In this ultimate guide to Kazimierz district, we cover everything from self-guided walking routes of the Krakow Jewish Quarter to the top bars and clubs. Enjoy…
Once you’ve exhausted the sights of Krakow’s Old Town and had enough of dodging packs of Free Walking Tour groups in the city’s busiest area, it’s time to head a little more off the beaten path.
Cue Kazimierz district (or Kazi, as it’s so affectionately known to the locals). A place of paint-peeling frontispieces and chipped facades, it’s got an enthralling, vintage vibe. The whole area comes steeped in history, having once been the Jewish Quarter and a medieval township in its own right!
But Kazi is also a hub for cafes and bars that take the boho and beatnik to all new and dizzying heights. There are more hand-roasted coffee joints and falafel-touting veggie spots here than you can shake a shot of vodka at. Oh, and the Kazimierz nightlife is simply awesome to boot – it’s where the locals go to party!
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This is just one part of our guide to all the things to do in Krakow
What’s in this guide to Kazimierz
Where is the Kazimierz district?
Kazimierz sits just to the south of the Krakow Old Town. Its borders go from busy Dietla Street in the north to the meanders of the Vistula River in the south. In the west, it buts up to Krakow Wawel (the main Krakow Castle) and joins busy Grodzka Street. The river runs the whole way along its south side and provicdes a great way to get around, not to mention plenty of great places to head for a picnic.
How to get to Kazimierz
Don’t worry, Kazi isn’t hard to get to:
- Walk: Takes about 15 minutes from the Main Square in the Old Town. Take the pleasant path through Planty Park until you reach the Wawel and then turn onto Krakowska Street.
- Taxi: All drivers will know where Kazimierz district is. From the Old Town, normal rates are 12-17 PLN (around £3). That takes about 5 minutes in normal traffic. Ask to be dropped at Plac Nowy to be right in the heart of things.
- Tram: Lines 8, 13, 52, and 18 all stop in the area – look to get out at Stradom, Plac Wolnica or Miodowa.
The history of Kazimierz
Kazimierz has a long, long history. Next to the UNESCO-tagged Old Town of Krakow, there’s hardly an area in the city that’s quite as venerable. Here’s a look at all the various epochs of Kazimierz and its development through the ages…
The founding of Kazimierz
The area that’s now known as Kazimierz was once actually an island in the Vistula River south of the medieval city of Krakow. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of ancient Pagan shrines dating back millennia in the region, so we know there were people around. However, the official beginning of the district comes in the early 14th century – in 1335 to be exact. That’s when the reigning King Kazimierz the Great declared the area to be a new town and – oh-so-humbly – gave the district his very own name.
The following centuries saw fast construction. By the end of the 1300s, Kazimierz had its own paved roads, its own churches, and its own series of defensive walls. The town had also been granted certain trading and political freedoms in line with Magdeburg rights, which encouraged growth and development of new buildings and the arrival of new settlers. To put it simply: The years 1350-1500 saw Kazimierz grow at an exponential rate.
You’ll probably hear Kazimierz also called the Jewish Quarter. The two names are now interchangeable because Kazi was once the hub of Jewish culture and community in the city. That started way back in the 12th century, when a Polish king called Boleslaw issued a General Charter of Jewish Liberties, which gave Jews in and settling in Poland some of the best rights of any in Europe.
Naturally, that lead to an explosion of the town’s Jewish population. But by the 15th century, more conservative religious feelings had begun to dominate in the Polish clergy, so much so that after an urban fire in the 1490s, planners looked to offer the Jews a separate part of town. That led to the establishment of a neighborhood known as Oppidum, which occupied several squares on the northwestern side of Kazimierz. Today, you can still visit that part of town to see the old Jewish cemetery and the Old Synagogue (which, just as the name implies, is the oldest synagogue in Krakow).
For the next 300 years, Oppidum reigned as a real center of Jewish culture in Europe, finally ending when Austria partitioned Poland and Kazimierz lost its rights as an independent town.
Kazimierz during the war
Although much of the Jewish population of Kazimierz had moved on to other towns and areas of the city during the Austrian Partition period, there remained a significant number in erstwhile Oppidum. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they quickly forced any remaining into a new ghetto south of the river, in the area now known as Podgórze.
