| Main Market SquareWawel CastleBarbicanSt. Marys BasilicaSt. Peter and Paul ChurchCollegium Maius|
Jacek Majchrowski (I)
| Wawel Castle, Main Square - Krakow, St Marys Basilica - Krakow, Wawel Cathedral, Krakow Cloth Hall|
Jagiellonian University, AGH University of Science and Technology, Krakow University of Economics, Tadeusz Kosciuszko University of Technology, Pedagogical University of Krakow
Krakow also Cracow, or Krakow ( ) is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River (Polish: ) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Krakow has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Polands most important economic hubs. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596; Free City of Krakow from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Krakow Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.
The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Polands second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Krakow reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000 whereas about 8 million people live within a 100 kilometres (62 miles) radius of its main square.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Krakow became the capital of Germanys General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Krakow Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Plaszow.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II – the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Cracows Historic Centre. Krakow is classified as a global city by GaWC, with the ranking of High sufficiency. Cited as one of Europes most beautiful cities, its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula river, the St. Marys Basilica and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Glowny. Krakow is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Polands most reputable institution of higher learning.
In 2000, Krakow was named European Capital of Culture. The city will also host the next World Youth Day in 2016.
Krakows prehistory begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill. A legend attributes Krakows founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragon, Smok Wawelski. The first written record of the citys name dates back to 965, when Krakow was described as a notable commercial centre controlled first by Moravia (876–879), but captured by a Bohemian duke Boleslaus I in 955. The first acclaimed ruler of Poland, Mieszko I, took Krakow from the Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.
In 1038, Krakow became the seat of the Polish government. By the end of the 10th century, the city was a leading centre of trade. Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Adalberts, a cathedral, and a basilica. The city was almost entirely destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. It was rebuilt practically identical, based on new location act and incorporated in 1257 by the king Boleslaw V the Chaste who following the example of Wroclaw, introduced city rights modelled on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for the citizens. In 1259, the city was again ravaged by the Mongols. A third attack in 1287 was repelled thanks in part to the new built fortifications. In 1335, King Casimir III of Poland (Kazimierz in Polish) declared the two western suburbs to be a new city named after him, Kazimierz (Casimiria in Latin). The defensive walls were erected around the central section of Kazimierz in 1362, and a plot was set aside for the Augustinian order next to Skalka.
The city rose to prominence in 1364, when Casimir III of Poland founded the University of Krakow, the second oldest university in central Europe after the Charles University in Prague. King Casimir also began work on a campus for the Academy in Kazimierz, but he died in 1370 and the campus was never completed. The city continued to grow under the joint Lithuanian-Polish Jagiellon dynasty. As the capital of the Kingdom of Poland and a member of the Hanseatic League, the city attracted many craftsmen, businesses, and guilds as science and the arts began to flourish.
Krakow lies in the southern part of Poland, on the Vistula River (Polish name: Wisla), in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 219 m (719 ft) above sea level; half way between the Jurassic Rock Upland (Polish: ) to the north, and the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, constituting the natural border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic; 230 km (143 mi) west from the border with Ukraine. There are five nature reserves in Krakow, with a combined area of ca. 48.6 hectares (120 acres). Due to their ecological value, these areas are legally protected. The western part of the city, along its northern and north-western side, borders an area of international significance known as the Jurassic Bielany-Tyniec refuge. The main motives for the protection of this area include plant and animal wildlife and the areas geomorphological features and landscape. Another part of the city is located within the ecological corridor of the Vistula River valley. This corridor is also assessed as being of international significance as part of the Pan-European ecological network. The city centre is situated on the left (northern) bank of the river.
Krakow is one of Polands most important economic centres and the economic hub of the Lesser Poland (Malopolska) region. Following the collapse of communism, the private sector has been growing steadily. There are about 50 large multinational companies in the city, including Google, IBM, Motorola, Delphi, MAN SE, General Electric, Aon Hewitt, Hitachi, Philip Morris, Capgemini, and Sabre Holdings, along with other British, German and Scandinavian-based firms. The city is also the global headquarters for Comarch, a Polish enterprise software house. In 2005, Foreign direct investment in Krakow has reached approximately 3.5 billion USD. Krakow has been trying to position itself as Europes Silicon Valley, based on the large number of local and foreign hi tech companies. The unemployment rate in Krakow was 4.8 percent in May 2007, well below the national average of 13 percent. Krakow is the second city in Poland (after Warsaw) most often visited by foreigners. According to the World Investment Report 2011 by the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Krakow is also the most emerging city location for investment in global BPO projects (Business Process Outsourcing) in the world.
Krakow was named the official European Capital of Culture for the year 2000 by the European Union. It is a major attraction for both local and international tourists, attracting seven million visitors a year. Major landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Marys Basilica and the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, the Wawel Castle, the National Art Museum, the Zygmunt Bell at the Wawel Cathedral, and the medieval St Florians Gate with the Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route. Krakow has 28 museums and public art galleries. Among them are the main branch of Polands National Museum and the Czartoryski Museum, the latter featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.
According to statistics, in 2009 Krakow was visited by 7.3 million tourists including 2.1 million foreign travelers (over 30% of their grand total). The visitors spent over 2.5 billion zloty in the city (without travel costs and pre-booked accommodations). Most foreign tourists came from Great Britain (over 25%), with German, French, Italian and American visitors closely following. The Krakow tour-guide from the Lesser Poland Visitors Bureau indicated that not all statistics are recorded due to considerable number of those who come, staying in readily available private rooms paid by cash, especially from Eastern Europe.
The main reasons for visiting the city are: its historical monuments, recreation as well as relatives and friends (in the third place), religion (focused on Wawel) and business (next). There are 120 quality hotels in Krakow (usually about half full) offering 15,485 overnight accommodations. The average stay last for about 4 to 7 nights. The survey conducted among the travelers showed that they enjoyed the citys friendliness most, with 90% of Polish tourists and 87% foreigners stating that they would personally recommend visiting it. Notable points of interest outside the city include the Wieliczka salt mine, the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, the historic city of Czestochowa (north-west), the well-preserved former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, and Ojcowski National Park, which includes the Renaissance Castle at Pieskowa Skala. Krakow has been awarded a number of top international rankings such as the 1st place in the Top city-break destinations 2014 survey conducted by the British Which?.
Krakows 28 museums are separated into the national and municipal museums; the city also has a number of art collections and public art galleries. The National Museum established in 1879, which is the main branch of Polands National Museum with permanent collections around the country, as well as the National Art Collection on Wawel Hill are all accessible to the general public and well patroned. Meanwhile the Czartoryski Museum features works by Leonardo and Rembrandt.
The National Art Collection is located at the Wawel, the former residence of three dynasties of Polish monarchs. Royal Chambers feature art, period furniture, Polish and European paintings, collectibles, and an unsurpassed display of the 16th-century monumental Flemish tapestries. Wawel Treasury and Armoury features Polish royal memorabilia, jewels, applied art, and 15th to 18th century arms. The Wawel Eastern Collection features Turkish tents and military accessories. The National Museum is the richest museum in the country with collections consisting of several hundred thousand items kept in big part in the Main Building at Ul. 3 Maja, although there are as many as eleven separate divisions of the museum in the city, one of the most popular being The Gallery of the 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice with the collection of some of the best known paintings and sculptures of the Young Poland movement. The latest division called Europeum with Brueghel among a hundred Western European paintings was inaugurated in 2013.
Other major museums of special interest in Krakow include the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology (at M. Konopnickiej 26), Stanislaw Wyspianski Museum (at 11 Szczepanska St), Jan Matejko Manor in Krzeslawice, – a museum devoted to the master painter and his life, Emeryk Hutten Czapski Museum, and Jozef Mehoffer Manor.
The Rynek Underground museum, under the main square, is an evocative modern display of Krakows 1000+ years of history though its streets, activities and artifacts. This followed the massively extended excavations which started in a small way in 2005 and, as more and more was found, ran on eventually to 2010.