Spending New Year’s Eve in Krakow is a great experience when you know where to go. Poles are known for celebrating the festive season with style and frolic; New Year is a big event in their country, and one that never goes unnoticed.
Here we tell you all about the customs and places to go to have a good time on this special date.
How do celebrate New Year’s Eve in Krakow?
Celebrating New Year or Nowy Rok is something very special. People decorate streets, houses and businesses in anticipation, with seasonally themed lights and window displays being a common sight.
On New Year’s Eve, people gather with family and friends for dinner. While many prefer to stay at home, others take the opportunity to go out to nightclubs and resorts.
At midnight, people toast with champagne or gzhanets, a traditional mulled wine. Fireworks are set off in the squares and folk songs are played. People go sledding in the streets.
New Year’s Eve street party in Krakow
Street parties are a tradition on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s morning. They date back to medieval Poland, when the aristocracy gathered for a lively celebration – the kulig.
The szlachta, made up of noble families, used to ride horse-drawn sleighs and go from one mansion to another, where they would hold lavish banquets and balls.
Today the custom continues, although it has taken on more modest forms. People from all walks of life go out for sleigh rides, play music and cook over open fires, dancing and having fun with masquerades.
It is worth mentioning that the kulig has become a major attraction for tourists, especially in regions like Zakopane.
Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Krakow
While Christmas Eve has a family character, Polish New Year’s Eve is quite the opposite, being very festive and Mediterranean. The best place to welcome the New Year is undoubtedly Rynek Główny, the Main Market Square. Its New Year’s Eve party is an incredible tradition, comparable to New York’s Countdown. Live music, lights and laser shows are part of the event that brings together hundreds of tourists and Krakowers.
It is one of the largest annual concerts in Europe.
The event is free of charge and brings together Polish and international musicians of different genres, who entertain from 8:30 pm and lasting as long as the body can take it.
Shortly before 12 o’clock the battle of the clock takes place, where the seconds are counted down to start another year.
What to do on New Year in Krakow?
In addition to the big party at Rynek Główny, Kraków offers other wonderful plans to entertain you on New Year’s Eve, either before or after the eve.
Visit a traditional coffee house
Coffee culture is a mainstay of the city, and what better way to take shelter from the cold than by popping into one of the many coffee bars or cafés that abound. Many are concentrated in the Old Town, offering hot drinks and tasty desserts.
Ice rinks abound in the city, with the one in Blonia Park being the best known. Another option is the huge Ice Park rink in Henryk Jordan Park, which features attractions such as a gallery with animal sculptures and a special area for children.
Explore the Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Location: Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland
- Open: 8.30 am – 5.30 pm
These salt mines on the outskirts of Kraków are always a memorable adventure. Its labyrinth of tunnels is inhabited by underground lakes and chambers, among which marvellous nooks and crannies such as the Chapel of St. Kinga stand out.
If being outdoors in the snow isn’t your thing, you might want to head inside MOCAK, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków. Opened in 2011, this gallery is home to a large art collection, with a library, bookshop and café attached.
Take a ride through the snow in a sleigh or carriage
As already mentioned, these vehicles are a precious custom of the Polish winter. Some of the most popular excursions include interesting sights such as the ruins of Kazimierz Castle and the Ojców National Park.
Songs to sing on New Year’s Eve in Kraków
Poles are great lovers of music, especially during the festive season.
Although they don’t have traditional New Year’s Eve songs, nowadays it is common to hear great international classics on the radio, at parties, even played instrumentally by orchestras at concerts.
Seasonal classics such as Frank Sinatra’s It was a very good year, U2’s New Year’s Day or the well-known Auld Lang Syne are some of these familiar tunes.
Where to eat on New Year’s Eve in Krakow?
There are not many establishments available for New Year’s Eve dining; at least not at the cheapest price. Still, we’ve got a couple of options that might suit you (and your wallet).
