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European Cruises

About Kraków

Dating to the 7th century, Kraków has long been a leading academic, cultural and artistic center of Poland. The city grew up around Wawel Castle, which stands on its namesake hill and was once the residence of kings. Today, behind the castle’s well-preserved defensive walls, the hilltop fortress hosts state institutions, including an art museum and the National Library that holds magnificent tapestries and original works by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. These priceless snapshots of history are just a fraction of the country’s official “Polish National Treasures” that make this site the most historically and culturally significant spot in the country. The adjacent Wawel Cathedral, 900 years old, has witnessed grand occasions, including royal coronations and the ordination of local priest Karol Wojtyła, who was elevated to become Pope John Paul II in 1978. Kraków’s vast, 13th-century Market Square is the largest medieval town square in Europe, and one of the continent’s most unique, thanks to the enormous Renaissance Cloth Hall that dominates its center. Traveling merchants once gathered here for trade and barter, delivering exotic imports such as colorful silk and aromatic spices through its doors. Still today, spices introduced here from Hungary or France may be used to flavor the ubiquitous pierogi, a potato dumpling. Kraków is often used as a base for visits to Auschwitz. The concentration camp that played a role in one of Europe’s darkest chapters is now a deeply moving Holocaust memorial and museum.

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