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Krakow (Kraków): ancient capital of Poland

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Krakow (Kraków) (about 760,000 inhabitants), the ancient capital of Poland, is one of the most beautiful cities in the nation. This historic city is located in the south of the country, along the course of the Vistula River at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Krakow is the main cultural, artistic and university center of Poland, it is also the main tourist destination in the nation. It was an important commercial center already in the Middle Ages, and from the 12th century and until 1596 it was the capital of Poland.


The medieval city was founded and developed on the Wawel hill. In this area, in the first half of the 11th century, the cathedral and castle were built. While under the Wawel Hill, around the market square, a village was founded which grew to become a city and a bishopric. In 1138, Krakow Castle was chosen as the official seat of the Duke, and consequently the city became the capital of the duchy.


In the thirteenth century the city was surrounded by new fortifications, with walls, towers and new fortified gates. With the unification of the various duchies present in the Polish territory in 1320 the kingdom of Poland was formed. Krakow was elected as the capital of this new kingdom. In the city’s cathedral, Polish rulers were crowned and buried.

The reign of Casimir the Great (Casimir III) (Kazimierz Wielki 1310-1370), gave a significant boost to the development of the city. During this period numerous churches were built, and the Cathedral and the Castle renovated. In 1364, the Academy of Krakow was established, a precursor to the Jagiellonian University, the second oldest in Central Europe after that of Prague. With the union with Lithuania under the Jagiellonian dynasty in 1386, Krakow became the capital of a monarchy that extended over an immense territory ranging from the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians to present-day Belarus and western and central Ukraine.

Numerous artists, scientists and humanists from Italy, Germany and other European nations arrived in Krakow during this period. With the transfer of the capital to Warsaw in 1596, Krakow lost importance, although it remained the seat of the coronations and burials of the royal house.

In the mid-seventeenth century, the “black death” decimated the population of the city and the subsequent Swedish invasion gave it the coup de grace. The city later became a center of provincial importance.

In 1978, UNESCO included the historic center of Krakow on the list of world heritage sites.


Krakow’s public transport is based on a dense network of trams and buses that cross the city widely, it is managed by the MPK.

The bus network has 108 lines. Buses run between 5am and 11pm. During the night, from 11pm to 5am along the main routes there is a night bus service. The cost of the ticket for these buses is slightly higher.

The tram network has 22 lines. Trams are usually faster than buses and run between 5am and 11pm.

Much of the historic center is a pedestrian zone, and it is a pleasure to walk around this beautiful city.

TICKETS: Tickets for buses and trams can be purchased at the newsstands and ticket offices of the MPK, or directly from the bus driver. But in the latter case by paying a surcharge. There are tickets for a single ride (without change), single night tickets (without change). Tickets for groups of up to 15-20 people valid for 1 hour, tickets valid for 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours. All tickets must be stamped once on board. Please Note: Baggage pays a separate fee. All items measuring more than 20 cm x 40 cm x 60 cm are considered baggage.


For tourists there is the Krakow Tourist Card. This is a special card that is valid for two or three days and allows you to travel freely in city buses and trams (both day and night). With this card you can also enter 32 museums in Krakow for free. The card is also valid on bus line n ° 192 which connects the city to Krakow airport. The Krakow Tourist Card costs 45 PLN for two days, and 65 PLN for three days.

Tourist attractions: what to see.

Krakow climate: when to go.

How to get to Krakow.



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