Poland’s second-largest city is best known for being the hometown of 19th century composer Frédéric Chopin (and perhaps his namesake vodka), its Gothic architecture and its proximity to Auschwitz. Recently, Kraków’s excellent bars and restaurants — many of which are in the city’s vibrant Jewish Quarter — have begun to attract visitors from abroad. One aspect of the city’s culture that has always shone bright, however, is locals’ love of coffee and the surrounding café culture. Here are three cafés that help keep Kraków moving.
From the outside, Charlotte appears to be a bakery or a bread museum. One of its two giant front windows serves as a frame for ornately displayed loaves of various shapes and sizes. Inside, the airy, high-ceilinged space — which feels more Scandinavian than Polish with its modern, elegant wood-and-marble decor — reveals a balcony where relaxed, classy Krakówianins perch. The food is simple: Perfect baked goods, egg dishes and sandwiches brim with fresh ingredients, alongside excellent coffee, beer and wine. The servers are affable and attentive as they tend to customers at the café’s centerpiece communal table or its surrounding counter and table seats. plac Szczepański 2, Kraków, Poland; http://bistrocharlotte.pl
Wesola Café translates loosely to Cheerful Café. True to its name, the minimal yet comfortable space is immediately welcoming, with several handsome men and women bustling behind its large butcher-block counter. A bright white neon sign — the only object on an otherwise vacant brick wall on the right side — states: Lepiej Pić Kawę Niż Nie, which translates to “It is better to drink a good cup of coffee than not.” Nobody at Wesola will argue with this statement. I ordered an Americano, but my server gently convinced me that I’d be much happier with one of his pour-overs, which turned out to be true. The café proudly cranks out espresso drinks with patience and care, while a large breakfast and lunch menu offers several vegetarian options that include smoothies and fresh juices. The quality of Wesola’s omelets, soups, sandwiches and Polish pastries match the excellent coffee and vibes. Rakowicka 17, 31-511 Kraków, Poland; wesolacafe.pl
Tektura relies more on coziness and comfort than on modern, clean lines. Two dozen bottled beer options are displayed above the front counter, next to a blackboard offering smoothies, sandwiches and, of course, coffee. The young clientele is at once more social and more focused than at the other cafés in Kraków. White brick walls and small wood tables line the long, narrow space, which is inhabited mostly by students sipping from cups while staring down at their laptops or discussing important-sounding issues in Polish. Like other Kraków cafés, the food is surprisingly great — in this case, Greek yogurt with house-made granola and artfully arranged fresh fruit — and the coffee is even greater. Krupnicza 7, 33-332 Kraków, Poland