Krakow, Poland Sells the Best Wooden Chess Set
Krakow is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Schindler’s List” you’ve seen Krakow. It was the home of Oskar Schindler’s metal factory where he saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at the factory. His story was memorialized in the book “Schindler’s Ark” later produced in 1993 as a feature film titled “Schindler’s List”. The factory building still stands today and has been repurposed as a museum honoring Mr. Schindler.
Krakow is only 66 kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp.
With centuries-old castles scattered throughout an otherwise modern metropolitan cityscape, Krakow perfectly blends the old with the new to create one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Furthermore, it is home to some of the best hand-carved, wooden chess sets in the world.
As a chess player and globetrotter, I have visited every populated continent and am always in search of great handcrafted chess sets to add to my collection. Usually, I am disappointed as most vendors simply cut corners and source their sets from factories in China who have discovered ways to convincingly mass produce folk arts such as hand-carved chess sets.
Krakow’s Chess Secret
The best place on planet Earth to buy a hand-carved chess set is at the Krakow Cloth Hall. It one of the most popular destinations in the city and is home to some of the best Krakow folk arts available for purchase in the country. You haven’t visited Krakow if you haven’t visited the Krakow Cloth Hall. In addition to being an excellent place to buy wooden chess sets, the building itself (sans vendors) is worth the visit. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was constructed during the Renaissance!
Because vendors come and go, it will not suffice to simply draft a list of suggested stops in Krakow’s Cloth Hall. Instead, I highly recommend you spend an afternoon exploring the shops and vendors in search of your treasured hand-carved Polish chess set. You will find it. Trust me.
For a modest $150-200 USD, you’ll walk away with the chess-set-find-of-a-lifetime. As such, please take care of it. Keep it away from children (I know something about this. My beloved wooden chess set from Krakow is missing one of its bishops). Also, each year, take 20 minutes and carefully polish each piece and the board with a gentle wood cleaner like Rustic Touch from Melaleuca or Oil Soap from Murphy.
If you’re like me, you might have too many chess sets to display. However, the wooden chess set you purchase in Krakow is one you’ll definitely want to show off. Display it proudly.
Only, again, remember to keep out of the reach of children!