The cellar bars of Krakow are nothing short of legendary. Set deep under the cobbles of the old town and the well trodden streets of boho Kazimierz, they ooze an earthy Slavic character. Smoke plumes twist under the old vaulted ceilings and beer froths from the taps. Here are some of the best…
Szpitalna 1 | Courtesy of Szpitalna 1
Szpitalna 1 is a relatively new addition to Krakow’s line-up of cellar bars. But boy has it made its mark! Taking over from the once-legendary Rozrywki club in terms of its music policy (think ground-breaking European electro and house from some of the continent’s top DJs), it’s become the hangout of choice for late-night ravers. However, it’s not just for dancing slow motion in the smoke. It’s also a great place to socialise and mingle (thanks to a large bar room), while the staff here have a penchant for local craft beer and creative shots.
A cacophony of 80s pop and 50s garage echoes out from the deep underground rooms of Klub Alternatywy. It’s that hip-shaking sound, in fact, that will draw most of the patrons off the cobbles of Maly Rynek and down the steep (and we really mean steep!) stairs to the bar within. Once you’ve conquered the entrance, you can expect a colourful retro place, not to mention some of the best beer deals in the city. Head deeper into the venue and you’ll come across a separate shot bar and a dance floor; one typically pulsing with classics until the early hours.
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RE is a bar that changes with the seasons. In the summertime, it spills out onto a large al fresco beer garden – one of the best in the city for sure. However, when the snows fall, the little drinking joint retreats underground, into a trio of half-subterranean rooms and passageways. The back room fills with plumes of cigarette smoke like something out of a 30s noir film, while the entrance way has quirky cinema seating and huge tables that are perfect for larger groups. You’ll likely need to book ahead at the weekends.
C.K. Browar has a pretty good claim to the title of best brewery in Krakow. Its light dunkel beers and hefty English-style stouts have been bubbling from the great copper tanks of the subterranean cellar at the end of Karmelicka street for years. The underground space is small and tight, with rows and rows of tables crammed into one large hallway in the style of a Bavarian bierkellar. Be sure to get the huge beer stack (if you think you can handle an extra litre or two), and then join the thumping club next door after dark (not that you’ll be able to tell that it’s dark down here!).
Drinking a frothy Polish beer between the bulbous candles and dust-caked antiques of Alchemia has become nothing short of a rite of passage for the first-time traveler to Krakow. However, there’s a hidden, darker side to this bar that few people get to see. Lurking underground, beneath the trodden pavements of plac Nowy in the heart of Kazimierz, the pub-come-club also plays host to a cavernous music venue. In the summer it’s used for film showings, while wintertime means an eclectic mix of electronica and jazz below the city.