Here are some of the food and drink experiences that I highly recommend that you do whilst you are in Krakow. I have personally done all of these, and would suggest that they are essentials to be added to your ‘To do list’ if you ever get to Krakow. On that subject, I suggest you go! Krakow is just a short six hour flight from Dubai and it can be reached affordably by flying with Fly Dubai.
Krakow is going to be the European Capital of Gastronomy Culture next year so if you are doing your culinary holiday research, I urge you to add it to your list!.
Shop like a local at Targ Pietruszkowy
Targ Pietruszkowy (Parsley Market) is the weekly farmers market which connects suppliers directly with customers with organic, fresh, natural and pesticide products. The products are sourced from within a 150km distance of Krakow. The market is just across the Pilsudski Bridge in Podgórze and consists of two main areas. In the square are producers of fruit, vegetables, pickles, jams, fresh herbs etc. Whilst underground, you will find producers with eggs, cheese, cream, milk and meat.
We arrive on a warm summers day with a shopping list of ingredients we need for a cooking class that we will be attending later. The stall holders are generally friend and our lack of Polish was no problem. Be prepared to enjoy samples of products as you wander. Compared to Dubai, prices are super reasonable and we can’t help but find ourselves wishing that we had such a wide range of seasonal fruit and vegetables available to us. The variety of soft fruit was really good.
Picnic like a local at Cracovian Picnic
The Krakow picnic (PikNikKrawoski) is a short five minutes walk from Targ Pietruszkowy in Bednarski Park. This is a casual affair with a variety of food and drink trucks, activities and play areas for children plus music. Seating is al fresco near the food trucks on benches or casually throughout the park on bean bags or picnic blankets.
We arrive early, whilst it’s relative quite and feast on a variety of different cold drinks, including a great original cola as well as Specialty Coffee from Dobra Coffee. We snack on polish sweet pastries and try out food from a few of the food trucks. If we had more time, I’m sure lazing about on a beanbag and soaking up the summer sun and ordering more food and drink would have been something that we would have loved to do! Ah well, next time!
Prepare local food at a cooking class
Our shopping haul from Targ Pietruszkowy is going to be transformed from bags of shopping to a delicious lunch which we are going to prepare along with our local host. Classes are held in a private apartment in a traditional Polish apartment block and can be booked by arrangement.
The highlight of our Krakow experiences for me is a private cooking class using local seasonal produce to cook a tasty two course meal.
We arrive just before lunchtime and are soon put to work at the communal kitchen area of the apartment. Cooking like this is a treat and therapeutic as well as educational. Some of us chop, some of us slice, some of us choose to sit and watch. Overall, it doesn’t matter what you chose to do and how much you want to get involved, at the end of the session lunch is prepared and served for all. Our host, Kasia Pi Pilitowska has chosen to make a selection of vegetarian dishes for lunch using the fresh vegetables we picked up in the market. She supplements the menu with a few store cupboard essentials and before we know it a tasty lunch is prepared. Lunch is served in her beautiful dining room on plates and bowls that have a sense of age about them. Not in a worn out way, but in a loved and preloved way, adding a sense of “rustic Poland” to the experience.
What’s interesting to us is that the food not only packs a punch in terms of taste and flavor for us, but also of nostaglia for our Polish hosts. A simple dish made of cabbage, caraway seeds, butter and love makes them reminisce to their family meals and happy memories. The addition of simple toasted breadcrumbs and butter adds a new texture to green beans whilst baked courgettes complete with flowers, picked up at the last minute because they looked nice at the market, all add to our lunch. Cucumber and dill salad, local honey in a salad dressing, a simple tomato and cheese salad, and a fresh loaf of bread from the market add to our meal. As do platters of local smoked cheese served with a jammy berry condiment and a simple dessert (called Kogel Model) of local fruits baked with egg yolks and sugar and dried with lavender syrup leaves us full yet contented and wistfully smiling.
There’s something quite special about this cooking experience. Sharing food with others always makes me happy, but shopping for it, preparing it together and learning about Polish culture as we chop, stir and cook just adds to the experience and it’s one that I’d like to repeat again.
This doesn’t feel like a cooking class, it’s more like an intimate glimpse into Kasia’s life. A typical Saturday morning, shopping and cooking for friends. It’s blissful.
Make Obwarzaneki at a cooking class
Obwarzanek are a regional street snack in Krakow which you can pick up from street carts as you walk around. Obwarzanek are braided ring-shaped bread which have been boiled then baked and then sprinkled with salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds. There are only 8 official bakeries licenced who make Obwarzanek in Krakow (they have protected geographical indicaion status) and they make about 150,000 each day! They are similar to Simmit and Bagels and can be eaten as is or sliced and filled with a filling of your choice – cream cheese and smoked salmon for me please! We’re booked in to attend a fun workshop at the small Zwye museum Obwarzanka in Rynek Kleparski. The class is educational and interactive and after learning about the history of Obwarzanki you get the chance to roll up your sleeves and make your own! The process is simple yet fun and it’s good to do this with company for some added banter! We’ve given some dough which we then roll the twist it around to make it into a ring! We then decorated by sprinkling with salt, poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Our teacher than takes over and immerses the dough in boiling water and then bakes them until crispy (approx 10 minutes). The result is a gorgeous dense baked bread ring which you get to snack on as you celebrate your new found skill!
