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Introducing Kraków

Kraków, which celebrated its 750th birthday in 2007, is by far Poland’s biggest drawcard, and it’s immediately apparent why. As the royal capital for 500 years, the city was able to absorb much history and talent over the centuries and is today a treasure trove of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Miraculously, this jewellery box emerged largely intact after WWII. As a result, no other city in Poland can boast so many historic buildings and monuments or such a vast collection of artworks, with some 2.3 million registered.

Wawel Castle is Kraków’s centrepiece and a must-see, but most visitors will find themselves drawn to the Old Town, with its soaring Gothic churches and gargantuan Rynek Główny (Main Market Sq), the largest in the nation. Just outside the Old Town lies the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz, its silent synagogues reflecting the tragedy of the recent past.

Kraków is well endowed with attractions and diversions of a more modern variety, with hundreds of restaurants, bars and music clubs tucked away down its cellars and narrow alleyways. Though hotel prices are above the national average, and visitor numbers are very high in summer, this vibrant, cosmopolitan city is an essential part of any visit to Poland.

Give yourself at least several days or even a full week to do Kraków justice. This is not a place to rush through; the longer you stay, the more captivating you’ll find it. And without even trying, you’ll discover something pretty, old, curious or tasty around every corner.

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