It’s been said that Kraków boasts more cafés, restaurants and bars per square metre than any other city on earth. Whether that’s true or not, even the most determined visitors will find at least two things will be needed: time, and a very big appetite
While the former might not be so hard to come by, the latter is a whole different matter, and with Polish cuisine on the table, toting portions to defeat even the most capable of eaters, with everything from boat-like platters of kielbasa, meat dumplings and pork cutlets, to sour soups of boiled egg or pierogi dough packets stuffed with cream cheese, it’s something of a hefty task.
Local delicacies are very easy to come by in Kraków, and the prices are usually wallet-friendly. Just taking a walk through the Old Town will reveal a myriad of street-side openings that cook up Cracovian delights 24 hours a day. In the day, locals can be seen devouring mustard coated sausages, and there’s always a big crowd enjoying plates of late night pierogi in the city’s so called 4/8 bars (where a beer is just 4 PLN and a plate of any food on the menu , only 8 PLN), even if it is only to soak up the vodka.
The most famous of the lot are probably the pierogi dumplings, which are available en masse in most restaurants that have a Polish menu. These thick dough packets are usually dressed with oil and chopped onion, and can be filled with a real array of different mixtures. The most popular is probably Pierogi Ruskie (Russian style, with cream cheese and herbs), but meat versions are available, along with fruit-filled alternatives for desert. Pierogi usually comes served in plates of 8-10 pieces, and the price will range from around 4 PLN for the cheapest, to around 30 PLN in the more gourmet joints.
One dish that’s a must-try is the cabbage and meat stew, bigos. While it may not sound immediately enticing, this is an old Polish favourite, and is known as hunter’s stew for its raw and earthy ingredients, which can include a wide range of different meats, from veal to venison, to smoked bacon and sausage. Again, this one’s available in most restaurants throughout the city, but the best (like most things in Poland) is always home-made!
Poland is also famed for its soups, and in this category there are two that any visitor absolutely must try. First, the blood-red barszcz is a really rich beetroot soup, that’s often served with small, ravioli-like pierogi swimming at its bottom that add extra texture, while the sour żurek is great for warming up in the winter, and often comes served in a hollowed out bread roll (at least, that is in the more fancy places).
But, when it comes to the specialities of Kraków, there are a few select Polish foods that the city claims outright. Most notably perhaps are the half-baguette zapiekanka, a long pizza-style creation that’s packed on top with anything from feta cheese, to hefty chunks of Polish sausage. In the centre of Kraków’s Jewish Quarter, the stalls around Plac Nowy are said to sell the best in the whole country.
Also of Cracovian origin are the small pretzel-like breads that are usually sold by unassuming members of the older generation from little blue-framed stalls on the city’s street corners. These are called obwarzanek, and are particularly good when heated and served with butter.
For the best of Kraków food and drink, and more information about restaurants serving wonderful local fare, have a look at our selection of Krakow restaurants