Once synonymous with smoke-choked, candlelit cafes and bars, ten years ago Kraków could be characterised as a smoker's paradise. Cigarettes were super cheap, smoking was permissible pretty much everywhere, and as a result the city's nightlife had a noirish atmosphere that many were just as attached to as the nicotine it encouraged them to inhale. Whether a smoker or not, coming home from a night out smelling like an ashtray was a fact of life few people gave much thought to (much the same way that smog was not in the daily public consciousness until recently).
After holding out to be one of the few remaining EU countries with no prohibitions on smoking, in November 2010 Poland finally put a law into effect limiting smoking in public places. Smoking tobacco products and e-cigarettes is now completely banned on public transit, transport stops and stations, schools and universities, workplaces, sports arenas and other places where the public gather. [Violators are supposedly subject to a 500zł fine, though we've never seen such a thing enforced, particularly at transit stops where the lines are blurry.]
In the case of cafes, bars, clubs, restaurants and other public places, however, the law states that there can be a separate room for smokers as long as it is ventilated and closed off from the other public areas. As a result, many venues now feature small smoking sections, but you'll find that many of them feel like closets, and are lacking in atmosphere. Also, the confined space makes the smell of smoke itself almost unbearable, such that you'd rather stand out in the cold than in the designated area, or finally quit smoking altogether (god forbid).
On the flip side, however, some venues have flouted the law and done just the opposite, giving the majority of their space over to smokers, with only a small area set aside for non-smokers. In this way there are still many venues that capture the hazy atmosphere and reckless pre-EU vibe of yesterday's Kraków. If you're a smoker looking for a bar where you won't feel ostracised for lighting up, this list is for you - below we offer (in no particular order) our favourite bars, cafes and Dostoevskian dram houses where smoking is still perfectly acceptable (without stepping outside, or into a small cancer cubicle).
[Note that on our website it's easy to determine which venues have a designated space for smoking. On the main Cafes, Restaurants and Nightlife chapter pages, simply click 'Show all' below 'Our most popular categories' and then choose 'Smoking place' from the Amenities menu to sort the desired results. Bear in mind, of course, that 'Smoking place' only applies to indoors. Smoking is still allowed in gardens and outdoor seating areas, so it is safe to assume that during the warmer months you can smoke comfortably in any of the venues that display when you select 'Outside seating' from the Amenities menu.]