We can simply search the Internet for „romantic places in Kraków” to come up with the perfect idea for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, if we hope to find something extraordinary, our hopes are in vain for the Internet will give us the same old story. Native Cracovians feel exceptionally upset at seeing all the lists and ranks of once special places now devoid of their uniqueness. They’ve been transformed into mainstream tourist attractions craved by people crowding on sightseeing buses. So we’ve decided to talk to native inhabitants of this most beautiful Polish city and ask them about places in which they spent the most romantic moments in their lives. Here is the review of places and memories (potential ideas, mind you!) presented in alphabetical order.
photo: U Romana Restaurant
The Academy of Music, U Romana Restaurant. A walk in the clouds
It’s one of these peculiar places that will remain unknown to you unless you play an instrument or hurry to your child’s first recital. Located at the end of św. Tomasza street, no. 43, at the junction of Planty Park and św. Marka street, the building of the Academy of Music unfolds in all its majesty. The majesty which stems from the fact that the building is one of the few highest ones in the city. During summer, when the windows of the Academy are wide open, it’s worth stopping for a while to listen to students practicing scales, passages and better-known classical pieces. Our romantic place, U Romana restaurant, located on the sixth floor, is not as famous for its cuisine – classic dishes of the ‘70s – as it is for its stupendous terrace. In February, when all the towers of Krakow are closed and nobody knows why, the terrace provides an opportunity to admire the breathtaking landscape of the city. Interestingly, the perspective makes all the famous buildings and monuments take on a completely different dimension. For example, we do not see St. Mary’s Church from the perspective of the Old Market, but from Mikołajska street. We can look at Wawel a little bit from behind, Town Hall Tower seems to be at arm’s length while the modernist balcony of the Main Post Office building is finally at our eyes’ height. When it comes to the fear of heights, here you’re fully justified to embrace your loved one even closer. And by the way, the terrace appears in the famous Polish movie Vinci starring Borys Szyc and Artur Więckowski.
The terrace is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Gazebo, Bednarski Park and a dinner with ghosts
Bednarski Park, filled with tall trees encircled by a crown of limestone rocks, is an excellent place for a romantic walk. Founded on the initiative of Wojciech Bednarski in the Podgórze district of Kraków at the turn of the 20th century, the park occupies the site of a former quarry. Roman Kiełkowski in his book "Historie spod Kopca Krakusa" [Stories from Krakus Mound] gives a beautiful description of the place: "During summer, the sunny paths of the park are suffused with shadows of beech trees, hornbeams and sycamores interwoven with a branching oak or a towering, solemn larch. Dense rows of trees in the upper part of the park make the loudest rustle. The grass spreads directly towards the neighboring parish church, presbytery and middle school.” What is it like during winter?, you ask. Well, the park has a fairly low hill in its center with a desolate concrete gazebo whose glory days are unfortunately far behind. It’s Polish name is glorieta – the name assigned to the 18th cent. small garden or park buildings (round, with columns and open sides) usually located on a hill. The gazebo in Bednarski Park creates an ideal atmosphere for making love declarations. Firstly, however, it needs to be cleaned of all the garbage left behind after locals’ feasts. Then, let the romantic aura enter the place, light the candles, bring a bottle of champagne and lay the small table with a bright red velvet cloth. After a walk, it’s best to visit Pokusa restaurant located in the Culinary School [Szkola Gastronomiczna] building near the entrance to the park and eat a delicious meringue cookie layered with rose marmalade.
photo: Herbaciarnia Czarka
Herbaciarnia Czarka. Come under the spell of tea
Krakow is the city brimming with restaurants, pubs and night clubs located in basements. They are always loud and full of people, but not of cigarette smoke (although such places can also be found). Floriańska street is the most famous among tourists but, surprisingly, we can find there a place that is a real haven of peace and tranquility. It’s teahouse Herbaciarnia Czarka, where guests can relax sitting comfortably on soft cushions, pillows, Persian rugs or bamboo mats by small, low wooden tables. Time does not fly here, we forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Porcelain and terracotta teapots release the smells of white, green and yellow teas – aromas of fruit-flavored infusions, rooibos and pu-erh teas blend captivatingly. On the shelves we can see a whole array of teas from Japan, China, India and Africa, countless teapots, pitchers, mugs, cups and other tea accessories. And please remember that tea does wonders to your heart. It goes without saying that the heartwarming place like this is the best choice for a winter Valentine’s evening!
