Krakow is fast becoming one of the hotspot destinations of Europe. It may be Poland´s second city after Warsaw, but the cultural capital is certainly leading the way for the country´s tourism industry. And with a wealth of outstanding architecture, a beautiful city park, a winding river and fascinating historical attractions its beauty is a sight to behold. And that´s even before you visit the world-class museums and art galleries, a host of lively bars, thumping clubs and sumptuous restaurants. Krakow is without doubt a jewel in Europe´s gleaming crown.
Krakow is located in the south of Poland, a 4 hour train journey from the capital, Warsaw. If you are arriving by boat in one of the northern ports such as Gdansk, an express train to Krakow will take around 8 hours. The city is built on the upper bank of the Vistula River where the first settlers camped thousands of years ago. It´s prime location was a major trading route from eastern to Western Europe and down to Rome and in the Middle-Ages attracted many wealthy merchants.
Many of the major tourist attractions are centred round the city´s two most prominent neighbourhoods, Old Town and the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. Krakow was somehow spared from destruction during the Nazi invasion of World War II so the landmarks that have stood the test of time are the original buildings. However, after being neglected during Soviet rule the Old Town was in need of a major rejuvenation program which got underway almost immediately after the collapse of Communism in 1989.
Despite the plethora of bars, clubs, restaurants and western brand names that have muscled their way in over the last two decades, the historical charm of the city has not lost any of its medieval character but has rather given it a new lease of life with eye-catching architectural contrasts and a perfect combination of age-old buildings blended with modern concepts. Medieval Castles and Gothic Churches sit naturally alongside modern high-rises and chic boutiques; it is little wonder Krakow has been named as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Together with the Old Town, don´t miss out on Kazimierz south of Wawel Castel which served as the Royal residential Palace and is one of Krakow´s most distinguishing landmarks. The Kazimierz district was originally founded by King Kazimierz the Great in 1335 and later became the home to hordes of arriving Jews who settled here before they were expelled to Podgorze on the south of the river by the Habsburgs.
The distinctive Jewish influence is still very much on show today despite the devastation it suffered at the hands of the invading Nazi´s. Since the turn of the Millennium the Kazimierz district has been undergoing a renaissance and winding through its labyrinth of streets is one of Krakow´s many highlights.
Krakow is not just limited to two districts worth visiting however. There are 18 municipals in total all of which have their character and charm. The up-and-coming Podgorze is attracting a lot of attention and the parks of Nowa Huta have always been a hit with visitors, but no matter where you go in Krakow it will hold you spellbound.