Secret bars are opening up all over Poland. Probably two or three in each major city if you look hard enough. They represent one of the strangest exercises in nostalgia ever to grip the public, an infatuation with the good old days of Prohibition. Half the fun is the forbidden feeling of finding them. We expose three of the best in Kraków.
Mercy Brown easily gets a mention in this article. It affectionately calls itself a dive bar, but what you will find inside its hidden location is the furthest thing from shabby – or even ordinary for that matter. No joke, the gentlemen that tend the bar here are artists and the joy they take in showcasing their talents is a joy to watch; pull up a barstool and don’t miss the show. Once inside, you are transported to a vintage era of style and elegance, with chandeliers and frilly lampshades softly shining above and plush velveteen couches, golden drapes, and dim candlelight before you.
Behind the bar, antique glasses, stirrers, and old-fashioned vaporizers (for adding fragrance to cocktails) await alongside a staff that concocts wonderful renditions of classics with assorted twists. They make their own tinctures, the liquors are top shelf, and the tidy list of exclusive drinks changes regularly; prices start at 24zł, but it’s absolutely worth it. The perfect place for a nightcap, enjoy the dim, decadent 1920s Parisian atmosphere and electro-swing soundtrack.
Hidden above the Smakołyki restaurant with no outside signage, enter and indicate to the porter at the desk that you’d like to go upstairs; half the fun is the forbidden feeling of finding this place.
Z Ust do Ust
Opened in July 2016, Z Ust do Ust Polish for “word of mouth” is perhaps the most secretive cocktail bar in town, as its name suggests. In what seems to have become a local tradition of secret cocktail bars, Z Ust do Ust lives up to its name by taking the idea of the hidden entrance to new heights. Finding it is a fun adventure, even when you have the address. Once you’re in, you find yourself immediately greeted by the laidback bar staff, who have made their attentive, chummy service is one of this place’s strongest selling points. Drinks are served in shapes like bathtubs, pugs and fists, with popcorn alongside. A fun destination for younger folks in small groups looking for an adventure with some money to burn.
Sababa is a covert cocktail club surprisingly located at Plac Szeroka above Hamsa. Despite the 25zł signature drinks served up by sharply-dressed barmen, there’s a certain dive bar appeal to this hidden hangout, whose black walls and moody lighting, accented by elemental metals and geometric emblems, make for a very low-key lounge. A stunning array of different rooms, with beautiful chandeliers and a dancefloor, the cocktails, produced by a team of hipsters, are among the best in town and offer a mix of the Near East meets West.