You'll find all kinds of hotels in Krakow, from cheap, rather seedy dives to modern, high-rise international chains.
I'm a bit reluctant to recommend the first hotel that we stayed in, not because it's bad, quite the opposite in fact. The Hotel Jan at ul Grodzka 11 is fairly new (it opened in 2002) located in an thoroughly renovated 16th century town house, located on the main (pedestrianised) road between the Rynek and Wawel. It's literally less than a 2 minute walk from the Town Square. The fact that the building is so old means that the rooms are rather strangely shaped, long and narrow but still very spacious, as well as clean and having modern furnishings. All rooms have a satellite TV (including MTV and BBC News 24), and an internet connection, if you've brought your own computer along. All rooms also have an en suite bathroom, with a particularly powerful and refreshing shower. The English-speaking staff were extremely friendly and helpful. The only downsides were that, partly due to the buildings age, rooms are not air-conditioned, which might be a bit uncomfortable at the height of summer (although you could always open the window), and breakfast. Basically, at the moment the hotel doesn't have a dining room so breakfast is served in a converted bedroom that holds only 2 tables and which is nowhere near big enough. The breakfast itself wasn't particularly impressive either, a rather small selection of bread, cold meat and cheese, along with cereal.
Anyway, as I said I'm not too keen to recommend it as although it's an excellent hotel in an unbeatable location, it's also extremely good value for money; we were paying £42 per night for a double room. So the reason I don't want to recommend this place is that if I go back to Krakow I'd like to stay here again, and if it gets popular they might realise how under-priced the hotel is and put their prices up. So, for entirely selfish reasons, don't stay at the Hotel Jan.
I booked the hotel (and indeed all the hotels we stayed in in Poland) through HotelsPoland, whom I can thoroughly recommend. They cover all major towns and cities in Poland, and have a wide range of hotels in each at very good prices. For most hotels they will confirm your booking there and then, if not they will check with the hotel and get back to you within 24 hours.
When we went back in 2005 we stayed at the RT Rezydent, which is also on ul Grodzka, about 2 doors down (towards the Rynek) from the Hotel Jan. The hotel is housed in a historic, but renovated, old building. The main problem with it being such an old building is that they're not allowed to put lifts in it, which can be a bit of a problem when you're given a room on the fourth floor, although at least hiking up and down all those stairs several times a day must have helped walk off the beer and dumplings that we were getting through. Our room was fine, big, clean and bright (we were right up in the attic and so although the windows were pretty small we had a skylight too). The furniture wasn't especially modern but functional, although it did take us a few minutes with a Swiss army knife to separate the two single beds that had been pushed together and put a suitably straight distance between them (we put it back again when we left!). Being up in the attic our room was pretty hot, and being such an old building there was no air conditioning either. The room did have a small desk fan, but it didn't make that much difference. The room also had a fridge and satellite TV (with CNN and BBC News, among other channels). The en suite bathroom was also pretty spacious, no bath tub but it did have a pretty good shower. Breakfast was served in the restaurant on the ground floor, but needless to say as it was only served until 10 a.m. I failed to make it down in time once (which at least saved me another journey up and down those stairs). My simian room mate who did make it down (once) reported a spread of ham, cheese, bread, bacon, the usual Central European buffet breakfast really. All the staff that we dealt with were helpful and friendly, and spoke English to a very good level.
One area of concern was that our room overlooked a ladies fitness studio on the other side of the road. We were constantly worried that those sweating, lithe, leotard-clad young girls might take the opportunity to indulge in a spot of voyeurism and peek in at us through the window. I suppose we could have closed the blinds in our room, but then we wouldn't have been able to watch them...
I booked the Rezydent through Hotels.com, the first time I'd used that site (I'd tried booking it earlier through HotelsPoland.com who told me that it was fully booked). We paid a total of £255 for 4 nights, a bit more than I'd normally pay but we did go in peak tourist season, and just about every hotels site I tried using said that most hotels in central Krakow were already fully booked. Basically we were paying for location, and on that score the Rezydent is hard to beat. I'd definitely stay there again.
