Shopping in Cracow
From vintage clobber to high-street fashion, Cracow has much to offer shoppers, and those arriving from Western Europe will notice significant price reductions. Cracow shopping may not make it a rival to larger European cities, but it's a good place to hunt down individual items with a bit of history to them.
Rynek Glowny still performs its medieval function as Cracow's beating heart and living room. The Cloth Hall is a good place to find handicrafts, such as jewellery, wooden chess sets, glass, textiles, lace and other reasonably priced items. The range of shops clustering around the Hotel Cracovia, aleja Focha 1, is also worth a visit for Polish handicrafts. The section of the Old Town wall on ulica Florianska is given over to local artists, who present works of varying quality for sale.
The colourful vegetable market Stary Kleparz at Rynek Kleparski, just to the north of the Old Town, is one of the oldest markets in Poland, dating back to the 14th century. A little farther north, around plac Nowy Kleparz, at the end of ulica Dluga (the longest street in Cracow), is another vegetable market - although not quite as cheap as its older cousin. Cracow's biggest flea market (open Sunday 0700-1300) is located at plac Nowy in Kazimierz.
The gigantic Galeria Krakowska, ulica Pawia 5, is a very large shopping mall and home to all the usual, multinational suspects, plus many of Poland's high-street chains. Located near the train station, the shopping centre offers consumerism on a scale many Poles wouldn't have dreamt of 20 years ago. It's a startling contrast to the quaint shops and traditional markets in the Old Town.
Shops in Cracow are generally open Monday to Friday 1000-1800/2000 and Saturday 1000-1300/1400. Shopping malls, hypermarkets and the larger shops are often open seven days a week, and there are a number of 24-hour shops.
If you're looking for souvenirs in Cracow, avoid the plethora of shops peddling the usual wares (fridge magnets, key rings and T-shirts) and head to the Cloth Hall at Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square). This ancient market is a great place to pick up jewellery and handicrafts at reasonable prices. They may be made for tourists nowadays but they continue strong peasant woodworking and weaving traditions. Alternatively, Krakuska, ulica Szewska 9, has an Aladdin's cave of quirky souvenirs.
Alcoholic drinks are also a good buy: Poland produces excellent flavoured vodkas that are hard to find outside the country. For beers, look out for brews from the nearby hill town of Zywiec, Poland's main brewery centre.
VAT is 23%. Tax-free shopping is available at various venues displaying the 'Tax Free Shopping' sign.