Kazimierz, Krakow's 600-year-old Jewish quarter, used to be somewhere to avoid, especially at night. Damaged and depopulated during World War II, and further devastated under communist rule, the area of cobbled alleys, courtyards and galleried houses became shabby and forgotten, a neglect that preserved its historic character. But since Poland's return to democracy the neighborhood has been rejuvenated, and now boasts trendy restaurants and bars, an annual arts festival and the Center for Jewish Culture.
Near this museum is one of the area's elegant cafés, Mleczarnia, where you can enjoy coffee, beer and wine, pastries and pierogi (stuffed dumplings) at tables set out in the street. Klezmer Hois on Szeroka Street offers daily live Jewish music and such traditional cuisine as cholent (hearty stew) and pascha (a dessert with cream cheese and raisins) in a converted mikvah (ritual bath) furnished with antiques and lace tablecloths. Both venues will host gigs during the Festival of Jewish Culture (June 25-July 3; www.jewishfestival.pl/), which features the toe-tapping klezmer played in Europe from the 15th century, and songs in Yiddish, the language of East European and Russian Jews.
If your tastes are less traditional, try a late Jazz Klezz session. Californian trumpeter Paul Brody leads the festival's performers in a jam until dawn at Alchemia, one of Krakow's hot spots. More serious soirées will be held in Temple Synagogue located in Miodowa Street, such as "Bridge to Peace," a concert by Dutch singer Shura Lipovsky, American singer-actor Theodore Bikel and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Mostar Sinfonietta on June 27. Szeroka Street's riotous end-of-festival party, with surprise acts playing to an international crowd, starts on July 2 and carries on into the next morning. Kazimierz's past may have been bleak, but the return of its vibrant Jewish culture makes for a bright future.