Starting as a market town in the 10th century, Kraków became Poland's capital in 1037. Until as recently as the 19th century walls encircled the Old Town; these have been replaced by the Planty, a ring of parkland, in the 1820s. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many interesting examples of architecture from that period can be found within the second ring, marked by Aleje and Dietla streets. In the late 20th century another phase of the city's development began farther out, and it continues today.

Most major historical attractions are within walking distance in the compact Old Town, but you'll also find very interesting sights further outside the city center, including Kościuszko's Mound to the west and Nowa Huta to the east of the city center.

To the immediate southeast of the Old Town is the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. This was once a separate town, chartered in 1335 by its founder, King Kazimierz the Great. In 1495 Kraków's Jews were expelled from the city by King John Albert, and they resettled in Kazimierz. The Jewish community there came to an abrupt and tragic end during World War II. In 1941, the Jews of Kazimierz were moved first to a Jewish ghetto across the Vistula River in Podgórze, then to the Płaszów concentration camp. Most who survived Płaszów were transported to their deaths in the much larger concentration camp at Auschwitz–Birkenau. The story of the few Jews who escaped Płaszów through the help of businessman Oskar Schindler formed the basis of Thomas Keneally's book (and Steven Spielberg's film) Schindler's List.

Development during the 2010s has breathed a new life into the district of Podgórze, which gained as many as three new museums. The Historical Museum and MOCAK Museum of Contemporary art are both in the area of the former Schindler Factory; a third, Cricoteka, documents the work of Tadeusz Kantor. Podgórze abounds with hip restaurants and bars, and is the destination to go to if you want to get away from the crowds.

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  • 1. Fabrycka Emalia Oskara Schindlera


    This branch of the Kraków's Historical Museum houses an exhibition telling the story of the city under Nazi occupation, from 1939 to 1945. The...Read More

  • 2. Nowa Huta


    Even for Kraków natives, a trip to Nowa Huta is something of an adventure. Though officially part of Kraków—and only a 20- to 30-minute tram...Read More

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  • 3. Rynek Główny

    Stare Miasto | Plaza/Square

    Europe's largest medieval marketplace is on a par in size and grandeur with St. Mark's Square in Venice. It even has the same plague of pigeons...Read More

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  • 4. Zamek Królewski na Wawelu

    Wawel | Castle/Palace

    The castle that now stands here dates from the early 16th century, when the Romanesque residence that stood on this site was destroyed by fire...Read More

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  • 5. Bagelmama

    Kazimierz | Restaurant

    Bagelmama is a cozy little bagel shop—the only one in Kraków. ...Read More

  • 6. Barbakan

    Stare Miasto | Notable Building

    Only one small section of Kraków's city wall still stands, centered on the 15th-century Barbakan, one of the largest strongholds of its kind...Read More

  • 7. Collegium Iuridicum

    Stare Miasto | Educational Institution

    This magnificent Gothic building, built in the early 15th century to house the Jagiellonian University's law students, lies on one of Kraków...Read More

  • 8. Collegium Maius

    Stare Miasto | Educational Institution

    Jagiellonian University was another innovation of Kazimierz the Great. Established in 1364, it was the first university in Poland and one of...Read More

  • 9. Cricoteka—Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor


    Tadeusz Kantor (1915–1990) was one the most famous Polish artists of the 20th century, and one of the most versatile. He was a painter, theatrical...Read More

  • 10. Dom Jana Matejki

    Stare Miasto | Historic Home

    The 19th-century painter Jan Matejko was born and died in this house, which now serves as a museum for his work. Even if you don't warm to his...Read More

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  • 11. Jama Michalika

    Stare Miasto | Restaurant

    How often do you have a chance to have a cup coffee or a glass of wine among museum-quality artworks? In the Art Nouveau café Jama Michalika...Read More

  • 12. Katedra Wawelska

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Wawel Hill, a 15-acre rocky limestone outcropping on the banks of the Vistula, dominates the old part of the city. The hill was a natural point...Read More

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  • 13. Kawiarnia Noworolski

    Stare Miasto | Restaurant

    One of the oldest cafés in town, this lovely historical spot, next to the entrance to the National Museum in the Cloth Hall, is a great place...Read More

  • 14. Kopiec Kościuszki

    Salwator | Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    This mound on the outskirts of Kraków was built in tribute to the memory of Tadeusz Kościuszko in 1820, three years after his death. The earth...Read More

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  • 15. Kościół Bożego Ciała

    Kazimierz | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This 15th-century church was used by King Charles Gustavus of Sweden as his headquarters during the Siege of Kraków in 1655. Its austere gothic...Read More

  • 16. Kościół Franciszkanów

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The mid-13th-century church and monastery are among the earliest brick buildings in Kraków. The Art Nouveau stained-glass windows and wall...Read More

  • 17. Kościół Mariacki

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Dominating the northeast corner of Rynek Główny is the twin-towered Church of Our Lady, which is also known as St. Mary's Church. The first...Read More

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  • 18. Kościół na Skałce

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Standing on the Vistula embankment to the south of Wawel Hill, this church is the center of the cult of Saint Stanisław. The bishop and martyr...Read More

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  • 19. Kościół świętego Andrzeja

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The finest surviving example of Romanesque architecture in Kraków is this 11th-century fortified church. Local residents took refuge in St....Read More

  • 20. Kościół świętego Piotra i Pawła

    Stare Miasto | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The first baroque church in Kraków was commissioned for the Jesuit order. It's one of the most faithful and successful examples of transplanting...Read More

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