Where to eat
Regardless of your budget, time or food requirements, you will not be disappointed in Kraków. Polish and international cuisine, fancy restaurants, cosy cafes or best street food snacks are waiting for you. A long list of recommended places can be found here.
If you are looking for a place close to the ICE Congress Centre, it is best just to cross the river and to visit Kazimierz (the former Jewish district) with its charming bars, bistros and restaurants.
It is customary to reward good service with a 10% tip.
What to eat
Polish cuisine is the result of a treasured lore of ancestral ingredients, and an intriguing mix of European and Eastern influences. Poles are very passionate about food and their cuisine has recently transformed from virtual obscurity to one of the rising stars of the European culinary scene. Its strength comes from a range of unexpected tastes: the sharp aroma of mustard plants, the sparkle of fermentation, and umami galore.
While Poland has its share of fast food outlets, the average Pole still possesses a shamanic knowledge of mushrooms, berries and ancestral recipes. Consequently, fresh and delicious local dishes are not hard to come by, but audacious cooks abroad should not be afraid to try a few recipes themselves since most key ingredients can easily be made at home, if not necessarily available in stores. A typical Polish meal starts with a hearty soup, such as beetroot soup ‘barszcz’, a sour soup of fermented rye ‘żurek’ or, in the summer, cold beetroot and yoghurt soup ‘chłodnik’.
Pierogi, the most iconic Polish food of all, need no introduction. ‘Pierogi ruskie’, filled with a delicious mix of potatoes and cheese, are one of the most popular varieties, but meat and other fillings are also very common. If you like traditional meat treats, try not to miss out on ‘bigos’, a dish made of sauerkraut stewed with a variety of meats and mushrooms. In the summer, various fruit form a key ingredient – apples, pears, plums and wild berries can be found in most desserts.
Kraków and the Małopolska region is home to some exclusive local products whose origin and geographical indications are protected by the EU. Therefore, while visiting the city you might bump into small stalls and street carts which sell:
- ‘oscypek’ – smoked sheep's milk cheese produced exclusively in the Tatra Mountains.
- ‘obwarzanek krakowski’ – a type of a ring-shaped pretzel which is parboiled before baking. It is usually sprinkled with poppy seeds, salt or sesame.
- ‘prądnicki bread’ – a traditional rye sourdough bread baked in the Kraków area. It should be round or oval and the loaves can weight up to 14 kg ☺. Luckily, it stays tasty and fresh for up to two weeks.
- ‘łąckie apples’ – a special variety of apples from Łącko Hollow. They are very juicy, mildly acidic, aromatic and have a distinctive blush. Apples are a popular snack amongst Poles and the country is one of the world’s top apple producers.
Although it might seem that Poles are generally meat eaters, you will be pleased to find numerous vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafes around Kraków. Many Polish specialities such as pierogi, bigos or ‘gołąbki’ (cabbage leaf wraps) have their vegetarian equivalents. Those who prefer street food can enjoy potato pancakes, ‘zapiekanki’ (long toasts with cheese and mushrooms) or grilled ‘oscypek’ cheese.
What to drink
It is highly recommended to make use of Poland’s tap water which is safe to drink.
Some of the typical Polish drinks are:
- ‘kompot’ – a beverage made of water, fruits and sugar boiled together and cooled. For many decades it has been a popular drink to be served with lunch or Sunday dinner.
- ‘miód pitny’ (mead) – a traditional Polish alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting honey. Depending on the alcohol content, meads are produced as ‘dwójniak’ (equal amount of water and honey), ‘trójniak’ (two units of water and one unit of honey), etc.
- ‘cydr’ (cider) – an alcoholic drink made of fermented apple juice. As Poland is one of the world’s leading apple producers, it is not surprising that cider has been gaining in popularity in recent years.