Kazimierz was once an independent Polish town, later becoming the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. This heritage is still ingrained in its penchant for beatnik bars, vintage stalls and bohemian cafe culture – in addition to its somber reflections on World War II. Here’s our guide for how to best enjoy this must-visit neighbourhood.
Touting generous mezze platters of hummus, olives, baba ganoush, flatbreads and plenty more, this cool little eatery is a top spot for lunch in Kazimierz. The interior is stripped-down and stylish with earthy hints of the Middle East – but the real showstopper is the shady garden out back, where comfy palette chairs abut low tables to the tunes of Arabic dub music.
Take a stroll along the banks of the Vistula River, which runs south of Kazimierz. You can’t miss the imposing Wawel Castle, which marks the meeting point of the neighbourhood and Krakow’s Old Town. In the summer, climb abroad one of the bobbing boat bars that pepper the water and settle down for an al fresco beer. During the winter, the lawns that line the river are always iced over and often thick with snow – an enchanting sight to behold.
This elegant, brick-built marvel has six centuries of history behind it – culminating in a dazzling combination of romanesque, gothic and baroque designs. Every section of this soaring church features something beautiful to behold – from the vaulted ceilings to the boat-shaped pulpit and the soaring gothic tower outside. Its crowning glory is the gold-gilded, 15th-century altarpiece, as tall as the cathedral itself.
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Plac Nowy has been at the heart of the Kazimierz neighbourhood since its inauguration in the early 1900s. A Jewish kosher market in the pre-war days, now you’ll find trinket, craft and antique stalls throughout the week, plus a farmer’s market every weekend. Don’t miss the chance to dine on traditional zapiekanki (pizza breads laden with toppings) from the holes-in-the-wall in the middle – they’re hailed as the finest in all of Poland.
The sobering Galicia Jewish Museum commemorates the victims of the Holocaust with photographic exhibitions that chronicle Jewish culture and history in Polish Galicia. Although the horrors of the German occupation of Poland (1939-1945) are never far from your mind here, the aim of the museum is to challenge the misconceptions and stereotypes associated with Judaism in Poland, while encouraging visitors to think about the future.
One of the last active synagogues in the neighbourhood of Kazimierz, the small Remuh Synagogue traces its roots back to the 1550s when it was built to honour the family of Rabbi Moshe Isserles. On the exterior of the courtyard walls, inscriptions commemorate the deaths of the Krakow Jews in the Holocaust, while inside you’ll find an exquisite Torah Ark designed in an art deco style.
Bursting at its rickety wooden seams with over-dripped candles and haunting portraiture, Alchemia has long been hailed as the coolest bar in Krakow. Its dose of mystique evokes the former Jewish district, both during the day – when it’s a bohemian cafe – and by night, when bands play in the basement and Czech beer flows. It’s also renowned for its veggie food, halloumi burgers and hummus platters.
The Church on the Rock, or Skałka and the Pauline Monastery, stands near the bank of the Vistula River. The pretty white structure dates from between 1740 and 1762, built on the site of an old romanesque church that was razed during the Swedish invasions of the 17th century. There’s also a serene garden, complete with the ubiquitous effigy of Pope John Paul II, who was born near Krakow.
Inside a 19th-century tram depot, this child-friendly museum tells the story of breakthrough design throughout the history of engineering, from the first printing presses to engines and vehicles. The original tramways of Kazimierz still criss-cross the floor, and there’s a focus on interactive displays in its temporary exhibits. It’s a perfect little stop for any travellers interested in the industrial history of the city.
Mleczarnia cafe is the manifestation of the neighbourhood’s penchant for everything vintage, beatnik and quirky. Wrought iron tables and makeshift benches sprawl across Beera Meiselsa, the small street connecting Plac Nowy with the western side of Kazimierz. Inside, antiques adorn every crevice, down to the doilies on the dark-wood tables. The staff are creative with their coffee, too – try the turmeric latte with almond milk.
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