Our companion Seedy Rob stayed at the PTTK Wyspianski at ul Westerplatte 15 (as if we were going to stay in the same hotel as him!). It's a fairly ugly modern concrete building, but he said that inside it was pleasant enough (we didn't go in for a look at his room ourselves; 2 younger blokes going back to the hotel room of a seedy old man would be bound to give people the wrong idea), and he made it up for the breakfast a few times. The location is pretty good, on the ring-road around the city centre and so only a short walk to the old town, but also close to the railway station.
By the way, if like Rob you're unable to find the Hotel Wyspianski, a good hint is to look for a big building with a massive sign on the front saying "Hotel Wyspianski". That should be the one you're looking for.
In April 2006 I ended up in the RT Monopol (owned by the same group as the Rezydent). It's in a good location, on Sw. Gertrudy, overlooking the Planty park, and less than a 5 minute walk from either the castle or the main square. Our room was round the front, looking over the park and with nice views of the backs of Dominican Church and Sts Peter and Paul. Even though Sw. Gertrudy is quite a busy road (part of the ring road around the Old Town), with a tram line running down the middle of it, our room was pretty quiet and my precious sleep was undisturbed! Inside everything is bright and shiny, the hotel was thoroughly renovated quite recently (as you can see from the photo, it looks like they just kept the façade and rebuilt everything else).
Our room wasn't that big, but it was bright and airy, modern furniture, a very comfy bed, and a TV (no English language channels, as far as I could see, although watching the German equivalent of "You've Been Framed" was a cultural experience... The bathroom was missing a bath, but it did have a decent shower, and a quick-draining floor. Unusually for me I actually made it down in time for breakfast (served until 10), only once, but that's more than I normally manage. It was the usual central European spread of bread, cheese, cold meats, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, hot dog sausages; not bad, and you can grab as much as you want. The hotel also has its own bar, which strangely I didn't get around to trying. All the staff who we dealt with were polite, friendly, and spoke good English. Our 3 night stay here cost just over £150 (through HotelsPoland), which I thought was pretty good value for money.
Krakow's restaurant scene is vibrant. As well as traditional Polish food you'll find restaurant's catering to just about every type of world cuisine. New places are opening all the time, and prices are extremely reasonable. Even the most expensive restaurant in Krakow will let you back much less than an average meal in London.
To keep track of the rapidly changing scene I cannot recommend highly enough the In Your Pocket guide to Krakow. This comes out every two months and so is usually up to date, doesn't take itself too seriously, and has very good and comprehensive listings and reviews of restaurants, bars and clubs in Krakow. At 10zl (£1.50) it's a bargain.
What follows is a guide to the places where we Scotsman ate. To be honest I didn't have a single bad meal in Krakow, and I'd recommend any of them. If however nothing here takes your fancy a half hour wonder around the Old Town will take you past dozens of restaurants, so there's bound to be something for everyone. Italian, Mexican and Chinese places are popular, but more unusual tastes are catered for, and you'll find, among others, Australian, Scottish, Georgian, Russian, Indian, Japanese and Brazilian restaurants. Most places pin their menus up outside so you can check out what's on offer and how much it costs before you go in, just bare in mind that they usually only post a selection rather than the full menu.
Hawelka, on the Town Square (Rynek Glowny 34), is something of a Krakow institution, serving traditional Polish food in a rather refined atmosphere. The dining room is covered in reproductions of historic oil paintings as well as framed photos and letters from people we'd never heard of but who we assumed were famous Poles who'd eaten here before. For all we knew they could have been warnings from previous patrons. The service was a bit formal but apparently Hawelka is less stuck up (and expensive) than some of its neighbours. There was certainly no arguing with the food which was very good, and good value. The Scotsman went for the perch in grey sauce which he enjoyed, and I went for duck Krakow style (in mushroom sauce) which was also excellent. The beer was good and cheap too. All in all, a very good place, even if it's a bit posher than I'm used to.
