Grand Hotel Kraków *****

Journey to the 19th century

Grand Hotel Kraków *****

Journey to the 19th century




The “Grand Hotel” brand – synonymous with hotel services at an unprecedented, luxurious level appeared in the 19th century. Hotels of this class were built in the most attractive districts of cities, often in palace buildings, with interiors filled with works of art, but also equipped with the latest technology. In this way, they could satisfy the refined tastes of the
most sophisticated clientele. The history of Krakow’s Grand Hotel also begins in the 19th century, although the history of the building itself, or rather the complex of buildings forming today’s structure, dates back to the Middle Ages. That is why in the oldest, underground part of the building, we can find medieval cross-ribbed vaults, and in many rooms and suites,
architectural remains of past eras, including: Renaissance, carved columns, 16th century wooden ceilings with multi-coloured polychromes, antique supraportes or historical ornaments and woodgraining decorating the walls of the most representative rooms.


In 1873 a tenement house at 5, Sławkowska Street, and soon also the neighbouring one at number 7, was purchased by the ducal couple Marcelina, Fryderyk Chopin’s most famous pupil, and Alexander Czartoryski. At that time, under the supervision of the famous architect Maksymilian Nitsch, two townhouses of medieval-Renaissance origin were transformed into a ducal residence, still regarded as one of the finest in the Republic of Poland. The palace soon became a focal point of social, intellectual and artistic life. In 1886 Alexander Czartoryski’s heir and son Marcel leased out the palace to a hotel and after a few years sold it to Eustachy Jax Chronowski, a well-known connoisseur and collector of works of art. The adaptation works were supervised by the famous architect of the Art Nouveau and Modernism eras, Tadeusz Stryjeński, who left behind the unique Art Nouveau stained glass windows, which now adorn the bay windows in the corridors of the first and second floors of the hotel. On 15 January 1887, the opening ceremony of “the largest, most modern and most luxurious hotel in the city” took place, as the press wrote, making comparisons with the best European hotels. The Grand Hotel soon filled up with guests mainly from the Polish and European aristocratic circles , and the hotel continued to undergo modernisation and expansion, resulting in a hotel enterprise of world renown, far ahead of its time. With its own power generators, the hotel was the first to shine with electric light. The rooms were equipped with bathrooms and running water, and a legendary glass-roofed restaurant was built, named the “Hall of Mirrors” after the Belgian mirrors – a witness to the sumptuous balls, receptions and banquets of the political and intellectual elite of the time. The main gate from Sławkowska Street, covered with a beautiful Art Nouveau awning and the stained glass windows decorating the corridors and the restaurant also date back to this period.


A frequent guest at the hotel’s café in those days was the famous Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz, for whom, as Adam Grzymała-Siedlecki recalled: “Krakow would not be fully Krakow if he did not turn up at 10 a.m. for a coffee with cream”. The Grand Hotel restaurant hosted two lavish parties attended by this great writer. The first one was a wedding reception, which took place on 11 November 1893, after his marriage to Maria Wołodkowiczówna, and the second one – a jubilee reception, which was organised in honour of the Nobel Prize winner by his friends from the Academy of Arts and Sciences on 21 June 1899. A little later – in 1914 – during his stay in Poland, another great writer and Nobel Prize winner with Polish roots stayed here – Joseph Conrad and his family, who also greatly appreciated both the local atmosphere and cuisine. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Grand Hotel became the most elegant venue in Krakow during the interwar period, attracting the most eminent celebrities from the world of science, culture and art. On one of the restaurant walls hung a huge canvas on which famous painters, poets, publicists and artists expressed their thoughts. It displayed hundreds of different sentences, sketches and poems written by the most eminent representatives of the Young Poland movement, such as Lucjan Rydel, Stanisław Wyspiański, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński or Ludwik Solski – lovers of the Grand Hotel café who spent long hours there every day.


