Site visits

Site visits, presenting key tourist areas in Krakow, are held in parallel between 15:30 – 18:30, on Monday, 3rd June 2019.

Note: It is required to register on-line or on site to take part in the site visits.

The Kazimierz Quarter
(a former Jewish town)

 

The Kazimierz District in Krakow is a special place, shaped by its centuries-old Christian-Jewish neighborhood.

King Casimir III the Great issued a location privilege for Kazimierz under the Magdeburg Law in 1335. The location of Kazimierz was the largest urban foundation of the king – the city was not much smaller than Krakow because it covered 50 ha, as compared to the 65 ha of Krakow. The aim of the foundation of Kazimierz creation was to provide protection for the south of the capital city – Krakow. From the uprising in the 14th century until the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, Kazimierz was an independent town, and the current Wolnica Square is part of the original town square which served as the main square: trade took place there and there was a town hall, where the highest administrative and Judicial city authorities were based. In the corner of the square, at the Bożego Ciała and św. Wawrzyńca streets, stands the church of Boże Ciało, the main parish church of Kazimierz.

Jews – forced out of Krakow – appeared in Kazimierz in the mid-fourteenth century and lived in the so-called Jewish quarter until the beginning of the 19th century. They built synagogues (7 of which are still standing), schools and colleges and cemeteries, as well as the magnificent residencies of the thriving Jewish merchants and bankers. Kazimierz became an important center of Jewish culture in Poland and also in the world. Kazimierz was incorporated into Krakow in 1800, and the years of the Free City of Krakow enabled further development of the district in accordance with the contemporary urban concepts developed by the architect Karol Kremer. The existing remoteness of the Jewish town was liquidated with the demolition of its walls in 1822, followed by the backfilling of the old Vistula river bed and the creation of a street in its place called Planty Dietlowskie. From the turn of the 19th century and the 20th century, the Jewish population gradually began to occupy the whole of Kazimierz and the neighboring district of Stradom. Jews took an active part in the development of the district as investors, property developers and architects. Their social and economic activities enabled them to be granted equal civil rights in the 1860s. As a result, the Jewish intelligentsia more readily assimilated itself culturally and decided to live outside Kazimierz. Before World War II, Krakow contained approx. 64 thousand Jewish citizens (one quarter of the city’s population). Until 1939, Jews – mainly in Kazimierz – created a developed social infrastructure, implementing the interests and aspirations of minorities. Kazimierz was still an extremely Jewish district and the natural social base for the majority of Jewish organizations and institutions. The Nazi occupation brought repression against the Krakow Jews very early on: their property was stripped, schools and institutions were dissolved. From 1940, resettlements began, mainly in Lublin, as a result of which 32,000 Jews left Krakow. The rest – approx. 17,000 people – were forced to move to the ghetto that had been established in Podgórze in March 1941 as a closed district, surrounded by a wall and guarded. Jews were regularly transported from the ghetto to camps in Bełżec, Auschwitz-Birkenau or Treblinka. From the end of 1942, Jews were transported to the labor camp in Płaszów. The extermination and deportation of the Jewish inhabitants of Kazimierz lasted until March 13-14, 1943, when the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto was finally carried out. Plac Zgody is a place that commemorates this fact. It was from here that Jews were transported to Płaszów or to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

The annihilation concerned not only the community, but also any material traces of its existence: during the war, the monuments of Jewish culture, especially places of religious worship, were regularly destroyed. In this way, the old Jewish city in Kazimierz ceased to exist.

Ten per cent of the Jewish inhabitants of pre-war Krakow survived the war. A few survived, thanks to the efforts of Oskar Schindler, but after the war they decided to leave the country, seeking new hope in the emerging Israel.

In the communist state, the memory of the Jewish history of the city became a social taboo. It returned after the turn of 1989. Its legacy is the annual Jewish Culture Festival, as well as the activities of such institutions as the Centre for Jewish Culture, the Jewish Community Centre in Kazimierz and the Jewish Religious Community, numbering approximately 150 people in Krakow.

