Krakow in the Małopolska Region
Krakow, the thousand-year old city of the Polish kings, the cultural capital of the country and the centre of international tourism is at the same time the heart of the Małopolska Region.
The extraordinary historical, cultural, landscape and natural richness of this region mean that it is much more to Poland than just one of the sixteen regions (voivodeships). Despite its small size, this area is distinguished by its rich and diverse natural landscape.
The Małopolska Region is filled with towns founded in the Middle Ages on the banks of the rivers. Small towns and villages, majestic castles or monasteries which lay in isolation, constituting a multi-layered and diverse testimony of civilizations being developed here for over a thousand years. The region is full of magnificent and often unique architectural monuments – one in ten of all the Polish monuments lies in the Małopolska Region. Although the main role in the region has always been played by Krakow, where you can still admire both objects from the pagan pre-state era as well as the oldest relics of Christian pre-Roman architecture in the country, many other places in the land deserve thanks for their heritage. In the Małopolska Region you can find some of the most eastern monuments of Romanism – the first pan-European style of architecture. The action of the city’s location, which has been carried out since the 13th century, has left the urban layouts in place, while the mature Mediaeval and gothic art shape the appearance of the local landscape. In Krakow, the most outstanding examples of Renaissance architecture were created in Poland, with the Zygmuntowska Chapel and the Royal Castle at the forefront. Originally created for the royal court, the architects influenced the establishment of the art of revival and the Baroque throughout the region – in Szymbark, Niepołomice, Nowy Wiśnicz, Pieskowa Skala and many, other places. However, the Małopolska Region is not only full of monuments typical of the whole European civilization. A unique element of its heritage is the rich complex of wooden architecture typical for the region, whose individual examples reach back to the history of medieval times. This type of architecture was developed until the beginning of the 20th century, bearing fruit among others in the form of one of the “Polish national styles” – Zakopane architecture.
This region is also the most important religious pilgrimage destination in Poland, which focuses on places related to Pope John Paul II – his family town of Wadowice, the mannerist complex in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow’s Łagiewniki, attracting millions of visitors every year. Over the centuries, regional culture has been enriched by the influence of numerous national, ethnic and religious minorities. The most important of these groups, which included the Armenians, Roma and Lemkos were Jews whose heritage can be found not only in Kazimierz, but virtually throughout the whole voivodship. From the 18th century, the Małopolska Region was a place of special development of Hasidism, whose important centre was located in Bobowa. The Małopolska Region has been marked to a great extent by the mark of the twentieth century. It was here that one of the biggest battles of WWI took place – the battle of Gorlice, which traces over 400 international war cemeteries. A particularly tragic imprint was on the region of World War II, during which the Nazis murdered, in addition to numerous Poles, the majority of minority representatives, with the Jews at the forefront. This was created in the Małopolska Region, including among others the German Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, which is still the most evocative symbol of the horror of totalitarianism in the 20th century.
The extremely rich and diversified material heritage of the Małopolska Region is of significance beyond the borders of the region – as many as 14 monuments located in the voivodship are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including the historic centre of Krakow and the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine right from the very beginning of its operation in 1978. The material culture is a set design for a cultivated cultivator with many varieties of intangible heritage. Cracovian Nativity Scenes (listed by UNESCO in 2018), bugle-call and the Lajkonik parade find their counterparts in other voivodship microregions – in the lively folklore of various highlander groups, Easter processions in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, colourful traditions of Lipnica Murowana or Zalipie. An intangible cultural heritage, including groups that are almost absent in the Małopolska Region in the wake of the catastrophe of the Second World War, is being promoted and celebrated thanks to numerous festivals, such as the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow, the Roma Memory Camp held near Tarnów or Łemkowska Watra in Zdynia, which attracts participants from all over the world. An important aspect of the Małopolska Region’s immaterial heritage is also a number of local culinary traditions that are a perfect reflection of the multicultural and the borderland character of the region.
The Małopolska Region is a special place that for centuries has been developing and nurturing what is the best in Polish culture, and its heart, Krakow, continues to be the spiritual capital of the country. This is where visible memory and the use of the past are particularly evident, and the thousand-year heritage remains constantly alive and current.
We cordially invite you to travel through the countless corners that make up the cultural identity of this region, which is historically and culturally unique.
We invite you to the Małopolska Region!