THE TOP SOUVENIRS FROM KRAKÓW
Hailing from a small village in western Poland, Bolesławiec folk pottery is one of Poland's most popular exports, and Kraków is a great place to start a collection for yourself or anyone else you know with a kitchen. Beloved for its simple hand-painted folk patterns, Bolesławiec is Polish design at its best - iconic, functional, extremely durable and oh so Polish. As the portfolio of patterns has expanded over the years, there is now truly something that will appeal to everyone, but the most traditional, iconic, original patterns are those with blue and white dots. Their products extend from bowls, plates, teacups, butter dishes, sugar bowls, pie dishes and other kitchenware to Christmas decorations, candleholders and other bits of decor. Trust us, if you've got an aunt or mother-in-law for whom you never know what to buy, this is the answer.
Folk Pottery from Bolesławiec
Żubrówka (bison grass vodka), Krupnik (herbal honey vodka) and Żołądkowa Gorzka (bitter stomach vodka). There are also dozens more, including every fruit flavour imaginable, so make sure you've done some taste-tasting while in town before hitting the duty-free shop at the airport; you can also find some of these brands available to order online through our shop.
[Pro hobo tip: save yourself money and stress by bringing your own plastic bottle, because the stuff works better when it's not shattered in your luggage.]
Striped FlintWhile we're on the subject of gemstones and jewellery, Poland actually has its own unique stone, known as 'krzemień pasiasty,' or 'striped flint.' The only striped flint deposit in the world is located about 200km north of Kraków, where it has been mined since the early Bronze Age. In fact, the Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as recently as July 2019. In the 1970s, Sandomierz jeweller Cezary Łutowicz was the first to appreciate the aesthetic value of this regional wonder and began creating jewellery from the stone, whose gray and beige stripes resemble the rolling of the sea. Over the decades striped flint jewellery has grown in popularity, prized for its rarity and for being uniquely Polish. The best place to get it in Kraków is at the frequent Mineral Fairs that take place, but try the Amber Jewellery shop on Plac Mariacki.
Folk CostumesEach region of Poland has its own ceremonial folk costume (take a trip to the Ethnographic Museum if you want to see them all), and that of Małopolska - the region to which Kraków belongs - is quite recognisable. Although it isn't worn every day, these costumes come out in earnest at folk fairs, festivals, weddings and other special occasions, and tourists will certainly encounter them on local street musicians and dancers, as well as in the souvenir shops, where folk motifs are printed on almost any trinket you can think of. It's all a bit kitsch to be honest, but - hang on a minute - okay, those outfits are actually amazing. I mean just look at those embroidered and beaded vests! Floral skirts! Red-striped trousers! Floral wreaths! Peacock caps! There's not a hipster alive who wouldn't kill for this outfit, or a kid on earth who wouldn't look adorable in it.
Graphic Art & PostersPoland has a rich tradition of graphic art, particularly poster art, which has developed as its own specific genre, with various schools and artists gaining national and even international renown as a result. In addition to posters for theatre productions, concerts, festivals and propaganda campaigns, during the PRL era Polish artists produced original posters for Hollywood blockbusters without having seen the films or even knowing anything more than the title and a few of the acting and production credits. As a result, you can find unique, highly original Polish posters for some of your favourite films that will surprise and potentially delight you with their abstract representations. To see what we're talking about, visit one of Kraków's two family-owned poster galleries - the Old Town's Cracow Poster Gallery (Galeria Plakatu), or the larger Dydo Poster Gallery near the National Museum. Both are amazing places to peruse and purchase limited edition prints, or collect some awesome postcards if you aren't ready to travel with a poster tube; you can also order posters online.
Also check out the beautiful albums The Art of Polish Poster by Dorota Folga-Januszewska, and Contemporary Polish Posters in Full Colour by Joseph Czestochowski - both of are guaranteed to make your coffee table perk up.
Slippers (Pantofle)For first-timers in Poland (particularly our American friends with their ridiculous wall-to-wall carpeting), the idea of house slippers may seem a bit silly, but admit it - you love them. Wearing slippers around the home and having extra pairs for guests is simply part of Polish hospitality, and once you embrace it, why let go? Live here long enough, in fact, and you'll start travelling with your own pair, we promise. Women's slippers, which are colourfully embroidered, are a particularly fashionable and very affordable gift from Poland. Kraków's Cloth Hall is the perfect place to buy them, and if you don't know the exact size you need, does it really matter? They're slippers, after all.
Books, Albums & LiteratureMainland's Europe's first UNESCO City of Literature, Kraków is home to numerous literary cafes, bookstores, literary festivals and events, and has been home to many famous authors over the years, including Nobel Prize winners Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz, as well as popular sci-fi author Stanisław Lem and even Joseph Conrad. While in Kraków, a pilgrimage to Massolit is obligatory; this English-language bookstore/cafe/bar/cultural centre is as essential to the city's expat community and as iconic as Paris' Shakespeare And Company. Inside you'll find a cosy, friendly atmosphere and great selection of Polish literature in English translation, as well as plenty of Judaica, Polish and Central European history and cultural studies, even local English language authors.
Alternatively, you'll find dozens of titles of classic Polish literature in English on our own online shop.