Metropolitan (on ul Slawkowska 3) is a newish looking place serving international "fusion" cuisine (Polish food with international influences; think of what the food looks like on Ready Steady Cook, all arranged in pretty patterns). The surroundings are pleasant, with each room having it's own international theme; we were stuck in the English section, with pictures of London bobbies (not kicking the shit out of some defenseless suspect though) and "traditional" London pubs. The Scotsman wasn't too impressed with his trio of fish in a wicker basket which was according to him a triumph of presentation over content but I greatly enjoyed my Chinese-influenced pork strips in honey and ginger sauce, and the cheesecake was out of this world. The only problem I had with this place was that the draught beer was Heineken. Why, why, why??
Possibly the best known restaurant in Krakow is Chlopskie Jadlo. They now have 3 branches in Krakow, the original at ul sw. Agnieszki 1, one at ul Grodzka 9 (which used to be called Krew i Roza), and the last at sw. Jana 3. Each restaurant has a different, "traditional" theme. The one on sw Agnieszki is done up like a country pub, the one on ul Grodzka is like a coaching inn (complete with a table made from an old cart, and chairs made out of barrels and sections of tree trunk; those with piles would do well to bring a cushion along); when we were staying in the Hotel Jan our room overlooked the outdoor tables and it took us a while to work out what the hell it was; some kind of theme-brothel was our first guess....
I'm not entirely sure what the "theme" of the restaurant on sw. Jana is, possibly the inside of a mountain chalet, but as out table was made up to look like a double bed, complete with pillows and a nice pink bedspread it's maybe meant to be a traditional country gay bordello. OK, dodgy decor aside there's no arguing with the food, which is traditional Polish stuff. The first thing the waiter did was plonk a platter of bread and two tin cups full of what we at first took to be mashed potato on our table. It turned out not to be mashed potato; one cup contained cream-cheese and the other lard flavoured with crackling and spices. Don't knock it until you've tried it, smeared over the bread it was very nice indeed (and, apparently, a very popular snack throughout Poland), and as it was free anyway you don't have to touch it. Among other things we've tried and can recommend (and please remember that this is the result of 5 separate trips with up to 4 people, most of them fellow stout trenchermen, I didn't eat all this lot in one go, I'm not quite that fat a bastard, yet) are starters of mushroom soup and barszcz (borsch, hot beetroot soup, lovely), which also comes with mushroom-stuffed pasta floating in it, or as a side dish with a potato croquet. For main courses, pork cutlet (a huge slab of pork in a light batter), black pudding (a plate full, although sadly served mashed and not whole, as God intended), trout (huge! looked more like a dolphin!), bigos (a sort of meat and cabbage stew, periogi (dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese, or cabbage). Sod it, basically just try anything, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Other things on the menu that we haven't got around to trying (yet) include game, as well as temptations (that have to ordered in advance) like whole roast pig. Wash it all down with good, cheap Polish beer on draught. Strangely enough I've never tried the puddings in Chlopskie Jadlo, I'm always too stuffed from the main course... The prices in Chlopskie Jadlo are above average for Krakow, but given the size of the portions and the quality of the food I'm sure you won't feel short-changed. The restaurants are also very popular; if there's a big group of you it'd be best to make a reservation, otherwise you might be waiting a while for a table.
In a similar vein is Gospoda u Zdzicha, on the town square at Rynek 24. The food is again Polish, with the emphasis on dead animals, as is the decor, with the walls festooned with stuffed animals and bird, a carnivore's paradise! Among the things we tried were black pudding (as a starter, mashed but piled high on a big plate, easily enough for a main course), garlic soup, wiener schnitzel (huge, it covered the whole plate!), shashnick (a kebab with steak, bacon, and peppers), and a big steak. The portions are big, the food is great, the prices are surprising (4 of us weren't holding back and our combined bill came to just over £20), and excellent, friendly service (there's just something about waitresses dressed up as peasant girls...), a superb place.
On Grodzka (about a 5 minute walk away from our hotel) we tried the Balaton Hungarian restaurant (Grodzka 37); it doesn't look too impressive from outside, and the interior doesn't really inspire confidence either, but appearances are deceptive as the food is excellent. We both went for soups in here which arrived in little cauldrons with a little oil fire burning underneath. Luckily it wasn't just a gimmick as the soups (I had chicken and noodle and the Scotsman a spicy fish soup) were excellent. For the main course the Scotsman went for the trout with almonds which he polished off and I went for the specialty of the house ghoulash with potato pancake, which really hit the spot. Again the service was quick and friendly and even with a few beers a piece the bill came to less than £5 each. And one other touch I particularly liked, rather than order a bottle of wine you could order a whole bottle of vodka for your table. A touch of class.
