STUDIO | Conran and Partners explores Krakow

After months of turmoil, a buzz of excitement is returning to our cities as hotels, bars, and restaurants begin to reopen their doors. In Krakow, our friends at PURO Kazimierz are back open for business with a jam-packed events calendar.

We caught up with Simon Kincaid, Partner at Conran and Partners, but also known as the man who dreamt up the award winning PURO Kazimierz, to talk about his favourite spots and the city’s unique charm.

First impressions of the city

Kraków has an authentic Eastern European feel about it. It’s original and charming, in a similar way to Budapest. It’s low tech and accessible but layered with a richness of creative and artistic energy.
The great thing about this city is that it gives you a little bit of everything. Big mainstream galleries that cater to the mature art scene are contrasted with a vibrant underground art movement that’s made up of smaller independents and creative studios.
The same goes for eating. If you’re looking for the five course tasting menu with paired wines, spots like Art and Amarylis will hit the spot, but as you wonder around the city you’ll find these amazing little artisan restaurants and a growing street food scene that’s in my opinion, twice as good. There’s something in these contrasts, the two different sides of a city, which get me really excited. We’re so used to polished, try-hard dining that the more low-tech, candle-lit shells of restaurants with simple furniture and honest food make the city feel quite grounded and approachable.

Best experience
It has to be visiting the MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków). It’s located in the former halls of Schindler’s Factory where Jews were kept in the city during WW2 so just being there is a really thought provoking and emotional experience. It’s a place where art meets humanity and ethical value, making it a really extraordinary and sensorial space.

The A-Z of a research trip
Before we start a project we tend to go on a research trip to get a feel for the city, our project’s future competitors, and where our target guests would frequent; bars, restaurants, shops, galleries etc. We like to really engage with a city to learn what the future habits of our target guest may be too.

We want memories to take away, as if we were a traveller in that city for just 48 hours. This inspiration will then feed into our design concept and themes.

Whilst we have a rigid plan of things we want to see, usually a list informed by recommendations and research, we leave the rest to mere serendipity. Kraków isn’t necessarily a city for people who want everything in one place, part of the fun is walking around and seeing what you might stumble upon. We’ll jump onto an unusual guided tour, trail off down a side street and into a bar, where the barman will tell us about his uncle’s friend’s daughter’s restaurant that serves the best Pierogi and only has four tables. Explore and be inquisitive, that’s how to really get under the skin of a city!

Where to stay
As part of our research and to better understand the brand, we stayed in the original PURO hotel in Kraków which is located in the Wola district, a more commercial part of town. The hotel naturally attracts more business travellers due to its location so the design is a touch more conventional.

Let’s talk about PURO Kazimierz
PURO Kazimierz was the group’s second hotel to open in the city and is located in the Jewish quarter. The new hotel, with architecture by ASW Architekci, sits on a much bigger site so offers a wider range of facilities such as a spa, gym and meetings and events space. As a result of it’s location, the hotel attracts a more alternative and youthful crowd so we had a lot of fun coming up with the design concept – which recently featured on Channel 4’s Travel Man!

Our concept is ‘Bohemian Modern’, which represents a Bohemian fusion between the energy, history, authenticity and art culture of the location with the dynamic, progressive modern brand principles of PURO. We’ve emphasised the brand’s values through contemporary art, design-led furniture and forward-looking hospitality.

Where to eat
Tucked around the corner from PURO Kazimierz there’s a seriously good Israeli restaurant called Hamsa. We ended up eating there every time we went back to Krakow

Then there’s Tytano, located just off the main square (Rynek Glówny), it’s an old tobacco factory whose production halls and offices have been converted into bars, restaurants and clubs. The surrounding areas are pedestrianised so people often spill into the street. Think high ceilings, exposed brick, big loft windows and a gritty European vibe.

What to eat
The paczek (Poland’s national doughnut)
Chicken hearts (a poor man’s cavier)
Kielbasa (every kind of sausage imaginable)
Waffles and ice cream (Waffleball is a must)
Pierogi (dumplings for breakfast, lunch and dinner)

Inspired by our Krakow highlights? Find the newly designed PURO Krakow Kazimeirz on our portfolio.