Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Poland, with evidence showing settlements there since 20,000 BC. Legend has it that it was built on the cave of a dragon whom the mythical King Krak had slain. However, the first official mention of the name was in 966 by a Jewish merchant from Spain, who described it as an important centre of trade in Slavonic Europe.
Through trade with the various rulers of Europe, it grew from a small settlement in 1000AD to a large wealthy city, belonging to the Vistulans. However, through the 9th and 10th centuries, it fell under the influence of the Great Moravians, then the Bohemians, before being captured by the Piast Dynasty of Poland. In 1038, Kazimierz the Restorer made Krakow the capital of Poland.
In 1241, the city was almost entirely destroyed by Tatars. It was rebuilt to a design that remains largely unchanged to the present day. However, after more successful attacks by the Mongols in the late 13th century, Kazimierz the Great set about defending the city. Walls, fortifications, and the original Wawel Castle were added. The University was also established. King Kazimierz established the district of Kazimierz for Jews to live in free from persecution. This area remained mainly Jewish for centuries until the Nazi occupation.
The 16th century was Krakow's golden age. Under the influence of the joint Polish-Lithuanian Jagiellonian dynasty, Krakow became a centre of science and the arts. In 1569, Poland was officially united with Lithuania and as a result government activity started to move to Warsaw. King Zygmunt III officially moved the capital in 1609.
However, the 17th century was a return to troubled times for Krakow and Poland. After being invaded by Russians, Prussians, Austrians, Transylvanians, Swedes, and the French, it went through a phase of various forms of political control. These included being part of the Duchy of Warsaw, established by Napoleon, and becoming an "independent city". However, it mostly fell under the sphere of influence of the Austrian Habsburg Empire, in the province of Galicia.
In the First World War, Józef Pilsudski set out to liberate Poland and the Treaty of Versailles (1919) established an independent sovereign Polish state for the first time in more than 100 years. This lasted until the Second World War, when Germany and the USSR partitioned the country, with German forces entering Krakow in September 1939. Many academics were killed and historic relics and monuments were destroyed or looted. Concentration camps were established near Krakow, including Plaszow and Auschwitz. After German withdrawal, the city escaped complete destruction and many buildings were saved.
In the Communist period, a large steel works was established in the suburb of Nowa Huta. This was seen as an attempt to lessen the influence of the anti-Communist intellegentsia and religious communities in Krakow. In 1978, UNESCO placed Krakow on the World Heritage Sites list. In the same year, the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, was made Pope John Paul II.
The Communist Government collapsed in 1989 and Krakow is now undergoing another period of regeneration, with historic buildings being restored
There are four definite seasons to Krakow — Summer being hot and humid (around 30-35°C). Winter always sees Krakow under a blanket of snow with bitingly cold days (-5 to -20 degrees C).
You can go and see Auschwitz-Birkenau Former German Nazi camp 2km outside city of Oświęcim, 65 km from Krakow.I have been here a few times,and it's ture no birds sing here.it really is a sad place to visit.
the seat of Royalty for 500 years, and probably the most important historical site in Poland, is built atop a limestone hill on the bend of the Vistula River.Tour the Royal Chambers and you will be richly rewarded with astonishing detail. On the ceiling are the carved faces of 30 of Krakow’s townspeople from the Renaissance era, which are said to represent the voices of the people. The Baroque and Renaissance furnishings, and the famous 13th century Flemish tapestries decorating the walls are remarkable and are the finest examples of Renaissance art in Poland.
GETTING ROUND KRAKOW.
Buses and trams are the best way to get around after walking. If you need to take a taxi, they are easy to find, and it is cheaper to seek one out yourself than have your hotel call one for you.
The central train station, Krakow Glowny, is a simple ten-minute walk from the Main Market Square.