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.



Your name

Website (optional)


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


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Richard Hulme (18 months ago)
Good business type hotel. Check in was fast and we had a very large room. We and or 2 x children stayed in the same room with a sofa bed. We had good pizza late in the evening at the Bar. Breakfast was very good. Fresh waffles made in the restaurant were a great addition. Loved the fresh smoothies and good selection of cooked breakfast times also.
Dwyatt Rogers (18 months ago)
Was there September 2017. Enjoyed our stay very clean with friendly helpful staff. The location is great, close to shopping and local eatery’s.
Vinay Krishna (2 years ago)
Wonderful location, very close, 600mtrs or so, to market place or Stare Miesta. Good public transportation right outside of hotel. The hotel is on a one way street so, make a note of it when you order a taxi. The property is very well maintained, clean and nice interior decor. My room was very comfortable and had views of street. The mattress is very comfortable. The TV has free channels and also options to pay and watch movies. The bathroom is quite big and well stocked. The breakfast has quite a good variety, being a vegetarian I found many options to make it a good start for the day. One can also order their favorite egg preparation. The only minor inconvenience I faced was to get attention of a waiter/waitress, perhaps this was due to the fact that the seating was divided as some of the seating had walls/partitioning separate them.
Chiranjeeb Ghosh (2 years ago)
Great. I loved the location, the sumptuous breakfast spread. The room was very comfortable and cozy and not cramped. The room was very modern in design.
Arale Kirsh (2 years ago)
Great hotel, superb location. Breakfast is awesome. Rooms are large, clean and modern. The stuff is very helpful. There's apples on the front desk!!! Where is Ross Geller?
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Narikala Castle

Narikala is an ancient fortress overlooking Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and the Kura River. The fortress consists of two walled sections on a steep hill between the sulphur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi. On the lower court there is the recently restored St Nicholas church. Newly built in 1996–1997, it replaces the original 13th-century church that was destroyed in a fire. The new church is of 'prescribed cross' type, having doors on three sides. The internal part of the church is decorated with the frescos showing scenes both from the Bible and history of Georgia.

The fortress was established in the 4th century and it was a Persian citadel. It was considerably expanded by the Umayyads in the 7th century and later, by king David the Builder (1089–1125). Most of extant fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827, parts of the fortress were damaged by an earthquake and demolished.