Contrary to what you may have heard, Krakow doesn’t have to be all medieval castles and UNESCO heritage. Once you’re done ticking off the must-sees in the Old Town and Kazimierz, perhaps it’s time for a spell of scuba diving or chilling on the beach? Check it out…
Lazing on the beach in Kryspinow
Deep in Lesser Poland, between the rising peaks of the Tatra Mountains and the sweeping Polish plains that run for mile upon mile before hitting the first sea (that’s almost 13 hours away by car!), the prospect of finding a beach might seem a little loony. Cue Kryspinow, a large reservoir that’s lined with woodland walks and picnic spots for the summer. And there are even beaches too; soft and powdery sections of sand that offer sunbathing and summertime chill a la the Baltic Riviera. Of course, there are also bars aplenty, which come to life with revelers in the warmer months.
Not so much of a museum as an active workshop, where local artisans and masters of this niche craft can be watched turning their hand to commissions big and small, the Stained Glass Museum promises a welcome break from the other out-and-out history and heritage exhibitions in the city. It’s located just on the edge of the Old Town area, close to the Vistula Boulevards. The workshop itself has been going for more than 100 years, and even had a hand in forging the unique identity of the Polish Art Nouveau movement back in the early 19th century.
When most folk think of getting that PADI qualification, it’s the sparkling coral reefs of Bali or the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea that come to mind. But Krakow has its own answer to the diving destinations of the tropics: the abandoned quarry of Zakrzowek. This deep hole cut into the ground on the southern side of the city was flooded when springs burst and the water table rushed in. Today, it’s used by the local open water dive school as a place to practice and teach. You can train for everything from classic PADIs to CMAS instructor courses and lifeguarding in the waters…
The first of Krakow’s cat cafes (as if there’s bound to be more coming soon) – Kocia Kawiarnia Kociarnia – has made its home just to the north-west of the Old Town area, offering the chance to sip frothy cappuccinos and strong French presses in the company of furry friends. The interior is simple, with the main focus shifted to the cats, who purr from their perches and scratch at their posts as you enjoy your brew. It’s a pretty unusual place amidst the city’s other beer bars and vodka joints.
Away from the Krakow of the travel brochures, where Gothic towers loom above Renaissance homes, the district of Nowa Huta offers something totally off the hook. The place was constructed from scratch by the Soviets in the post-war era, intended as a utopian city of self-sufficiency. That means sprawling USSR-style tenements dominate, and the occasional tank shell remains on the streets. Today, tours in classic Polish Trabants or walking routes around the area are really popular ways to go off-the-beaten-track.