Restauracja Cechowa is on ul. Jagiellonska, close to the University. The fact that it isn't quite on one of the main tourist drags is the only reason I can think of for the remarkably low prices. The surroundings are quite refined (the kind of place you expect to have someone tinkling away on a piano in the background), the service professional and attentive, the food well cooked and extremely cheap. I started with the bouillon (basically chicken noodle soup), followed by the pork parcel (a pork fillet stuffed with ham and smoked cheese) both of which were perfect. I was too busy scoffing to pay much attention to what everyone else was having, but I believe steak tartar, borsch, wiener schnitzel, and fish in Greek sauce (some kind of salsa involving vegetables) all made an appearance, and all plates were left empty! For the puddings I can recommend the pear (whole, cooked) with chocolate sauce and pistachio ice cream, a lovely combination. A top place, give it a try!
On the same street is Poezja Smaku (at ul Jagiellonska 5) which serves Polish-themed food in a very attractive underground cellar. Prince Edward ate here on a visit to Krakow and they have a special "Prince Edward Menu" which looked pretty reasonable value at less than £20 for about 5 courses. Luckily they haven't put a photo of the slap-headed talentless free-loader on the menu too, no doubt realising that it'd put you off your dinner. I had the pork fillet, which came in a sort of creamy, mushroom sauce, and was served on what the menu described as "fluffy pastry", which actually turned out to be a pancake. Very nice it was too. For pudding I had the cheescake with jam, which was sensational. My companion, lacking my gargantuan appetite, opted for a starter of breaded mushrooms and a desert of "pasha" cheesecake (basically mashed up cheesecake served in a glass). Excellent service, and it was a lot cheaper than we were expecting (all that food and a few beers came to a lot less than (£20).
The best food I've had in Krakow (and just about anywhere else, for that matter) was in Farina (at ul Sw. Marka 16, on the corner with Sw. Jana). In case the display of dead fish on ice when you walk in and the little fishy designs on the backs of the chairs doesn't give you a clue, Farina is mainly a sea food restaurant (although they do have a range of pasta and meat dishes for unrepentant carnivores). This is one of the few places in Krakow where you get fresh oysters. I had what was described on the menu as "Merlin, Creole Style"; I think they may have meant Marlin (swordfish), but then again they might not, what the hell do I know about fish? It was gorgeous, perfectly cooked in little strips of flaky pastry, totally delicious. My companion had the sole with prawns on a hot pepper sauce which was beautifully presented, although I didn't try any of it as I was too busy trying to clear my own plate, but apparently it was delicious too. The food , by the way, took rather a long time to come after ordering it, which I think is a good sign as it shows they're cooking it properly rather than just heating up something that was prepared earlier. The desert menu held many temptations but I eventually settled for the white chocolate mousse on a raspberry sauce which was superb, and my friend the pyramid of chocolate which cherry sauce which I sampled a bit of and was then nearly tempted to order one myself. This was the most expensive meal we had in Krakow coming in at just under 200zl (around £36) but that included a nice bottle of Spanish rose that amounted to nearly half the bill (the wine list is fairly extensive by Krakow standards). Excellent, professional service and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and very pleasant surroundings (done up like some Italian country farm house) make this a place I'll definitely be returning to. It has its own website.
Nostalgia is just outside the Old Town, at ul Karmelicka 10. We were lured there by the In Your Pocket review that promised a bit more choice than usual for veggies (well, my veggie friend was lured, I couldn't give a damn about vegetarian food!). I had the bouillon with mushroom-stuffed dumplings (more like ravioli actually) to start, the steak in blue cheese sauce (lovely and rare, oozing blood, so much for the vegetarians!) with potato wedges for the main course, and cheese cake for pudding. All of it was very good. My friend had the fried goats cheese which came with a cranberry sauce and garlic broccoli, and a side order of vegetables (which was also mainly broccoli). All the food was very good, and great value for money, although one thing we didn't like was that the wine servings were ridiculously small (didn't bother me as I was on beer), but then it was pretty cheap as well. Nostalgia was perhaps a little lacking in atmosphere compared to some of the other places we tried, which might be a result of its location, or because it seems to be a fairly new restaurant but we had complaints about the food or the service.
Most of the restaurants and cafes that surround the Town Square also have an area of tables outdoors around the edges of the square itself which make an ideal place to sit and watch the world go by on a sunny day, in the company of a beer or 3. One place we tried was Loza at Rynek Glowny 41, easily distinguishable by its selection of waitresses in short, 1920s Charleston-style dresses. Luckily it has other attractions, namely the menu. We stopped off here for a breather, a few beers and a snack; the Scotsman had some kind of pasta combination while I went for the carpaccio of sirloin sprinkled with parmesan; very nice and good value for money.
We spent a lot of time in Pronto (at the corner of Grodzka and Dominikanska), mainly because we thought it was half way between our hotel and the hotel where our friend Rob was staying (it wasn't!), and it seemed a good place to meet up. There's nothing special about Pronto, but it was a pleasant pace to sit out in the sun drinking beer, waiting for Rob to finish whatever it was he was doing in the privacy of his hotel room. It'd have been even more pleasant without a taxi rank outside it though... They have a limited food menu too, and we did give that a try once, when for some reason we'd failed to get up in time for breakfast at our hotel. My baboon-like friend had the omlette, which seemed fine, I went for the fried egg and chips expecting, well a plate of fried eggs and chips, instead I got what looked like a big, thin omlette with some half cooked chips in it, which was a bit bland and not especially pleasant.
There's a McDonalds in Krakow, next to the Florian Gate, as well as KFC. As usual I won't be recommending them.
For an after-drink (or between-drink) munch, happy news is that there is an abundance of kebab shops dotted throughout the Old Town many of which stay open into the early hours. Many also offer falafel, hot-dogs, burgers, or pizza slices. I tried a few (although unfortunately I'm unable to say exactly which ones as my memory appears to be playing tricks with me, although I think one was on ul Florianska and one was on ul Grodzka) and those I did try were very cheap and tasted superior to their UK counterparts; they didn't even make me feel ill the next morning. Be warned though that some establishments seem to think that you can make a kebab out of beef! Heresy! A kebab is lamb, chicken at a pinch, but never beef. Ask before you buy!
Moving on to bars, you'll be pleased to here that the situation is just as good. A feature peculiar to Krakow is the widespread cellar-bar. In common with most old cities the buildings that you now see in Krakow are built on top of even older ones. What is now underground was once at street level (have a look at St Adalbert's Church in the Rynek to see what I mean; the original entrance which would have been at street-level, is now almost 2 metres below the current level of the square). Anyway, the result is that most buildings in the Old Town have the remains of older buildings underneath them. Under the communists because of complicated regulations relating to the use of property they were almost all ignored but in the last 10 years they have been rediscovered and the result is that almost perfectly preserved medieval cellars are now being opened up again, and most are being pressed into service as bars. They are amazing, atmospheric places; most retain the original bare brick-work, and they vary in size from tiny, single vaults to veritable underground caverns. There are so many of the places (they're under pretty much every building in the Old Town) that's it's impossible for me to make any general recommendations, I can only detail the small percentage of them that we went into. My advice would be to have a wander round, pop your head in the door until you find one where you like the atmosphere; there'll be one somewhere to match whatever mood you're in, whether you just want a quite and reflective pint, or a raucous session into the early hours. You'll also be pleased to know that, in common with every country in the world, the opening hours are considerably more enlightened than those in the UK. Nearly every bar stays open until at least midnight, most will still be going at 2 or 3 a.m., and you won't have many problems finding a bar to take you through until first light, even on a Sunday night.
Anyway, in no particular order here are some of the bars that we can remember going in. The usual disclaimers apply, i.e. don't blame me for giving misleading descriptions caused by wearing beer-goggles.
