Christmas in Krakow? Among all the reasons that support this great idea (like: the truly wintry weather, with lots of snow and ice rinks around, magnificent Krakow illumination, attractions and landscapes nearby), there is also another seasonal one: Krakow Christmas Market. Placed among such outstanding and fablelike markets as the ones in Nuremberg, Innsbruck, Cologne or Strasbourg, Krakow Christmas Market still has its unique and local charm that makes it so much different from all the rest. It is so especially when it becomes juxtaposed against the Christmas market traditions of the Protestant denomination. Distinguished by “Time” magazine as one of the best Christmas Markets of Europe in 2008 and regularly taken into account in similar rankings. See why Krakow Christmas Market is something that defines Polish Christmas customs, offering top-quality products to everyone entering the maze of wooden stalls annually spread between the end of November and December in the very heart of Krakow.
KRAKOW CHRISTMAS MARKET: WHERE, WHEN AND WHY
If you have already visited Cracow Underground Museum, you are probably aware of the rich past of the commercial traditions related to the Main Market Square of Krakow. Back in time, Krakow traders would arrange their Christmas stalls to sell Christmas trees, decorations and ingredients of traditional Polish dishes served on the Christmas Eve there. Nowadays, the Christmas Market of Krakow provides even more variety of goods to its customers – not necessarily the season-related ones. The official opening of the stalls falls on the last week of November and – traditionally – closes on December 26th. Still, there is a tendency to prolong the period of market’s activity to the Epiphany holiday – the 6th of January of the following year.
The beautifully laid out structure of Christmas stalls occupies the central spot of the Main Market Square of Krakow, just in front of the Renaissance gem of the city – the Cloth Hall. The limited – as subject to careful selection procedures – number of stalls (usually close to 80) welcomes everyone to admire the little wonders they sell daily between 10 am and late night, depending on a year. This tiny wooden world on its own is noticeable straight while entering this part of the Old Town of Krakow, with the performers, music, lights and aroma of Christmas surrounding the stalls.
You will discover how beautiful Polish Christmas carols are, being able to join the groups of local carol performers that also frequent the market. Moreover – you will, most likely, witness the most famous Cracovian Christmas Crib Contest, held annually in Krakow at the beginning of December since the 19th century. The uncommonly decorated crèches will be shown around to passers-by during a procession, then – put on display under Mickiewicz monument, just around the Christmas market stalls of Krakow. A view not to miss, if you only have a chance, and one to remember for a long time to come.
SHOPPING SPREE IN KRAKOW CHRISTMAS MARKET
This one special place will provide you with anything you need to survive winter – and this “anything” not only ranges from warm pieces of garment, ginger cookies or Christmas decorations to aromatic hams, replicas of armoury or hand-made crockery, but also has a special “Krakow fraction” to its recipes or design. The charismatic stallholders you will meet in Krakow are usually willing to bargain with you over the things you will rarely have a chance to come across elsewhere.
One piece od advice for you is: it will be hard for you to decide what to rest your eyes on in the Christmas Market of Krakow. The abundance of colours and smells can make you wish you could buy it all! This is why you should choose your objects of desire wisely – which may be even more difficult if you drop in to the place with your kids pointing their fingers at more and more unique things you are passing by. Trying to pick the best items to buy is a personal thing – it is true, however, that the purchase of warm woollen socks, caps or gloves with the distinctive motifs of Tatra Mountains culture will be one of the best choices around. Zakopane-style bedroom slippers will most definitely something you will enjoy buying after putting them on home during a harsh winter.
The finest examples of Polish potteries and ceramic manufactures (including the manufactures in Boleslawiec or Cmielow) will make greatly-decorated and useful gifts to your parents (or grandparents) as you return. At the same time, wooden figurines, pipes, birds, cutlery or other small pieces of handcrafted art are something Krakow Christmas Market has never got a shortage of. These innocent folksy elements will bring back the memories of Krakow in winter each time when looked at upon returning! Additionally – they usually have some utilitarian purpose served (e.g. of wind chimes or whistles), which makes their purchase less burdened with any pricks of conscience.
