Krakow, also referred to as Cracow, is the second largest city in Poland after Warsaw. It is also one of the oldest cities in the country. Its location on the banks of Vistula River probably has something to do with its rise and rise in the Lesser Poland region. The city was founded in the 7th century.
The urban layout of Krakow is good example of medieval architecture. It is divided into 4 core areas namely:
The historic center of Krakow happens to have been the former capital of Poland. It is situated at the foot of the magnificent Royal Wawel Castle. Thanks to its pedestal spot as the capital, Krakow saw a lot of construction of buildings such as palaces, churches and other monuments. Of particular importance is the Market Square that was the largest in Europe in the 13th century and thus attracted merchants from all over continental Europe.
More evidence to the city’s greatness is found in the 14th century fortifications at Kazimierz. This medieval site is also home to a number of synagogues, Jagellonian University and a Gothic Cathedral that was the burial site of the Kings of Poland.
Still in Krakow, you will find Stare Miasto, the old city. It is characterized by orthogonal streets as ordered by Boloslaw the Chaste in 1257 when he defended the people scattered all over the Wawel Hill. Apparently he was the one finally united the various peoples in the region. All that remains of the old city is a medieval enclosure and its gates.
Stare Miasto is separated from the old district of Kazimierz. Up until 1880, Diet Kazimierz was the Jewish quarter of Krakow. The Jewish culture greatly enriched Cracow. About 64,000 Jewish individuals were residents of Cracow until the WWII. During the war, a lot of them were taken into the concentration camps at Auschwitz. By the time the war ended, only 6,000 remained.
Other attractions in the city include the University Quarter where Copernicus and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II…now sainted) went to school. There are monasteries, churches, Royal Palace, etc.
Today, Krakow is the most visited tourist destination in Poland. With its ancient monuments and historical buildings, it is bound to continue drawing the huge crowds. Hopefully, you will be one of them.