Take original 15th Century gothic architecture and mix that with stunning modern design. Throw in a city centre location. Combine that with 53 individually designed bedrooms, gourmet restaurant facilities and a spa which will have you never wanting to leave. Then, you’ve got all the necessary ingredients for a gorgeous 5 star hotel. Hotel Stary, one of Krakow’s most luxurious hotels, has the recipe firmly nailed. I was lucky enough to stay during a press visit in December 2018. Here’s the story of how Hotel Stary won my heart…
Stepping out of the taxi into the bitterly cold Polish night, the frosty winds swirled menacingly at our feet. The reality of our expedition into the heart of Eastern Europe in the midst of December began to hit. So too did the excitement. Our car wound its way through the labyrinth of cobbled streets, right to the city’s core. It was a journey which passed under twinkling lights, foreign signs and the shadows of medieval spires. I was itching to get out and explore, but first thing was first. We had a new home to explore.
From its exterior, it was hard to imagine what lay within the walls of Hotel Stary. The former Merchant’s House dates back to the 15th Century, and sits just yards away from the city’s medieval square, Rynek Glowny. I was imagining an ancient interior. Instead, we were met by a self-opening door, and greeted by glistening marble floors, a high glass ceiling, exposed metalwork and gorgeous copper tones.
Christmas trees lined our walk to reception. The smell of pine needles perfumed the air. In the restaurant, a private function was in full swing, the jazz band bringing everyone to their feet. The air was rich with festive joy, and we were bursting at the seams to see more.
Thankfully reception were on hand to greet us. After a very seamless and friendly check-in process, it was time to head upstairs.
Hotel Stary has 53 bedrooms and suites, all individually designed with their own style and furnishings. We were staying in 401, one of the hotel’s double rooms.
Even before we entered, I’d fallen a little bit in love with the chunky wooden door. The luxurious vibes did not stop inside. Every piece of furniture was beautifully designed. Deep, leather armchairs. A bespoke mahogany bed, wardrobe and desk. Everything blended perfectly with the hotel’s opulent décor.
Sinking into the bed, I reflected upon the consideration which had been put into every detail of the room. The stone fittings and heavy curtains. Ambient mood lighting and a colossal flatscreen TV. Exotic bed quilts which beautifully complimented the mahogany floorboards. I could absolutely see why the hotel had earned every one of its five stars, as well as the coveted Prix Villegiature award for the most beautiful hotel interior design in Europe.
And then came the bathroom.
“You have to check this out,” called my partner in crime. “It’s got a jacuzzi!”
It was hard to believe that this was only a standard double room. I couldn’t help but wonder what some of the more superior suites would be like. Naturally, I had to have a little nosy at some of the more expensive options…
Not bad, eh?
Hotel Stary isn’t exactly short on catering options, with two restaurants, a cafe, two bars and room service all offering 10% off to guests. Whether you’re looking for a slice of cake to accompany that much-required mid-afternoon coffee or a full-blown three course dinner made with seasonal ingredients, there’s slim chance of falling hungry.
As our three days were pretty action packed, we didn’t have quite as much time as we’d have liked to sample the restaurant food. It looked (and smelled!) absolutely gorgeous! What we did make full use of, however, was the buffet-style breakfast, served in the ground floor restaurant from 7-10.30am every day.
This wasn’t your average breakfast spread. This was, for a lack of a better word, a full-blown Polish banquet! Of course, the usual suspects could be found – toast, cereals, pastries, fruit etc. What really made this special, however, were the gourmet cheeses, meats, fish and garnishes. One minute, you could be tucking into smoked salmon, the next it could be smashed avacado and chives on freshly warmed bread, or a delicate slice of apple pie. Better still, there was even a chef on hand to cook eggs at your request. Mushroom omlette? No bother. Poached eggs? You got it!
When it comes to providing a luxury haven for its guests, Hotel Stary have really thought everything through. Hidden away beneath street level, beneath historic stone arches, sits the hotel’s gym, pool and relaxation area.
We popped down for a peek one evening, after a day spent getting chilled to the bone sightseeing.
It was hard to imagine a more luxurious setting to warm up in, or a nicer way to ease those weary muscles, than with a dip in the heated, jet-controlled spa pool.
What’s more, there were even treatment rooms available if you fancied a spot of pampering. Massage anyone? Yes please!
If your trip is less about leisure and more about business, panic not. Hotel Stary is more than well-equipped to deal with corporate bookings and events. There are two large conference rooms accommodating up to 160, either in a theatre arrangement or in more informal style. Technical equipment such as screens, flipchards, televisions, projectors and laptops can all be arranged upon request. Although I was here on a different sort of business mission, I found the wifi to be excellent throughout the hotel.
Gorgeous interiors aside, the absolute selling point for Hotel Stary is its location. Before arriving, I knew that we were going to be central. I just couldn’t quite imagine how central.
Based on Szczepańska, Hotel Stary is literally just around the corner from Krakow’s main square, Rynek Glowny. In fact, from the front door, you could actually see the steeple of St Mary’s Basilica peeking out over the rooftops! Every morning, we woke up to the sound of bells chiming and the familiar sound of clip-clopping hooves as horse-drawn carriages passed by. You could practically smell the chimney cake.
Being this central has many advantages. We were just yards from the main Christmas market (and its notoriously scrummy pierogis). There were also countless great bars and restaurants around every corner. Most major sights are within easy walking distance. Similarly you’ve got several travel agents nearby who can help arrange trips further afield, for example to the Zakopane mountain village, to the Wieliczka Salt Mine or to the Auschwitz-Birkinau concentration camps.
Being so central also offers easy transfers to and from the airport (a journey which takes around 20 minutes in a taxi or slightly longer by train). If you plan on getting a taxi, I’d strongly recommend booking in advance with Krakow Shuttle. For only 79 ZLN, they’ll pick you up from the arrivals hall and take you right to the door of your hotel. On both occasions we found the driver to be super friendly and helpful.
Lastly, I think it’s worth mentioning the atmosphere. As gorgeous as a hotel might appear, your experience can be completely altered depending on the way the staff interact with the customers. There can be a stereotype at times that the ‘posher’ your hotel, the less friendly you can expect the staff to be. Thankfully I’ve never found that to be the case yet.
The staff at Hotel Stary did not disappoint. Although we had very little questions during our stay (probably due to the hotel ticking every possible box imaginable!), every member of the team approached us with genuine warmth and enthusiasm. From the swift check-in process to the wee gifts found daily in our room (the candied nuts were HEAVENLY), we felt right at home. Every guest we met seemed completely equally chilled and enamoured with the accommodation, which is always a good sign. And speaking of good signs…
If you’d like to find out more about staying at Hotel Stary, head straight to their website here for the full lowdown on rates and facilities.