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A city guide to Krakow – history, culture and character

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Krakow is one of the oldest cities in the whole of Poland and is actually the capital of the area known at Little Poland. The oldest settlements date back to pre-historic times. With many monuments that survived the Second World War, Krakow is brimming with history. It’s also one of the areas where Jews lived in ghettos and concentration camps during WWII. Today you can learn more about the events of the past, and appreciate the plight of a city that has risen to become a cultural gem in the patchwork of Europe.

Pawel Sacha

My Destination local expert on

Krakow

Old Town

 

The area known as the Old Town, is Krakow’s historical district, located right in the city center. This area dates back to the 11th century, and is the most famous old centre in the whole of Poland, as well as one of the most famous in Europe. This area was one of the first sites to be awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. Along with this, it is also one of the Polish National Historic Monuments, so head here if you love culture and heritage. The Old Town also managed to survive through World War II as well, meaning little damage to its extensive historical architecture.

 

Jewish neighborhood

 

Located in the Kazimierz district of the city is the fashionable Jewish neighborhood. Here is the Museum of Judaism, a 15th century synagogue, known as Old Synagogue along with many other historical and attractive synagogues. The Jewish Cemetery is also located here, named after a 16th century rabbi, Remuh. Jews pray here today at Remuh’s grave and other well-known Jews are buried here. There are plenty of cafes and plenty of nightlife to keep tourists entertained, and it is sometimes compared to London’s Soho.

 

Podgorze

 

The district of Podgorze is most famous for being the location of the harrowing Jewish ghettos, where five times too many people were crammed into this area during World War II. Podgorze is located just across the Vistula (the longest and largest river in Poland). This is also the location of Oskar Schindler’s famous factory, where parts of Spielberg’s film Schlinder’s List were actually filmed. Among the filming locations is the market square – actually a triangle shape – and plenty of churches to visit.

 

Nowa Huta

 

Nowa Huta, also known as New Steelworks is like a living museum of Poland’s communist rule era. Originally an age old settlement, this area has had continual settlements since the Neolithic age dating back to the 8th century. Built in 1949 it’s the newest district in the city. With a vast array of architecture, find pre 1956 socialist realism, where buildings were made to express social ideas of persistence and power. Post 1956 buildings take the modernist form. Today, communists’ attributes such as road and park names have been removed. Visit here for an understanding and a glimpse into a socialist and communist realm.

 

Zwierzyniec

 

Home to the Wolksi Forest and Zwierzyniec Zoo, the district of Zwierzyniec in Krakow is not to be confused with the town Zwierzyniec in Poland. Zwierzyniec is the administrative district of Krakow and lies to the eastern end of the city. It boarders four other districts in Krakow and includes other areas within it such as Bielany and Przegorzaly. Whilst in this district, don’t miss huge the commemorative Kosciuszko Mound and the attractive red Blessed Bronislawa Chapel directly behind it.