Historic Centre of Kraków

Kraków, Poland

The urban layout of Cracow, an outstanding example of medieval architecture, is based on four core areas: the centre, around the market square; the Wawel, the hill inhabited since the Palaeolithic and the site of the imperial palace; the urban district of Kazimierz; and the Stradom quarter.

The historic centre of Cracow, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century merchants' town has Europe's largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces and churches with magnificent interiors. Further evidence of the town's fascinating history is provided by the remnants of the 14th-century fortifications and the medieval site of Kazimierz with its ancient synagogues in the southern part of town, the Jagellonian University, and the Gothic cathedral where the kings of Poland were buried.

Stare Miasto is the old city, characterized by the rigid grid of perfectly orthogonal streets, the layout ordered by Boloslaw the Chaste in 1257 when he decided to unify the various peoples scattered around the hill of the Wawel. All that remains now of the medieval enclosure walls is the gate and the little wall that was built in 1499 near the main city gate.

The old city is separated from the old district of Kazimierz. Until the 1880 Diet Kazimierz was an island, forming the Jewish quarter of Cracow. As in every city, Jewish culture enriched Cracow, until in the Second World War the entire Jewish community of 64,000 individuals was deported to the nearby concentration camps at Auschwitz; only 6,000 returning at the end of the war.

The university quarter is the oldest in Poland and among the oldest in Europe. Students here have included Copernicus and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II). Within the historic centre there are many churches and monasteries. The limestone hill of the Wawel is the site of a complex that houses some of the most important buildings. These include the Royal Palace, seat of the king in the period when the boundaries of Poland extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Today the palace accommodates a museum that displays splendid tapestries, the Royal Treasury (unfortunately depleted in periods of difficulty), royal standards, and antique furniture. Within the Wawel is the Gothic cathedral of St Wenceslas. Its exterior illustrates the complex history of this building. The cathedral was for centuries the scene of the main events of the Polish royal families - coronations, weddings, and funerals.

In the part of the castle accessible on the Wisla, there is a small park at the base of the hill with the cave of the legendary Krak, prince and head of a Slav tribe. At the entrance to the Wawel the ancient Royal Way of monuments and remarkable historical buildings begins. Then comes the heart of the old city: the Market Square (Rynek Głowny). This is one of the largest medieval public squares in Europe, 200 m on each side. The building in the centre of the square is the Skiennice, the ancient cloth market. One side is dominated by the Gothic church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.



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Founded: 13th century
Category: Historic city squares, old towns and villages in Poland


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

jen heywood (11 months ago)
This review is a long time coming, but we were there just before Europe closed down in March 2020. As I was arranging a 'trip of a lifetime' to Poland for my Mum, who has a great love for the Composer Frédéric Chopin. I chose Holiday Inn Krakow because, quite simply, it had the best reviews, and I needed everything to be perfect. It is also right near the spectacular Old Town, which is the best I have seen anywhere in the world. Whilst we were there, they were renovating the Lobby, and had a makeshift Front Desk and Restaurant, but that didn't matter at all. They were very welcoming when we arrived, and the day prior, when I emailed to request an Airport pick-up. It was done promptly, with all details listed, including the price. A very nice driver met us at the Airport on foot, and advised us to wait whilst he retrieved the car, in case we become cold. Our room was comfortable, and even included bathrobes and slippers. During our stay, my Mother hurt her Ankle (the surfaces can be a bit uneven in the Old Town), and the Hotel staff were absolutely amazing. Being quite distressed, I asked for their advice, and they were so kind. Agnieszka made telephone calls, and offered advice on where to seek help (and the costs and time involved). She left a message for Robert, who was going to be on duty in the morning, and he came to our room to ask what he could do to help. In the meantime, the restaurant staff were making ice-packs for me, and the hotel loaned me a wheelchair. I was even offered a room change, in case the wheelchair didn't fit. It did, which says something about the good size of the room. We were also allowed to take the wheelchair out sightseeing, so Mum could still enjoy Krakow. Robert was kind enough to book train tickets to Warsaw for us, and recommended the best service to take. It was so much appreciated. I honestly can't thank the staff in this hotel enough. They were absolutely first class. I hope that we will visit again one day, and look forward to seeing how the hotel looks, post renovation. I wouldn't consider staying anywhere else in Krakow.
Sanderly Jeronimo (13 months ago)
Great stay. Welcoming reception. Restaurant with great food and local beer
david abady (14 months ago)
Best location very welcome staff good room with all you need comfortable and great breakfast
Betsy Babcock (15 months ago)
Our stay at this Holiday Inn was exceptional. I work with a disaster response organization and have spent the past two weeks there. We have had over 70 different people stay, and the hotel staff were flexible, professional and always looking for a way to be supportive. Managers Monika, Gregory, and Peter are amazing and set a standard that is followed by the team. The rooms are very comfortable and the hotel is just steps from.the old city. Fir business
Dara Vilkhova (16 months ago)
I stayed there in the deluxe twin room over Christmas and unfortunately, there was almost nothing "deluxe" about the room. It was alright, good breakfast, clean, good location, very quiet. But the best thing about it was the bar, actually the bartender Grzegorz Kruk - he has been amazing, a professional and a very friendly person! I am not sure if i would stay there again, but i would definitely pass by for a drink or two one day ?
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