In 1936 the Grand Hotel hit the headlines, due to an unusual event that took place within its walls. In June 1936, the Marble Suite was inhabited by the world-famous tenor – Jan Kiepura. This was not his only stay in this place, but this one went down in history due to the unique, spontaneous performance from the hotel window. On the next day, after the concert, which with the participation of the artist took place in the Wawel Castle courtyard, from the early morning hours, despite the heavy rain, such a large crowd of admirers gathered in front of the hotel, that it completely paralyzed traffic. Then the artist, dressed only in a dressing gown and a flat cap on his head, stood in the window of the suite where he lived and began to sing, and the crowd was stunned with delight. This unique concert of Jan Kiepura was later immortalized in the Krakow’s nativity play ;

„Do you remember Janek

At the Grand Hotel on the porch

How you have sang out

Until the morning”

When in the following year the artist came to Krakow, this time to perform during a charity concert at the Old Theatre with his wife – the world-famous singer and actress Marta Eggerth, he again stayed at the Grand Hotel. This time, a crowd of admirers blocked Sławkowska Street all the way to the Main Market Square, and only thanks to the foresight of the hotel’s management, who, having realised the situation, led the artists out through the back exit, the concert could take place on time.


The 1920s and 1930s were the period of the hotel’s greatest splendour. It was a time of social meetings at café tables, of banquets, receptions and balls attended by the elite of the Second Republic of Poland. In 1936, the Grand Hotel entered, or rather (according to Zygmunt Nowakowski’s review) “rode on 100 horses” into Polish literature thanks to the book written by its former waiter Tadeusz Kurtyka – “Zaklęte Rewiry” (“The Enchanted Territories”), which is a document depicting life of the most famous café and restaurant in Krakow.
The post-war years marked the beginning of a difficult period in the history of this historic place, marked by stagnation and progressive devastation. However, the beginning of the 1990s turned out to be lucky again for the underrun Grand Hotel. Its new leaseholder Wawel-Imos International S.A. – is carrying out a thorough renovation of the building, carefully restoring the damaged pieces of architecture and furnishings, restoring the splendour and beauty of the former Czartoryski Palace and modernising its hotel functions.


The achievements of the hotel were noticed and highly valued by the Chapter of the prestigious competition of the Polish Promotional Emblem “Poland Now”. During its 10th edition, the Grand Hotel was granted a golden statuette and was awarded the first prize in the category of the best hotel and catering services. On 22 March 2004, the Grand Hotel received another award with great satisfaction, worthily representing over a hundred years of tradition and obtaining the status of the first five-star experience hotel in the City of Krakow. The beautiful, but also turbulent history of the Grand Hotel seems to confirm the idea that this place has been guarded by “genius loci” for centuries. This good spirit certainly also takes care of all those who live here…

Historia Grand Hotelu

The elite character of this legendary Krakow hotel, its rich history and location in the heart of the Old Town are still appreciated by crowned heads of state, heads of government, worldfamous artists, writers, prominent representatives of science, business and aristocracy. The long list of Grand Hotel’s famous guests includes British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Brigitt von Hohenzollern of Sweden, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. The Grand Hotel was the organisational centre of the stay in Krakow of the Japanese imperial couple – Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko. From the Polish government circles the following officials have stayed at the Grand Hotel: Nobel Peace Prize winner – President Lech Walesa, President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Ministers: Marek Belka, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Jerzy Buzek, President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, legendary war courier and director of Radio Free Europe – Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, or Minister of Foreign Affairs – Władyslaw Bartoszewski. Apart from representatives of the world of politics, artists and writers have always been numerous guests of the Grand Hotel. Not so long ago, one could meet at the Krakow’s Grand Hotel the Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz who already passed away, Sławomir Mrożek or William Wharton. Since the very beginning of its operations, the Grand Hotel, closely connected with the artistic world and being the metaphysical home of Joseph Conrad in Poland, became a partner of the Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival in 2009. The film making industry has also took liking to the unique atmosphere of the Grand Hotel. Many film directors have stayed here: Roman Polański, Agnieszka Holland, Juliusz Machulski, famous actors such as Holly Hunter, Kenneth Branagh, or Adrien Brody. Hotel guests included also famous musicians: the founder of Deep Purple – Richie Blackmoor, guitarist of Queen – Brian May and many others. The tradition of intellectual disputes held daily at the hotel café by a group of eminent Krakow’s professors (the Cinderella Club), at the now legendary table – known as the “professors’ table” – has been revived.

ARRIVAL hmm hmm


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