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Kazimierz Krakow Jewish District

Kazimierz: Things to Do and See in Krakow’s Jewish Quarter (2023)

    Kazimierz is one of the most authentic and surprising districts of Krakow. What was once the old Jewish Quarter is now one of the most vibrant places in the city, filled with quaint restaurants and pubs, local markets and traces of a tragically turbulent past.

    What you will find in this guide to Kazimierz:

    Some interesting facts to know about Kazimierz

    Kazimierz is a district located just south of Krakow’s Old Town, reachable within a few minutes’ walk from Wawel Hill. Kazimierz and Krakow were once two different towns, and each had its own defensive walls and autonomy.

    Kazimierz stood on an ancient island, surrounded by the Vistula River. At the beginning of the 19th century, as the cities had merged together, and Kazimierz had become just a district of Krakow, part of the river was filled with soil and a boulevard was built in its place.

    Kazimierz’s history dates back to 1335, when King Casimir III the Great decided to found a new city on the outskirts of Krakow. The city bears his name, and at the time its inhabitants enjoyed the same privileges as those of the royal city, Krakow.

    In 1494 a devastating fire destroyed Krakow, which had to be redesigned and rebuilt. King Jan I Olbracht decided to grant it to the large and important Krakow Jewish community in the Bawół district of Kazimierz. Here the Jews had the right to build their own town protected by a defensive wall, living peacefully with the Polish community that inhabited the remaining half of Kazimierz.

    This area of ​​Kazimierz, called Oppidum Judaeorum, became one of the major centers of Polish Judaism, inhabited by some of the best Jewish scientists, writers, artists and craftsmen.

    Under the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, the city of Kazimierz was merged with Krakow and the Jewish community merged with the Polish one. There were over 120 synagogues throughout the city, and in the old Oppidum of Kazimierz only the poorest and most ultra-conservative Jews remained. Perhaps that is why we can still see how Kazimierz looked in the 18th century today, as its buildings have remained virtually unchanged.

    After the Nazi occupation of Krakow, Jews were expelled from the city and those who decided to stay in 1941 were transferred to the Krakow Ghetto, established in the Podgórze district, across the river from Kazimierz. Tens of thousands of people were forced to live in an area that previously housed a maximum of 2-3,000 inhabitants.

    From late 1941 to March 1943 when the Ghetto was liquidated, tens of thousands of Jews were sent to die in concentration camps, such as nearby Płaszów and the extermination camps of Belzec and Auschwitz. A little more than a thousand people survived, mostly thanks to Oscar Schindler, a German industrialist who had hired them to work in his factory.

    After the war, the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz became one of the most degraded and infamous places in Krakow. Only in the early 90s did it begin to be revalued, mainly thanks to the popularity given by the film Schindler’s List, which was set and filmed here.

    Over the years it has become one of the most popular neighborhoods among artists, students, beatniks and hipsters. In summer, the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is held here, one of the most important and interesting in the world. The neighborhood has become one of the liveliest in Krakow, less crowded with tourists than the Old Town and more authentic.

    In the streets of Kazimierz you can feel the charm of the old days, taste excellent Polish-Jewish cuisine and have a drink in some of the most original bars in the city. Free walking tours of Kazimierz and the nearby Podgórze Jewish Ghetto take place every day, remember to book in advance.

    Things to see and do in Kazimierz

    Although Kazimierz is today one of the major attractions of Krakow, like the Wawel Royal Castle, it is much less crowded with tourists than the streets of the Old Town. It’s a good place for a calm stroll and for a drink or a meal in the evening.

    Plac Nowy

    The heart of Kazimierz is Plac Nowy, a somewhat shabby-looking square, which is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the life and culture of the neighborhood.

    A local market is held every day in Plac Nowy, where locals go to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. But you can also find a flea market that sells antiques and old Communist memorabilia.

    The round building in the center of Plac Nowy is called Okrąglak by locals, dates back to 1900 and is a kind of covered market. Along its perimeter wall you can see several windows where people look out to order food. Great, here you can taste some of the best zapiekanka in Krakow.

    Szeroka Street

    Szeroka Street is probably the most picturesque corner of Kazimierz. This was the main square of the neighborhood until the end of the 19th century, the center of life and commerce of the Jewish community.

    This former market square is now one of the most vibrant places in Kazimierz, lined with excellent traditional Polish-Jewish restaurants, bars and art galleries.

    You are in the heart of the Oppidum Judaeorum, the epicenter of Kazimierz with its original buildings still well preserved. At n.16 you can see the Popper Synagogue, one of the oldest and most important, internally devastated by the Nazis and transformed into a cultural center in recent times.

    At one of the corners of Szeroka you can see The Old Synagogue (Synagoga Stara) an Orthodox-Jewish synagogue, the oldest in Krakow and Poland, dating from the early 15th century. Today it houses an interesting museum about the life and culture of the local Jewish people. Admission is free with the City Pass Krakow Card.

    At Szeroka no.40, you can see the small and picturesque Remah Synagogue (Synagoga Remu), dating back to the 16th century. Today it is one of four synagogues still active in the city.

