What if I told you there is a holiday with an entire day dedicated to eating doughnuts? Well, there is, the grand Polish tradition of ‘Fat Thursday.’ A wonderful day where it’s basically considered bad luck to not eat large quantities of doughnuts! Think you’re dreaming? Read on!

The feast before Ash Wednesday

Many countries celebrate Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras). Whatever you call it, it is the Christian tradition of using up luxury foods before fasting over the lent period before Easter. As is the tradition, Christians all over the world, when lent begins on Ash Wednesday, will forego luxuries as a test of will. Years ago, however, ‘luxury foods’ included things like eggs, flour and sugar, leading to some countries making pancakes or similar sweet treats to use up those ingredients.

In Poland though, pancakes (Nalesniki) are eaten in large amounts all year round and are a staple part of the Polish diet—be it sweet or savoury. So when it comes to lent, there isn’t much point in Poland celebrating pancake day like elsewhere in Europe…so the Poles went one better and came up with Fat Thursday.

Fat Thursday

Image source: Dobra Pączkarnia


Tłusty Czwartek as it is known in Polish, (paczki day!) is arguably the greatest day in Krakow’s calendar (no mean feat given we have an annual dragon, sausage dog and honey parade!).

Unlike Fat Tuesday (the literal translation of Mardi Gras), Fat Thursday actually starts a week before lent starts. Meaning, Poles have a whole week to munch on the aforementioned luxuries if they so desire. Of course, this can include gorging on pancakes, but more commonly it means stuffing your face with pączki- hot Polish doughnuts…and boy are they a treat! Not only that, but eating them will apparently bring good luck! Who are we to argue?!


Forget everything you ever knew about doughnuts, in fact, some Poles will get annoyed at the mere suggestion that pączki even be compared to their more famous American cousin or even the ‘Berliner’ found in Germany. Poland’s most celebrated sweet pastries are much bigger (usually the size of a fist) and they are at their best when served hot, fried yeast-dough, spilling with delicious filling. Traditionally filled with a healthy dollop of rose jam oozing out, nowadays you can find paczki stuffed with apple, orange and even Nutella. And of course, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

In fact, pączki are such a part of Polish life, more so than any other baked goods, that when the classic American style doughnut arrived into Warsaw in the form of ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ in 1996, rumours are that its popularity bombed so much, they closed up shop, moved out of Poland and didn’t attempt a return of the franchise until 2015.

Polish Donut

Image source: Dobra Pączkarnia

Why does Poland celebrate Fat Thursday?

In a tradition dating back at least as the 16th century, Tłusty Czwartek is such a part of Polish culture that is actually said to be bad luck for anyone who doesn’t take part in the day’s activities by gorging on the sweet treats. In fact, the peer pressure can be so much, that an old proverb on the occasion claimed, “those who don’t eat a stack of pączki on Fat Thursday will have an empty barn and their field destroyed by mice”.

Every February, recommended calorie allowances are torn up and tossed aside, as people wake up across Poland to the sweet aroma of baked doughnuts and start the annual tradition of heading to their favourite pączki bakery.

Fat Thursday

Image source: Dobra Pączkarnia

By late morning on Fatty Thursday, any poor soul who has forgotten what day it is, has woken up, cottoned on and attempted a last-minute dash to the bakery. But people meet early on paczki day!

Sleep in and the queues will have already formed. A bakery may already have nothing left but boring bread or cakes!

Such is the demand for the doughnuts, most people already have a plan worked out days earlier. Friends are live in group chats making sure no one gets missed. Offices assign a designated ‘pączki runner’ whose job that day is to forget whatever project they were previously working on, however important it may be, and run, run to the long lines leading towards pączki salvation. On Fat thursday you can forego all other meals. You can forget about your new year’s diet and the fasting season that is the early weeks of the year, for today, is the day to stuff your face and be happy again!

There is nothing greater for staff morale in the office. If successful, the pazcki runner will return to the office a hero, if not they could be shunned at the next Christmas party. As demand gets high you can expect to see the victors, dashing gleefully back to their workmates carrying huge box-fulls, about to become an employee of the month and a shoo-in for that promotion.

As the demand increases so does the pressure. In the chaos, people panic and start to buy extras for their friends, only to find they’ve already bought extras as well! Supplies start to run short. By early afternoon, queueing for over an hour is the norm. By the evening, the whole city has consumed so many doughnuts, that people lie in sugar-induced, sleep-comas in quiet coffee shop corners all around Krakow’s Old Town.

Image source: Dobra Pączkarnia

With people overloaded with their sickly sight, remaining pączki are strewn on bar tops and hotel receptions, given away for free to unknowing tourists, who have no idea what they missed out on. And then it’s all over for another year.

 As much as most bakeries in Krakow will put out a display especially for the occasion, there are specialist pączki bakeries around, that dedicate their entire year and menu, to producing the sticky treats. Everyone has their favourite, but we’ve listed a couple of the most popular below.

Where to celebrate Fat Thursday?


Situated just a minute’s walk from Krakow’s main square and literally translating to Hot Polish doughnuts, there is a window display of pączki here, that would entice any passerby. The location in the city centre means it is likely to be one of the busiest bakeries come Fat Thursday, but if you can get in early it’s worth the queue.

Szewska 25, 31-009


Dobra Pączkarnia is actually a specialist chain these days, with stores all over Poland, including two sites in Krakow. Some prefer the local bakery touch, so die-hard fans might disagree here, but a specialist chain or not, Dobra Pączkarnia cooks up a damn good pączek. When the sweet scent of freshly baked doughnuts wafts through the underpass that divides Planty park from Galeria Krakowska, who could fail to be drawn in? With flavours like Kinder Bueno, sitting seductively beside old favourite rose jam, there is a reason these guys have spread across the country.

Stradomska 18, 33-332/ Bastowa 31-156


This is one of those places that everyone seems to know about just from its reputation alone. It is a pretty unassuming and simple bakery, that is actually probably better known for having a queue out the door for its ice cream in the summer. This small independent bakery gets through the winter months by also serving up some mouth-wateringly fluffy pączki.

Starowislna 83, 33-332

These are just a few. There are dozens of great places for pączki all around Krakow and come Tłusty Czwartek you will not be in short supply if you can get in there early enough. If in doubt, just look out for a queue forming somewhere nearby, chances are those people know something you don’t!

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