And, if speaking of wood, your kids will surely have a great time spent with some of the traditional toys of timber sold in Christmas Market of Krakow! Wooden building blocks, tiny-sized pieces of furniture or hand-painted dolls of wood may quickly become the part of those childhood memories of your offspring that they will never forget. One-of-its-kind jewellery (including the one made of amber that the Polish simply specialise at making), embroidered pieces of cloth, blacksmiths’ pieces of art, the work of local knife-makers, artisans or military re-makers: this is what you may expect as exposed to you behind the counters of Krakow Christmas Market stalls.
LOCAL SPECIALTIES AT KRAKOW’S BEST
Krakow Christmas Market is not only limited to local sellers when it comes to food. There also appear excellent guests from Hungary, the Czech Republic or Austria, offering the most famous cold-cuts and other specialties of their respective regions. Krakow, obviously, also has a lot of to boast with!
You will not be disappointed with the choice of Polish dumplings (pierogi) sold in Krakow Christmas Market – as well as with the carefully-selected smoked hams, sausages or cheeses (particularly, the Zakopane-made “oscypek” of sheep milk), pancakes and crusty bakings present there. Hot grilled items will let you warm up, but just a bit – before you try the famous Krakow mulled wine (“Grzaniec galicyjski”), sold straight from a huge barrel and poured into mugs of clay you may additionally buy as a souvenir.
Both the gourmets and those only wanting to satisfy their appetite will be happy to enjoy the utmost quality of delicacies offered during the Christmas period in Krakow. Those with a sweet tooth will be provided with aromatic gingerbread in a variety of forms, Christmas-themed candies, Polish donuts, chocolate-covered fruits or jars with different types of jams to choose from to take home for later consumption.
The smell of oranges, ginger or vanilla, the omnipresent sugar icing to imitate snow on the surface of sweets of many kinds, will make you wonder if it is really worth eating what you have just bought and have nothing so homely-looking to admire as a result.
Bottled meads Poland is so famous for or a wide selection of stronger beverages to try before buying provide a chance to purchase an original gift for your adult friends while in Krakow. In fact – anything you decide to bring home from Krakow Christmas Market will probably be something you will thoroughly not regret buying!
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS: KRAKOW SOUVENIRS TO TAKE HOME
Let us get back to the original idea behind Krakow Christmas Market – providing customers with decorations to adorn their houses with at wintertime.
Floral Christmas tree decorations, candles embellished with winter and religious motifs, creatively-designed components of illumination structures or gift-capacious socks to be hanged at your mantelpiece: all of these is within the reach in Krakow Christmas Market in an unimaginable variety of shapes and colours. Wooden Christmas decorations that may be customised with your child once you grab your brushes and use some paint and imagination? Present. Candies to be placed on your Christmas tree? Present as well. But what makes Krakow Christmas Market really special is the wide selection of Christmas baubles it provides.
It is worth noting that Poland is among the top exporters of these important elements of Christmas tradition – mainly due to their fabulous design. Krakow Christmas Market manages to put the finest examples of Polish bauble art as available for home taking. The diversity of their shapes and design may be really breathtaking at times and you may also come across a lot of less typical Christmas shapes among them. These will usually represent some of the Cracovian iconic landmarks (St. Mary’s Basilica) or its legendary creatures (like Lajkonik or Wawel Dragon).
Placing such a bauble on your Christmas tree will also make a charming souvenir from Krakow in its own way.
If you love wintry landscapes and all these nostalgia-inducing things you come across that make you feel warmer, there is no way you will not enjoy Krakow Christmas Market. Visit Krakow in December and marvel at the sensations it provides, taking a tiny bit of what is offered there home to further enjoy. The special atmosphere of Christmas is, ultimately, what you will be welcomed with in Krakow at no cost incurred!