Bring your own bottle for personal use, buy a fancy one if you’re choosing a gift.
It's quite likely you're already aware that you can get vodka in Poland. In fact, you may even be toying with the idea of taking some back as a gift, or souvenir. What you might not know is that there is a whole lot more to Polish spirit than simply clear vodka, with a considerable variety of flavoured vodkas offered by the major distillers.
However, the real deal are the so-called home-made liqueurs, when selected fruits, flowers, herbs and even nuts are steeped in spirit for extended periods, with secret family recipes passed down over generations. In most cases you'll only get the chance to try these if you're the guest of a Polish family, but Krakow now offers an alternative.
Just 50 metres from the Main Square, on the corner of Bracka and Golebia Street, Szambelan is your Polish spirit mecca. The compact shop looks a little an old-fashioned laboratory, with floor-to-ceiling shelves groaning under the weight of antique glass flasks containing liquids of various hues. There are over 40 different types to choose from: sweet, sour, vodka-based or other; most of them home-made by the proprietor, and you are welcome to sample whatever interests you. Now, here comes the interesting part. The shop has a range of exotic bottles - you choose one or more and they fill it up with your favourite liqueur, carefully packaging it if needed in bubble wrap for safe transport - or you can bring your own empty bottle(s).
In addition, Szambelan offers a bespoke selection of fine olive oils, vinegars, jams and other delicatessen goods. All in all, if you're staying for a few days this is a great shop for a special treat, and if you're just leaving it's an excellent place to pick up an unusual and unique gift for someone back home.