Today, Kazimierz is one of the most recognizable places in Krakow. Today, it is a vibrant cultural and artistic district, which attracts especially those who want to sample the spirit of Krakow’s bohemians and tourists. Until 1978, when Kazimierz and the strict Old Town and Wawel were entered in the UNESCO World Heritage list, the monuments of Krakow had been deteriorating. For many years, the Kazimierz district was also deteriorating: shabby, damaged tenement buildings, often abandoned, constituted a depressing image. It was not until the late 90s that the district finally began to come back to life. Numerous international foundations for Jewish culture, the Jewish Culture Festival (from 1988), Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), as well as the fashion for Jewish art and culture all contributed to the new situation. In the second half of the 1990s, the first cafes and pubs began to open their doors, starting with Singer, Propaganda and Alchemia. These places were popular with students. Today, there are almost 300 premises in Kazimierz. The number of inhabitants decreased significantly, while tourism developed rapidly, which affected the character of the district itself.

The monuments include the churches of Boże Ciało and Św. Katarzyna, the na Skałce Pauline Church – the sanctuary of Saint Stanisław, the patron of Poland and the National Pantheon, as well as the Town Hall at Wolnica Square (now the Ethnographic Museum) and the whole complex of the monuments of industrial architecture at Saint Lawrence, called the Saint Lawrence Industrial Complex.

There are five synagogues in Szeroka Street itself. The oldest one – the Old Synagogue – , destroyed during the war, has been restored and today it houses the Judaic collections of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. The only active place of worship is the Remuh Synagogue. Nearby, there is the Remuh cemetery – one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland and in Europe and it is, where Jews were buried from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Other preserved synagogues are: Wysoka (1563?); Popper (1620); Kupa (1643); Isaac (1644); Tempel (1862).

Zabłocie and the
Oskar Schindler’s Factory

 

Zabłocie – a cadastral district of Krakow, part of Podgórze, located on the right bank of the Vistula River. Its shape resembles a rectangle, and its size is similar to the area occupied by the Krakow Old Town, enclosed within the Planty.

The name  “Zabłocie” means the area located “at the back of mud” and appeared for the first time  in sources in 1334 in relation to the royal forests. The period of greatest development of this area is at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when railway and industrial plants were created, and Zabłocie became an industrial area: The following were created: furniture factories, iron structures, soaps, a spirit industry plant, a Krakow smelter Glass and the “Rekord” Małopolska Region Factory of Enamelware and Tinned Goods – later the Schindler Factory.

After the Second World War, the Zabłocie area underwent further industrialization: electronic factories and cosmetics factory. In 1989, many state-owned companies operating in Zabłocie were closed, which resulted in the stagnation of the entire area.

In the period from 1939-1945, Zabłocie was the location of the warehouses of aviation equipment and communications serving the aircraft of the Third Reich. Industrial plants benefitted from slave labor: from 1942, groups of workers from the ghetto were brought there, and after its liquidation, from the Płaszów camp. The prisoners from Płaszów worked at local factories, including in the “Enamel” German Enamelware Factory of Oskar Schindler. The Ghetto Heroes Square was an important place of wartime events (formerly Mały Rynek and Plac Zgody), it became part of the Krakow ghetto pursuant to a resolution of the German occupying authorities. It became the place of the resettlement of the Krakow Jews, sent from here to extermination camps.

The Germans created the Krakow ghetto in 1941. There were approx. 17,000 inhabitants there. During the liquidation of the ghetto on the night of March 13-14, 1943, approx. one thousand people died and all residents capable of work were transferred to the Płaszów extermination camp. The camp existed from 1943-45, initially as a forced labor camp, then as a concentration camp. It was the site of the extermination of Jews and Roma, and Poles and some representatives of other nationalities were kept there for a period of time.

In 1993, Steven Spielberg made the film “Schindler’s List” in Krakow, based on the facts of a drama telling the story of Oskar Schindler, a German entrepreneur, showing his activities during the Second World War and Polish-Jewish relations in those times. The film showed audiences around the world about the situation of European Jews during the war. The result of the Hollywood production also aroused interest in Krakow: more and more tourists began to come here to look for the places related to both the history and the activities of the film crew of Steven Spielberg. Travel agencies began offering tours called the “Schindler’s List”.