That ghetto, along with many others across Poland, was finally destroyed as Jews in Krakow and beyond were ferried to concentration camps to be murdered. Any who remained suffered even more at the hands of pogroms launched by the Soviets. Eventually, Kazimierz was left in ruins and its rich Jewish culture totally destroyed for much of the 20th century.
Top things to see in Kazimierz
Kazimierz is an enthralling district of hip cafes and bumping bars. But there are also some fantastic landmarks and things to do here that you should probably put close to the top of the list. You know – get it done before you settle in for a beer or 10 and all that. Here, we’ll take a look at the sights and attractions that we think first-time visitors to the southern part of Krakow simply cannot skip out on…
- Plac Nowy – This is the beating hub of Kazimierz. Head here first of all and you’ll get a sense of just how lively and fun this corner of Krakow promises to be. The stalls in the center sell the best zapiekanki (a sort of local pizza bread) in Poland, all from a building that was once a fish market. Drop by here on weekewnd mornings to catch one of the city’s best flea bazaars.
- Old Synagogue – The oldest synagogue building still standing in the country dates from 1407. It stands at the south end of Szeroka Street and is now a major focal point of the city’s Jewish culture. Although destroyed by the Nazis in WWII, the building retains its old shape and looks after a comprehensive renovation in the 1950s.
- Remuh Cemetery/Remah Cemetary – Perhaps the oldest Jewish cemetery in the whole of Europe, Remuh Cemetery spreads through the eastern side of the neighborhood. The Nazis infamously used many of the headstones here to pave new streets and even build the walls of their ghetto.
- New Jewish Cemetery – A large resting place for some of the most famous Jews of Kazimierz that dates back to the 1800s, this one spreads west of the railway lines past Ulica Dajwor. It’s a sobering and amazing place, with lots of memorials to victims of the Holocaust.
- Galicia Jewish Museum – Provides an in-depth look at the history and culture of the Jewish community in Galicia, including the region that includes Krakow and Kazimierz.
- Jozefa Street – Jozefa has established itself as the sort of unofficial shopping hub of Kazimierz. It’s got everything from concept art stores to craft beer emporiums. You really can’t miss it, since it chops right through the middle of the whole district.
- Schindler’s List Passage – A small alleyway (pictured above) in the very middle of Kazi that was used as a filming location during Schindler’s List.
Nightlife in Kazimierz
No ultimate guide to Kazimierz district could possibly be complete without a guide to the nightlife. With countless little dives, jazz bars, shot bars, boho kitchens, and craft beer outlets, it’s a real local’s favourite.
We recommend picking just one or two of the pubs and bars mentioned below and letting the night take on a life of its own – they have a way of doing that down in Kazimierz!
- Alchemia – One of the quirkiest places to drink in the whole city, Alchemia is a famous dive bar that’s packed with haunting souvinirs and crooked tables. One of the OG hipster bars if you will. They’re now always busy and serve great food!
- Maly Sledz – Teeny-weeny Maly Sledz is tucked into a corner of Bozego Ciala street, one of the main drags of Kazi’s bar scene. It’s got to be up there with the smallest watering holes in the city. Just a couple of high stool chairs are crammed around a meter-long bar, which continually sloshes with cheap beers and multicoloured vodka shots. You can also order dishes of pickled herring here – if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat.
- Propaganda – Certainly not for the faint-hearted, PUB Propaganda rocks with 80s Alt, 90s Punk and gritty metal music until the very early hours. It’s filled with smoke and beer-stained tables, has hazy neon lights illuminating its various alcoves, and touts a selection of home-grown Polish beers to keep things ticking over.
- HEVRE – HEVRE might be relatively new on the scene, but it’s a corker. We love the vaulted ceilings, the vintage wall art, the Czech larger – the list goes on. Welcoming tables on Bozego Ciala street outside are a treat for early drinking sessions in the summer.
- Piękny Pies – We’ve had some VERY strange nights in Piękny Pies. A Krakow legend, this bar has had more locations than you can shake a bottle of vodka at. It’s a bit more refined than its older iterations but still does long parties that last until the early hours in a good spot on Plac Wolnica.
