Winter may be cold, but Kraków has a subterranean network of wine bars, galleries, restaurants and clubs in converted cellars in which to snuggle up. You won’t even care what’s going on in the outside world.
By night, Kraków springs to life. Discover cellar bars and clubs around the Main Market Square, while Kazimierz is abuzz with hip venues. CK Browar (ul Podwale 6-7) is an Austro-Hungarian style pub where non-filtered, unpasteurised beer is brewed in front of you.
Travel back in time to communist Poland at Club Lubu Dubu (ul Wielopole 15) where everything is retro, including the music. Try local lagers Zywiec or Okocim or, if you fancy something stronger, go for a shot of proper Polish vodka. Ask for Wyborowa, bittersweet Zoladkowa Gorzka or Zubrowka.
Explore historic Kraków
The Rynek is the largest medieval market square in Europe. The monument to Adam Mickiewicz, a famous Polish poet, in the middle of the square is a common meeting point for locals. If you’re lingering here, listen out for the Kraków bugle call or hejnal (pronounced hey-now), played on the hour from the highest tower of St Mary’s Basilica. Then wander round the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), which slices the square in half. Formerly Kraków’s chief trading centre, these days it’s a glittering tunnel of amber jewels and souvenir stalls.
Kazimierz and Kraków’s Jewish quarter
For something different, head to the cobbled streets of Kazimierz. Home to the city’s Jewish quarter, this suburb lay neglected after World War II but since the 1990s has seen a string of bohemian bars and cafés open. The area is also dotted with synagogues, cemeteries and museums, which act as a reminder of the oppressive Nazi reign.
Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where the Nazis murdered up to 1.5 million people during WWII. The site was protected shortly after the end of the war to ensure the world would never forget the atrocities. Also worth a visit is Wieliczka Salt Mine (included on Unesco’s World Heritage List) on the southeastern outskirts of the city. It’s one of the biggest underground mining museums in the world, filled with sculptures, chandeliers and chapels carved out of salt.
WHEN TO GO: Anytime. Kraków is a great place to get cosy in winter, while summer can be very hot.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair (ryanair.com)and easyJet (easyjet.com) both fly direct to Kraków from London.
VISAS: South Africans need a Schengen visa.
CURRENCY: Polish zloty. 1 GBP = 4.9 PLN.
GETTING AROUND: Explore Kraków on foot. Organised tours to Auschwitz cost about 100zl. For Wieliczka, take the 304 bus from Dworzec Glowny Zachod.
GOING OUT: A beer is £1.50.
ACCOMMODATION: A bed in a dorm starts from £8 a night, while a private room costs from £17.