The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre. The city has a population of approximately 760,000, with approximately 8 million additional people living within a 100 km radius of its main square.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II — the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Kraków's Historic Centre Kraków is classified as a global city with the ranking of high sufficiency by GaWC. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, as well as one of the most unique destinations in the world, its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula river, the St. Mary's Basilica, Saints Peter and Paul Church and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny. Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Poland's most reputable institution of higher learning.
In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. In 2013 Kraków was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature. The city hosted the World Youth Day in July 2016.
The name of Kraków is traditionally derived from Krakus (Krak, Grakch), the legendary founder of Kraków and a ruler of the tribe of Lechitians. In Polish, Kraków is an archaic possessive form of Krak and essentially means "Krak's (town)". Krakus's name may derive from "krakula", a Proto-Slavic word meaning a judge's staff, or a Proto-Slavic word "krak" meaning an oak, once a sacred tree most often associated with the concept of genealogy. The first mention of Prince Krakus (then written as Grakch) dates back to 1190, although the town existed as early as the 7th century, inhabited by the tribe of Vistulans.
The city's full official name is Stołeczne Królewskie Miasto Kraków, which can be translated as "Royal Capital City of Kraków". In English, a person born or living in Kraków is a Cracovian (Polish: krakowianin). While in the 1990s the English version of the name was often written Cracow, the most widespread modern English version is Krakow.
Kraków's early history begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill. A legend attributes Kraków's founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragon, Smok Wawelski. The first written record of the city's name dates back to 965, when Kraków was described as a notable commercial centre controlled first by Moravia (876–879), but captured by a Bohemian duke Boleslaus I in 955. The first acclaimed ruler of Poland, Mieszko I, took Kraków from the Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.
In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish government. By the end of the 10th century, the city was a leading centre of trade. Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Adalbert's, a cathedral, and a basilica. The city was almost entirely destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. It was rebuilt practically identical, based on new location act and incorporated in 1257 by the high duke Bolesław V the Chaste who following the example of Wrocław, introduced city rights modelled on the Magdeburg law allowing for tax benefits and new trade privileges for the citizens. In 1259, the city was again ravaged by the Mongols. A third attack in 1287 was repelled thanks in part to the new built fortifications. In 1335, King Casimir III of Poland (Kazimierz in Polish) declared the two western suburbs to be a new city named after him, Kazimierz (Casimiria in Latin). The defensive walls were erected around the central section of Kazimierz in 1362, and a plot was set aside for the Augustinian order next to Skałka.
The city rose to prominence in 1364, when Casimir III of Poland founded the University of Kraków, the second oldest university in central Europe after the Charles University in Prague. King Casimir also began work on a campus for the Academy in Kazimierz, but he died in 1370 and the campus was never completed. The city continued to grow under the joint Lithuanian-Polish Jagiellon dynasty. As the capital of the Kingdom of Poland and a member of the Hanseatic League, the city attracted many craftsmen, businesses, and guilds as science and the arts began to flourish. The royal chancery and the University ensured a first flourishing of Polish literary culture in the city.
The 15th and 16th centuries were known as Poland's Złoty Wiek or Golden Age. Many works of Polish Renaissance art and architecture were created, including ancient synagogues in Kraków's Jewish quarter located in the north-eastern part of Kazimierz, such as the Old Synagogue. During the reign of Casimir IV, various artists came to work and live in Kraków, and Johann Haller established a printing press in the city after Kasper Straube had printed the Calendarium Cracoviense, the first work printed in Poland, in 1473.
In 1495, King John I Albert expelled the Jews from the city walls of Krakow; they moved to Kazimierz (now a district of Krakow). However, they were still allowed to trade on the Main Square.
In 1520, the most famous church bell in Poland, named Zygmunt after Sigismund I of Poland, was cast by Hans Behem. At that time, Hans Dürer, a younger brother of artist and thinker Albrecht Dürer, was Sigismund's court painter. Hans von Kulmbach made altarpieces for several churches. In 1553, the Kazimierz district council gave the Jewish Qahal a licence for the right to build their own interior walls across the western section of the already existing defensive walls. The walls were expanded again in 1608 due to the growth of the community and influx of Jews from Bohemia. In 1572, King Sigismund II, the last of the Jagiellons, died childless. The Polish throne passed to Henry III of France and then to other foreign-based rulers in rapid succession, causing a decline in the city's importance that was worsened by pillaging during the Swedish invasion and by an outbreak of bubonic plague that left 20,000 of the city's residents dead. In 1596, Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa moved the administrative capital of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from Kraków to Warsaw.
