A taste of Krakow
And just 100m west of Rynek Główny is the Cracow Handmade Chocolate Factory, a Wonka-like wonderland of chocolate figurines and handmade truffles and pralines in flavours including chilli, marzipan, cinnamon and raspberry. Galicia, a historical region that now encompasses southeastern Poland and western Ukraine, was famous for its chocolate in the 19th Century and used to export it to the European aristocracy. This chocolate-making factory and showroom revives that tradition, making and decorating chocolates by hand. Open-fronted showrooms give visitors a glimpse at the chocolate-making process, or for total immersion call ahead (519-634-600) to join the hands-on, hour-long workshops and take home the fruits of your labour. No visit is complete without a cup of thick, cinnamon-laced hot chocolate and a slice of rich chocolate cake in the second-floor cafe.
Jewish flavour in Kazimierz
As neighbourhoods go, the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz just south of the Old Town on the banks of the Vistula River is a real survivor. Having witnessed the worst atrocities of humanity in World War II and been left to rack and ruin in communist times, it has been reborn in the past few years as Krakow's arty enclave and happening nightlife district. Here cobbled alleys lead to synagogues, bohemian cafes and restaurants with live klezmer (Jewish folk music). Behind peeling façades hide antique-crammed, candlelit bars such as Alchemia, with regular DJ nights and upbeat gigs by Polish, Israeli and Ukrainian bands.
At the heart of Kazimierz is Plac Nowy, a square lined with market stalls, cafes and hole-in-the-wall food stands, where locals snack on Krakow's best zapiekanka, toasted half baguettes topped with cheese, mushrooms and sometimes ham and onions. As Krakow's tastes evolve to embrace world flavours, Kazimierz has seen a flurry of international gourmet snack shops pop up over the past couple of years. A 400m stroll east of Plac Nowy is Bagelmama, rolling out bagels baked to soft, doughy perfection, with toppings ranging from hummus to mozzarella-pepperoni. Sci-fi graffiti murals deck the white walls of nearby Love Krove (ul Brzozowa 17; 793-793-212), a hip joint rustling up juicy gourmet burgers with toppings like camembert, cranberry sauce and baby spinach.
Retro rustic is currently bang on trend in Kazimierz, with folksy restaurants attracting a cool new following. Four tiny shops were combined into one to create the knickknack-crammed Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu, brimming with mannequins, brass chandeliers, rocking horses and tables fashioned out of sewing machines and workbenches. Here flickering candles and often live klezmer set the scene for solid home cooking such as garlicky borscht (beetroot and onion soup), pierogi (filled dumplings fried in butter) and honey-roasted lamb. At folk-meets-funky Bombonierka, muted colours contrast with lacy lampshades and bold prints of traditional Polish dancers. Specialities like duck stuffed with apple and pork with pickled cabbage are substantial and big on flavour.
Lord of the manor
The perfect coda to a foodie trip to Krakow is a detour to the serene wooded hills around the town of Dobczyce, 25km south of Krakow, where Neoclassical Dwór Sieraków stands on a rise in splendid isolation. Once a sanatorium, this grand mid-19th-century manor was restored to its former glory in 2012 and is now a charmingly low-key boutique hotel and restaurant.
The restaurant serves modern Polish cuisine in discreetly elegant surrounds, placing the accent on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that have real depth and breadth of flavour, from game in winter to wild mushrooms and goose in autumn and asparagus in spring. These are perfectly matched by wines from the cellar, including such rarities as sweet, topaz-hued Tokaji Aszú vintages from Hungary. Vodka and wine tastings, led by journalists from Polish wine and spirits magazine Czas Wina, can be arranged by calling ahead (123-122-423).