The best restaurants in Kazimierz
Kazimierz district is a culinary hotspot for Krakow. The Old Town probably has more restaurants, but a lot are aimed squarely at tourists. In these parts, you’ll get creative kitchens that locals love to frequent. The area also happens to be excellent for veggies and vegans. Take a look…
- Hamsa – Officially titled Hamsa – Hummus and Happiness, this Middle Eastern-inspired mezze joint is the place to go in Krakow for that fix of falafel and chickpea mash.
- Nolio – We simply can’t get enough of Nolio‘s cushion-like DOP pizzas. Cooked in a real-wood oven and topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella, they are the real deal, straight out of the traditional kitchens of Naples. Of course, there are pastas and Italian taster plates of olives to get through, too. That all in a chic, modern setting with a lively open kitchen vibe. Good outdoor garden for summer, but it fills up fast.
- Curry Up! -Casual eats for on-the-go curry fanatics, Curry Up! is the brainchild of a local Pole with a penchant for all things tandoor and spice. There’s usually a taste-bud-tingling chickpea curry on offer in the vats, along with great deals on combo meals with nan breads, mango lassi and the like.
Food courts and more in Kazimierz
The last five years or so have seen Kazimierz explode into the epicenter for street food in Krakow. There are now about four or five really great places to go for al fresco eating in some our of some of the best food trucks in the city. Expect everything from zingy Mexican quesadillas to artisan burgers. Here’s where to look for them…
The food trucks on Świętego Wawrzyńca
A cluster of creative little food trucks sits in a disused car lot on the edge of Świętego Wawrzyńca. They are right in the heart of Kazimierz district and have been making waves on the Krakow food scene thanks to their medley of Mexican tacos, British fish and chips, Belgian fries, baked potato, and artisan coffee tipples. Yep – it’s varied. It’s the perfect spot to dine on route to the clubs and bars in the heart of Kazi.
Zapiekanki on Plac Nowy
Everyone must try a traditional Polish Zapiekanki on Plac Nowy. It’s considered the place where they were invented and still the best spot to dine on these half-baguette pizza breads with toppings as diverse as goat’s cheese and pickled gherkin. Head to the old fish market that occupies the centre of the square and choose what tickles your fancy from the menu. You’ll never pay more than 15 PLN (£3) for one.
Tours of Kazimierz
There’s a free walking tour that takes place in Kazimierz each day. That’s a great option for a rounded intro to the area. For something more in-depth and focussed, consider the following options:
Where to stay in Kazimierz?
We actually have a complete guide to all the best hotels in Kazimierz. We try to keep that updated every year to reflect where’s hot and drop where’s not. Either way, here’s a quick look at some of the places that we think really stand out from the crowd and offer a stay in the heart of this atmospheric, cultural neighborhood of the city…
- PURO Krakow – A sleek new addition to the line-up of hotels in Kazimierz, PURO promises something seriously stylish. Its suites are packed with modern touches, contemporary furnishings and mod cons. You get a desk in each room, on-site saunas and gym, and a duo of outdoor terraces. There’s also an artisan baker’s downstairs for that morning fill of pastries and Polish rye bread.
- Elegant Apartments – Doing precisely what they say on the tin, Elegant Apartments sit in a handsome townhouse on the north-eastern edge of Kazimiez. They channel a touch of grand Slavic design with flowing drapes and sumptuous mahogany inlays in the suites. What’s more, you also get the added bonus of a self-catering cooking area in each rental unit. The location means the Old Town’s bucket-list sights are within walking distance, too.
- Hotel Eden – Doing precisely what they say on the tin, Elegant Apartments sit in a handsome townhouse on the north-eastern edge of Kazimiez. They channel a touch of grand Slavic design with flowing drapes and sumptuous mahogany inlays in the suites. What’s more, you also get the added bonus of a self-catering cooking area in each rental unit. The location means the Old Town’s bucket-list sights are within walking distance, too.
This ultimate guide to Kazimierz district is always changing – otherwise, it wouldn’t be the ultimate guide to Kazimierz! We also love getting suggestions, so feel free to get in touch or leave a comment if you’re keen to have something added.