Krakow’s on the rise, and that’s well-deserved
THE WEEKEND: Krakow has been one of Europe’s best-kept secrets for decades, its mixture of old world charm and art-flecked cool drawing those in the know for getaways to see ancient architecture, drink copious cocktails, or indeed both. The secret, it seems, is out – the city’s biggest airline, Ryanair has announced that it’s opening 10 new routes to the city, expecting to serve 4.5 million passengers this year alone. So it’s never been easier to visit this amazing city.
WHERE? The city’s medieval Old Town was one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage sites. This strip of ancient architecture has been transformed over the years into a gorgeous, twisting gauntlet of bars, restaurants, museums and hotels. It’s surrounded by the wonderful Planty Park, a ring of pleasant, unerringly quiet greenery buffering the ancient town from Krakow’s more modern extrusions. Set just outside Krakow’s Jewish quarter, and home to its younger, artier, more experimental population, not to mention its younger, artier, more experimental eateries and bars. As a one-two punch, the Old Town and Kazimierz offer a perfect long weekend – culture and adventure alike, within a 15 minute walk.
THE STAY: Bullseyed in the very centre of the Old Town is the Bonerowski Palace Hotel, a five-star ode to Kraków’s history as the seat of Polish royalty. The first thing you’ll notice as you enter is a four-storey chandelier, which ascends the stairs with you. Follow it to the top and you’ll find a penthouse suite built out of more window than wall, overlooking the square below and covered in enough thick drapes to make a regency heiress faint in delight. Decor is pitched somewhere inbetween a tribute to the 13th Century palace it’s built in, and the wild tastes of a cartoon oligarch, complete with a bath sitting in the middle of the room, a reading nook up its own flight of stairs, and a shower the size of a small family car. Downstairs, you’ll find a smart, compact cocktail bar and the Amalia restaurant, which offers a la carte breakfasts, and classy takes on Polish standards. Grab a booth by the windows and you can spend a relaxing evening watching the square bustle by, complete with classical horse and carriage rides departing from just outside.
THE FOOD: Kraków is blessed with a vibrant restaurant culture, from incredible hole-in-the-wall pierogi sellers turning out dumplings the weight of a cricket ball, to artful sushi that simply shouldn’t be this good for a town hundreds of miles from the sea. For a true taste of the Old Town, however, Wesele Restaurant offers refined Polish fare, with specials tied to national holidays. Griddle pans heave with perfectly cooked black pudding and bacon, traditional roast duck comes with swipes of delicate apple mousse and edible flowers, and the meal is finished with a choice of Polish flavoured vodka, displayed proudly in the centre of the room.
ASK ABOUT: Kraków is well-armed with museums and galleries, but for something more unusual, the aptly-named Beernarium hides underneath an unassuming Old Town side street, offering luxurious baths in either beer or wine, accompanied by a sauna and a traditional hay bed to lay on. Truly odd, but oddly wonderful. Also, if you’re extremely hungry, make sure to visit Plac Nowy in Kazimierz, a square dominated by food stalls vying to make the best Zapiekanki. They’re gigantic open sandwiches often referred to as “Polish Pizza.”
Do it yourself
Bonerowski Palace Hotel suites start at around £270 a night