The Christmas market in the Rynek Główny is set up for the whole of the Christmas season in Krakow and it’s a wonderful place to pick up Christmas gifts, souvenirs and to try some amazing Polish food and drinks! The video above shows you a selection of things to be had at the annual holiday market! Open everyday from 10am-10pm with wonderful performances from local school children, churches, and families on the evenings. But without further adieu, our….
Top 15 Things to Eat, Drink, or Buy at the Krakow Christmas Market
1. Pajda ze Smalcem
Smalec is a traditional Polish spread made of lard and spices. At one of the stalls in the market they sell this on top of hot slices of fresh bread and can be topped with bacon, sausage, fried onions, and/or ogórki (Polish-style pickles). Very Polish, very delicious, and only costs about 7zł for one with everything included. You might even be able to buy a whole loaf of great Polish bread here too.
Ocsypek is a smoked sheep cheese made in the Tatra mountains in the south of Poland, the best place to buy it is in Zakopane, but if you’re not headed there on a day trip have some here! You will find vendors huddled over small wood-burning grills selling small pieces of hot cheese with red currant or cranberry jelly all over the market. Sometimes you’ll even find the vendors have wrapped the cheese in bacon, or added a plum! Stop by and get one with or without jelly for 2zł. You can also pick up large blocks of the cheese to bring home with you or to snack on later.
3. Hot Wine (and sometimes beer!)
Hot wine is a must, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to try hot beer as well! Stop by the barrel shaped stall and pick one up to sip on while you browse through the other vendors. If you like it a lot, you can always buy a bottle from any alcohol shop in town!
4. Piernik Gingerbread
Piernik is essentially gingerbread, but Poland is very famous for it’s special kinds of piernik. There are a handful of stalls that sell them in different shapes and you can get one that’s more like cake or opt for one of the harder, cookie-like varieties. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
5. Slippers and other furry things
Slippers are something found in every Polish home. It’s important to wear them when you are inside and to be without them is considered blasphemy. Stop by one of the stalls with slippers hanging and pick up a pair to keep your toes warm during the cold winter nights. But wait there’s more – there are also plenty of furry hats and rugs to go around.
6. Fresh Mistletoe and Handmade Wreaths
I don’t know about you guys, but being from America, I had never actually seen mistletoe firsthand. I read about it in Christmas stories and knew about the tradition of kissing beneath it, but had no idea if it was actually a real plant. Well, if you stop by the Christmas market you will find small vendors under yellow tents selling fresh bundles of the poisonous plant for cheap. Pick some up to put on the frame of your door for kisses or just for good luck. At the same yellow tents where you find the mistletoe, you will also find beautiful handmade wreaths with fresh pine. They make great gifts if you are headed to a party or make perfect center pieces for a Polish Christmas Eve dinner
7. Bolesławiec Pottery
Even if you don’t know much about Poland you have probably heard of the beautiful and famous Bolesławiec Pottery. It is decorated in traditional Polish designs and usually blue and white, although the designs have gained color over the years. You can grab some tiny ceramic Christmas trees or ornaments to bring home to the family for Christmas or just to add to your collection. They aren’t cheap, but it’s worth it.
8. Hot Grilled Meat (Sausages, Pork Knuckle, Oh My!)
Before you can even see the market, you will be able to smell the sausages and other meats cooking over the wood burning fire. Stop by one of the vendors for a cheap and good meal of Polish sausage, known as kiełbasa or pork knuckle known as golanka- but be aware the prices are by weight! The same stands will also have fresh bread, potatoes, and other hot sides.
9. Candies, Cookies, and Chocolate Wrenches
If you’ve got children with you the candy stalls will be hard to avoid, but for the adults, the can’t-miss options are the “cream fudge” or Krowki, and homemade Polish cookies that come in a variety of boxes and packages. If you’re looking for a unique gift there is also a local company that makes choclate that looks like tools! From wrenches to screws it’s a gift that is quite unique.
10. Handicrafts Galore!
All over the market you will find handmade items that to us are quite familiar, but for a first-timer will be a perfect souvenir! From handmade plates and mugs; oranments, pillows, and figurines to serving dishes and coasters the market could be considered a handicraft fair in itself.
11. Szopki and other Nativity Scenes
If you missed the annual szopki competition this year– have no fear! You can take your own special Polish nativity scene home with you. More traditional wooden and ceramic nativities are also available all throughout the market.
12. Wooden Utensils, Toys, etc…
Last but not least a Christmas Market isn’t complete without an entire stand dedicated to wooden items. Spoons, forks, plates, and serving dishes. Although we prefer to buy our wooden tableware from the mountains (Zakopane specifically) there’s nothing wrong with a Krakowian wooden spoon for your kitchen.
Bonus: Trdelnik! (Also known as Chimney Cakes)
Trdelnik is a Czech and Hungarian tradition that shows up in Krakow for Christmas (even this picture is actually from Prague’s Christmas Market). Its a sweet pastry that is cooked on hot-rods then slipped off and put into sugar, chocolate, coconut, etc… We recommend the simple sugar coating, and if you happen to be in Krakow at another time don’t worry you can also get Trdelnik (also called a chimney cake) on Food Truck Square or at some various tram stops around the old town, so keep your eyes open.
If you will be in Krakow for the Christmas holidays and need to know what restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day check out our list here or download the pdf. And don’t forget if you have any questions, comments, or want us to make you a custom made list or itinerary, you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org