Krakow, Poland

Kraków (also spelled Cracow), the former capital of Poland, is located 180 miles south of the present capital of Warsaw. It is one of Poland's largest (pop. 780,000), most historic and most beautiful cities.

In addition to its rich medieval history centering around Polish royalty, Krakow was home to two famous 20th-century personages: Oskar Schindler of Schlinder's List fame and the future Pope John Paul II, who lived here for 40 years as a priest and later as Archbishop of Krakow.

One of few Polish cities to escape major devastation by the Nazis during World War II, today's Krakow is renowned for its beauty by Poles (it is the most popular domestic tourist destination) and foreigners alike. It has become an essential stop on the main Central European tourism axis that includes Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. UNESCO designated the city a World Heritage Site in 1978 for its many historic buildings, which include numerous old churches full of religious art and no less than seven historic synagogues.


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Church of Peter and Paul
Established by the Jesuits in the 17th century, this church features a splendid Baroque facade (patterned closely after the mother church in Rome) and larger-than-life statues of the 12 apostles.
St. Stanislaw's Church
Also known as the Church on the Rock, this 14th-century Gothic church stands on the site where Bishop Stanislaw of Poland was beheaded and dismembered on order of the king in 1079. It is now a Paulite church and monastery.
Remuh Synagogue
The historic Remuh Synagogue is the only synagogue in Krakow to remain in active use. It dates from the 16th century and includes an original ark and a fine cemetery.
Isaak Synagogue
Dating from 1664, the Synagoga Izaaka is considered by many to be the most beautiful synagogue in Krakow. It now houses historic photographs and documentary films, including haunting newsreels taken by the Nazis.
Wawel Cathedral
The 14th-century Katedra Wawelska, located inside Wawel Castle, is the spiritual center of the Polish state. It is the burial place of Polish kings and national heroes and was the cathedral of Karol Wojtyla until he became Pope.
St. Mary's Church
The Kosciol Mariacki is a large 14th-century church notable for its imposing but uneven towers, vibrantly colored interior, and its magnificent wooden altarpiece depicting medieval scenes.
Old Synagogue
The oldest surviving Jewish site in Poland, the Old Synagogue was rebuilt after a fire in 1557. Badly looted during World War II, it has been restored and now houses a Museum of Jewish History.
Corpus Christi Church
This large Gothic brick church dates from the mid-14th-century and is adjacent to a monastery built 1405. The rich interior includes a painting by Lucas Cranach, fine choir stalls and a boat-shaped pulpit.