Eating out in Poland - a rough guide to the types of places to eat

Kasprowy Wierch Zakopane
One of many ice-cream concoctions for people with a sweet tooth



selling smoked cheese or oscypki in Zakopane



Selling smoked cheese or oscypki as a snack in Zakopane.





Pub Crawls

Bars and clubs compete for your holiday cash. Krakow is well-known for its high density of bars and is the best city I have ever visited for an interesting pub crawl. That Polish creativity has again produced such a variety of individual bars, each with their own special character, that you go as much to see how they have decorated the place as to drink the alcohol.

Start your pub crawl from the Old Square in Krakow and it really doesn't matter much which way you turn because there are bars down every street. A stag night can also be a magical mystery tour with a difference.

Zakopane also offers a good selection of bars and clubs, mostly congregated along the main tourist street of Krupowki.

Stay in the cities if you want nightlife. Outside cities and large towns the evening entertainment becomes sparser and in villages some restaurants close around 18:00. If you're looking for a lively time, do check out the area before booking somewhere to stay.

Towns like Zakopane stretch for miles and it can be a very long trek into the centre (or expensive taxi ride) if you're staying on the outskirts of town but expect to party every night.



Polish people have a sweet tooth


One of the pleasures of a holiday in Poland is eating out. Restaurants are generally a fair bit less expensive than in the UK or the United States and there is an entirely new cuisine to explore.

Polish doughnutPoles have a sweet tooth and the dessert menu usually contains pancakes or crepes of various kinds, apple charlotte (szarlotka), ice creams in sundaes, with whipped cream, with fruit, with chocolate sauce or a sweet and sticky mix of all combined, various cakes and tortes and the ubiquitous fruit filled pierogi.

We would recommend that you try Polish cheesecake and Polish doughnuts. The Polish doughnut is an amazing confection of light crispy dough filled with a generous helping of rose flavoured fruit jam and glazed. As if things couldn't get better, there are also chocolate versions available.


A guide to places to eat in the south of Poland

The milk bar

As a very rough guide, a Milk Bar sells good basic Polish wholesome food at the cheapest prices (these used to be subsidised by the Government). The decor is canteen style but the food can be good depending on the cook. Expect soup and a main course.

Traditional restaurants

A Karczma is a restaurant in Highland Polish style found in and around Zakopane. It is usually a wooden building with wooden tables and seating in the peasant style serving traditional Polish foods with a regional Highland flavour. These places ooze atmosphere and feature pork cooked many different ways, the Polish version of 'dripping' to eat with bread, hearty soups and a good selection of alcoholic drinks. A limited selection of other meats is usually available. Vodka is the most common drink placed on tables by the bottle for parties and celebrations.

Non-traditional restaurants

Non-traditional restaurants come in a variety of guises and themes as restaurants everywhere. Polish creativity can sometimes be seen at its best in the décor of these restaurants and the food will range from Polish to whatever the theme is. In Malopolska, southern Poland, you're likely to find Italian and perhaps Mexican or Greek. Krakow and the main cities feature a wider international cuisine. One section with limited representation at present is Indian and curry.

Fast food in Poland

Fast food outlets of various kinds are found everywhere. Global brands such KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut are in every main city. There is local Polish competition in Pierogi bars, the Goralski Hamburger, Hot grilled sausage stands.

Coffee shops

Coffee shops will frequently also provide guests with simple lunches such as stuffed cabbage leaves, burgers and pierogi as well as tea, coffee and cakes.

Street food vendors in Poland

Depending on the area, the number of street vendors is proportional to the influx of tourists. Expect to find ice-cream, bread and bun sellers, roasted nuts.



open fire Grilled meat
Karczma's and traditional eateries usually have an open fire in the winter Grilled sausage and meat is a Polish favourite
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Experiencing Poland through your taste buds


As a lover of food and always keen to experience something new, Poland has a lot to offer. It helps if you can be broad minded in Poland and not concentrate on the 'wrappings' and presentation too much, some of the best food experiences can be in humble peasant style surroundings. That is not to say that you won't come across fine dining - you will in the cities, but don't exclude Polish traditional 'peasant' recipes for real taste sensations.

If you appreciate waiter service, main meals arriving under silver domes which are removed with a flourish, you will find that in the cities. It is essential to choose a restaurant renowned for its cuisine otherwise the removal of the domes may be a little disappointing and purely theatrical.

Expect 3 courses on most menus, followed by coffee

  • A starter is often soup (there are some wonderful soups such as cream of tomato, mushroom, chicken soup with rice or noodles, kwasnica and kapusniak which are both cabbage and pork rib soups, grochowka - a pea soup, a sour rye soup and the inevitable barszcz or borscht beetroot soup).
  • The main course will be either a meat dish, fish, pasta or pizza, limited vegetarian apart from cheese pierogi, vegetarian pasta and omelettes. Vegetables are usually an additional accompaniment and can be grated salads, boiled vegetables.
  • A sweet course may include any of the desserts mentioned above.

When ordering to check whether vegetables are included, mostly they need to be added individually as a side course and cost extra.The same often applies to bread for soup.


Most Poles don't tip and it is not expected, especially outside the big cities and a service charge is usually already included in the bill. Tourists often tip because that is the norm back home and it is more likely to be expected in tourist areas.

We have a couple of favourite restaurants in Cracow, chosen because of the quality of food and would appreciate feedback from visitors to Poland if you have eaten in an exceptionally good restaurant.

Although vodka is still the drink of choice for many, good restaurants will have a wine cellar and wine menu for you to choose from.

I would recommend that you try the range of food on offer in Poland. Any visit to a butcher's shop will let you know that Poland produces a wide range of sausage and salami. These sausages can be quite delicious although not to everyone's taste. There are different sausages for different purposes; some are made for grilling and barbequeing and intended to be served hot, others are ready as they are and can be eaten in sandwiches, with salads or as snacks.

The choice of fresh meat is much narrower with pork dominating any menu, followed by chicken, turkey and beef. Lamb rarely features. Fish tends to be either farmed rainbow or brown trout, imported salmon, cod and carp at Christmas. Meat dishes include shashlik which a type of kebab or skewered meat, breaded fillets, goulash, pork knuckle, roast in gravy, minced in dishes such as stuffed cabbage leaves, pierogi, kotlety, chopped meats as in bigos or galaretka.

What you won't find are baked meat pies with pastry (other than pierogi), good and tender beef steaks, roasts in the same way that you might find in the UK or the states other than chicken. You can eat those again when you return home.

Forget the traditional roast when in Poland. Even roast potatoes are off the menu. Potatoes are usually mashed, boiled and topped with chopped dill, chipped, fried as potato pancakes and perhaps baked but not roast.

You will enjoy your Polish culinary experience more if you aim to eat Polish style and not look for familiar dishes. You might not like some of it but then again you may just encounter some really great food that you really enjoy.


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