March 29, 2024

Savouring Kraków: A culinary guide

Kraków, a city renowned for its rich history and vibrant culture, is also a treasure trove of culinary delights that reflect the essence of Polish gastronomy. From hearty soups to indulgent desserts, Kraków's culinary scene offers a tantalising array of flavours that will delight your taste buds and leave you craving more. Let's set off on a gastronomic journey and discover the must-try dishes and delicacies, not forgetting about the best local spots to try them.

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Pierogi: A Polish classic

polish pierogi

The dish you can find all around the world, from Chicago’s Greenpoint to Brazilian Curitiba, so everywhere Poles ever settled their own community - it can’t be missed while visiting Kraków. Originating from mediaeval times, pierogi have evolved into one of the country's most beloved dishes. These dumplings were traditionally filled with ingredients readily available in peasant households, such as potatoes (once they arrived from the New World), cheese, and cabbage. Today, pierogi come in a variety of flavours, sweet and savoury, and are enjoyed on various occasions, from festive celebrations to everyday casual dining. Whether boiled, fried, or baked, pierogi never fail to impress with their comforting taste and versatility. If you want to try some classics - don’t hesitate, choose “Kuchnia u Doroty”, a place with an impeccable reputation among locals (one of very few places where Poles are heading to eat Polish food as they prefer to make it at home and go out for other cuisines) but also visitors, which is easy to confirm - just check their reviews. If you want to experiment - book your flight tickets to visit Kraków in August, when the famous Pierogi Festival is taking place - each year new kinds of dumplings are competing for the first prize.

Obwarzanek: Kraków's signature snack

obwarzanek

A quintessential symbol of Kraków's culinary heritage, “obwarzanek” is a traditional Polish bread ring that dates back centuries. Often sold by street vendors throughout the city, this chewy and flavorful bread is perfect for a quick snack or as part of a leisurely stroll through Kraków's charming streets. You will find dozens of those blue carts in every corner of the Old Town, so it can’t be missed. If you want to be a witness of the baking process, maybe try to prepare the pastry on your own - a visit to the Obwarzanek Museum (Ignacego Paderewskiego 4, just behind the city walls) would be a real treat. Just note that tt is more an experience than an exhibition. You can count on a much bigger story if you decide to join the Krakow Food Tour. You would be surprised that “obwarzanek” has a history of almost the same length as Polish royal houses and you will learn much more about Polish customs and traditions.

Żurek: A soup with soul

żurek

photo by Kgbo/Wikipedia

With its origins dating back to the Middle Ages, żurek has long been a staple of Polish cuisine, particularly during Easter festivities. Made from fermented rye flour, this sour soup is often enriched with sausage, potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs. Sounds like Polish ramen? Well, maybe on the first sight, but its expressively sour flavour and hearty ingredients make it a popular choice for warming up on cold days or as a hearty meal during special occasions.

Barszcz: The ruby of Polish soups

polish barszcz

photo by Игорь Хмиловский/Wikipedia

A symbol of Polish culinary heritage, barszcz is a beetroot soup that dates back centuries. Traditionally served on Christmas Eve or during other festive occasions and family gatherings, this vibrant soup is both visually stunning and delicious. Its tangy flavour, derived from the fermented beetroot, is complemented by the vegetable or meat broth and spices creating a harmonious blend of flavours that is truly irresistible. Rember, don’t confuse Polish Barszcz with the variant coming from Poland’s eastern neighbours - when Ukrainian one is very thick, creamy and full of additional ingredients, Polish red king is pretty clear, served usually with small dumplings, beans or potatoes.

Kiełbasa (sausage): The quintessential Polish food

polish kielbasa

As one of Poland's most iconic foods, “kiełbasa” holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Polish sausage comes in countless varieties, each with its unique blend of spices and flavours. Whether enjoyed as a snack from a street vendor or as part of a traditional Polish meal, kiełbasa never fails to satisfy with its smoky, savoury goodness.There is the only one place that you should look for when searching for truly local venues - the most famous “kiełbasa” will be served every night (except Sundays) on a parking lot next to the open-air market “Hala Targowa” from a special communist era blue van. And it’s served in the same way as 32 years ago - that’s how old this food truck is.

