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27 Nov - 26 Dec 2017 (prov)

Amongst the best-loved features of the market are the giant wooden barrels (you feel that Obelix would have enjoyed throwing these at red-faced Roman legionaries). Inside these intriguing objects you can buy yourself a delicious mulled wine (grzaniec galicyjski ). With the temperatures decidedly chilly to say the least, you could hardly find a more congenial potion to ward off the cold. Stalls selling sausages and the distinctive fried oscypek cheese (a tasty highland variety that's well worth investigating) provide other inviting gastronomic distractions.

But enough about food and drink. The main point is to be looking for presents for nearest and dearest (or at least that's everyone's excuse for consuming heinous quantities of mulled wine). Amongst the wooden stalls you'll find all kinds of trinkets, from woollen slippers from the Highlands to amber jewellery from the Baltic. There's a fair amount of tacky stuff, but it would be a little unnerving if every last jot was an authentic Hansel and Gretel confection.

Another famous Cracovian Christmas tradition is Szopki, or Christmas Cribs. These are not actually cribs, but large iridescent constructions of card and coloured foil. They look like something out of a Slavonic fairy tale. Traditionally, the szopki are placed under the Mickiewicz statue (he of the anniversary) on the morning of the first Thursday of December, but owing to renovation works, there's still some uncertainly as to whether the territory will be ready on time. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here are a few tips on some non-market places to find other great presents.

Gothic churches cloaked in snow, Baroque palaces sparkling in the glimmering glow of festive lights, outdoor markets brimming with delightful gift ideas and the stirring sound of carols in the air welcome to Krakow at Christmas time, where that old Yuletide magic is still very much alive!

Regarded as the cultural capital of Poland and recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site, Krakow boasts one of Europes most impressive Christmas Markets, ideally located on Rynek Glowny - one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. Designed in 1257, the market stretches over 200m2, with an array of colourful stalls selling food and hot wine, traditional decorations and exquisite hand-made arts and crafts.

As well as the Christmas Market, Krakows Rynek Glowny is dominated by the Cloth Hall, a good place to find all manner of souvenirs and Polish handicrafts such as carved wooden boxes, lace, handmade sweaters, leather goods, glassware, wall hangings and high-quality amber jewellery. There are also a number of bustling cafs, restaurants and wine cellars dotted around the square, as well as dozens of colourful nativity scenes and cribs made by local artists and amateurs for the annual crib exhibition.

There really is plenty for you to admire in this gem of a city including an array of Gothic churches, baroque palaces and beautiful tenement houses. The Town Hall houses a well preserved medieval torture hall, a theatre and a cafe, whilst the Royal Castle has been the seat of Poland's kings from the 11th to the early 17th Century and features 16th Century Flemish tapestries, paintings and period furniture. Wawel Cathedral is the coronation site and burial place of almost all of Polands monarchs, housing the relics of St Stanislaw, the patron saint of Krakow and Poland. Climb the tower to see the 11-tonne Zygmunt Bell and enjoy fantastic views over this stunning city

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krakow - Christmas displays
How to say "Merry Christmas" in Polish:< Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie

Where else in Poland?

23 Nov - 06 Jan 2016

Warsaws famous Jarmark, held in front of the Royal Palace, and features traditional regional produce as well as the latest fashions. It too comes complete with lashings of Polish food and tasty hot wine.

5 - 23 December 2015
The Christmas fair or Jarmark Gwiazdkowy in Gdansk takes place between 5 and 23 December, promising a wide range of gifts from winter sports equipment to cosmetics.

November 20 - December 22 2015

Local dishes: Polish food is hearty and filling, with thick soups and sauces, abundant in potatoes and dumplings, rich in meat but not in vegetables. Characteristic ingredients are dill, marjoram, caraway seeds and wild mushrooms; favourite dishes include bigos (sauerkraut and meat) and barszcz (beetroot soup). There are four daily meals in Poland: an early breakfast, a light snack for second breakfast, a substantial lunch taken after work, and a small supper before bed. Tea and vodka are the favoured Polish beverages, both consumed with fervour, but to somewhat differing effect.
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