In 2005, the City of Krakow bought the former Schindler’s factory, and in 2010 the “Krakow – the period of occupation 1939-1945” exhibition was opened there. It was awarded a prize for the best historical exhibition in Poland. About 400,000 tourists from around the world visit it annually. The exhibition is part of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow and it creates the Memorial Route together with the pod Orłem Pharmacy and the Pomorska Street.

In 2003, a nationwide urban and architectural competition for the reconstruction of the Bohaterów Getta Square was announced. The result of this is the reconstruction (2005) of the square, which consists of 33 sculptures of metal chairs and 37 smaller copies. The winners of the competition – the authors of the monument – commemorated the memories of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the owner of the pod Orłem Pharmacy at Plac Zgody. Pankiewicz, a non-Jewish owner of the only pharmacy in the Krakow ghetto, wrote about the furniture that was stored at the square that had been removed from the apartments after the ghetto was liquidated and the prisoners were deported to concentration camps. In the former pharmacy premises, there is a museum (a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow).

In 2001, the Kotlarski Bridge was built, connecting Zabłocie and Grzegórzki, thanks to which the communication of this part of Krakow with the Śródmieście improved. At the beginning of the 21st century, a private university was established – currently the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow Academy). Since 1992, there has also been the Krakow Schools of Art, teaching clothing design, creative photography and interior design. The Father Bernatka Footbridge, joining Kazimierz and Podgórze since 2010, has contributed to the revival of tourism in Zabłocie, separated from Kazimierz by a 20-minute walk.

Nearby the Schindler Factory, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow was opened in 2011, the building of which was designed by the architect Claudio Nardi – connecting the six existing facilities at the former Schindler Factory site.

The “Lem’s Planet” – a centre of literature and language, which is being created in the building of the former salt warehouse at Na Zjeździe 8 is another important cultural project in Zabłocie (related to the title obtained by Krakow: the UNESCO City of Literature).

Once a completely industrial area, today it is the seat of many important cultural institutions, as well as a centre of various types of artistic initiatives. In 2006, Zabłocie was recognized as a strategic area in the development of the city of Krakow, and a programme was also established aimed at revitalizing and activating the post-industrial area. Zabłocie is one of the most dynamically developing areas of Krakow: in the field of modern housing, office and social construction.

Nowa Huta as an Ideal Socialist Town

 

Nowa Huta (English: New Steelworks) – the north-eastern part of Krakow; a city designed from scratch, it’s construction began in 1949. It was built for the employees of the newly-built metallurgical plant, then the Lenin Steelworks, which had been the largest industrial plant in Krakow and one of the largest steelworks in Poland since its inception in 1954. In subsequent years, the metallurgical plant was transformed and changed its name – currently it is ArcelorMittal Poland Branch in Krakow.

Before the start of the great earthworks, archaeological research was carried out, which resulted in many interesting discoveries confirming the existence of a Neolithic settlement there (traces of Celtic and Roman settlements and one of the oldest settlements of the Slavs in Poland were found). The treasure of Nowa Huta is the Wanda mound – it is considered to be the grave of the daughter of Krak – the founder of the city.

During the Middle Ages, old Polish families had their headquarters in the areas, and in later times, merchant and magnate families also had their estates there, hence there are numerous manors, palaces and sacred buildings. As today’s eastern border of Nowa Huta coincides with the former Austrian-Russian border, there are numerous forts and one of the oldest airports in Europe (today the Polish Aviation Museum in Czyżyny).

The decision to build Nowa Huta was economical but also political. Economic incentives were included within the so-called six-year plan (1950-1955), which assumed that the industrialization of the country that was being rebuilt after the war was a condition of “building the foundations of socialism”. Therefore the metallurgy and machinery industry were developed. The construction of flats, the new town, was to be faster than the creation of the plant by two years, Tadeusz Ptaszycki was appointed the general designer of Nowa Huta in 1949.

The colloquial Old Nowa Huta name refers to the oldest fragment of Nowa Huta. This area, in the shape of a six-armed outstretched fan, is easily recognizable on the satellite images of Krakow. The city plan was based on a pentagon. The Centralny Square was added to the design, the main arteries fanned out radially and created a division of the space into four sectors: A, B, C, D. The city streets intersect at a right angle creating quarters for development. There were five main arteries, and one of them was the Przodowników Pracy Avenue, later Lenin Avenue, leading to the Lenin Steelworks. The main artery was Róż Avenue, perpendicularly leaving the Central Square. It was to be a representative avenue with monumental buildings, the town hall and the Lenin monument. In the ideology ruling the socialist realist urbanism, particular importance was given to central squares and grand arteries, they were to become a kind of stage for manifestations.

The original plan was designed by Tadeusz Ptaszycki and his team, in accordance with the spirit of the functional assumption of urban modernism. The construction of the city, however, was during the period of socialist realism in force in Poland and the countries of the Eastern bloc, which is why the architects were forced to make numerous changes to the original design. Nevertheless, the urban layout itself is similar to the idea of a modernist city – full of light, sun and greenery – an ideal place to live, work and rest. That was reflected in the composition of the new city, where the plant was built – a workplace, and nearby residential buildings, schools, kindergartens, nurseries, retail and service outlets – in green areas, with spacious courtyards and wide streets preserved. In this context, the Anglo-Saxon idea of the city-gardens was referred to. A historicizing costume was imposed on this plan, referring to the historical and renaissance styles of the reign and the Baroque. According to the idea of socialist realism, the urban layout refers to the attempts to create the ideal city, typical of the Renaissance period. According to the assumptions, the city was planned to house 100,000 inhabitants. In the original assumption, Nowa Huta was supposed to be an atheistic city without God, and none of the official urban designs took into account any site for a place of worship. In Nowa Huta, at the beginning of its construction, there were four churches, but none of them was located inside the city erected from scratch. After pressure from the population, the construction of a new church was planned in today’s Teatralne housing estate. In 1957, a cross was erected on the square where the temple was to stand. However, the government’s policy towards the church was tightened and instead of a temple, the communists decided to build a school there. A failure to fulfill the promises concerning the church led to the outbreak of mass unrest in 1960. The police stifled the riots, but the inhabitants’ persistence finally resulted in the construction of the first new Nowa Huta church in 1967, the present day’s Ark of the Lord, an example of the architecture of late modernism, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel.

The urban layout of the Nowa Huta district in Krakow, as a cultural good and a representative example of the urbanist socialist realism in Poland has been entered into the register of the monuments of the city of Krakow. The entry in the register of monuments also includes the view and communication axis of Solidarności Avenue with two buildings of the Administrative Centre (due to the numerous decorations, loggia and attic called the “Doge’s Palace”) and the square as elements finishing the composition.

The history of the construction of Nowa Huta is documented by the Museum of History of Nowa Huta, a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. Bearing in mind the uniqueness of the urban arrangement and the timeless architecture, as well as the identity and connection of the inhabitants with the history, culture and urban space of Nowa Huta, the City of Krakow commissioned the development of a detailed Conservation Plan for the Nowa Huta Cultural Park.

Łagiewniki and the Sanctuary of the
Divine Mercy and the Pope John Paul II Centre

 

Łagiewniki – a cadastral district of Krakow in the southern part of the city. It is known for the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy and at the end of 2005 became even more popular among the faithful than the French La Salette. Popes, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Franciszek made pilgrimages to Łagiewniki. There is also a church in Łagiewniki, several historic chapels, monuments and a railway station Krakow Łagiewniki, where the Papal Train connecting Krakow and Wadowice, the hometown of John Paul II, stopped in 2006-2009.

