I thought I loved Krakow until I visited their Christmas market – and then I knew I REALLY REALLY loved Krakow.
Every year, from the end of November until a couple days before Christmas (for the Advent period), Krakow’s old town center is transformed into a glittery, chilly, winter wonderland full of amazing smells, fabulous finds, and tons of Christmas cheer.
There is something about Christmas markets that makes my soul happy and feeds me with a glowing feeling – people coming together, browsing beautiful goods made carefully to celebrations, sipping warm drinks and huddling over delicious regional foods – all while the snow swirls and you hear the sounds of Christmas music and carolers rejoicing in the Advent season.
Ok- so I know that was a giant paragraph of flowery garbage – but seriously, that’s how they make me feel.
Christmas markets feel so whimsical and fun – I felt like a little kid marching through the stands filled to the brims with beautiful handmade gingerbreads, chocolates (including some that looked like rusty tools!!), wooden toys, candy, grilled sausages and bread, mulled wine – all under the Cloth Hall tower and Saint Mary’s Basilica.
Krakow’s Christmas Market isn’t the largest in Poland, but it is lively and gorgeous.
It is a must-see for anyone with a Christmas market wish list – and one of my favorite travel memories to date!
I am hoping I can make visiting Poland’s Christmas Markets an annual tradition – and hope to be able to bring my kids to one soon!
What to Eat
Grilled Bread slathered in garlic butter (other toppings include polish sausage- which I view as mandatory-, grilled onions, pickles, and more.)
Traditional Polish Soups
On a cold Winter’s night there is nothing more comforting than a delicious, hearty soup. Be sure to try Zurek – Poland’s famous Sour Rye Soup (which tastes a bit like chicken noodle soup, but with sourdough and lots of sausage inside.)
Grilled Sausages, Pork Knuckles, Kebabs, Black Pudding
Poland knows meat – and if you see a stand selling grilled sausages, beef, pork, and other tasty finds – just try it! And try it all. You won’t be disappointed. (Think you love polska kielbasa? TRY IT IN POLAND. You might never leave!!)
Polish smoked and cheese, from Poland’s mountainous Zakopane region (click here to see my previous visit to Zakopane), which is grilled on small charcoal grills around the square and served with cranberry sauce (my favorite) or bacon and dates.
What to Buy
Small, beautiful glass ornaments are everywhere in Krakow’s Christmas market – and worth taking home! There are tons of lovely designs you can grab for less than $1 (thanks to a strong Pound, Euro, and Dollar).
The Krakow Crib, a uniquely Polish tradition, is a nativity made from cardboard and brightly colored foil featuring Polish architecture.
It is a lovely and quirky Polish tradition (I’ll be writing about the Krakow Crib Festival tomorrow), and taking a small one home is a souvenir you won’t want to miss!
Polish gingerbread is famous – and with good reason. There are a few booths selling gorgeous decorated cookies, Christmas trees of gingerbread, large displays, and gingerbread houses. Some will customize them on the spot for you, and some offer boutique-level decorations!
Poland’s famous pottery (which all comes from a few factories but is sold all over Poland) is a special find at the Krakow Christmas market – as they often sell patterns and styles you can’t find anywhere else. I could have bought the entire booth if I could take it home with me safely — and thanks to an amazingly strong dollar to zloty ratio, you can buy a lot more pottery and bring it home for a fraction of the price you can find Polish pottery on sale in the United States or the UK.
Where to Stay
We stayed at an Airbnb just off the City Square – there are tons of high-quality, clean, spacious and safe AirBnb apartments for under $100/night.
To stay where we did (we loved it!!) here is the listing: