A food tour of Krakow: where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner

Breakfast – Fitagain

Just a stone’s throw from the main market square, Fitagain is a great choice for a healthy, affordable and delicious breakfast to start your day. Walking into this stylish cafe we took a seat at one of the timber tables. There was a number of people typing away vigorously on their laptops and a woman with a professional camera photographing the desserts on the wooden bar top situated next to the window.

We both opted for scrambled eggs with salad, avocado and seeded bread. However, there is a wide variety of breakfast options on the menu. There are granola’s, porridges, wraps, sandwiches…the list goes on. All the meals can be accompanied by coffee, a large selection of teas or a smoothie.

Traditional Polish food is pretty carb and meat heavy, so Fitagain is a great option if you’re looking for something lighter for your first meal of the day.

Lunch: Pierogarnia Krakowiacy

Usually made from noodle flour dough and stuffed with a countless variety of fillings, Pierogi are similar to the Japanese gyoza or the Italian ravioli. Piergoi have been made in Poland since the thirteenth century. In the second half of the 17th century, around the same time that the first Polish cookbooks were published, the word Pierogi first appeared in Polish literature. In the past, Pierogi were exclusively a holiday dish! Each holiday had its own kind of Pierogi that was only prepared at one time of year. Nowadays, your can fortunately eat Pierogi all year round!

We knew we had to try Pierogi when in Krakow and we were determined to try the best ones we could find! After a quick google, Pierogarnia Krakowiacy stood out. It had sparkling reviews, serves pretty much exclusively Pierogies and wasn’t far from old town.

We arrived early, before the main lunch rush, probably around 12pm. At this time there was only one other person in the restaurant. But by the time we were leaving pretty much all the tables were filled! It’s self service, so you order at the counter and wait for your number to be called to collect your meal! We ordered one savoury and one sweet dish to share. The pork and cabbage savoury dumplings came with caramelised onions and were soft, warm and full of flavour! The sweet Pierogi were flavoured with coconut, ricotta and cream and although they were slightly sweet for my preference, they were still delicious!

Dinner – Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko was without a doubt the highlight of our culinary journey in Krakow. With over two thousand 5 star reviews on google, our expectations were understandably high. And yet they were met and exceeded!

The walls are adorned with farming equipment and sheepskin blankets line the timber tables. We didn’t have a reservation, and after first being seated in the doorway, they quickly moved us to a much nicer, cosier table further into the restaurant. They said they needed the table back in two hours which ended up being more than enough time for us to enjoy two courses and a few too many vodkas! The staff were attentive and more than happy to recommend their favourite dishes and drink choices.

We ordered a polish sausage and some fried cheese to start and I chose a pork schnitzel accompanied by cabbage and potatoes for main. Everything was genuinely cooked and seasoned to perfection. I feel like I can taste the salty vinegary cabbage whilst writing this and it’s making me want to eat that delicious meal all over again!

I was the coldest i’ve ever been in my life when I walked into Morskie Oko, but I left feeling warm, sated and full of joy!

Yes…my sister did have two sausage courses, don’t judge her, thats just how good the sausage at Morskie Oko is!

If you have time…

Another worthy mention from our visit was The Black Duck- Czarna Kaczka. With a mainly duck themed menu, the dumplings and roast duck were delicious! The portions were huge, so I’d recommend sharing a main!

What to expect when visiting Auschwitz

“Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana

To say I was apprehensive before my visit to Auschwitz would be an understatement. The day before the trip I really started questioning why I ever thought it was a good idea to visit a place where some of the worst crimes against humanity in human history were committed. But seeing the George Santayana quote on the wall when we arrived, I quickly remembered why I was there. We cannot allow ourselves to forget the past just because it is easier for us to isolate ourselves from the knowledge that other humans are capable of causing such immense suffering.

The tour we chose was organised by DiscoverCrakow. We met them in their office, just off the main market square around 11am. I’d strongly advise having a big breakfast as there are pretty much no opportunities to eat on the tour. We were on a bus with about 10-15 other people. The drive from Krakow to Auschwitz took just over an hour. A documentary about the Holocaust was played on the bus.

The tour starts in the main camp, Auschwitz I. Built as a Polish military base, it was originally made up of just 22 pre-war brick buildings. Each of the buildings have now been converted into separate exhibitions, expanding on various historical aspects of the camp.

The guide was careful to emphasise that Auschwitz had two functions. At the beginning, from the founding of the camp in 1940 to the start of 1942, Auschwitz functioned exclusively as a concentration camp. The first prisoners of the camp were Polish political prisoners, often academics and people who were deemed a threat to the Nazi regime in Poland. As a concentration camp, the prisoners were forced to work in inhuman conditions, often leading to death through starvation. From 1942 to it’s liberation by the Soviets on the 27th January 1945, Auschwitz served an even darker purpose. Not only was it a functioning concentration camp, but it was also the largest centre for the immediate mass killing of a large part of the Jewish population of Europe.

Inside block 6, lies an exhibition emphasising the lives of the prisoners when Auschwitz was functioning solely as a concentration camp. The hallway is lined with the identification photographs taken of the prisoners when they first arrived at the camp. Everyone looks visibility exhausted from their journey which would often involve days shut inside a cattle train. All the women’s hair has been cut short. There is fear behind all of their eyes, determination behind others. The guide told us that the use of photographs as identification was scrapped as people were unrecognisable after being at the camp for a short period of time. The Nazi’s replaced the photograph identification method with numbers tattooed on the prisoners.

Another exhibition shows personal items taken to Auschwitz by the prisoners and found by the Soviets when they liberated the camp- a stark reminder that some people arriving at Auschwitz really believed they were there to start a new life. Another glass display in the same building contains a pile of human hair, and shoes of every type and size. We walked through this building in silence, no words were needed to explain the horror of what was being seen.

