When Spielberg came to Kraków to produce his award-winning film Schindler’s List, the result was a fast and far-reaching revitalisation of Kazimierz, Kraków’s former Jewish district. Ironically, however, it didn’t reach across the river to Podgórze, despite the fact most of the film’s historic events took place there, as did much of the filming. As Kazimierz became super-saturated with tourists and bars, predictions were that Podgórze would emerge as Kraków's next hip bohemian district; however aside from a small stable of rogue cafes, things were slow to develop and for a long time getting off the beaten path in Kraków was as easy as crossing the river to Podgórze. Since the opening of Schindler's Factory as a major attraction and the construction of the Bernatek footbridge creating a direct artery of tourist traffic into the district, that has begun to change, but Podgórze remains Kraków's most mysterious and underappreciated neighbourhood.
A district rich in natural beauty, tragic history and unusual attractions, the first signs of settlement in Podgórze date from over ten thousand years ago, though the Swedish invasion in the 17th century saw much of Podgórze levelled. Awarded the rights of a free city in 1784 by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, the town was eventually incorporated as Kraków’s fourth district in 1915, and the following decades saw its aggressive development; quarries and brickworks were constructed, and a string of military forts added, of which Fort Benedict is the only still standing. An indication of Podgórze’s age is Krakus Mound, excavations of which have dated it to the Iron Age. However, the trespasses of more recent history are what people most associate with the district.
On March 21, 1941, the entire Jewish population residing in Kazimierz were marched across the Silesian Uprisings Bridge and crammed into what was to become known as the Podgórze Ghetto. Traces of the Ghetto still exist, including a prominent stretch of the wall on ul. Lwowska. Liquidated on March 14, 1943, the majority of the Ghetto's residents were murdered there, while others met death in the nearby Liban quarry and Płaszów concentration camp, or in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bełżec. The opening of the Schindler’s Factory Museum in 2010 not only did much towards helping the city bury the ghosts of the Holocaust, but it also established Podgórze as a bona fide tourist destination. With plenty to see and do, you could easily spend an entire day exploring Podgórze, and a walk up into the hills of Krzemionki behind old Podgórze is not only a great way to get 'off the beaten path' - it's also Kraków's most evocative area.