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Krakow is the only major Polish city that was not bombed during the Second World War. The beautiful historical centre - with at its centre the Rynek Glowny - is well worth a visit. Only the medieval city wall has virtually disappeared, after most of it was taken down in the early 19th century. Until the end of the 16th century, Krakow was the capital of Poland and an important knowledge centre (the city's university was world famous).
Near Krakow is the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, which is now a museum commemorating the victims who perished in the gas chambers.
The city has 800,000 inhabitants, making it the third largest city in Poland. Including the suburbs, it has a population of 1.5 million.
Krakow is located in the south of Poland, at the base of the Carpathian Mountains that form the border with Slovakia. The city is situated on the Wisla river, the most important river of Poland, which meanders through the country, before flowing into the sea near Gdansk. On the Wawel hill near the city lies the citadel of Krakow.
The city is one of the country's most important economic centres. There is an extensive industry with iron and steel works, aluminum production, chemical products, machines and food products.
In addition, tourism plays an important role. Annually, Krakow receives over 7 million domestic and foreign visitors and that number is still rising. Traditionally, the city is also an important educational centre.
The city's international airport - Balice Airport - is located 12 kilometres to the west of the city. There are many connections to European capitals, including Amsterdam, and also to Chicago and New York. During the summer there are many chartered flights to destinations in North-Africa.
From the airport, Krakow can be reached in 20 minutes. Furthermore, there are two bus lines to the centre of the city (192 and 208).
The city's central station - Dworzec Glowny - is located just outside the old centre. There is a regular high-speed train to Warsaw (2 hours 45 minutes) and there are many international connections, for instance to Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna and Prague. In the city itself, there are trams and buses. You can by a day ticket at newspaper stands. Make sure to stamp your card as soon as you get on board. The ticket has a validity of one hour after it is stamped. Week or month tickets do not need to be stamped.
Krakow is easy to reach: from the west (Wroclaw) via the A4 and from the north (Warsaw) via the A1.
The old city centre is largely car free. You can park your car in one of the guarded car parks. Close to the centre there are two of those car parks: on the plac Szczepanski and the plac swietego Ducha.
The construction and maintenance of roads in Poland have not matched the explosive growth in the number of cars. Although enormous efforts are being made to improve the country's road network, if will probably take years before they will reach the level people in the West are used to.
Like the number of cars, the number of tourists has also grown dramatically. There is a reasonable choice when it comes to mid-class hotels, but you are unlikely to find luxury hotels near the old city. There are many cheap accommodation, but avoid the hotels in the Nowa Huta area, which in the past served as accommodation for temporary workers in industry. In addition, there are many bed & breakfast accommodation and apartments available. Make sure you rent these only through an official agent!
For more information about Kraków, we recommend Google, and the following sources: