A visit to a city where amongst the main tourist attractions are a Nazi death camp, salt mine and Jewish ghetto is perhaps at first glance not a top choice for a short holiday. But this is Krakow, the camp is of course Auschwitz, whilst Wieliczka salt mine is less austere than it sounds – a fascinating underground journey through rock carvings and ice-like tunnels of salt. With the city itself both beautiful and historic this is a deservedly popular destination that has great appeal.
There is much more of course around the city’s medieval centre, but we digress, as this is really about the Hotel Stary. Recently recently made famous (notorious?) as the local base for the England football squad at the 2012 Euros, this is a delightful small hotel situated a moments walk from the city’s Grand Square – the largest in Europe.
The Stary is housed in an imposing 18th-century aristocratic residence , it’s fabric visible everywhere in its exposed brick, stone and carved columns. Despite this visible history the hotel is nevertheless overwhelmingly modern.
The new – long steel beams, thick glass plate, new hardwoods and fine cut stone – sits happily beside the old. The impressive renovation in fact winning the prestigious French architectural Prix Villégiature as ‘the most beautiful hotel interior design in Europe’. The daring design also apparently being a feature of other properties within the owning Likus Group.
Swimming is usually off the menu in city centre hotels but here, in the ancient brick vaulted cellar, it is a delight to discover a two-part pool. Taking a swim as the sound of water echoes gently around the underground rooms is a real pleasure.
Another bonus is the therapeutic salt room built of solid salt blocks where one relaxes on wicker loungers whilst inhaling the health-giving salty air.
Up above in the soaring main atrium is a cafe area whilst the Trzy Rybki restaurant, serving seasonal Polish specialities, occupies an impressive vaulted area to the side. Our charming host invited us here to a tasting of local wines – similar special events apparently being a regular welcome addition to the hotel schedule.
Upwards again, on the Stary’s rooftop terrace, is the hotel’s (seasonal) Sky Bar where we enjoyed to-die-for views over the rooftops of the Old Town.
The 53 air-conditioned rooms start small and modern ranging up to huge historic suites, each with stylish fittings. The design varies by room type and floor level but all offer careful design, particularly comfortable beds and quality fittings. Bathrooms are fitted with Italian marble and have heated floors. Many rooms also feature architectural features, some have a spa bath and others a balcony.
For something extra special we would recommend the 75-90m2 Luxury suites with a separate sitting room, onyx and marble bathrooms and historic frescoes.
For further information visit www.staryhotel.com
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Stary Hotel and Likus Group,