General facts about Cracow

What you should know about the city you are planning to visit

The official name of Cracow is Royal Capital City of Krakow. It is one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful cities in Poland. Cracow is situated in the south of Poland in the region of Malopolska which prides itself not only on the most outstanding and internationally recognized Polish city, but also the highest and most beautiful mountains in the country, the Tatra Mountains, where the skiing season lasts until May. The population of the city amounts to about 800 000 permanent residents, but one should bear in mind thousands of young people from other regions of Poland who study and work here as well as a growing number of tourists from all over the world. Actually, nowadays the tourist season lasts all year round because Cracow is the major center of local and international tourism with more than 5 million visitors annually. In 1978 Cracow was registered as one of the 12 sites on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List and in 2000 it was named a European City of Culture. Cracow was once a national capital and is still considered by a lot of Poles to be the spiritual heart of Poland and the capital of culture, art and education. It is home to several most important state universities and among them to Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 as Akademia Krakowska, which was the first Polish university and the second oldest university in Central Europe. Among the university's most prominent students were Pope John Paul II and Nicolas Copernicus, the creator of the heliocentric theory, known as the one who "stopped the sun and moved the earth". Although Cracow boasts the history of more than a thousand years, it is often referred to as a very young city due to over 120 000 young people who study here. Every year in May during the traditional student's holidays called "Juwenalia" young people are officially given the keys to the city as a sign of their authority. To celebrate their holidays students organize concerts, open-air parties, barbecues as well as marches during which they wear funny disguises. Cracow was the beloved city of Karol Wojtyla, better recognized under the name of John Paul II, who lived, studied and worked here for many years. The Bishop's Palace where he lived at Franciszkanska 3 is the most well-known address in Cracow. It was here that the Pope met with and blessed young people during his pilgrimages to Poland, and it was also here that in April 2005 when he was dying tens of thousands of Cracovians with candles in their hands gathered to pray for him and sang his favourite songs.