Brigid Pasulka’s Top 10 Things to Do in Poland

Brigid Pasulka lived in Krakow from 1994-1995 and returns to Poland almost every year. Her debut novel, also set in Krakow, is called A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. Our book reviewer, Don George, chose it as Book of the Month for August. Here Brigid gives us her insider’s picks of top experiences in Poland, in no particular order:

  • Eat at a milk bar (bar mleczny). Government-subsidized cafeterias in Communist Poland, milk bars still serve a (mostly) student and pensioner clientele. If you need help with the menu, just ask a student in line–almost all young people in cities speak some English–and don’t forget to bus your own table and tell your table-mates “Dziękuję” (jen-KOO-yeh) when you stand up to leave. In Krakow, Bar Żak on Królewska and the bar mleczny on Grodzka (called simply “Bar Mleczny”) are the most accessible but still authentic examples.


  • Stay in a room in someone’s apartment. Sure, there are hotels, hostels and stand-alone apartments, but none of these will show you how people actually live better than…well, actually living with them. Thanks to the Internet, you won’t have to take your chances on whichever babcia accosts you straight off the train. These are, of course, not recommended for drunken revelers–most of the proprietors seem to be single mothers or pensioners who need their beauty sleep.
  • Give a nod to Solidarity. Though many feel there is no difference anymore between the Solidarity party and the rest of the politicians, nearly everyone acknowledges that the Solidarity movement changed the face of Europe. Find a church that hosted regular protests (“Arka” in Krakow, for example), browse the iconic images in a poster gallery (Galleria Plakatu in Krakow), or even go to Wałęsa’s shipyard (stocznia) in Gdańsk.
  • Go to a cabaret (kabaret). Most tourists will shy away from cabarets because they fear the barrage of consonants that is the Polish language, but going to a cabaret is the closest you can get to the Polish soul (in public, anyway), and when you listen to the folk songs and the satire, you’ll be surprised by how much you understand. Krakow’s classic cabaret is Piwnica Pod Baranami or Cellar Under the Sheep.
  • Go to a café (kawiarnia) or a cellar (piwnica) near a university. The beer, coffee, or szarlotka (an addictive apple-meringue cake) is only an excuse to people-watch and soak in the unique Polish interior design aesthetic (which is perhaps best described as “attic irony”). My favorites in Krakow are Pigeon 3, Nowa Prowincja, and Bunkier.
Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

For more, check out our 48 Hours in Krakow guide.


Photos via Flickr: Swiv (market square), giacomo bassi (café), JerzyW (church), Ana Paula Hirama (Tatra mountains)


  • Stay in a room in someone’s apartment. Sure, there are hotels, hostels and stand-alone apartments, but none of these will show you how people actually live better than…well, actually living with them. Thanks to the Internet, you won’t have to take your chances on whichever babcia accosts you straight off the train. These are, of course, not recommended for drunken revelers–most of the proprietors seem to be single mothers or pensioners who need their beauty sleep.
  • Give a nod to Solidarity. Though many feel there is no difference anymore between the Solidarity party and the rest of the politicians, nearly everyone acknowledges that the Solidarity movement changed the face of Europe. Find a church that hosted regular protests (“Arka” in Krakow, for example), browse the iconic images in a poster gallery (Galleria Plakatu in Krakow), or even go to Wałęsa’s shipyard (stocznia) in Gdańsk.
  • Go to a cabaret (kabaret). Most tourists will shy away from cabarets because they fear the barrage of consonants that is the Polish language, but going to a cabaret is the closest you can get to the Polish soul (in public, anyway), and when you listen to the folk songs and the satire, you’ll be surprised by how much you understand. Krakow’s classic cabaret is Piwnica Pod Baranami or Cellar Under the Sheep.
  • Go to a café (kawiarnia) or a cellar (piwnica) near a university. The beer, coffee, or szarlotka (an addictive apple-meringue cake) is only an excuse to people-watch and soak in the unique Polish interior design aesthetic (which is perhaps best described as “attic irony”). My favorites in Krakow are Pigeon 3, Nowa Prowincja, and Bunkier.
Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

For more, check out our 48 Hours in Krakow guide.


Photos via Flickr: Swiv (market square), giacomo bassi (café), JerzyW (church), Ana Paula Hirama (Tatra mountains)

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

For more, check out our 48 Hours in Krakow guide.


Photos via Flickr: Swiv (market square), giacomo bassi (café), JerzyW (church), Ana Paula Hirama (Tatra mountains)

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

For more, check out our 48 Hours in Krakow guide.


Photos via Flickr: Swiv (market square), giacomo bassi (café), JerzyW (church), Ana Paula Hirama (Tatra mountains)

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet