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Although Krakow may only be the country's third-biggest city, it is actually Poland's leading tourist destination. For centuries Krakow was the capital of Poland, the seat of kings, drawing great scholars and artists from the whole world. It is their talents and imagination we must thank for the city's rich legacy of unique historical relics, which reflect the most important trends in European culture. Situated on the Vistula River, Krakow is Poland's richest city in terms of the number of its historic sights and monuments.
The Main Square (Rynek Glowny) is the natural centre of Krakow: a stage for various minor and major events, a reference point, a meeting place, and the starting point or destination for countless walkers. It dates back to the 13th century and at roughly 40,000sq m is the largest medieval town square in Europe. In the north-eastern corner of the square stands St Mary's Church, frequently referred to as a basilica. The other buildings standing to this day in the heart of the Main Market Square include the diminutive Church of St Adalbert - a site of important archaeological discoveries, and the solitary tower - a remnant of the Town Hall demolished in the 19th century.
People have lived on Wawel Hill at the site of the Castle as early as fifty thousand years ago, in the Paleolithic Age. The golden age of Wawel castle took root many centuries after this. Things began to get into gear in 1138, when Krakow became the main royal seat.Nowadays it is one of the major tourist attractions and a historical residence of royal family of Poland. In the castle's many chambers, exhibitions that simply cannot be missed await you: royal chambers and stately rooms, collections of Oriental art and military trophies. One glance is enough to find that the Wawel Castle is among Europe's most beautiful royal residences.
Kazimierz (better known as a Jewish district of Krakow), which lies to the south of the Royal Castle, was once a town in its own right. With its labyrinthine streets and low-standing houses, it feels like a different world to the Old Town, and indeed, you may well get lost here. According to German sources, 68,482 Jews lived in Krakow and the surrounding villages before the II World War. Following the tragedy of the Second World War and the extermination of Jews by Nazi invaders, Kazimierz was deserted and abandoned. Presently beautifully restored buildings stand in close vicinity of those totally devastated, whose number luckily continues to diminish.
Krakow is the magical and charismatic city. It is also the city that is ranked as one of the 12 cites in the UNESCO World Heritage list. With so much of city's life concentrated in the centre, a visit becoming that much easier to plan, explore and absorb the atmosphere, lifestyle and history that Krakow might offer.