On the Road: Krakow, Poland
Krakow may not be a street art powerhouse the likes of neighboring Łódź (see our story here), but the public art it does have is definitely worth checking out. What it may lack in wealth of murals, it makes up for in other ways, such as its 700 year-old salt mine turned sculpture and historical museum, or its relatively new, circus-like bridge with acrobats suspended from the cables.
All of that is sure to keep you entertained for a few days while exploring the beautiful architecture of Old Town and sampling some of the local delicacies on offer, such as the pierogis (dumplings) or the obwarzanek krakowski (Krakow pretzels). There is a delightful open-air market in the town square that serves them up among other offerings.
Dulk has long been a favorite artist of mine, and the fact that he painted a wall in Krakow was reason enough to pay a visit. The level of imagination and creativity in his pieces is truly astonishing. In his Krakow wall, a friendly-looking dragon-unicorn-moose-human-gryphon creature befriends a little goat by sharing a piping hot pot of poison. It's all fun and games when it comes to Dulk. Check it out at rondo Mogilskie 1, near the botanical garden.
Dulk's imaginative wall in Krakow
Other works by Dulk (Seen in Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL; & Miami's Scope Art Show)
Natalia Rak is known for her extremely vibrant, large-scale murals. Born in Poland, and having studied at the University of Łódź, her work is revered in not only in Polish circles but also on global circuit. Her mural "The Black Pearl" draws your attention with its bright colors and great level of detail, sitting high above the street at Karmelicka 28, just outside of Old Town.
The Black Pearl by Natalia Rak in Krakow
Other works by Natalia Rak ( Located in Richmond, VA; Napa, CA; and Montreal, Canada)
If you have more time and want to track down other walls in Krakow, I would recommend starting with Street Art Cities, where the local hunter has mapped 92 walls just waiting to be seen. Some of the artists whose work you may come across in the Kazimierz District include Graffunk, Trololo, and David Shillinglaw (pictured below).
The Bernatek Footbridge
In addition to the city's murals, Krakow boasts a pretty Instagram-worthy bridge which straddles the Wisła River. Since 2016, the city's footbridge has taken center-stage with its carnivalesque vibe. Adorned with nine acrobats, created by sculptor Jerzy Kędziora, in various states of flexibility, it makes for a nice stroll when crossing between the districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze.
WIELICZKA SALT MINE
For some art mixed with history further afield, head to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the town of Wieliczka, a 40-minute drive from Krakow's Old Town. Once there, you will be treated to an underground tour of the vast chambers, saline lakes and even a salt-carved cathedral.
The mine was in operation continuously, producing table salt from the 13th century until recently, in 2007. It is one of the world's oldest operating salt mines, run by the Źupy Krakowskie company, and your visit deep into the bowels of the mine will surely be a rewarding experience.
Back in Old Town, head to Kuchnia Staropolska for a bite. I'm recommending it not for its stellar fare but rather for its kitschy atmosphere and no-frills attitude (read Seinfeld's Soup Nazi). The food is cheap and edible, bordering on tasty. Wash it down with a beer and you're good to go.
But be sure to soak up the ambience of the basement bedroom-cum-kitchen, adorned with various boxing trophies and photo memorabilia. The food may be a fading memory, but the surroundings will stay with you long after you've returned home.
A few offerings from the menu
Krakow is a great destination for art on many levels. Whether it is the murals, the architecture, the sculptural bridge or the salt mines, you are in for a treat with a visit to this southern Polish city.
So, what are you waiting for? Krakow is calling.