The bar where we ended up spending the most time, partly because it was just over the road from our hotel, partly because it stays open until 5am was the Tower Pub on ul Grodzka (don't know the number but close to the Town Square). This is a marvellous place, it seemed to be older than many of the other cellar bars, it's divided up into several small rooms, and it still has the preserved fireplaces and chimneys in the walls. There seemed to be more stairs to get down to it than to most other cellars too (which caused a bit of problem when we got so pissed that we couldn't find the way back out again).. Inside there's a wide range of cheap drinks, lots of different beers, a friendly atmosphere, and a cheerful, almost paternal, barman. They were even happy for us to come back after one of our party (naming no names) (Rob Shepherd) got so hurrened that he threw up in here twice. A very eclectic juke box too, Elvis, Bloodhound Gang, and lots of metal (the bar is popular with goths). Very highly recommended.
CK Browar at ul Podwale 6-7 is just outside the Old Town, under the Elefant department store. It's divided up into several vaults, on of which has a nightclub, one a restaurant, and one (where we spent the most time) a bar. They serve their own home-brewed beer in here, you can see the huge copper kettles behind the bar. Another nice touch is that you can get a glass tube containing 6 to 8 pints brought to your table and then serve it up at your leisure. They brew at least 2 different types of beer and I particularly liked the one brewed with ginger, very refreshing. The only downside is that you have to pay the attendant every time you use the toilet, even if you're a customer. It's fairly dark and smoky in the bar anyway so you could probably piss on the floor without anyone noticing.
The Piwnica Pod Zlota Pipa at ul Florianska 30 was a very nice cellar bar, cozy and friendly. If you must they do Guinness on draught but a better bet would be their mad version of chess where all the pieces are represented by shot glasses full of different Polish vodkas; when you take a piece you drink its contents. A very fine place, with its own website.
We also paid several visits to the Podium at ul. Bracka 4. This is another of the brick-vaulted cellar bars, which we liked because of its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. They also have a decent range of drinks, including a couple of varieties of Murphy's on draught. Nothing particularly remarkable about it then, but a very pleasant place for a beer or 3, and we ended up in here at some point just about every night.
Klub Re on ul. sw Krzyza 4 is a vast underground vault divided up into several rooms and notable for its comfy armchairs and sofas, and for having tokay (a very sweet Hungarian wine) available on draught. Worth a visit.
Although jazz isn't usually my bag I was prepared to make an exception when we visited Boogie Woogie at ul. Szpitalna 9. This (ground floor) bar had live jazz when we were there although they don't do it every night. Maybe it was because I'd had a few but they seemed pretty good to me, and the Scotsman, who is more of a jazz aficionado seemed to enjoy himself. With its cheap drink, comfy chairs, and cocktail list non-jazz-fans would probably enjoy it too.
Stan Wyjatkowy at ul Florianska 8 is a cellar-bar in a big vault, with coloured lights projected onto the walls, and very comfy armchairs to sink back into. It seemed almost deserted when we were in there but the relaxing atmosphere would probably make it a good spot to recover your energies in the middle of a pub crawl. Unisex toilets without locks will probably cause additional merriment!
Possibly the most pleasant cellar bar we ended up in was on ul Sienna, just off the Rynek. I can't exactly remember its name, but I think it was called Faust. Anyway it's a vast place that extends for some distance underground. It's either newly opened or recently refurbished, and it has been minimally decorated, preserving the beauty of the original brick vaulting. Friendly English-speaking staff, reasonably priced beer and enlightened opening hours make this an excellent place to spend an hour or 4.
Nic Nowego ("Nothing New") is at sw. Krzyza 15. The owner is Irish, and the Irish tricolour flies outside, but put any thoughts of theme pubs out of your head; you'll find no green paint, shamrock or leprechauns in here, instead the owner has aimed for the look and feel of one of the modern bars you'll find popping up in city-centre Dublin. The inside is airy and bright (white, not green!) in case you fancy a change from all those cellar bars, with plenty of really comfy seats and a large screen TV (usually showing a sports channel; we saw the first half of an English Premiership match here, and the final of the US Open tennis). They do serve Guinness and Stongbow cider on draught but also have cheap Polish beer. The food menu is geared towards snacks rather than big meals, but what we had was excellent, the cauliflower soup and baguettes - I had the chicken and caramelised onion which was divine, but not quite as good as the brie and bacon one I had on my next visit, which hit the spot just perfectly - both come highly recommended, sadly I never did get round to trying the full Irish breakfast, or the lethal-sounding Texas Guinness chili. Maybe next time... The bar has a really great atmosphere, enhanced by a good music selection, a friendly owner who seems quite happy to come round and chat to his customers, and this seems to be the kind of place you could spend all afternoon reading a book and nobody would mind. All in all this is a superb place, don't miss it! Check out the website here.
