According to the legend, Cracow was founded on the defeat of a dragon. A magical atmosphere permeates its streets and squares.
Cracow (Polish: Kraków) is the second largest city in Poland. It is a former capital of Poland, Royal Capital City and necropolis of Polish kings. A visit to Cracow is a meeting with the most glorious era in Polish history.
Cracow’s history spans a millennium. Archeological findings show that the Wawel Hill has been inhabited since Paleolithic period. It has been home to Polish kings since the mid-11th century and received city rights based on the Magdeburg Law in 1257.
The Main Market Square in the Old Town has preserved its original shape since 1257, with traces of history and heritage representing nearly all architectural styles from the early Middle Ages to contemporary times. The Main Market Square is the largest market square of mediaeval Europe. The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), a mediaeval shopping arcade in is center, is one of the most recognizable examples of Polish architecture.
The Wawel Royal Castle has been for centuries the residence of the kings of Poland. It is one of the largest castles in Poland and represents nearly all European architectural styles of medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill are the most historically and culturally significant sites in the country. Today, the Castle is a museum drawing visitors with its architecture and collections, including famous tapestry collection of Sigismund II Augustus.
The former Jewish district, Kazimierz, is an intriguing mosaic made in centuries of coexistence of two cultures, Christian and Jewish. Jews have settled here in the mid-14th century, and until the early 19th a “Jewish city” was an autonomous enclave governed by internal Jewish authorities: their only sovereign was the king. Today Kazimierz is one of the best known areas of Cracow. Teeming with cultural and artistic life, the district especially attracts those who want to feel the spirit of Cracow’s bohemia.
Cracow is home to one the oldest universities in Central Europe, second only to the University of Prague: the Jagiellonian University, established in 1364. Its students have been, among others, Nicolas Copernicus, Polish king John III Sobieski, Pope John Paul II and Nobel laureates Ivo Andrić and Wisława Szymborska.
Cracow’s Old Town, Wawel Castle and Kazimierz district have been placed on the first UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978.
Cracow was at the peak of its development in the 16th century (Polish Golden Age ). It has been the city of science and culture attracting the greatest artists, whose works can still be seen today, such as the altarpiece by Veit Stoss in the St. Mary’s Basilica, or the cloister at the Wawel Castle, designed by Bartolommeo Berrecci. Today, Kraków is a modern and developing city and a melting pot where tradition interlaces with avant-garde.