As the possessor of one of Europe's most admired medieval centres and a list of inhabitants that stretches from Copernicus to Roman Polanski, Krakow has long prided itself as a bastion of high culture. Now the Polish city, once ravaged by Mongol hordes, is seeking to reassert its status by banning modern barbarians: scantily-clad Britons.
Krakow, which counts Pope John Paul II among its former residents, has become one of the favoured destinations for Britons on stag dos and hen parties, seeking cheap beer and strip joints. Now municipal authorities have passed a law forbidding restaurants and bars to serve "inappropriately attired" revellers.
Restaurateurs and landlords in the city, a Unesco world heritage site, have been warned that if they encourage a trend for drunken Britons to shed their clothing while drinking in the Rynek Glowny or Main Market Square, one of the largest and best-preserved medieval plazas in Europe, they will lose their licences. Last year, several bars in the city centre banned visitors wearing kilts after some Scots revellers kept exposing themselves.
Tadeusz Czarny, a spokesman for Krakow City Council, said: "The new rule makes it clear there are certain guarantees which must apply when people are drinking out of doors. The owners [of bars and restaurants] have an obligation to protect customers from harassment by beggars and to require that people who are not wearing the correct clothing cannot be served. Any establishment that turns a blind eye to these customers will have to reckon with the possibility of being closed."
Krakow is among several eastern Europe cities, ranging from Riga to Budapest, which cater for Britons seeking a weekend of over-indulgence. Readily accessible by no-frills airlines, the Polish city's architecture dating from the 7th century and landmarks such as the Wawel Castle, where the Polish monarchy attracted artists from Nuremberg to Italy during the Renaissance, boasts an abundance of bars selling lager at modest prices (£1 a pint) and "adult entertainment venues".
The dozens of stag and hen parties arriving each week have provided a significant boost to the economy. Travel companies organising stag dos in Krakow offer "Feast for the eyes" dinners involving a four-course meal served by naked waitresses, as well as opportunities to fire AK47 Kalashnikov rifles and visit art galleries. Visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp near Krakow, are also on offer. But having feasted on the riches brought by the influx of Britons wearing red devil hairbands, viking hats and "Lads on tour"-themed rugby shirts, it seems Krakow has decided to aim for a type of tourist more in keeping with its majestic surroundings.
Leszek Lejowski, a restaurateur and spokesman for the city's dining establishments, said: "Thanks to the British, the market square has become famous around the world as a place where you can do what you like. Can you imagine waiters in St Mark's Square in Venice serving part-naked customers?"
Philip Davies, a Briton whose Party Krakow company offers "barely legal weekends", said: "There has been irritation among locals but basically the groups who come over are very well behaved. In eight years, I have never been called by the police or British diplomats because a group has got out of control."Reuse content