In Krakow everything seems to slow down. This relaxed, unhurried pace has an incredible appeal and even if you try, you won’t be able to resist its overwhelming power. Some call it magic, but the place has a unique lifestyle that sets it apart from other great cities which are more focused on modernity and thus bound to lead a forever frenetic life.
Krakow is like a history book, its pages made of stones which tell a tale that started centuries ago and still continues today. Here every street has a haunting allure and keeps some secret, be it a gruesome story from the past or an unusual architectural detail that takes a sharp eye to spot.
The Old City of Krakow
The Royal Way is the official trail which kings and foreign delegations took when they came to Krakow.
The Royal Castle: a Renaissance castle with the beautiful three-storey arcaded courtyard.
The Krakow Cathedral, dedicated to St. Stanislaus and St. Wenceslas: the coronation temple and the royal necropolis.
The Krakow Planty: a park surrounding the Old City created in place of medieval defense walls.
The Franciscan Church from 1237 with its famous stained-glass window “God the Father in the Act of Creation”.
The Bishop Palace with the “papal window” where, during his pilgrimages to Poland, the Holy Father John Paul II would frequently make his appearances and carry out his famous “dialogs with the young”.
The Jagiellonian University – Collegium Maius: one of the oldest European universities established in 1364 by King Casimir the Great.
The Market Square: one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, which was laid out when the city’s location charter was signed in 1257, with the town hall tower, the Cloth-hall and St. Mary’s Church: the main temple of medieval Krakow and one of the most important Gothic architecture monuments in Poland where you can admire the Grand Altarpiece: the best European example of late Gothic wooden sculpture, which was made in the 15th century by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz) who came to Krakow from Nuremberg.
Florianska Street, extending from St. Mary’s church towards St. Florian’s Gate, is part of the Royal Tract. Although the houses there date back to the 14th century, frequent reconstructions have given them the character of various architectural styles and pseudo-styles.
The Defense Walls of Medieval Krakow with St. Florian’s Gate and the Haberdashers, the Carpenters and the Joiners Towers.
A district of Krakow, once a town in its own right. Kazimierz got its name after King Casimir the Great who chartered its location in 1335. Its center was a large, elongated market square constituting the extension of Krakowska Street. In the second half of the 14th century, Kazimierz was surrounded by defense walls with several gates. Starting from the end of the 15th century, in the city, originally inhabited solely by Christians, Jews began to settle. With time, a specific conglomerate of two cultures emerged, with Roman Catholic temples neighboring synagogues; the latter were erected to the east of the square (Oppidum Iudaeorum). After Poland had lost her independence, in 1800, the Austrians incorporated Kazimierz to the city of Krakow. In the first half of the 19th century, the Kazimierz defense walls were demolished. The Second World War put an end to the development of Jewish culture in Kazimierz. At present, the monuments situated in this part of Krakow, including the Jewish ones, undergo thorough renovations. In 1993, the Jewish Kazimierz and the neighboring Podgorze district were the location for Spielberg’s famous “Schindler’s List”.
The Podgorze District. Situated on the right bank of the Vistula, the district through which many commercial routes led to Hungary and Russia, in the middle of the 18th century still had no municipal character. Occupied by the Austrians after the first partition of Poland (1772), in 1784 it was granted a municipal charter by Emperor Joseph II. The Austrians planned Podgorze to rival or even to surpass Krakow with its Polish character. In the second half of the 19th century brick walls surrounded the district; their remnants can still be seen on a hill called Krzemionki. In 1915, Podgorze became an inseparable part of the former capital of Poland. The center of the former town is a picturesque square with the neo-Gothic St. Joseph’s church. The imposing belfry is modeled after one of the Marian towers.
Łagiewniki In the years 1889-93, a convent of the Sisters of the Holy Mother of Mercy and the church of St. Joseph, designed by Karol Zaremba, were erected in Lagiewniki. Here the ashes of St. Faustine – Maria Helena Kowalska (1905-38) are buried. She was a nun in the convent, a mystic and the founder of the Lord’s Mercy cult. St. Faustine inspired the painting of several images of Christ with the radiating heart. One of such paintings, with an inscription “I Trust In You, Jesus”, by Adolf Hyla, was placed in the Lagiewniki church in 1944. Sister Faustine was beatified in 1993, and canonized in 2000. The cult of St. Faustine, ever growing in popularity, led to the establishment of a large sanctuary of Lord’s Mercy in Lagiewniki (2000-2002), which was visited by John Paul II during his pilgrimages to his homeland. Every year on the first Sunday after Easter, on the Feast of Lord’s Mercy, crowds of pilgrims from Poland and the world arrive at Lagiewniki.
Nowa Huta District. Under construction since 1949 as a separate township, incorporated to Krakow as a new district in 1951, Nowa Huta constituted the model and most prominent achievement of the authorities of these times. The new district, closely associated with the Lenin Steelworks (at present Tadeusz Sedzimir Steelworks), was located in the village of Mogila. With its numerous housing developments, in its oldest part, Nowa Huta is today a monument of the urban development and architecture of the Socialist Realism period. From Central Square, its architectural core, five axes radiate and divide the area into housing quarters. Within the past thirty years, modern churches have been erected in the district, including the famous church of Our Lady Queen of Poland in Bienczyce, whose architectural form resembles a boat, so the church is also named the Ark of Our Lord
In the vicinity of the Cistercian abbey in Mogila (from the 13th century, one of the oldest Gothic churches in Poland), a priceless wooden church of St. Bartholomew has been preserved. In the Gothic portal Maciej Maczka carved his name – most likely he built the church in the second half of the 15th century.