Gombrowicz’s seesaw. The test for sense of humor
The statue "For Gombrowicz from his Compatriots" was created by Małgorzata Markiewicz almost four years ago as part of Art Boom festival. Located near the square at the junction of Piwna and Józefińska streets, the statue wouldn’t gain much attention – in Krakow statues are made daily – if it hadn’t been for its shape. To put it simply – it’s a seesaw. However, it’s not a regular one, for here two people sit with their backs to one another. One end of the swing says “Compatriots” and the other one “Gombrowicz”. As it happens with seesaws, as one end goes up, the other goes down. Hence it depends on users who is on top - Compatriots or Gombrowicz. Lovers can play a game, in which they count to three and turn around. The more they turn in the same direction, the more they kiss. Mind you, a notebook may come in handy. If you value your second half for their sense of humor, swinging together will test it best!
photo: Hamman Szeherezada
Hammam Szeherezada SPA and Restaurant. Show your body some love
What it we could feel the summer heat in the middle of winter? In Arabic, hammam, the word associated with warmth and heat, stands for a Turkish bath. Should you want to use the bath, there’s no need going to Turkey, Smoleńsk street will suffice. There, in the basement of an old and beautiful tenement house one can indulge in the most fanciful massages and the most pleasant body care services. Guests can enjoy hot and steam baths with natural peelings, Moroccan clay, fragrant oils and olive soap. Baths like these speed up the blood flow and deepen the breath – feelings well-known to a person in love. In case you feel like eating something afterwards, you can go to a restaurant located on the next floor. It reminds of places from One Thousand and One Nights and serves Middle East cuisine. Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, pomegranates and figs rule the plates, accompanied by fragrant spices and herbs. You can revel in sweet baklava, also known as natural “Turkish Viagra”, drink Oriental coffee with cardamom or tea with fresh mint, cinnamon and sage. A great place to go, especially on a cold, winter evening.
Wanda Mound and Krakus Mound. Ceaselessly shrouded in mystery
Kraków is special in very many aspects. Not only does our city have the largest number of churches, but it also boasts 5 mounds! Kościuszko Mound is the most popular among Cracovians, Piłsudski Mound is the biggest, John Paul II Mound is the youngest while Wanda and Krakus Mounds are the oldest and most beautiful. There used to be Esterka Mound, but it hasn’t made it to our times. It’s a pity because the mound was steeped in legends and would have certainly been beloved by lovers! We truly recommend either Krakus or Wanda Mound. The origin of Krakus Mound remains shrouded in mystery. According to chronicler Jan Długosz, it’s the tomb of Krakus, a legendary founder of Kraków. Długosz says that the king was buried on top of the hill by custom and his two sons – fulfilling their father’s will – raised the mound in his honor. Today, from the top of the mound we can admire a one-of-a-kind view of the Podgórze district, Old Town and the Liban quarry.
Wanda Mound, named in honor of Krakus’ daughter, is equally perfect for a romantic walk. Located in Mogiła, the vicinity of the Nowa Huta district of Kraków, the mound is equally mysterious. Just like in the case of Krakus Mound, the reasons why anyone would erect a 20 cubic meter mound remain unknown. The first description of the mound dates back to 1584, the year when Herby rycerstwa polskiego [Arms of Polish Knighthood] was published. It is believed that a stone statue of Wanda with her biography engraved in Latin stood there initially. The statue has not been preserved to our times. Now, a stone eagle designed by Jan Matejko stands in its place.
We have an ideal proposition for every lover who wakes up at dawn thinking intensively of their second half. Standing on Krakus Mound on May 2 or August 10 you will have a chance to see the sun rising over Wanda Mound while on February 6 or November 4, standing on Wanda Mound you will see the sun setting over Krakus Mound. The above dates more or less correspond to the dates of Celtic festivals: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh respectively. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful date if lovers were standing on opposite mounds and sending each other light signals? The best way to begin Valentine’s Day is to go to mounds at dawn. Set the alarm!
photo: Jakub Hałun
The Liban quarry. For brave lovers only!
