Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland; it is the cradle of Polish statehood, which was formed here in the 12th century. There are many historical sights preserved in Krakow, which are compactly located inside the Old Town. Until the 19th century, it was surrounded by fortress walls, and now there are beautiful boulevards in this place. 

The most interesting attraction of Krakow is the Wawel Castle, as well as the Wawel Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus located on its territory. For several centuries, the kings of Poland were crowned here. It also served as a necropolis for monarchs, bishops and famous politicians. 

History of Krakow 

The history of the founding of Krakow dates back to the legendary times of Prince Krak, who ruled the Vistula tribe. He founded a settlement on the Wawel Hill, which rises 228 meters above the Wisla River. The legend of the Wawel Dragon, who lived in the Dragon Cave (Smocza Pit), belongs to the same times. In the 19th century, it became a popular tourist attraction in Krakow. 

Polish Prince Mieszko I of the Piast dynasty is the first reliably existing king of Poland. He united the lands of several tribes who lived in these parts. He conquered Krakow from the Czech kings and annexed it to his possessions. In 966, Mieszko I baptized Poland according to the Catholic rite, which became a great event in the life of the state. 

The first episcopal see was located in the city of Poznan, but constant pagan uprisings forced King Casimir I in the 11th century to move the episcopal see and the capital of the Polish state to Krakow. Therefore, Krakow became the main city of Poland for several centuries. 

Wawel Castle on the banks of the Wisla River was a royal residence from the 12th century to the end of the 16th century.  In 1241, Krakow survived the invasion of the Mongol-Tatar army. The city was destroyed, but the Mongols did not stay in these lands. In 1257, King Boleslav V the Bashful granted Krakow the rights of self-government on the basis of Magdeburg Law. From that moment on, the city began to develop actively, the urban layout of the Old City of Krakow was formed here, which has survived to this day. 

By the 16th century, the kings of Poland realized the need to move the capital to the central regions of Poland. After the devastating fire in Wawel Castle, which occurred in 1595, King Sigismund III Vasa decided to move the capital from Krakow to Warsaw. However, for another two centuries, Krakow remained the place where Polish kings were crowned king in Wawel Cathedral. In 1795, Krakow became part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire.  

Attractions of Krakow 

The settlement of the Vistula tribe on the Wawel Hill appeared in the 10th century, and in the 13th century, stone fortifications began to be built here. The oldest sights of Krakow are considered the Wawel Castle (substantially rebuilt), as well as the Church of St. Andrew, which has survived unchanged to this day. This church was built in 1079-1098. It is the oldest stone church not only in Krakow, but also in the whole of Poland. 

In 1241, Krakow was destroyed during the invasion of the Mongol-Tatar army. After granting Krakow the rights of self-government under Magdeburg law, the city began to be actively built up. Its centers were the Wawel Castle in the south, as well as the Main Market Square in the north. This territory was surrounded by a fortress wall with 47 towers, 4 of which have survived to this day.

In the north, the Main Market Square became the center of the Old Town. It was formed in the 13th century. Its dimensions for medieval Europe were huge: 200 x 200 meters. There were no such squares in the cities of that time. In the center of the square, there are Cloth rows, which have become a wonderful attraction of Krakow. 

At the same time, the administration developed a city plan, according to which three parallel streets adjoin the Main Market Square, repeating the layout of the ancient Roman city with strict square blocks. This layout has been preserved in the Old Town of Krakow to this day. 

In 1257, the Town Hall of Krakow was founded. The partially damaged building of Town Hall was dismantled at the beginning of the 19th century, when the fortress walls were demolished, but it was decided to leave the Town Hall Tower as a city landmark of Krakow. Also on the Main Market Square is the Mariacka Church, one of the most beautiful churches in Krakow. 

Wawel Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus is the main church in Poland. Monarchs have been crowned there for centuries. For several centuries, it also served as a necropolis for kings and famous people, so numerous chapels were added to the small Romanesque cathedral during this time. Now there are 19 chapels in the cathedral, where monarchs and great people of Poland were buried. 

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located 13 kilometers southwest of Krakow. This is one of the most interesting sights in Poland. There you can see a museum of how salt mining has been conducted for centuries. There are also several underground chapels inside. 

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Courtyard and towers of Wawel Castle in Krakow
Wawel Castle, where the royal apartments are located
From all sides, chapels were attached to the Wawel Cathedral of Krakow, where kings were buried
Chapel of St. Kinga at the salt mine in Wieliczka.
Side altar of the Heart of Our Lady at St. Kinga`s Chapel in Wieliczka
The facade of the Mariacki Church on the Main Market Square in Krakow
The Mariacka Church on the Main Market Square in Krakow was built in the 13th century
St. Andrew`s Church (1079) in Krakow - the oldest church in Poland
The Town Hall Tower on the Main Market Square in Krakow
In front of the Cloth Rows in 1898, a monument to Adam Mickiewicz was erected on the Main Market Square
The Mariacka Church on the Main Market Square in Krakow
Fortress walls and towers of Wawel Castle in Krakow
Royal Court at Wawel Castle in Krakow
Senator`s Tower in the Wawel Castle of Krakow
View of the Wawel Castle from the Vistula River in Krakow
Entrance to the Wawel Cathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus in Krakow
Towers and chapels of Wawel Cathedral in Krakow
At first the miners had to manually lift the salt on the surface of the earth
Sculpture of John Paul II at the Chapel of St. Kinga
A sculpture of a fire-breathing dragon at the exit of the Smocza Pit Cave in Krakow
Smocza Yama Cave (Dragon`s Сave) in the Wawel Hill of Krakow
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Krakow was built in the Baroque style in the 18th century by the Jesuit Order
The Main Market Square in Krakow
Cloth rows on the Square of the Main Market in Krakow
Sandomierz Tower in the Wawel Castle of Krakow