You'll find Piekny Pies at sw Jana 18. It's a bright, modern place full of young, trendy, beautiful people, so I'm not entirely sure what we were doing there, but they let us in. I think I must have been tempted by the word "pies" appearing in the name... It has decent beer that wasn't too overpriced, although we made a mistake by switching to neat Zubrowka vodka (in fairness, the girl behind the bar did try and persuade us to mix it with apple juice). Some of us paid the price later...
Fusion Club is a cellar bar on ul Florianska (number 15). The night we went in they had some kind of fashion night, which involved a bunch of models wondering round wearing strange (and not particularly revealing, damn it) clothing, in fact I think it was probably the sight of one of these models being photographed (wearing not much) outside the bar that tempted us in in the first place. We're so shallow... We had to pay 5zl to get in (not sure if that applies every night, or just on fashion nights), but it was very pleasant inside, a nicely decorated cellar with a few comfy chairs (appreciated by the older member of our party), a dance floor, and a decent bar (unlike some of these trendier bars, they have reasonably priced draught beer, and serve it in manly pint glasses). We were probably a bit out of place among all the young and stylish people, but nobody made us feel unwelcome, and the bar staff were great (even the goons on the door were quite friendly). While we were in there someone was going round taking photos of everyone in the club to stick on the internet as a promotion. The link is here, but if you just want to go straight to the highlights you'll find them here and here! Can you see how well we fit in with everyone else there? The club's own website is here.
There's a very strange bar under the Old Theatre (Stary Teatr); the entrance is on Jagiellonska, more or less opposite from the Rooster restaurant, go in to the theatre and then down the spiral staircase. The place is hard to describe, apart from "weird"; the walls are curtains covered in plaster, there appears to be a metal tree growing out of the bar and spreading over the ceiling, the bar appears to be back-lit panels of amber, and there are lots of art nouveau-ish glass lamps. The seats are really comfy though, especially those in the private booths, just the place for a nice nap. Definitely somewhere a bit different! The only thing I didn't like was that you have to climb up the spiral staircase to get to the toilets, and then pay an attendant for the privilege of using them!
For those more interested in boogying than boozing I can recommend a few places.
Kredens is a night club on the Town Square (Rynek Glowny 12). It's an incredible place in a vast underground vault, cheap to get in and cheap drink once you're in. It was packed when I was there, and things can get quite sweaty underground, or maybe that was just me.
Carpe Diem 2 on (actually, under) Slawkowska is really strange place... It's in a big range of underground cellars, and different bits of it seem to have wildly different themes; parts felt like a biker bar, there were strange wooden walkways in other bits, there's quite a big dance floor, and a couple of bars down there too. For a club the beer was very reasonably priced, it stays open until 4 a.m, and it was pretty friendly, we ended up chatting to a few drunk Poles (I think they wanted to practice their English), and at some point a couple of us got dragged on to the dance floor, although thankfully that didn't last too long. When we went back the next day though we saw loads of people coming out in a panic, some with tears in their eyes; it looked like something had kicked off in the club, and one of the private security guards that these places hire must have decided to let off his canister of CS gas (not the best idea in an underground club, but these guys probably aren't hired for their intelligence...). Pay a visit, but take a gas mask just in case...Carpe Diem 2 has a website, but it's a bit odd!
We ended up in Frantic, at ul Szewska, at some point, but for various reasons I can't remember all that much about it (my main memory was of being stuck next to a group of loud-mouthed Aussies who were mouthing off about something (losing the Ashes, probably) and just wouldn't shut the fuck up!). I do remember that it's underground and huge, in a series of sweaty cellars, it took me ages to find the toilets (although I had had a few by then), there was loud music, more than once dance floor, several bars, and a chill out zone upstairs. Another place with a website.