Summery days in Krakow can be spent strolling along the banks of the beautiful Vistula River. They can be about hitting the gorgeous Planty greenbelt that rings the Old Town area with pine trees and sycamores, people watching and dog spotting and sipping strong coffees as you go. Or, they can be about flitting between the cobbled streets of Kazimierz and historic Podgorze districts, where the ghosts of WWII ghettos and fascinating tales of Schindler coalesce in the museums. The nights though; well, the nights are about one thing and one thing only for the youthful lady in her prime: Krakow's pub crawls!
Now I'm not one to go in search of parties for the sake of partying. I mainly like to share my travels between UNESCO World Heritage Sites and cat-themed cafes. But when the opportunity to head out in a city whose nightlife I'd heard so many awesome things about presented itself, I really couldn't resist. After all, it was July, and the beer gardens that fringe the enchanting Main Square in the middle of the city were in full flow – I guess I was just a perfect target for those uber-friendly promoters on Krawl Through Krakow!
When it comes to Krakow's Bar crawls, there really is only one option!
In the height of the summer in Krakow you can expect to be approached by oodles of promoters touting the 'best night out you'll ever get', especially if you wander as far and wide across the Old Town and Kazimierz areas as I did (which is worth it, I promise!). Unfortunately, most of the approaches I had were lackluster at best, and some were downright weird - one guy even asked me if my feet were tired…I wonder where that was going (do you think I’d been running through his head all day without noticing it, perhaps?).
That said, as I sipped my frothy beer in the bars of the Main Square in the dying light of the evening, I did meet one group of guys and girls that made the prospect of an evening on the pub crawl seem, simply, the right thing to do. They were smiling and jolly, dressed in psychedelic bouts of pink text proclaiming 'Krawl Through Krakow', and really easy to talk to besides.
First, they passed me and asked if I wanted to join them for a party in the evening. Before I knew it, we'd been chatting about train travels and Interrail tickets, Polish cuisine and skiing for more than half an hour. My new friends had to dash at around seven, but they left me with a pub crawl leaflet, surreptitiously placed on the edge of my table next to my empty beer. It promised free booze for an hour, drinking games and the chance to meet some more fun folk like the ones I'd just been nattering with.
I thought: Why the devil not?
Meeting the pub crawl and meeting new friends
Contrary to what you might think, hitting the best pub crawl in Krakow isn't just about guzzling vodka shots and getting so inebriated you can't stand. Yes, some people opted for that course through the night, and the awesome – not to mention uber-patient – guides were tactful enough to support (and I mean literally support – like, by the shoulders) them back to their hostel dorms. Others, like me, were simply in it for the odd entry shot (which wasn't hardcore, but rather tasty instead), the boogie, and – mainly – the company.
As a solo traveler, it was a pleasure to finally join a bar crawl which wasn't just about making dosh and leaving the revelers to their own devices. (I remember being left to sip Bohemian lagers all on my own in Prague, like some depressed Tom Waits gawping at everyone else having fun from the shadowy corners of the bar.)
In Krakow, there was no such thing. The guides were so attentive, and made talking to them and the other guests super easy. They got drinking games going in the first bar, which eventually led to long chats with a few fellow backpackers about our most disgusting hostel experiences (think rats, misplaced bubblegum et al!). Then, we hit a karaoke joint, and the guides themselves were first on the list to make a fool of themselves, which broke the ice for me to do my thing with Shirley Bassey (yea, I really apologize if you were present!). After that, it was onto a local beer hall, where there were also some regional Polish dishes to sample on the menu – and, they cost just 8 PLN (that's less than $2!).
Add to that a nice mix of genders in the group - we were virtually split 50/50 between guys and gals (perhaps because Krawl Through Krakow offers reduced rates for ladies, ahem). What’s more, there was no rowdy clutch of stag do members aboard either. It all added up to make the perfect cocktail for a lone traveler looking to party.
And at the end of the night, after we'd meandered through the booming crowds of the Old Town (which is really beautiful, even in the dark) with the help of our tour leaders, we ended up in one of the best clubs I think I've ever partied in. Not being totally sloshed, there's a lot to be said about 80s funk and well-curated chart tunes at 4am! Thanks Krakow…
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