Kraków (Cracow), Poland (UNESCO sites)
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Evidence that traces Krakow, Poland’s beginnings to the Stone Age exists. In the 11th century, Krakow became the seat of the Polish government. Although no longer the country’s capital, Krakow is the 2nd most populated city in Poland and an important economic hub. As the unofficial cultural capital of Poland, the city attracts tourists from throughout the world to visit its fine buildings, witness its support of the art world and relax in Krakow’s extensive collection of parks and gardens.
Visitors to Krakow are sure to include time in Old Town (and the largest medieval square in Europe), the historic central district of the city. This area was the center of Polish politics from early in the 11th century until 1596 when the capital was moved to Warsaw. Old Town displays some proud buildings from the Baroque Era; The Churches of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church of St. Anne and the Church of St. Casimir the Prince are all fine examples of Baroque architecture. One of the largest town squares in Europe, Main Market Square, has hosted important civic gatherings since the 13th century. Today, Main Market Square is a frequently visited spot as the location of the Town Hall Tower, Cloth Hall, fine shops located in old tenement housing, the monument honoring Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz, and the towers of St. Mary’s Church (Mariacki) where the traditional Polish heynal hymn is played four times each hour from this gothic brick building dating to the 1200’s. Krakow boasts 6,000 historic sites and more than 2 million works of art in Old Town alone.
Other renowned points of interest include the National Museum of Krakow, the Sukkiennice Museum (Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art), the Stanislaw Wyspianski Museum, the Historical Museum of Krakow and its many important adjuncts, the Old Theatre Museum and many other requisite stops along the way of educating oneself about the important history of Krakow. The city is also resplendent with bronze statues and marble monuments.
Visitors to Krakow find boat rides along the Vistula River including a visit to Wawel Royal Castle along the river bank to be among their favorite activities. The area known as Kazimierz and its old Synagogue now used as the Museum of Judaism attracts tourists interested in the significant history that Krakow and its Jewish community played in World War II. Just outside of Krakow is the infamous former Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau with its State museum and memorial to the victims that were imprisoned and died there.
Among the multitude of entertainment offerings the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra stages concerts regularly at the Krakow Philharmonic Theatre (built in 1931), the Orchestra’s principal concert hall. Krakow also boasts a vibrant night life with over 300 watering holes, clubs and discos located in Old Town alone, many located in cloistered World War II hideouts alongside cafes and restaurants tucked below street level.
Your dream of visiting an Eastern European country and city that played a significant role in world politics in the first part of the 20th century may be as close as adding a trip to Krakow, Poland to your list. Start planning now to be sure to include the sites and venues you most want to visit.
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