Whether wandering the cobbled streets of the Old Town or the historical roads of Kazimierz, you can rest assured that you’ll never be too far away from jazz bars in Krakow. They range from famous music dives on the Main Square to modern and quirky boho options in basements and even to restaurants with opulent grands. This ultimate guide to jazz in Krakow runs through the whole shebang.
The top jazz Bars in Krakow
Harris Piano Jazz Bar
Rarely has a Slavic subterrane been as quintessentially jazz as this. Yes sir, Harris is nothing short of legendary on the Krakow – nay Polish – scene, having been one of the leaders of live music here since first opening its cellar doors in the late 1990s. Since then, this one’s tight-knit stage and intimate underground interior have hosted big names like the late Art Farmer, sax master Gary Bartz and percussion maestro Idris Muhammad to name just a few. Poland’s own jazz greats have been regulars too, from violinist Michal Urbaniak to Scorpions-bassist Pawel Maciwoda. Patrons can expect a dimly-lit interior and a prime location on the edge of the Market Square, not to mention a line-up of cocktails that’s perfectly suited to the occasion.
Rynek Główny 28, +48 12 421 57 41
Where to stay near Harris Piano Jazz Bar?
There’s nowhere better to bed down if you’re aiming to spend evenings in the cocktail-clinking cellars of Harris Jazz Bar than the Main Square. That’s great for sightseeing and nightlife generally – it puts you right in the middle of Krakow’s UNESCO Old Town. Click here to see and book hotels in the Old Town.
The sleek and stunning Meyo Apartments are a cracking place to base yourself in the area. They are literally steps away from Harris Jazz, so you can easily make it (read: stumble) home after a night of Coltrane and cocktails. Meanwhile, the classic and sumptuous feeling OK MAIN SQUARE Apartments are situated just above the jazz bar itself, with self-catering flats that are cost, cute, and quaint.
Piec Art Acoustic Jazz Club
Offering something of a respite from the wilder clubs and chart tunes that dominate Szewska Street in the middle of the Old Town, the Piec Art Acoustic Jazz Club is a narrow, corridor of a venue with a swish and stylish bar and seating that spills out onto the pavements during the jazz-friendly summer evenings. The calendar of acts focuses – as the name suggests – primarily on acoustic gigs, most of which set up and play in the small cellar underground. Expect the usual exposed brick walls, plenty of Polish beers and great cocktails to boot. A truly fine option on the line-up of jazz bars in Krakow to say the least!
Szewska 12, +48 12 429 16 02
Forever vying with Harris Jazz for the title of Krakow’s most prestigious underground venue, this no-frills spot makes its home below the much-trodden strips of Florianska Street, just a short walk from the Market Square. It’s been going since way back in 1991, which might be why there’s a palpable air of nostalgia bouncing between the apses of the medieval cellar where the music acts kick off any time in the evenings after 8pm. It was actually founded by a great of the Polish jazz scene – Janusz Muniak. He played with the likes of Trzaskowski back when the genre was really finding its feet and experimenting in the post-war era and the 60s. Alongside the music, there’s a menu of vodkas, tequilas, and cocktails, bolstered by bar snacks like nachos and olive plates. Just one word of warning here: Service has been said to be curt. But who cares about that when the line-up of shows comes littered with big-name jazz figures and a venue where some of Poland’s very best have played over the decades?
Where to stay near U Muniaka?
The great thing about choosing to stay in the vicinity of U Muniaka jazz bar is that you’re going to be on Florianska Street. It’s one of the main arteries of the Old Town, which means you can fill your nights with vodka tasting, beer bars, and even hit up the other great jazz bars in Krakow.
For a real feel of history, we’d recommend checking out Stylish apartments in the heart of Cracow. They really do live up to the name, with a cool intermingling of medieval features, vaulted ceilings, and uber-modern interior design. (the perfect sort of place to retire to after a night of brooding jazz, don’t you think?). More modern and airy Fresco Apartments are just up the road, with slick kitchen areas, and breezy living spaces.
Floriańska 3, +48 12 423 12 05
Old Jazz Café
Not underground, though it may as well be on account of its uber-intimate vibe and shadowy, subterranean mystique, the Old Jazz Café in the heart of Kazimierz is one of the more off-the-beaten-track jazz bars in Krakow. Live music is ad hoc but still excellent, with semi-acoustic and acoustic bands occupying a small corner between the forest-green walls inside. The aromas of coffee twist and turn throughout the joint, while thick Belgian beers are also available. In summer, an outdoor terrace area makes for great inter-song breaks, while the sandwiches and cereal bowls are perfect if you’re after a nibble.
Dajwór 20, +48 12 422 17 25
The Piano Rouge
Taking us back to the very heart of the Krakow Old Town is this perennial favourite on the city’s jazz scene. Doused in a Moulin-esque glow, the interior is opulently done out with regal red carpets and flowing velvet curtains; nostalgically echoing the character of the building’s 16th-century origins. The prized Bechstein grand dominates the playing room, while diners (this one doubles as a fine-dining restaurant too) cluster around, between the real-stone walls and the arches of the stony cellar. Music wise, you can expect an eclectic array of piano covers, classical and vocals, all mixed in with the occasional out-and-out jazz duet for the real aficionados.
Rynek Główny 46, +48 12 431 03 33
How much does jazz in Krakow cost?
Like with most things in Poland, you shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for a great night of jazz in Krakow. Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t some nights that will cost you a considerable sum. When big-name bands add Krakow to their tour list (and that’s quite common given the rich jazz heritage that the city enjoys), you can look to paying up to 100 PLN (around £20) for a ticket.
Piano Rouge However, that’s most certainly not the norm. Most regular shows cost between 15-25 PLN (£3-5) per person. Some days the gigs are even free, though that’s most common in restaurant-style establishments like Piano Rouge, which don’t charge at the door but make their dosh on meals and drinks.
Talking of food and drinks, the cost of booze and food in the jazz bars in Krakow might be just a little higher than in other establishments across the city. Take the pizza and snacks menu of Harris Jazz Bar, where you’ll pay between 20-30 PLN (£6) for a main. Next to that is the more fine-dining style of Piano Rouge, which has gourmet cooking costing 50 PLN per dish and over.
The history of jazz in Krakow
If you’re looking for the home of jazz in Poland – you’ve found it in Krakow. The tale of the genre goes way back to before the tumult of the Second World War, when underground bars playing American swing entertained the masses of a newly crowned Second Polish Republic. It was a period when Krakow was transforming itself from occupied city to cultural hub of Central Europe, with all the universities, cafes, expos, and – crucially for jazz in Krakow – musical institutions that go with it.
Things really took off when the first proper jazz bars in Krakow popped up in the 50s and 60s. That helped some of the great names of Polish jazz thrive in the city. The likes of musicologist and composer Andrzej Trzaskowski – a native of Krakow – started pushing the boundaries of bop, hard bop, and swing during this period. He collaborated with Wojciech Karolak (who would later go on to work with Miles Davis, no less) on quintet shows and compositions.
After the fall of communism is when jazz in Krakow was really given a free reign, however. The wall came down in 1989 and it’s no surprise that, as musical influences began flowing in from the west once more, jazz bars started popping up by the bucket load in the late 90s. That’s when Harris Jazz bar first opened its doors, while years earlier the Polish saxophonist (and contemporary of Trzaskowski) Janusz Muniak started his bar on Florianska Street.
Think we’ve missed something? Got a jazz bar in Krakow that you think should totally be on this list? Any ideas where people visiting can go to watch awesome jazz in Krakow? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. After all, this wouldn’t be the ultimate guide to jazz in Krakow if it wasn’t always changing with the times!
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