Krakow. It's probably not the first city on your European bucket list, but we think you might want to rethink that. Think of it like a raw version of Paris, without all the tourists and grandeur, but with a similar style and so much more fresh air to breathe. Krakow has gorgeous architecture, a fascinating history, a chill vibe, kind people, and lots of fresh, cheap, interesting food. And it's small enough that in just a few days you can really get to know this gem of a city.
What caught my eye on my recent trip was the diversity of the food scene: a mix of vegetarian cafes, ramen joints, Parisan-style bakeries, and high-end roasters make up modern Krakow. Our biggest piece of advice? Be sure to hit up the Rynek Główny Square for a selfie but avoid it at all costs when you get hungry. Check these nine places that aren't traditional (no outright Polish food on this list FYI) but are worthy of a bite:
A little slice of Paris in Krakow, this is a gorgeous café where you can have an equally amazing French breakfast. And, though it's in the city center, you won’t find many tourists here. But that doesn’t mean it’s quiet — locals love Charlotte and, from the food to the decor, it's easy to see why. Charlotte sells bread, baked goods, homemade jam and granola (a nice souvenir!) and, it turns into a wine bar once the sun sets.
Time and again, locals name this as the best place for coffee or lunch in Krakow. Here you get a cup of slow brew — prepared with local blends — and they serve very delicious banana pancakes. Karma is located just outside Planty Park, which acts like an informal boundary separating the touristy city center from the rest of Krakow and is an area you should plan on spending some time because there's a great bar and restaurant scene.
A trendy restaurant where they serve lots of healthy (and also vegan) food, Alchemia is is great for dinner. Try a falafel burger or a sweet potato curry, and, after dinner, check the bar (by the same owners with the same name) around the corner!
One of the oldest chocolatiers in Poland, founded in the late 19th century, the store looks like a chic ballroom with patterened ceilings and pink walls. Go here for a nice warm hot chocolate or treat yourself and buy some delicious pralines and truffles (the blackcurrant-flavored bonbons are especially amazing).
A crooked book store, with small aisles everywhere and low-lighted rooms, Mossolit only sells English books but their collection is massive. Spend some time here and you'll get lost perusing the shelves, from history books to travel literature. And, if you go across the street you’ll find a beautiful yet tiny bakery where you can have a cup of coffee, enjoy a slice of pie, and get lost in the latest issue of Kinfolk magazine.
If you're in need of a dose of Asian fusion, this is the place from everything from ramen noodles with salmon to great pickles. Not to mention, the food is served in gorgeous ceramics and the beer they have is perfect! Know that the menu is in only in Polish — which is kind of rare in Krakow — but the waiter is more than happy to translate everything for you.
An elegant restaurant set alongide the park where you can have a nice glass of wine or enjoy a candlelight dinner. Their chocolate cake is just the way it should be — homemade, moist, and very decadent.
One of the best kept secrets of Krakow for a view and some coffee is the cafe at the Music Academy. Go with the elevator to the top of the building and drink a cup of coffee or order lunch in the rooftop cafe and enjoy it on the terrace, while looking out over Krakow.
A trendy café near Schindler’s factory, this place could just as well be in London or New York. The design is clean and modern, yet cozy with a big wooden table in the center and sofa’s on the side — the vibe is something you don't see a lot of in Krakow. They serve pancakes, sandwiches, salads, pies and tarts, but also wine in the evening. Oh, and there’s free WiFi and plenty of reading material.
All photos by Ingrid Hofstra