Kraków has always been, in many respects, a charmed city. With a history that dates back to the 4th century settlement of Wawel Hill, Kraków has fortuitously avoided destruction since the pesky Mongols stopped bullying the area in the 13th century, growing into one of the most prominent cities in Central Europe. The most important city in Poland not to come out of World War II looking like a trampled Lego set, even the Soviets failed to leave their mark on the enchanted city centre during 45 years of supervision, forced to erect their grey communist Utopia in the outlying suburb of Nowa Huta. As a result, Kraków is today one of the most beautiful showpieces of Central Europe – a claim validated by its historic centre’s inclusion on the first ever UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978, along with the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine and only ten other places in the world. A city of majestic architectural monuments, cobbled thoroughfares, cultural treasures, timeless courtyards, priceless artworks and legendary beer cellars and gardens, Kraków’s historic centre is the pride of Poland.
What To See
Kraków’s centre can be divided into two main sections – the Old Town and Kazimierz (the former Jewish Quarter), with Wawel (the former Royal Castle) towering between them. These three areas are requisite for anyone visiting the city – even if just for a day – and have been given their own separate treatment with accompanying cultural listings within this guide.