When deposits of shale clays and gypsum were discovered in Łagiewniki at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the region became an important industrial base for Krakow. Mills, bakeries, brickyards, etc. were built. The Zakopiańska Street of today was once an imperial route from Vienna to Lvov. In the interwar period, the S. Manny Łagiewniki Factory of Fittings and Furniture was established in this area. In 1941, Łagiewniki and Borek Fałęcki were incorporated into the city of Krakow.

The Shelter for Neglected Girls of the foundation of Prince Alexander Lubomirski and the Order of the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy were founded in 1889-1893, in today’s Siostry Faustyny Street. Sister Faustyna Kowalska, an apostle of the Divine Mercy, one of the most popular saints and one of the greatest mystics in the history of the Church spent the last years of her life in this convent (1938). Faustyna Kowalska lived in the Congregation for 13 years, staying in many religious houses, the longest in Krakow, Warsaw, Płock and Vilnius, performing, among others, the duties of a cook, seller and gardener. She suffered from tuberculosis of the lungs and digestive tract, and offered her suffering as a sacrifice for sinners. She also experienced many extraordinary graces, including revelations, ecstasies, the gift of bilocation and hidden stigmata. Her fundamental task was to bring to the Church and the world the biblical message of God’s merciful love for every human as was revealed to her by Jesus. She described her experiences, spiritual experiences and contemplations in her “Diary” which belongs to the pearls of mystical literature. Sister Faustyna is nowadays the best-known Polish author, as the “Diary” is the most frequently translated Polish book.

Sister Faustyna’s tomb is now in the convent chapel which was included in the list of the sanctuaries of the Archdiocese of Krakow in 1968 due to the grave of the Servant of God. Her relics are in the sarcophagus on the altar, under the Jesus, I trust in You painting by Adolf Hyła, according to the vision of Sister Faustyna.

Since 1993, the year of the beatification of Sister Faustyna, and then her canonization in 2000, the cult of Divine Mercy and Saint Faustyna attracts pilgrims to Łagiewniki (2 million in 2017). For their needs, a two-level, ellipsoidal basilica for 5,000 people was constructed in 1999-2002, (approx. 1800 seats). A 77-meter high view tower dominates the building.

The construction of the John Paul II Centre “Do not be afraid” started not far from the Sanctuary of  Divine Mercy (approx. 1 km) in 2009 – in the post-production area of the former Solvay Soda Plant where Karol Wojtyła was employed as a seminarian during the war. The areas are called the White Sea. The initiative to build the center was introduced by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz – a long-time secretary of John Paul II – who allocated the royalties for the Testimony book and the film for the beginning of the construction. Further funds for the construction were provided by the faithful. The Centre also has a volunteering training center, a museum, an institute with a library and a conference room, and further facilities are being created as funded by the faithful and institutional donors. The Centre is a votive offering of the nation for the pontificate of Karol Wojtyła and promotes its heritage and conducts scientific and educational activities, as well as helping those in need. The name of the Centre refers to the words of John Paul II uttered in 1978 during the inauguration of the pontificate: Do Not Be Afraid! Open, Open Wide the Doors to Christ! The church of Saint. John Paul II is one of the Centre’s buildings. The temple is constructed on an octagon plan and the style refers to the Byzantine churches of Ravenna. In 2016, during the World Youth Day, the church was visited by Pope Francis. Since 2011, when the relic of John Paul II was introduced into the Sanctuary: an ampule with blood, the number of pilgrims visiting this place has increased significantly, and the cult of the Holy Father is developing intensively.

The huge potential of Krakow and the Malopolska Region, when it comes to religious and pilgrimage tourism, is testified not only by the millions of pilgrims and religious tourists who come here (e.g. at the World Youth Festival in 2016), but also the success of the 1st International Congress of Religious and Pilgrimage Tourism, which took place in Krakow on November 8-12, 2017. Tourism research shows that 5-6% – that is, approx. 650,000 Krakow visitors – declare their religious motivation as the most important in arriving in Krakow. Many people do not consider a religious purpose as primary, but they visit places of worship when visiting their families, etc.

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Please note that Kraków is very busy at this time of year, we strongly recommend that you book your hotel room ASAP

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