Krakow’s Legendary Milk Bars – Where Students Used to Dine

Let me take you on a nostalgic journey to Krakow’s iconic milk bars. These were the places where, years ago, students gathered for meals and friendly chit-chat. Today, the once teeming bars are fewer, but the nostalgia for these places remains palpable. If you’re planning a visit to Krakow, I can tell you, a trip to a milk bar is a must!

What Exactly Is a Milk Bar?

Just to clarify, a milk bar, as per its definition, is a self-service, non-alcoholic establishment serving mass catered meals all day. These meals are usually vegetarian and dairy-based.

It’s worth noting that the first milk bar was launched in Warsaw in 1896 by Stanisław Dłużewski, a dairy cattle breeder and landowner. It was called „Nadświdrzańska” dairy with a garden, and it was located at ul. Nowy Świat, where Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego now stands.

The Rise and Heyday of Milk Bars

Post-independence and during economic crises, the popularity of milk bars soared. There were even specific ministerial regulations in place to standardize the size, composition, and prices of dishes so that they were affordable for everyone. If you’re wondering about the peak period of milk bars, it was during the People’s Republic of Poland era.

The Origin of Milk Bars in Krakow

The first milk bar to open its doors in Krakow was „Barcelona„, located at the intersection of Piłsudskiego and Straszewskiego Streets. You might be curious about the story behind its exotic name, so let me enlighten you.

↳ Make sure to read my guide to the most amazing places to stay in Kraków:
How to Find Best Place to Stay in Krakow Old Town – Your Guide

Previously, a restaurant owned by Celon Lustgarten stood there, colloquially called „Celona bar„. The milk bar, therefore, took the name „Barcelona„, which is a nod to its predecessor. I am convinced that knowing these interesting tidbits can make your trip to Krakow even more memorable.

Milk Bar „Żak” – Kraków

Let’s fast forward a bit. The milk bars „Górnik„, located at ul. Czysta 1, and „Żak” on ul. Czarnowiejska, became popular spots among students of the University of Agriculture and the AGH University of Science and Technology. Unfortunately it is closed now. Górnik reportedly served the best meatballs and Żak’s specialty was stuffed cabbage.

  • Milk Bar „Żak” – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here

Best Dishes and Legendary Milk Bars

Another must-visit place, „Targowy” milk bar on ul. Daszyńskiego 19, was renowned for its Ruthenian and lazy dumplings. For the same dishes, you could also head to „Północny” bar in Nowa Huta, where you can still find the „3/4 Russian portions with spread”, meticulously priced lower than a regular dish. Central bar also reportedly served legendary Ruskie.

Centralny” Milk Bar in Kraków

As we moved into the new millennium, places like „Centralny” bar kept the tradition alive, serving dishes like potato pancakes and sour rye soup. However, these have now given way to exclusive boutiques.

  • Targowy” Milk Bar in Kraków – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here
  • Północny” Milk Bar in Kraków – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here
  • Centralny” Milk Bar in Kraków – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here

Other Milk Bars in Krakow

For a start, let’s consider Limonka, located a bit away from the city center. If you’ve got some spare time in Krakow, I can tell it’s worth making the trip to ul. Pilotów. Tucked away among apartment blocks, Limonka serves amazing Polish dishes at pocket-friendly prices. Think about soups for PLN 6, dumplings for PLN 12-14, or a complete meal with pork chops or chicken fillet for about PLN 19-27.

  • Limonka Milk Bar – Pictures and Google Maps Location: Click Here

Krakus Milk Bar

Next on our list is Krakus, a great place to stop by during a walk in Podgórze. It’s located a stone’s throw away from Bohaterów Getta Square and is famous for its delicious, inexpensive dumplings. Here, a portion of dumplings would set you back only about PLN 10-14. Other items like soups, pork chop, turkey goulash, and Galician meatball are also available at reasonable prices.

