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.

Bishop's Palace and Museum
This is a must-see for fans of the late Pope John Paul II, who lived here as the Archbishop of Krakow until his elevation to pope in 1978. Inside is the Archdiocesan Museum, which also centers around the Pope's legacy.
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.
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.
Galicia Jewish Museum
This often-overlooked museum features beautiful photographs of Jewish sites throughout southern Poland with explanations of their significance.
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.
Krakus and Wanda Mounds
These two prehistoric man-made mounds add a bit of mystery to Krakow's skyline. Their purpose remains unknown, but both are perfectly astronomically aligned with the sunrises of important Celtic days.
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.
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.

Guided Tours of Krakow