Likus & The Return of High Life

Before the war, Cracow boasted a cornucopia of elegant shops and hotels. Even today, many of the city's elder residents can recall the charms of those forgotten places. There was Anton Suski's colonial shop on the corner of Grodzka (still discernible with its mosaic and Madonna over the door - but now housing a kebab shop!), and Gross's glassware and china store on the Rynek, which championed the chicest Polish art deco designs (the Gross family were assimilated Jews and would later be persecuted by the Nazis), as well as a string of historic hotels. Most of these places vanished in '45, although one or two of the hotels croaked on, such as the Grand, albeit in a much downgraded style. As it was, some of Cracow's most memorable interiors were deliberately destroyed under the Communists for being decadent, such as the Art Nouveau restaurant in the Old Theatre, although the Jama Michalika cafe was saved. In 1990, rebirth became possible for some, if not all of these prewar legends.

Above: Hotel Stary, the latest luxury hotel from the Likus brothers

Amongst the families that have led the way in reviving the high life of old are the Lodzinscy, the Donimirscy and the Likusy. Between them they own over a dozen restaurants and cafes, as well as ten hotels in Cracow and its environs. The former two families managed to reclaim significant properties after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, but the Likus brothers started pretty much from scratch.

The three brothers - Wieslaw, Tadeusz and Leszek - now look after a trio of Cracow's top hotels. Elder brother Wieslaw managed to get a passport to live abroad during the 70s and 80s, and he built up savings from his work in West Germany (at IBM) and the Far East. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, and having invested some money in Polish tobacco, the brothers decided to set their sights on a more distinguished prize. Hotel Pod Roza, a nineteenth century classic whose former guests included Franz Liszt and Tsar Alexander I, reopened its doors in 1997. The timing was right, with Cracow just beginning to emerge as a tourist destination. Hot on its heels came the Copernicus, which lies at the foot of the Royal Castle. Then, in 2006, Hotel Stary opened just off the Market Square. In the meantime, the brothers launched Cracow's most upmarket mall, Rynek 13, which has been cleverly woven into a mansion at that address.

Hotel Stary, the newest Likus enterprise, is typical of their style. The brothers like to resuscitate grand old townhouses and palaces, bringing them back to life with a blend of old world grandeur and modern convenience. The Stary palace was in an especially critical situation before renovation work kicked off. An entire vault had collapsed, and a string of investors had fallen by the wayside having struggled to finalise a viable solution. The end result has proved a winner though, and the hotel will open another wing in 2008.

At the Stary, as with all the Likus enterprises, respect for heritage is paramount. The designs do not so much dismantle old buildings as give them new leases of life. Thus at the Stary's restaurant Trzy Rybki (Three Little Fish), guests can rest their gaze on carved renaissance doorways as culinary creations emerge from the kitchens. One has the feeling that one is an ancient building, yet without the fustiness that's so typical of country house hotels.

An added bonus of the Trzy Rybki restaurant, and Hotel Stary in general, can be found right at the very top. Visitors can step out onto the terrace and savour a sensational panorama of the city, not least the Rynek itself. In Summer guests can dine al fresco or simply crack open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy the view. As you watch the pullulating square below, it's hard to imagine that virtually all those cafes, shops and restaurants simply did not exist fifteen years ago.

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Nika from Australia Reply Feb 21st, 2013

Amazing hotels in the Old Town district!

Keith Davison from United States Reply Sep 24th, 2010

Stunning, stunning hotels. I have stayed in them all in Krakow, and my favourite without question is the Stary.

Kazimierz Kopacz from United States Reply May 20th, 2009

Great location, friendly staff and comfortable, luxury-furnished rooms. Thanks.

Willow from United Kingdom Reply Feb 10th, 2009

The swimming pool at Hotel Stary is really amazing - the picture doesn't do it justice. Plus there's the sauna (wet and dry) and salt cave and massage... what luxury!

Cordelia from United States Reply Dec 27th, 2008

Attended a party at Stary Hotel last week. It was held in a private room on the main floor of the hotel. What an incredible experience: the food, the vibe, the staff, the decor... flawless. There were about 60 guests--everyone was commenting on how fantastic the food was---not easy when a kitchen is feeding 60 simultaneously....

nel from United States Reply May 2nd, 2008

beautiful...

Alex from United Kingdom Reply Jan 8th, 2008

fantastic place,great New Years Party !!

BaskaNY from United States Reply Dec 5th, 2007

Are all three brothers married??

green onion from United Kingdom Reply Dec 5th, 2007

HOTEL STARY: The whole hotel exudes an ambiance akin to a divine glowing film-set , maybe the restaurant in "Once Upon a time in America" luxury and very friendly smiling staff. Just off the Main Square. You can get the lift from your corridor in your bath-robe striaght down to the luxury (that word again) sauna and steam room, and a Polish speciality - Salt Room - where you can order your massage. Check it out!

Yello from United Kingdom Reply Dec 5th, 2007

it's great that someone is doing so many great things for Krakow and helping enhance the city's reputation. A city is only as good as its spaces and places and Likus brothers have contributed a lot... shame that Polish people always have to be jealous of their success rather than try to help them or emulate them

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