    Ancient Synagogues of Kazimierz

    Besides the most famous synagogues you can see on Szeroka, such as the Old Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue, nearby you can see the Tempel Synagogue, dating from 1860 and restored after World War II. During the war, the Nazis had turned it into an ammunition depot. It is the largest synagogue still active in Krakow.

    A short distance away you can visit the Izaak Synagogue, dating back to the 17th century. This beautiful synagogue was only recovered after the fall of communism. After the war it had been used as a hall for art exhibitions. During the war it was confiscated by the Nazis, in 1939 the Gestapo entered the synagogue and ordered the Jewish official on duty that day to burn the scrolls of the Torah. When he refused he was shot dead.

    Along the way between the Tempel Synagogue and the Izaak Synagogue you can visit the Kupa Synagogue dating from the 17th century, which boasts a beautiful interior finely decorated with carved wood and stucco.

    Jewish Ghetto of Krakow

    It makes a lot of sense to combine the visit to Kazimierz with that of the Krakow Ghetto. The Ghetto is located in the Podgórze district, which is just across the river.

    You can cross one of the bridges over the Vistula that lead to the Ghetto, in particular the Piłsudski Bridge, an authentic iron bridge dating back to the 1930s and rebuilt after the war, and the Father Bernatek’s Bridge, a modern bridge inaugurated in 2010, are worth a visit.

    From there you can head to the heart of the ghetto, Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square), the square where deportations to the concentration camps took place. From here you can reach Schindler’s Factory, one of the most significant places for understanding the Krakow Ghetto.

    The best way to visit Kazimierz and the Jewish Ghetto is on a guided tour. There are many significant places and stories to know, so I recommend you visit it with a local expert guide. The most comprehensive tour also includes a visit to the Płaszów Concentration Camp and Schindler’s Factory.

    Corpus Christi Basilica

    As we said earlier, Kazimierz was a neighborhood where Jews and Poles (Christians) coexisted peacefully. It is therefore not surprising that in Kazimierz you can find some of the most beautiful churches in Krakow.

    Corpus Christi Basilica is a majestic Gothic church founded by King Casimir III the Great in 1335. Take a look inside: it boasts beautiful Baroque elements in carved wood and the largest organ in Krakow.

    Church on the Rock (Kościół na Skałce)

    This church is located a bit out of the way, but it is certainly one of the most significant churches in Krakow. Here stood one of the most important sanctuaries in the area, built in the 14th century and destroyed by the Swedes in the 17th century.

    The current monastery was built in 1734 in the Baroque style, and is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel and St. Stanislaus, bishop of Krakow and martyr. It is one of the most important sanctuaries for the locals.

    Galicia Jewish Museum

    The Galicia Jewish Museum is a permanent cultural center dedicated to the history and culture of the Galician Jewish community.

    It is made up of photographic exhibits that allow you to find out much more about life in the Jewish district before the Nazi occupation, during the most tragic phases of the massacre and after the war. You can visit it for free with the City Pass Krakow Card.

    Museum of Municipal Engineering

    This museum is quite nice, especially if you are traveling with kids or if you love technical stuff.

    It is located in an old tram depot from the late 19th century, where you can see a collection of old Polish cars, the old city trams (sometimes on weekends they run them on the streets of Kazimierz) and other stuff from the city’s past . It is not very big, it can be visited in less than an hour. You can visit it for free with the City Pass Krakow Card.

    What is the best way to visit Kazimierz and the Jewish Quarter

    Kazimierz can easily be explored on foot. The neighborhood is filled with historic buildings, places that tell stories and legends, remnants of the ancient Jewish quarter, and lively places where locals gather to hang out.

    To make the most of your visit, you could join the free walking tours that take place every day and allow you to explore the neighborhood with a local guide. Remember to book in advance!

    It might also be a good idea to combine a visit to Kazimierz with a cultural visit to the Krakow Ghetto. There are affordable guided tours that allow you to learn more about the history of the ghetto and visit Schindler’s Factory.

    History buffs could enjoy a deeper tour, which includes a visit to the Płaszów Concentration Camp and Schindler’s Factory, led by an expert guide.

    ☞ Read our guide to the Best Free Tours in Krakow

    How to get to Kazimierz from Krakow’s Old Town

    From the Krakow Old Town you can easily reach Kazimierz with an easy walk of about 15 minutes. From the foot of Wawel Hill, at the end of Grodzka (the boulevard that starts from the Main Market Square), follow Stradomska Street towards the Vistula and you will arrive in Kazimierz.

    From Stradomska you can take Józefa which will take you to the heart of Kazimierz. At no.12 you can also see the famous Schindler’s List Passage, one of the places where Spielberg’s film was set.

    The closest tram stops are Stradom (tram 8, 10, 13) and Miodowa (tram 3, 19, 24), which is on the opposite side, near Szeroka. If you have the City Pass Krakow Card you can take trams and buses for free.

    Things to see and do around Kazimierz

    Kazimierz is within easy reach of the Podgorze district, the former Krakow Ghetto, where you can see some remnants of the city’s turbulent past and visit the famous Schindler’s Factory Museum.

    From Kazimierz with a short walk you are in the heart of Krakow’s Old Town and all the main attractions. Check out our must-read list of the Best Things to Do and See in Krakow.

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