Nowa Prowincja is popularly seen as the haunt of poets and songwriters, its worn walls saturated with literary discussion and musical strains, the aromas of coffee and fresh cake, and a delicate hint of tobacco. The café’s modest goal is to make time stand still, and be it but for a moment, this goal can be achieved in one of Nowa Prowincja’s narrow nooks, candle wax spluttering onto a rough wooden table, watched over by the cafés collection of antique clocks. Old clocks, old baubles, old furniture like discarded hand-me-downs arranged with a designer’s eye create a charming atmosphere, and somehow manage to effuse that special something, that enchanting quality that makes Krakow so unique.
The café’s two downstairs rooms are laid out cozily with just a touch of chaos; in one of them is a small stage which, when not occupied with its delicate clutter of sturdy wooden tables and rickety wooden chairs, sometimes transforms into a theatre or concert hall, presenting artists, poets, musicians and writers. The walls are an eclectic art gallery, complete with black-and-white portraits of famous figures, which has the appearance of being perpetually unfinished, a work in progress. The first room offers not only a pleasant window recess, but a balcony reached by a narrow, winding staircase and dotted with small tables along a wooden balustrade. Beyond the bar and around a back corner, the more curious may stumble across a flight of stairs leading to the non-smoking tea room, a veritable attic of mismatched furniture and some of the oddest decorative objects, a favourite local spot for reading on a winter afternoon.
While the café is a must-see in the Old Town landscape, it’s worth stopping by Nowa Prowincja for the hot chocolate alone. This is no ordinary chocolate – thick, creamy, and dark, it is a bittersweet delight to be enjoyed with a spoon. The café’s lemon meringue pie has made quite a name for itself, and the szarlotka (apple pie) and traditional cheesecake are also not to be missed. A fine selection of Italian and French wines is available, as well as an original melding of Polish and Arabic cuisine in such dishes as salad with salty ewe’s milk cheese, or the café’s own hummus. Quite simply a Cracovian classic.