Krakow: 24 hours in Poland's most perfect Christmas city
Tom Sweeney maps out 24 hours in Krakow, Poland's Christmas city full of festive spirit and cheer.
10am: Do your shelf a favour...
Breakfast on banana, apple, cinnamon and honey toasties in charming Cafe Zakatek (2 Grodzka). Drop by Massolit second-hand bookshop (4 Felicjanek), which has 20,000 titles in English and the best coffee and cake in town, but limit your visit or you'll never leave. Tour Wawel Castle, incorporating the Archcathedral of SS Stanislaus & Wenceslaus where local hero Pope Saint John Paul II was ordained in 1946.
How: massolit.com; wawel.krakow.pl
2pm: Lunch that's hard to beet
Lunch with the locals in always-busy Kuchnia u Doroty (4 Augustianska) in the Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz). Order beetroot soup followed by potato pancakes with goulash and a side of pierogi dumplings. Head for the main square, Rynek Glowny, and visit Rynek Underground, a permanent exhibition telling Krakow's fascinating history. It's a must-see, so buy time-specific tickets in advance online (see below) to avoid disappointment and long queues.
5pm: There's snowhere better...
Rynek Glowny is Europe's biggest medieval square and hosts a Christmas market that puts Prague, Vienna and Munich in the cheap seats. Around 100 souvenir and hot food stalls do a roaring trade (top buys are handmade Christmas decorations), and the children's choirs are a joy. The icing - or icicles - on the cake is that it always snows in December, adding that magical ingredient.
How: inyourpocket.com/krakow is the city's best and unflinchingly honest visitors' guide.
8pm: Meat and greet
Dinner in Pod Wawelem (26-29 Gertrudy) - my favourite restaurant - is a vegetarian's nightmare, but fab Vegab (6 Starowisina) comes to the rescue. Pod Wawelem is a meat-tastic dream you won't want to end, but wakey-wakey - Bar Singer (1 Izaaka, Kazimierz) awaits. It's cool and charismatic, and come 3am you can dance on the tables until six, then tip-toe into budget-friendly Globtroter guesthouse (7/15 Szczepanski), where I've stayed 26 times.
How: podwawelem.eu; globtroter-krakow.com
Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Dublin to Krakow. Trains run every 30 mins to the city centre (18mins/c.€1.80).