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Your Reading List for Krakow

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This week we continue our book blog series with the beautiful city of Krakow.

Poland’s second largest city, behind Warsaw, Krakow is the country’s most popular tourist destination. Visiting Krakow is a thrill. It’s full of history, architecture, and great cuisine. Once the royal capital of Poland, Krakow came out of WWII unscathed, unlike the rest of the country. There is no doubt why Krakow is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Old Town is lovely. It is quaint though it houses the largest square in all of Europe. Krakow’s former Jewish ghetto gives a glimpse into Jewish life in WWII. And Krakow has great museums dedicated to Polish history and art, attesting to the important role culture plays in local life.

Krakow has a rich and volatile history and for many years was a crossroads of cultures in Central Europe. This past makes it the perfect subject for literature and indeed there’s no shortage of fantastic books set in and around the city. Check out a few of our favorite!

A Girl in a Red Coat by Roma Ligocka

This is the touching memoir of a girl who spent her childhood in German-occupied Krakow. Ligocka narrates the events with stunning detail, outlining how she fled from the Jewish ghetto and hid in various shelters, never knowing where her father was. To add to the intrigue, the writer is the cousin of infamous filmmaker Roman Polanski. This is a powerful and moving story that will give you an intriguing point of view on the volatile history of Jews in Krakow. 

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka

Winner of the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, Brigid Pasulka is a descendent of Polish immigrants to the US. In this fascinating novel she writes passionately about Krakow and its surrounding areas, recreating the lives and legends of her ancestors and their time period. Along the way she tells not one but two amazing stories through the legacy of one family, throwing in half a century of Polish history. This book will give you an appreciation of Krakow in the old days, as well as the courage and conviction it took for immigrants to leave in search of a better life elsewhere. 

Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by Katrina Shawver

This non-fiction book by Katrina Shawver tells the story of 85-year-old Henry Zguda. He was a champion Polish swimmer who was also a Holocaust survivor. With a prodigious memory and some important historical documents, Henry is able to recall and recreate the dangerous and difficult period of World War II in Poland. This is the story of youth and strength and most importantly the true meaning of friendship. It’s a tale that’s sometimes sad but ultimately heartwarming and life-affirming. 

The Doll by Boleslaw Prus

Just about everyone who reads this novel, in English or the original Polish, agrees that it is a masterpiece. It tells the story of a middle-aged businessman, Wokulski, who is in love with a vapid society woman named Izabela. Prus captures the high manners of Polish society in the late 19th century, with a cast of indelibly interesting characters. All of the drama plays out against the background of the rigidly hierarchical society of Krakow at the time, from rich businessmen to beggars and practically everyone in between. 

English Book stores in Krakow

American Bookstore

If you’re looking for the latest bestsellers while you’re in Krakow, this is the place to go. A small store in Old Town, the American Bookstore stocks the latest paperbacks in English.
Address: Sławkowska 24A, 31-014 Kraków, Poland

As You Like It Bookshop

As You Like It Bookshop offers books in both Polish and English. They specialize in books about art history, design and architecture. But they also have a wide array of classic and contemporary literature, as well as children’s books in English.
Address: Stradomska 10, 33-332 Kraków, Poland

Massolit Books and Cafe

A lovely independent bookshop specializing in English-language books both used and new. They’re located in Old Town and are always worth a stop, even if you’re just looking to browse. With more than 20,000 books in the shop, you’re certain to find something that catches your eye! There’s also a cafe where you can enjoy delicious coffees, teas and light bites.
Address: Felicjanek 4, 31-104 Kraków, Poland

Are you planning a visit to Krakow? We’re Poland travel experts. Just get in touch to start planning the perfect tailored holiday. 

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