Kazimierz district in Krakow – Charming Streets with Unique History
A brief history of the Kazimierz district
Kazimierz in Krakow was founded by King Casimir the Great back in the 14th century. For many years, it was a separate royal city that had a huge impact on the development of Poland. Although it was largely destroyed during World War II, this Jewish quarter flourished again and now is attracting more and more tourists.
Between the 19th and the 20th century, the Jewish population gradually began to occupy the entire Kazimierz and the neighbouring Stardom. Jews were taking an active part in the creation of the district as investors and builders.
Before World War II, there were more than 64,000 Jews in Krakow. By 1939, they built a social group able to meet the expectations and satisfy the needs of the minority. Kazimierz was the place where the religious life of the Polish Jews was concentrated. They prayed in six impressive Orthodox synagogues (the Old, Remuh, High, Izaak, Popper and Kupa).
Nowadays, Kazimierz is one of the most popular districts of Krakow. This vibrant, artistic area attracts those who wish to experience its unique atmosphere. Szeroka, Isaac, Miodowa, Joseph and Podbrzezie Streets abound in quaint cafes, art studios and restaurants. However, it’s infeasible to prepare one list of places that are worthy of attention. After all, each of them is characterized by unique style and decor.
What to see in Kazimierz?
Kazimierz in Krakow abounds in historical places, monuments as well as charming restaurants and spots that are worth visiting. What should you focus on when planning your trip across this Jewish district?
Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr Basilica
Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr Basilica, also known as Skałka, is some of the most important churches in Krakow. According to legend, there used to be a pagan temple that was transformed into a Christian shrine. In the undergrounds there is a Crypt of Deserved Poles with the remains of remarkable writers such as Jan Długosz, Stanisław Wyspiański and Czesław Miłosz.
Thanks to the charming Father Bernatek’s Bridge over the Vistula, Mostowa Street has become more vibrant and now it’s filled with quaint cafes and restaurants. Local buildings date back to the 19th century and the name of the street (meaning literally “bridge”) derives from the fact that there used to be a bridge to Podgórze which was destroyed in 1925.
Kazimierz Town Hall – Ethnographic Museum
At Wolnica Square you can find a captivating building of the Ethnographic Museum. It used to be a town hall and the seat of the authorities of Kazimierz. When Kazimierz lost its city status, the building was ruined. Today, its old walls and historical paintings can be admired in the museum.
The Corpus Christi Basilica
Main church of Kazimierz, founded and funded by King Casimir the Great, is one of the most impressive buildings in the city that combines the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles.
The New Square
This is the centre of nightlife in Kazimierz. It’s surrounded by clubs, bars and cafes. Here, you can buy the famous “zapiekanka” (a kind of baguette with ham, cheese, mushrooms and other ingredients of your choice). Regardless of the time of the day, this place is truly magical and will help you feel the atmosphere of the Jewish quarter in Krakow.
The Tempel Synagogue
Until World War II, it used to be a temple of Reform Judaism. The services were similar to those in the church, the prayers were shorter and there was organ music. The architecture and decoration of this synagogue resembled Christian churches. Nowadays, it’s one of the few places where Jewish services, concerts and events still take place.
The Kupa Synagogue
Currently, it’s the main Jewish synagogue in Krakow. It was built in the 17th century. Although it may not look impressive from the outside. But it’s worth seeing the colourful decor elements covered with paintings from the early 20th century. Interestingly, there are four other layers of images underneath the existing ones. The oldest paintings date back to the 17th century!
The Popper Synagogue
This small synagogue was funded by Wolf Popper in the 17th century. Although it used to be one of the most magnificent churches in Kazimierz. The war effectively deprived it of its splendour. Nevertheless, it’s still worth seeing this place to contemplate on the history.
The Old Synagogue
This church located at the top of Szeroka Street is probably the oldest synagogue in Poland as its origins date back to 1407. The typical orthodox two-nave building was created by Czech Jews and initially, it was dedicated only to men. The Old Synagogue was numerously renovated as it used to be the most important religious and cultural centre of the Jewish community in Krakow up to 1939.
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Is it worth seeing the Jewish Quarter in Krakow?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Kazimierz is a must-see destination when visiting Krakow. This captivating district will give you an appealing insight into the history of Poland. Moreover, you’ll be able to relax in one of the charming restaurants. Take beautiful pictures, explore the city, taste local cuisine and unwind in cozy cafes.
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