It takes a stout heart and a really strong love to go for a romantic walk in the moonlight to the Liban quarry in Podgórze. In 1993, the quarry was used as a set for labor-camp scenes for Spielberg’s "Shindler’s List". Fragments of scenery made for movie purposes, such as a road paved with Matzevot (not real ones) can still be found here. To feel the atmosphere of the place it’s important to remind oneself that, during World War II, the labor camp for Polish people operated on the quarry premises. After the war and until 1990s the area was exploited for industrial purposes. At present, the place is known for its prodigious atmosphere, enhanced by the surrounding industrial architecture as well as lush nature. Three small ponds lurk at the bottom of the quarry; foxes, rabbits and hedgehogs live in scrubland; sparrow hawks and kestrels circle overhead while squeaking pheasants and hooting owls echo in the distance. We recommend going there on a sunny day, regardless of the time of the year.
photo: Tomasz Chorwat
Podgórze, Korona Stadium. The theater of romantic imagination
Where to draw the biggest heart on snow in Kraków? There’s only one answer – Korona Stadium in Podgórze! By the way, you may want to check how the echo works by sending your second half to the opposite corner of a playing field and shouting “Do you love me?!”. The echo will bring you a confident “I dooooo!” as an answer. The stadium, surrounded with a park and nearly one-hundred-year-old trees, was built in 1931. Its state deteriorated greatly during the war, but regained its full majesty in the early ’50s. Nowadays, there isn’t much left of the stadium’s glory, nevertheless, it’s perfect for a romantic walk on Valentine’s Day. The enormous grassy field, if covered with snow, can be used as a sheet of paper on which you may draw a heart and write your love’s initials. If there’s no snow, you may simply immerse yourselves in watching stars. Please hurry – developers have designs on this spot! It’s a truly charming place for lovers, no matter the season. Perfect also for a romantic picnic.
photo: Cecylia Malik and Piotr Dziurdzia
The Wilga River. Wild and romantic
The people of Kraków themselves are astounded at the fact that six rivers cross their city. One of them, the Wilga River, flows into the Vistula right next to Wawel, more specifically – next to Forum Hotel in Ludwinów (one of the parts of the city). The river flows under stylish Retmański Bridge and softly mingles with the current of the Vistula. The bridge may be the starting point for your walk along the river meandering through gardens, housing estates, young forests and strange, post-industrial areas. From time to time, the roaring and humming of busy streets will be heard in the distance. If both of you take pleasure in discovering things and like adventures, you should be more than pleased to discover Kraków from a completely new, sensational perspective. We advise that you don’t forget to take some food and a thermos with hot tea with you. Also, it’s a must for you to repeat this walk in spring and summer.
Here you can find more information on six rivers in Kraków (in Polish): www.cecyliamalik.pl
Pond at Kaczeńcowa street in Nowa Huta. The return to Arcadia
The Nowa Huta district of Kraków is erroneously believed by many to be the mausoleum of the Polish People’s Republic. The truth is that in the past the fertile district lands were full of grasslands, orchards, parks and bodies of deep blue water scattered here and there. In order to feel the power of nature and the spirit of romanticism go to Kaczeńcowa street in the northernmost end of Nowa Huta. How do we get there? We take a map and look for the famous Lord’s Ark [Kościół Arka Pana] with Fatimska street next to it, and Cienista in the close vicinity. Next, we turn by the little statue of Jesus and here it is: the picturesque pond appears before our eyes. For a while, we feel like children in Narnia, the mythical land on the other side of the wardrobe. It’s a real oasis of tranquility for fishermen and lovers. No wonder. 20 bird species, 14 butterfly species and a hairy snail coexist here with swans, ducks and terns. During winter you may want to warm yourselves up by running around chestnuts and elms. Most of these trees are protected as natural monuments. We don’t need to add that when you’re running, you’ll finally run into each other and steal a kiss! We recommend dating by the pond at every time of the year.
photo: Walenty Kania
Walenty Kania’s cuisine. Only for the brave!
Our list of romantic places in Kraków wouldn’t be complete without Walenty [Valentine]. And here he is! A remarkable figure in the Kraków culinary scene, the author of the book Podroby [Variety Meats], in which one chapter is devoted entirely to…hearts. Walenty is a storyteller, conversationalist, globetrotter, gourmet and an excellent cook. His food truck can be usually found on a tiny square at the junction of Jakuba, Ciemna and Izaaka streets. In any case, mouthwatering smells will guide your way. Kania’s veal and goat sausages have already become popular outside the city! Follow him on Facebook, but do eat something before… A fairly cheap yet delicious dinner out for two.
Enjoy Your Walentine's Day!
Text: Kasia Pilitowska