A Visit to Krakow’s Easter Market
I have a bit of a complicated relationship with holiday markets in Europe. On the one hand, they’re all the things I love: Old Town squares, handmade goods, folk art and tradition. But, in practice, the reality of them can be a bit overwhelming for my introverted, minimalist preferences. I find that I enjoy them most when I’m able to wander on my own, at my own pace. And, I’ve given myself permission to appreciate walking through a Market without pressure to bring home every beautiful thing I see. Focusing on the experience of being in there, instead of accumulation, has freed me up to enjoy the Markets more. And, when I do happen upon something that will truly enrich our family’s story, I’m happy to bring it home with me.
The Easter Market is in Krakow’s Rynek (the Old Town Main Square). Because it’s one of Europe’s largest Medieval Town Squares, it still feels spacious when covered in Easter Market Stalls. I appreciate the approachable size and proportions of this Market. It’s large enough to have some interesting choices, but not big enough to be overwhelming.
Krakow’s Easter Market starts 10-14 days before Easter, and ends the Monday after Easter. Dates for the current year are here.
How to Get There
Krakow is easy to reach by train from all over Poland. The Easter Market is a comfortable 15 minute walk from the train station. The train ride from Warsaw is between 2.5 and 5 hours, depending on how many stops your train makes, and which equipment it uses. If you take one of the faster trains, it’s possible to visit Krakow’s Easter Market as a day trip from Warsaw. Tickets are quite reasonable and can be purchased online on the PKP website. They get more expensive the closer you get to your travel date, so it’s best to buy early when possible. However, they’re only available to buy online a few weeks in advance. So, there is a bit of a window you need to work within.
What You’ll Find
It’s no surprise to find painted eggs at an Easter Market, and these play a prominent role in this one. Most pisanki (painted eggs) are wooden and painted with traditional Polish folk art motifs. But, there are also some blown eggs, with designs painted on chicken, duck or goose eggs. Some of these are incredibly intricate. There are also blank wooden eggs you can buy to create your own pisanki.
In Poland, Easter baskets aren’t just containers for children to gather hidden eggs. On the Saturday before Easter, the faithful of all ages stream into churches around Poland carrying baskets. Inside are some of the ingredients that they’ll use to prepare their Easter meal the next day. Each of the ingredients is symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection. At the churches a Priest blesses the baskets and gives a short sermon. Stopping in at churches on that Saturday is such a fun, communal activity.
Although used primarily on Palm Sunday, there were still plenty of Easter Palms to be had when I was there, the day after. Although not made of actual Palms, the Easter Palms are a beautiful example of tradition born of circumstance.
There a variety of handcrafts available that are similar to what’s available at craft markets throughout the year. Handmade clothing, wooden kitchen items, and soft toys are prevalent. In particular for the Easter Market, you can find lots of Spring Wreaths and flowered headdresses.
Though not quite as omnipresent as at the Christmas Markets, Pierniczki (gingerbread cookies) still have a substantial presence. Of course, these are Easter or Spring-themed. Chicks and flowers replace their winter cousin’s snowflakes and Christmas trees.
The smells wafting from all the food stalls is half of the experience of walking Krakow’s Easter Market. There are a plethora of delicious choices, the most common being: pierogi, fried kiełbasa, and hot smoked goat cheese.