Kraków is the capital of Małopolska Region, located in southern Poland on the Vistula river, as the second largest city in Poland both with regard to the population and surface area. It is a former capital of Poland, Royal Capital City and necropolis of Polish kings.
The history of Kraków as an organised urban centre begins around the 7th and 8th centuries Anno Domini. To this day, we can admire the remains left behind the initial settlers in the form of two mounds: Krakus and Wanda. Another crucial date in the history of the city was its reception of city rights modelled on the Magdeburg Law on the 5th June 1257, allowing the formation of the current shape of the Old Town. As a result, the Wawel Castle became the seat of the contemporary ruler of Poland. The city’s location at an intersection of trade routes: from Rus’ to Germany and the Kingdom of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic), and from Pomerania to Hungary, Turkey and the Balkans, allowed its fast economic growth.
The capital city of Poland was at the peak of its development in the Polish Golden Age (16th century). In those times, Kraków was – as it is now – the city of science and culture. It attracted the greatest artists, whose works can still be seen today: The altarpiece by Veit Stoss or the cloister at the Wawel Castle, designed by Bartolommeo Berrecci. The history of Kraków is inextricably linked to the history of the Polish nation.
Today, Kraków is a modern and developing city and a melting pot where tradition of indigenous residents is mixed with student’s avant-garde. However, thanks to a great number of monuments, excellently preserved in the city’s layout, it has never lost its majestic character.
For centuries, the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny) has been the heart of the city: the largest market square of mediaeval Europe, it has preserved its original shape since 1257, and it was entered on the original UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978. For 600 years, a bugle call has been played from the taller tower of St Mary’s Church, standing by the square, to the four corners of the world. Situated in its centre, the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), a mediaeval shopping arcade, is one of the most recognisable examples of Polish architecture.
Kraków boasts one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Central Europe, second only to the University of Prague: the Jagiellonian University, whose students have included Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolas Copernicus) and Pope John Paul II. Wawel Hill, inhabited since Palaeolithic times, has been an important religious centre and home to Polish monarchs since the mid-11th century. Today, with its no fewer than 71 exhibition halls, Wawel Royal Castle functions as a museum, drawing visitors with precious works of Renaissance art, among other attractions. Its arcaded courtyard, a pearl of 16th-century architecture, inspires awe and amazement.
We recommend to check a broad range of tourist routes, practical information and tourist attractions at Magical Krakow portal – www.krakow.pl. Especially worth seeing are:
- virtual walk: http://wirtualnyspacer.krakow.pl/html5/index.php?id=52619&lng=EN
- web cameras: http://www.krakow.pl/odwiedz_krakow/1317,artykul,kamery_internetowe.html
- Krakow’s promotional materials: http://www.krakow.pl/rozmaitosci/33321,artykul,english.html:
- Three days in Krakow – in town for the weekend or a conference? Download this guide!
- Only in Krakow – 21 reasons to visit the city
- Nowa Huta District Guide – Nowa Huta – once a separate town, now a district of Krakow
- The best of Krakow museums – so much more than Wawel castle and the “Lady with an Ermine”. This is Krakow after all
- Krakow technical trail – Krakow’s engineering gems, source of many years of fascination
- and many, many more
SOURCE: text – krakow.pl, photos – WT UMK