Śledź (herring): An ideal vodka snack

Śledź (herring)

For a taste of traditional Polish herring, be sure to visit Śledź on Piekarska street and indulge in this savoury delicacy. Marinated in vinegar and served with onions and pickles, “śledzik” is a culinary experience not to be missed during your visit to Kraków. And it works great as an addition if you decide to try a glass of local vodka or a pint of beer. You can also extend your experience by joining a Craft Beers tour which is a great opportunity to see how the new wave breweries are combining traditional Polish beer styles with modern approach.

Bigos: Polish beloved stew

Known as the "hunter's stew", “bigos” is a hearty and flavorful dish that has been enjoyed by Poles for centuries. Made with sauerkraut, various meats, and aromatic spices, “bigos” is a comforting meal that is perfect for warming up on cold winter days or for sharing with friends and family during festive gatherings.

Oscypek: A taste of the Tatra Mountains

Polish cheese oscypek

When it comes to Polish cheese, “oscypek” is a standout that is beloved by locals and visitors alike. “Oscypek”, a smoked cheese made from sheep's milk, is often enjoyed grilled and served with cranberry sauce. It comes from the Tatra mountains, where it became a true hallmark of the local highlander’s culture. It won’t be a good choice to search for it in restaurants, even if it is commonly served, when you can easily get homemade one! Go and explore the real Poland - find a moment to visit one of two local marketplaces that are located only a few steps from the most important points of interest of the city centre. Both “Hala Targowa” and “Stary Kleparz” are very close to the Main Square.

Sernik: Polish creamy cheesecake

Sernik Polish creamy cheesecake

Polish cheesecake, or “sernik”, is a classic dessert that has been enjoyed in Poland for centuries. Made with farmer's cheese and flavoured with vanilla or lemon zest, “sernik” has a rich and creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Whether enjoyed on its own or topped with fruit compote, is a beloved treat for any occasion. You may visit almost every cafeteria, finding another variation of this delicacy, but we recommend checking Vanilla - a small pastry shop in the heart of the Jewish Quarter that is runned by a local family. Nothing fancy and very small, but it’s hard to find a more authentic taste.

Kremówka: A slice of decadence

polish Kremówka

photo by Franek Vetulani/Wikipedia

Indulge in a taste of Polish decadence with “kremówka”, a luscious cream cake that is a true delight for those who value simplicity. Often associated with Pope John Paul II, who was known to enjoy this dessert, “kremówka” features layers of flaky puff pastry filled with velvety custard cream. Its rich flavour and creamy texture make it a popular choice for special occasions or simply as a sweet indulgence. Once again, we have tried many but it’s hard to find a better one than what they serve in Vanilla on Brzozowa street.

Zapiekanka: Kraków's ultimate street food

Zapiekanka - Kraków's street food

photo by Mariuszjbie/Wikipedia

Satisfy your hunger with “zapiekanka”, a beloved Polish street food consisting of a toasted open-faced sandwich topped with mushrooms, cheese, and various other toppings. Whether enjoyed as a quick snack or a hearty meal, this casserole is a delicious and convenient option for food lovers on the go. The most famous spot is the centre of the nightlife in the Jewish Quarter called the New Square (“Plac Nowy”). It won’t be missed as it is served from many windows of a distinctive rounded building in the middle of the square - in the past it was a kosher slaughterhouse.

Kraków's culinary delights are blending tradition with innovation to create a food scene that is uniquely Polish. From pierogi to zapiekanka, each dish tells a story of cultural heritage, local flavours, and communal gatherings. Whether you're a seasoned foodie or a curious traveller, Kraków's culinary landscape is sure to leave you with lasting memories and a desire to return for more!

While you go and explore we strongly recommend using our Walkative online map, where we constantly add more spots to visit - restaurants, food courts and local cafes… Enjoy!

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