  • Krakus Milk Bar – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here

Żaczek Milk Bar

Then we have Żaczek, conveniently located near major universities like the Jagiellonian University and the AGH University of Science and Technology. It’s no surprise that Żaczek is a popular spot for students. Here, you can enjoy a classic décor and traditional menu with offerings like tomato soup with dough for PLN 6.20, sour rye soup with potatoes for PLN 6.25, and cauliflower soup for PLN 8.70. For a hearty meal, try the Russian dumplings for PLN 9.30, noodles with cabbage for PLN 9.50 or a goulash set for PLN 19.10.

  • Żaczek Milk Bar – Google Pictures and Maps Location: Click Here


First off, Bar Centralny, as its name suggests, is located right in the heart of Nowa Huta. It’s a place that serves up inexpensive dishes, even for a milk bar. Here, you’ll find cucumber soup for about PLN 5.50 and potato soup for less than PLN 9. A complete meal with roasted chicken or pork chop with potatoes and cabbage can be had for around PLN 22.50. And don’t forget to order a compote for less than PLN 8.

  • Centralny” Milk Bar in Kraków – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here

Południowy Milk Bar

After exploring Nowa Huta, we head back to Podgórze. Just a short walk from Kazimierz over the picturesque Bernatka footbridge brings you to Południowy Bar. Recently renovated, it still retains the feel of a typical Polish diner, complete with photos from Israeli kibbutzim that tie Polish milk bar traditions with Jewish settler dining habits. Here, you can savor excellent cabbage soup with potatoes for less than PLN 9 and Russian dumplings for a similar price. And don’t miss out on the stuffed cabbage, which goes for about PLN 12.50.

  • Południowy” Milk Bar in Kraków – Google Pictures and Location: Click Here

Must-Try Dishes at Krakow’s Milk Bars

Typical dish in Milk Bar – Pork chops (Schabowy) with boiled potatoes and „mizeria

Milk bars in Krakow have long been cherished for serving up traditional Polish dishes at prices that are easy on the wallet. If you’re not sure what to order, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of some of the most popular dishes you definitely need to try when you’re there:

  1. Pierog – These traditional Polish dumplings come in various stuffings, from meat and cabbage with mushrooms to cottage cheese, and even sweet fillings like blueberries and strawberries.
  2. Potato Pancakes – Crispy and delicious, these fried potato pancakes are often dished up with cream sauce, goulash, or even sugar and cream for those with a sweet tooth.
  3. Red Borscht – This traditional beetroot-based soup, served with sour cream and a slice of bread, is the perfect comfort food on a cold day.
  4. Żurek – A rye sourdough soup that comes loaded with potatoes, sausage, egg, and sour cream – it’s the kind of dish that warms you up from the inside.
  5. Bigos – Also known as the Polish Hunter’s Stew, Bigos is a hearty mix of stewed sauerkraut, pieces of meat, sausage, mushrooms, and a blend of spices.
  6. Schabowy – This breaded and fried pork chop, typically served with potatoes and a fresh salad, is a Polish classic that you simply can’t miss.
  7. Kopytka – Potato dumplings at their finest, Kopytka are served with various sauces like mushroom or meat sauce.
  8. Pancakes – These thin pancakes come with an array of fillings – from cottage cheese and meat to vegetables and fruits.
  9. Kompot – A traditional drink made by boiling fruit in water with sugar. It’s often served as a refreshing accompaniment to meals.

A Toast to Nostalgia

Krakow’s iconic milk bars offer a slice of history, culture, and of course, scrumptious food. Despite their humble surroundings, these eateries provide a uniqu and enriching dining experience that’s hard to find elsewhere. So, if you want to relish a bit of Polish tradition and savor some truly delectable cuisine, these milk bars are the place to be.

Remember, visiting a milk bar in Krakow is not just about the food. It’s about immersing yourself in a piece of the city’s history and culture, all while enjoying a delicious meal. Trust me, you won’t regret it!