- Miód Malina. This beautiful and elegant place offers typical Polish cuisine at a very affordable price. Dishes like apple pancakes and pierogis might become your favourites.
- Plac Nowy. Like all Krakow’s squares, this one usually has its own party on 31 December. If you’re lucky you’ll find some street food stalls. Zapiekanka is a cheap and popular snack here, which you can eat on the spot.
Other popular restaurants
Some of the best places to dine on New Year’s Eve in Krakow are the following:
Karakter, (Kazimierz). A restaurant that fuses Polish and French cuisine.
Boscaiola, (Jewish Quarter). A place to taste Italian specialities.
Albertina Restaurant & Wine, (Old Town). Traditional luxury restaurant.
Plac Nowy 1, (Jewish Quarter). Cocktails and national dishes.
Pod Baranem, (Old Town). Offers typical Polish dishes.
Starka, (Jewish Quarter). Specialises in national cuisine.
Trattoria La Campana, (Old Town). Tasteful Italian.
Nova Resto Bar, (Jewish Quarter). Modern restaurant for the whole family.
Art Restaurant, (Old Town). Famous gourmet Polish cuisine.
Trzy Gesi Restaurant, (Jewish Quarter). Haute cuisine and Polish wines.
Before choosing a place, find out about the menu and prices, which may vary depending on the date. It is also advisable to book a table in advance.
Typical Polish New Year’s Eve customs
In addition to the twelve-course dinner, there are other particular customs that Poles like to observe at this time of year:
- Before sitting at the table, families share opłatek (unleavened bread), breaking it into pieces as they greet each other and kiss. They also read the biblical passage about the birth of Jesus.
- It is customary to give each other gifts, preferably practical objects. Women are given clothing, accessories and jewellery. Men are given wallets, ties, pens or lighters, and the like.
- In the case of married women, it is always a good idea to find out in advance what the husband’s gift is going to be, as it is frowned upon to give them something more expensive.
- Poles wake up a little before the first day of January and get out of bed with the first step on the right foot. This is a way of attracting good fortune in the new year.
- Since fish is the main dish at New Year’s Eve dinner, the scales are kept for the head of the household to put in his wallet. It is thought that this will increase abundance.
Typical dishes eaten on New Year’s Eve in Poland
In Poland, New Year’s Eve is known as Wieczerza Wigilijna. It is common for families to maintain the Christmas tradition of preparing a menu of 12 dishes, a number that represents the months of the year and is also considered good luck.
Meat is omitted in favour of fish with a variety of side dishes, including opłatek – a rich unleavened bread that should always be present on the table.
Although the dishes vary according to the region and family customs, these are usually the most typical ones on New Year’s Eve:
- Borstch, a soup made of red beets, mushrooms and sauerkraut ravioli.
- Grzybowa, soup made from mushrooms.
- Jewish style carp.
- Seaweed jelly.
- cooked sauerkraut.
- Ryba po grecku, Greek-style fish.
- snow peas
- Pierogis stuffed with vegetables or cheese.
- Barley porridge with butter.
- Śledź, herring with lemon and onion.
- Piernik, sweet made from flour and honey.
- Kutia, a dessert made from wheat grains with honey, walnuts, grapes and poppies.
New Year’s Eve traditions in Poland
As great lovers of festivities, Poles have some interesting traditions to share on New Year’s Eve and New Year:
In January it is possible to continue visiting the szopki, beautiful nativity scenes displayed in churches, museums and public squares.
The traditional countdown to the coming year is typical in Kraków’s houses and streets. Many citizens gather in front of the big clock on the Market Square to celebrate with music and lights.
31 December coincides with Sylwester’s Day. This custom dates back to the end of the 19th century and originated from a legend, in which the saint fought Leviathan, a sea monster that tried to devour the world. Historically, Sylvester I is known as one of the popes of Rome.
On the morning of 1 January, people go out to play in the snow and go sledding. Sometimes circular races and horseback rides are organised.