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 Until as recently as the 19th century walls encircled the Old Town; these have been replaced by the Planty, a ring of parkland, in the 1820s.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. 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

  • 2. 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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  • 3. Muzeum Etnograficzne im. Seweryna Udzieli w Krakowie

    Kazimierz | Museum/Gallery

    Kazimierz's 15th-century Ratusz (Town Hall) stands in the middle of plac Wolnica. It's now the Ethnographic Museum, displaying a well-mounted...Read More

  • 4. Stara Synagoga

    Kazimierz | Museum/Gallery

    The oldest surviving example of Jewish religious architecture in Poland, this synagogue was built in the 15th century and reconstructed in...Read More

  • 5. Synagoga Izaaka

    Kazimierz | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Isaac's Synagogue was named after its founder, Izaak Jakubowicz (reb Ajzyk reb Jekeles). One of the most famous Hasidic legends is connected...Read More

  • 6. Synagoga Remuh

    Kazimierz | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This 16th-century synagogue is still used for worship and is named after the son of its founder, Rabbi Moses Isserles, who is buried in the...Read More

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  • 7. Synagoga Tempel

    Kazimierz | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The 19th-century Reformed Tempel Synagogue has a striking, eclectic decor complete with stained-glass windows. Under the care of the local Jewish...Read More

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