Escape Krakow for Trout
If you leave Poland without escaping to at least one National Park then you have missed a trick! What’s better than a National Park visit? A National Park with fresh trout for lunch! Just a short drive from Krakow is Pstrag Ojcowski, a trout farm set in Ojcowski National Park. The trout are raised on a reserve by mother and daughter duo Magda and Agneiskza who are passionate about raising the trout in a responsible and sustainable way. The park gives lots of opportunities to get out in the fresh air and take a stroll and as an added bonus, you can feast on the tasty trout in a gorgeous setting as your reward!
Escaping the hustle and bustle of Krakow, we take a short drive to Pastrag Ojcowski and take a short walk from the National Park gates to the Trout Farm. The farm is in two parts, the trout ponds where the trout are reared and a picnic area. We’re given a tour of the facility, watch the trout being fed and learn how much skill and dedication it takes to raise the trout in a sustainable manner. Once our tour is over we feast on trout which are served simply straight from the smoker or simply roasted in foil. Sides include pickles, crusty bread and sauerkraut along with some fabulous juices. The picnic area is casual and relaxed, choose a deckchair, pick a table, spread a picnic blanket on the grass beside the trout lake, this is one place where you will want to spend some peaceful time and relax.
I wanted to stay longer, to walk, to relax and immerse myself in the atmosphere some more. I felt totally at home in Poland and loved how it reached me on an emotional and physical level in so many different ways.
Escape Krakow for Cheese
Poland produces lots of different varieties of cheese. Whilst you can buy it at the Parsley Market (above) or in lots of shops, what better experience than to go visit Visit the shelter of Wojciech Komperdy and see it being made traditionally by hand. Wojciech Komperdy is a certified producer of jagnięcina podhalańska (lamb, Protected Geographical Indication), bryndza podhalańska, oscypek, and redykołek (cheese, Protected Designation of Origin)
The shelter is located at in Pieniny National Park in the Podhale region. About an hour from Krakow. We visit on a beautiful sunny day. Inside the smoky shelter three men sit around a big fire, slowly heating sheeps milk to the right temperature, before making and shaping three different types of cheese. It’s fascinating to watch, but hot, smoky and difficult to remain inside the shelter for long. The men sit beside the fire for hours on end making the cheese in a tradition way, and then shaping the cheese using traditional shapes and styles. Once shaped the cheese is left to dry and smoke naturally inside the shelter. Whilst we are there, people regularly pop in to buy their cheese. We take a short ten minute walk to find the sheep who produce the milk that the cheese is made from and fall in love with the huge mountain shepherd dogs who are looking after the sheep. The men in the shelter are not just cheesemakers, they are called Baca which means that they are also shepherd to the sheep. Baca often still wear the typical clothing of the region.
After watching the cheesemaking for a while we are treated to a platter of the cheese, paired simply with a jar of lingonberry jam preserve and eaten al fresco in gorgeous countryside.
My favorite cheese is Oscypek a gorgeous smoked sheep milk cheese. The smoky exterior hides a white inside and it’s perfect for eating grilled, fried or cubed in salads etc. The spindle shaped Oscypek is the traditional shape and has to have 60% sheep milk to retain it’s PDO status. If you are at the shelter, they will happily shrink wrap the cheese making it suitable to bring back home.
And finally …A few non food related things outside of Krakow too!
It would be remiss of me not to mention a few non food related activities that you can enjoy outside of Krakow too! Here goes:
Visit Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Salt was once called “white gold’ because of its value, not just in terms of purchasing cost but because the salt contributed to 30% of Poland’s national Income. We explored only a tiny part of this gorgeous salt mine which comes complete with a salt carved Chapel and a tonne of history. Next time I want to do the caving option that allows you to explore so much more of mine and also perhaps visit the spa for a spot of pampering.
Visit a Castle
Work off a heavy lunch by walking up to the Renaissance castle at Pieskowa Skała built by King Kazimierz the Great. It’s an easy walk up to the castle which gives scenic views from the late defensive system which surrounds it called “Trail of the Eagles’ Nest,”
Forest walk & caves
We visited Łokietek’s Cave the largest cave in Ojców National Park,which is said to have sheltered King Władysław I Łokietek. To get to the caves take a walk through a gorgeous old forest in a park full of limestone cliffs, ravines and over 400 caves.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Krajowy Osderek Wsparcia Rolnictwa (the National Support Centre for Agriculture in Poland),Poland Tastes Goodand the Krakow Municipality with the mission to learn and share about Poland and its food, cuisine, culture and culinary traditions. This compilation has been drawn from their experiences – some of them hosted and some self-paid. www.kowr.gov.pl