Dark and brooding subterranean coffee haunts rub shoulders with chic, stripped down hipster dives and soothing Oriental tea rooms in Kraków, a town so brimming with cafés and places to drink that it’s been hailed as a rival to even Vienna on the coffee culture front. Here’s a selection of ten of the best that the city has to offer.
Cafe, European, $$$
Bunkier Cafe protrudes elegantly from the side of Kraków’s famous Bunkier Sztuki Gallery. While the interior is a charming conglomeration of quirky antiques and reclaimed timber tables that’s truly worthy of the contemporary exhibitions next door, the real pièce de résistance here is the garden area, which fills with tea drinking locals during the summer and transforms into a heated enclave of coffee aromas during the colder months of the year.
A plethora of dusty antiques, dim lighting, scrawled graffiti art and flickering candles, Antycafe on central Sławkowska Street is the Old Town’s answer to Kazimierz’s iconic Alchemia bar, although set to sepia tones and funky music, and perhaps leaning a little more towards brooding black coffees than heady Polish beers. The resident crowd is varied and eclectic, ranging from introvert book readers who conceal themselves between the shadowy alcoves, to tight-jeans hipsters and backpackers. Inside there’s also a large smoking area and plenty of bar side seating.
Leave your wallets at the door for your trip to Café Fińska, because this one’s hailed as the first free café in all of Kraków. Something of a bohemian art experiment gone wild (Fińska was actually created as part of the city’s annual ArtBoom Festival), payment here is made with creative contribution, discussion and participation, rather than with cash. Feel free to leave your mark on the ever changing array of graffiti art, sculpture, portraiture and poetry that abounds throughout Fińska’s small rooms, or perhaps even join in with one of the regular performance workshops, book readings or debates that take place in the tight-knit joint on Józefińska Street in Podgórze.
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Drawing brilliantly on the Jewish roots of Kraków’s old Kazimierz district, this elegant and intriguing coffee house entices passers-by with a cozy interior of plush furnishings, packed bookcases and strong coffee aromas. It’s actually run under the patronage of the city’s Jewish Culture Festival Association, which is why the menu includes traditional Finjan-style brews and an array of Middle Eastern mezze dishes. What’s more, guests can expect some of the best coffee beans in the city here, sourced from a local seller and cooked up by Cheder’s in-house team of professional baristas.
A Spartan affair of wooden tables, flickering candles, frothy coffees and steaming teas, Dym is one of the few genuine bohemian dive cafés left between the central streets of Kraków’s Old Town, home to a resident crowd of budding artists, poets, writers and painters, who are usually found puffing away at roll ups and discussing philosophy or literature until the early hours. Despite the central location, this one can actually be a little difficult to find, because it’s sandwiched between two other, much larger establishments, whose crowds of al fresco smokers often conceal its shadowy and unassuming entrance on small Świętego Tomasza.
Hidden in the gloomy basements below the cobbled lanes of Kraków’s central Old Town district, this curious little tea house does well to transport drinkers to the serene and soothing surroundings of the Orient, with slouched cushions for seats and the twanging tones of Chinese bamboo wind instruments and bowstrings echoing throughout. Behind the small, mahogany bar, a staff of tea enthusiasts are at hand to help you choose the perfect tipple, with box upon box of chai, green leaf, black leaf, oolong, matcha, herbals and yerba mate just waiting to be brewed.
The chosen meeting point of expats, Erasmus students and language teachers Kraków over, Les Couleurs brings a dash of Parisian charm and elegance to the bohemian heart of beatnik Kazimierz. Inside, a mix of beaux arts and art deco decorations are set over several disjointed spaces, ranging from the hazy smoking area out front, to the covered conservatory towards the back. Naturally there’s a real wealth of coffees on offer, all brewed in seconds by the masterful hands of trained baristas, while tea, beer and some sweet cakes are also on the menu.
Nestled on charming Felicjanek Street, away from the hubbub and crowds of Kraków’s central square, this bookshop come coffee house is another favorite with English speakers living in the city. Guests are free to roam between the looming bookcases of titles while sipping their brew and devouring a homemade cake, while others opt to settle at one of the dimly lit tables in Massolit’s enchanting first room. Regular literary events and readings also make this one worth watching right throughout the year.
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This funky mashup of 1960s and 70s paraphernalia comes complete with all the leopard print, psychedelic geometrics, dim, gaudy lighting, classic radio ware, fuzzy lamps and patterned seating you’d expect of a retro coffee house whose name translates literally to ‘calm.’ In the day this one’s filled with book reading locals making the most of the cheap brews and various herbal teas. By night, it gets a little rowdier, with crowds of cigarette smoking bohemians crashing out on the plush sofas upstairs. Next door there’s also a cool sister café called Cisza, which is perfect if you find Spokój packed to the brim.
Very much one of the new breed of Cracovian hipster places to drink, Tektura is a stripped down coffee bar with oodles of green tea, chai and a menu of healthy salads, sourdough sandwiches and homemade cakes. The interior is a uniform array of square tables and comfy sofas, anchored on a large social drinking area, which is often found laden with Macintosh-touting yuppies lost in their work. What’s more, the location on Krupnicza Street on the edge of the Old Town makes this one a great choice for anyone looking to escape the overtly tourist cafés of the centre for somewhere at the heart of one of Kraków’s most burgeoning of coffee streets.