Krakow
by James Callery

Saul Bellow once wrote: “Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.” The same could be said of Krakow. In one of the world’s most resilient cities, each street bleeds history and every unturned corner beckons further exploration.

Krakow’s architecture is testament to the city’s fragmented past. Rows of time-ravaged buildings from the Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance era sit gloriously beside one another on any given street.

We begin our weekend break at Rynek Główny; the largest fully intact medieval square in Europe. The square is abuzz with cafes, flower stalls and horse-drawn carriages as tourists throng to its 700-year-old Cloth Hall.

The nearby Cafe Camelot serves as a peculiar but pleasant lunch spot – its pink brick walls adorned with kitsch wooden statues and Christian memorabilia.

A rickety tram then takes us two stops to the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz where bohemian bars, beaten-down buildings and cobbled streets abound. We stop for drinks at Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu, an enchanting candle-lit restaurant with vintage décor, situated in the heart of the district.

Cafe Camelot

Cafe Camelot

The National Museum is a must-see for anyone visiting the city for the first time. The Gallery of 20th Century Polish Art on the third floor is an impressive, wide-ranging collection with excellent coverage of the Young Poland movement. Equally absorbing is the Gallery of Decorated Art with its 15th Century stained glass windows and ornate wooden furniture.

The Rynek Underground museum, close to Rynek Główny, explores the medieval stalls that predate today’s Cloth Hall. Its expertly-lit cavernous halls make for a captivating afternoon’s viewing.

After some time spent searching for Oskar Schindler’s Factory on the industrial outskirts of the city we arrive to find that it has closed for the day. The adjacent Museum of Contemporary Art is to my mind overrated but the area in itself is compelling; a no man’s land of grey and disused buildings.

City tram

City tram

For travelling twenty-somethings Krakow’s fine architecture, sumptuous food and spirited locals make it the perfect choice for a last-minute weekend break. With tourist favourites the Salt Mines, Wawel Castle and Oskar Schindler’s Factory still on the to-do list, there is still plenty left to merit a second visit.