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KRACOW

Kraków

Kraków, a southern Poland city near the border of the Czech Republic, is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. Its old town – ringed by Planty Park and remnants of the city’s medieval walls – is centered on the stately, expansive Rynek Glówny (market square). This plaza is the site of the Cloth Hall, a Renaissance-era trading outpost, and St. Mary’s Basilica, a 14th-century Gothic church.

Kraków[a] (Polish: [ˈkrakuf] ), also spelled Cracow in English, is the second-largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in Lesser Poland Voivodeship, the city dates back to the seventh century.[8] Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596[9] and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life. Cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities,[10] its Old Town with Wawel Royal Castle was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, one of the world’s first sites granted the status.

The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second-most-important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was reported by Ibrahim ibn Yaqub, a 10th-century merchant from Córdoba, as a busy trading centre of Central Europe in 985.[8] With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. As of 2023, the city has a population of 804,237, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of its main square.[

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, the newly defined Distrikt Krakau (Kraków District) became the capital of Germany’s General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from where they were sent to Nazi extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz, and Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.[12] However, the city was spared from destruction and major bombing.

Good to Know

Country
Poland
Visa Requirements
Visa On Arraival
Languages spoken
Polish
Area (km2)
326.8 km2 (126.2 sq mi)

History

The Romanesque St. Leonard’s Crypt, which date back to the 11th century, when Casimir I the Restorer made Kraków his royal residence and the capital of the Kingdom of Poland

Kraków’s early history begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill.[24][unreliable source?] A legend attributes Kraków’s founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragonSmok Wawelski. The first written record of the city’s name dates back to 965, when Kraków was described as a notable commercial centre controlled first by Moravia (876–879), but captured by a Bohemian duke Boleslaus I in 955.[25] The first acclaimed ruler of Poland, Mieszko I, took Kraków from the Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.

In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish government.[8] By the end of the tenth century, the city was a leading centre of trade.[26] Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Andrew’s Churcha cathedral, and a basilica.[27] The city was sacked and burned during the Mongol invasion of 1241.[28] It was rebuilt practically identically,[29] based on new location act and incorporated in 1257 by the high duke Bolesław V the Chaste who following the example of Wrocław, introduced city rights modelled on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for the citizens.[30] In 1259, the city was again ravaged by the Mongols. A third attack in 1287 was repelled thanks in part to the newly built fortifications.[31]