A great night out in Krakow is not for the weary - not that it’s dangerous (except for the liver), but it requires a sense of adventure and commitment to not coming home until the sun begins to rise in the morning.
Luckily, music is a universal language, and beer (piwo in Polish) is the only Babel fish you’ll need. Thanks to a year-round flow of tourists, stags, and Erasmus students, you’ll be amazed how packed you can find some clubs on Mondays or Tuesdays. Our recommendations for the beginning of the week are clubs like Prozak or Ministerstwo, both well-known for attracting Erasmus students, who as far as we can tell are all majoring in beerology, and student-aged tourists who like to dance and have a good time, even on a Tuesday. On the weekends, the previously mentioned clubs as well as places like Frantic, Coco, and Cien are all of the usual thump-thump house and dance variety - but with the added bonus of beautiful Polish girls. You’ll find some of the best local and guest DJs from all over Europe spinning here, guaranteeing a good variety of house, funk, occasional hip-hop and r’n’b, as well as trance, nu-jazz, and just about any musical genre you can shake your hips to. Dress casual but smart, have a few cocktails or beers, and dance until six or seven in the morning, which is when the party usually starts winding down. But if you’d rather dance to 80s Madonna or some Joy Division (not to mention newer dance rock), a weekend in Krakow wouldn’t be complete without a trip to cult favourites Caryca and Kitsch. Luckily they happen to be in the same building a short walk from the Market Square, and in general their atmosphere is much more laid back and casual, not counting the occasional hipsters. Once the party starts winding down at Lubu (generally not before 4 am), head upstairs to Kitsch, one of the few gay-friendly spots in town, and dance to some of the cheesiest (but admittedly addictive) music until the sun comes up.
If you’d rather have a quiet beer in a bar setting than gyrate to loud bass lines and flashing lights, Krakow has an equally diverse assortment of pubs and bars as well. Some of our favourite places can be found in Krakow’s old Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, which tends to have a more laid back and local crowd than the places in and around the Market Square. A good pick would be Alchemia, right on Kazimierz’s Plac Nowy, whose eerie archaic and dark décor set the mood for quiet discussions and intimate drinks. If you’re feeling artsy and would like an intellectual conversation, head for a coffee or beer to Les Colours, Krakow’s only “French” café, or to Lokator, where you might accidentally catch an independent film in their tiny downstairs theatre or a singer/songwriter act upstairs. Back in the Old Town, Paparazzi the epitome of trendiness, whilst Buddha Bar is a favourite chill spot for locals and ex-pats alike. While Krakow has its fair share of Irish pubs (Irish Arms and the new Irish Embassy are a couple of good ones), our favourite is probably the least Irish Irish bar in existence, Nic Nowego, where the only things Irish are the beer, the whiskey, and the owner. Though these days beer rules in Poland, good mixed drinks are not too hard to find, and more upscale spots with delicious cocktails (and prices to match) such as Piano Rouge and Stalowe Magnolie are well worth trying a drink or three at.
As Poland’s cultural capital, it’s only natural that Krakow would have a thriving live music scene. Though for the longest time jazz ruled in Krakow, now it’s just as common to catch frequent rock acts, as well as some great local and touring indie bands. If jazz is your thing though, bars like Stary Port and Jazz Rock Café (both great for live classic rock acts as well), or Harris Piano Jazz Bar and Art Club Cieplarnia are likely to have a jazz band almost every night of the week. If rock is more your flavour, you can catch the bigger Polish and some international acts playing student venues like Rotunda and Studio, and in the summer there are frequent stadium shows in fields and even free concerts on a giant stage on the Market Square. But you can catch Depeche Mode or Myslovitz anywhere we recommend going to smaller clubs and catching some locals while in town. Club RE might not have frequent concerts, but the bands are usually quality when they do, plus their patio is great for a summer beer outside. In Kazimierz, newcomers Kawiarnia Naukowa and B-Side Club both tend to play good indie rock acts from all over Poland. And as just about every bar in town has a stage, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a live performance just about any time of the year.
While it may seem like Poles like to party harder than others, a few drinks are no excuse to let your common sense fly out the window. While beer is cheap here (about 6 zl or 1.75 Euro) cocktails can get pretty expensive, so don’t go overboard unless you feel like hitchhiking back home. You can buy beer, wine, and alcohol at most small grocery shops, though we don’t recommend drinking it in the streets unless you’d like to make friends with the Polish police department. Drugs aren’t as common or accepted (and are definitely not legal) as in places like Prague, so be discreet if you do get your hands on any. If you’ve had a few drinks too many, be smart and catch a cab back to your hotel or hostel instead of trying to wander the streets and ending up in Nowa Huta. Also, be sure to check out our frequently updated event guide for a full listing of the best concerts and parties that you wouldn’t want to miss while you’re in town. And most importantly, loosen up and have fun you’re in the city with the most bars and clubs per square metre in the world!
But first, one must understand that a night out in November will be a completely different experience from a night out in July, especially on weeknights during the former. From October until mid-June or so, students reign in Krakow clubs and pubs, whereas once the days start getting warmer and longer (mid-April or May) until the end of summer, the tourists begin a gradual process of replacing the student population, until around July and August, when you’re more likely to hear English spoken than Polish, especially in bars and club near the Market Square.