Block 11 was probably the most harrowing part of the visit to Auschwitz I. Block 11 was effectively a prison within a prison. Prisoners would be punished for disobeying the orders of the SS. The most frequently punished acts were attempting to acquire additional food, various forms of working in an unsatisfactory way, smoking, relieving themselves at a time deemed improper by the guards, wearing clothing that was non-regulatory, or, attempting to commit suicide. The punishments were arbitrarily chosen, with different punishments frequently being used for the same crimes. Block 11 contained starvation cells, standing cells, dark cells and a shooting wall. Block 11 was also the place of the first experiment with mass killing using Zyklon B.

To end the tour of the main camp, we were taken into the first gas chamber a crematorium. No words could be said here.

After a quick stop to use the toilet we got back on the bus to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The majority, probably about 90%, of the victims of Auschwitz Concentration Camp died in Birkenau. This equates to approximately a million people. More than nine out of ten, were Jews. We walked along the railway tracks to the selection ramp. In this place, the fate of thousands of terrified people was decided… were they fit to work or, should they be sent straight to the gas chamber? This was often the last place that people ever saw their family and friends.

The scale of Birkenau is unimaginable, just one of the many buildings could be home to around a thousand people. We were shown around one of the buildings where the children slept. The building was dark and cold.

At the end of the railway track is the remains of the gas chambers. The gas chambers were destroyed by the Nazi’s before the end of the war in an attempt to cover up the evidence. There is also a memorial, which is open to artistic interpretation.

It’s impossible to really imagine the scale of human suffering that took place on the Auschwitz complex. I think it’s incredible that just two years after the war ended the camp was converted into a museum by the survivors.

I definitely feel more emotional looking back on these photos and writing this blog post that I did immediately after the trip. It’s not the normal fun and exciting thing that you do on holiday, but I think it’s an incredibly important place to see. In school you learn the facts of the Holocaust, but standing in the place it happened, you begin to understand the story slightly more.

Advice for your trip

Wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking/standing involved and some on the ground is uneven. If you’re visiting in winter like we did, wear as many layers as possible. You may feel like you’re overdressed, but even in thermals and a ski jacket we were freezing. Most importantly, be respectful, despite being told at the start of the tour not to take photographs in certain areas and not to take selfies anywhere, we still had a number of individuals on our tour group doing just that.

24 Hours in Krakow

Krakow is a beautiful city with a rich history. There are regular decently priced flights from London making it a perfect place for a weekend away! If you’ve got limited time in the city this 24 hour itinerary will make sure you’ve covered the must-see sights!

1. The Cloth Hall

Krakow’s main market square is the natural starting point for a 24 hour adventure around the city. In the centre of the main square lies The Cloth Hall. Known as Europe’s oldest shopping centre, the Cloth Hall has been a place of trade since the mid 14th century. In the middle of the 16th century, a fire destroyed much of the original building and a redevelopment project saw it rebuilt in classical renaissance style. After Krakow lost its status as Poland’s capital in 1569, the Cloth Hall was left to fall in to disrepair for almost three centuries. Towards the end of the 19th century the facade was restored to its former glory. The development was not only superficial, a new museum space was also created upstairs. The Cloth Hall now houses a row of shops selling traditional souvenirs such as sheep skin slippers and all the amber jewellery your heart could desire! I picked up a couple of rings and a necklace, all at really decent prices.

2. St. Mary Basilica Church

Across the square from the Cloth Hall is the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica church. Built in classic Polish gothic architecture in the 1300’s, this incredible church should definitely not be missed. The blue starred ceiling and stained glass windows are truly unique and no matter how many churches you’ve visited, this one will definitely stand out.

We happened to wonder out of the church minutes before 12, just in time to hear the trumpet signal, known as the Heijnal mariacki, being played from the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers. To commemorate the 13th century trumpeter that was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city, the tune breaks off mid-stream.

3. Lunch break- Pierogies

No trip to Krakow is complete without sampling as many Piergoies as you can fit in your stomach! An upcoming blog post will be dedicated to the insanely good food we ate in Krakow, so i’ll save the details of our lunch stop for that!

4. Jewish Quarter

Following our lunch we wandered through the snow to the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Prior to WWII, Kazimierz was the centre of Jewish culture in Krakow. Szeroka street is the main road in this neighbourhood, lined with synagogues, bars and unique boutiques.

5. Wawel Castle

Following a quick stop for a warm drink, we headed on to the Wawel Castle complex at the top of Wawel Hill. The complex consists of a castle and a cathedral centred around an Italian style main courtyard. Wawel has been a significant place throughout Polish history. It is said that people settled on Wawel Hill as early as the 7th century, and from the 9th century onwards it became the principal home to the Vislane tribe and the first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I. It also became the centre of Polish christianity.

Throughout history, Wawel has been occupied by a number of powers. After Poland lost its independence in 1795, the castle was handed to the Austrians who converted a number of the buildings into a military hospital. In 1880, the castle was the residence of the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. Between 1905-1911 the Austrian troops left the hill and Poland regained its independence in 1918. During this time, the castle served as a residence of the Head of State, and as a museum. During the Nazi occupation the castle was again occupied by foreign powers and used as the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. 

In 1978 Wawel Castle was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. With some beautiful examples of romanesque, gothic, renaissance and early baroque architecture, the castle and cathedral and definitely worth the walk up the hill. There is also an art museum that can be visited on site.

6. Cat Cafe

Our final stop before dinner was the cat cafe that was situation just opposite our hotel, The Mercure Kraków Stare Miasto. The hot drinks were nothing to rave about but the cats were adorable and friendly and, unlike many cat cafes around the world, we walked straight in and grabbed a seat without a reservation. A cute place to stop and warm up if you’re in the area!