for the trend. One minute, you’ll be chatting with your companions at table (complete with a bolted-on antique sewing machine, as per the name), and the next, you’ll be pushing it back to make room for your moves. Music ranges from Balkan to Baltic, and as for the drinks? 100% Polish. So long as it’s beer or vodka you’re buying.
We’re tempted to keep this wood-panelled speakeasy to ourselves, but without clear signposting, your libation will be well-deserved if you manage to find the entrance (pro tip: ask the staff from the restaurant below if they can help you out). Once you’re in, a constantly-rotating cocktail menu means no visit will be the same, but you can always expect a rainbow of boozy beverages, ambient music, and even some pierogi to munch on if you get snacky. Oh, and there’s an outrageous burlesque show every fortnight.
Floriana Straszewskiego 28
Partying by candlelight might seem a little old-school, but once you step inside the rusted gates of Alchemia, you’ll never look back. Start your night in these hallowed, witchy halls with a meal in the restaurant, before descending into the cellar to experience the bar. Almost every icy cocktail is garnished with a spindly slice of dried citrus, which adds a goth accent to any glass. Concerts of the city’s indie-est guitarists are a staple on Alchemia’s programme – including klezmer festivals, reflecting Kazimierz’ Jewish history.
Stop into this former synagogue for beer and burgers to remember. Perfect for a breezy summer evening, unusual brews – particularly of the peachy and grapefruit variety – sit side-by-side with tankards of local craft. Elegant chandeliers and mirrors on the walls mask the riggings of a powerful disco machine: when the sun goes down on a Saturday night, in-the-know dance enthusiasts head up to the mezzanine, to feel the floor reverberate with beats from DJs in the booth downstairs.
Beera Meiselsa 18
T.E.A. Time Brew Pub
There’s little in the way of tea to be found at this microbrewery beneath the shade of Grunwald Bridge. But no need to despair, as T.E.A. stands for 'Traditional English Ales' – you’d expect nothing less of a bar run by English expats. Ask about the hoppy house ales, which are pumped by hand into proper pint glasses. Or get yourself a taster board of four different beers (Czech and Polish pilsners are also on offer). Missing home? There’s also a dartboard, and an English-language pub quiz every Monday.
Józefa Dietla 1
On the fringes of the communist-era Nowa Huta neighbourhood is Klub Kombinator, a boldly-coloured bar that shares a utilitarian building with the edgy Łaźnia Nowa theatre. Mostly unknown to tourists, and exclusively open on weekends, locals head to Kombinator before or after theatre shows to mingle with the cool crowd. Earn (or drink) your stripes with a red, yellow and blue Rainbow Paradise, or get a caffeine fix with a matcha mojito. The lantern-lit garden is a pleasant place to admire the night sky, if you tire of watching the genuine '50s and '60s TV sets.
Osiedle Szkolne 25
Ring the doorbell for this unassuming club, and you’re admitted into a party animal’s fantasy. The expensive sound system in this basement joint is geared so you’re guaranteed a good time, while bars of neon light streak through sweet-scented dry ice. Bring the house down, or raise the roof with a bit of techno – whatever gets your groove going. Three dancefloors cater to all sorts of crowds, and four bars mean you won’t miss out on your favourite tune while waiting in the drinks queue.
plac Dominikański 6
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, you could do worse than walk into this eclectic, mock-Soviet bar. Neck a cool shot of Krupnik under the beady, watchful eye of Lenin, and test your translation skills by reading the Communist-era posters behind the bar. Chat with your comrades about bringing down the bourgeoisie, or sit on your wooden stool and enjoy good old American rock - once incendiary and forbidden in this part of the world.