Already weakened during the 18th century, by the mid-1790s the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had twice been partitioned by its neighbors: Russia, the Habsburg empire, and Prussia. In 1791, the Austrian Emperor Joseph II changed the status of Kazimierz as a separate city and made it into a district of Kraków. The richer Jewish families began to move out. However, because of the injunction against travel on the Sabbath, most Jewish families stayed relatively close to the historic synagogues. In 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko initiated an unsuccessful insurrection in the town's Main Square which, in spite of his victorious Battle of Racławice against a numerically superior Russian army, resulted in the third and final partition of Poland. In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte captured former Polish territories from Austria and made the town part of the Duchy of Warsaw. Following Napoleon's defeat, the 1815 Congress of Vienna restored the pre-war boundaries but also created the partially independent Free City of Kraków. An insurrection in 1846 failed, resulting in the city being annexed by Austria under the name the Grand Duchy of Cracow (Polish: Wielkie Księstwo Krakowskie, German: Großherzogtum Krakau).
In 1866, Austria granted a degree of autonomy to Galicia after its own defeat in the Austro-Prussian War. Politically freer Kraków became a Polish national symbol and a centre of culture and art, known frequently as the "Polish Athens" (Polskie Ateny) or "Polish Mecca". Many leading Polish artists of the period resided in Kraków, among them the seminal painter Jan Matejko, laid to rest at Rakowicki Cemetery, and the founder of modern Polish drama, Stanisław Wyspiański. Fin de siècle Kraków evolved into a modern metropolis; running water and electric streetcars were introduced in 1901, and between 1910 and 1915, Kraków and its surrounding suburban communities were gradually combined into a single administrative unit called Greater Kraków (Wielki Kraków).
At the outbreak of World War I on 3 August 1914, Józef Piłsudski formed a small cadre military unit, the First Cadre Company—the predecessor of the Polish Legions—which set out from Kraków to fight for the liberation of Poland. The city was briefly besieged by Russian troops in November 1914. Austrian rule in Kraków ended in 1918 when the Polish Liquidation Committee assumed power.
With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, Kraków resumed its role as a major academic and cultural centre, with the establishment of new universities such as the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts, including a number of new and essential vocational schools. It became an important cultural centre for the Polish Jews with a Zionist youth movement relatively strong among the city's Jewish population. Kraków was also an influential centre of Jewish spiritual life, with all its manifestations of religious observance from Orthodox, to Chasidic and Reform flourishing side by side.
Following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in September 1939, the city became part of the General Government, a separate administrative region of the Third Reich, and from 4 November 1939; it became the capital of this administration. The General Government was ruled by Hans Frank who was based in the city's Wawel Castle. The Nazis envisioned turning Kraków into a completely Germanised city; after removal of all the Jews and Poles, renaming of locations and streets into the German language, and sponsorship of propaganda trying to portray it as a historically German city. During an operation called "Sonderaktion Krakau", more than 180 university professors and academics were arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, though the survivors were later released on the request of prominent Italians. The Jewish population was first confined to a ghetto in which many died of illness or starvation. Those in the ghetto were later murdered or sent to concentration camps, including Płaszów and Auschwitz. Roman Polanski, the film director, is a survivor of the Kraków Ghetto, while Oskar Schindler selected employees from the ghetto to work in his enamelware plant, Deutsche Emailwaren Fabrik (Emalia for short) saving them from the camps. Although looted by occupational authorities, Kraków remained relatively undamaged at the end of World War II, sparing most of the city's historical and architectural legacy. Soviet forces entered the city on 18 January 1945, and began arresting Poles loyal to the Polish government-in-exile or those who had served in the Home Army.
After the war, under the Polish People's Republic, the intellectual and academic community of Kraków was put under complete political control. The universities were soon deprived of printing rights and autonomy. The Stalinist government ordered the construction of the country's largest steel mill in the newly created suburb of Nowa Huta. The creation of the giant Lenin Steelworks (now Sendzimir Steelworks owned by Mittal) sealed Kraków's transformation from a university city, into an industrial centre. The new working-class, drawn by the industrialisation of Kraków, contributed to rapid population growth.
In an effort that spanned two decades, Karol Wojtyła, cardinal archbishop of Kraków, successfully lobbied for permission to build the first churches in the newly industrial suburbs. In 1978, Wojtyła was elevated to the papacy as John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In the same year, UNESCO placed Kraków Old Town on the first-ever list of World Heritage Sites.
Kraków lies in the southern part of Poland, on the Vistula River, in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 219 m (719 ft) above sea level; halfway between the Jurassic Rock Upland (Polish: Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska) to the north, and the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, constituting the natural border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic; 230 km (143 mi) west from the border with Ukraine. There are five nature reserves in Kraków, with a combined area of ca. 48.6 hectares (120 acres). Due to their ecological value, these areas are legally protected. The western part of the city, along its northern and north-western side, borders an area of international significance known as the Jurassic Bielany-Tyniec refuge. The main motives for the protection of this area include plant and animal wildlife and the area's geomorphological features and landscape. Another part of the city is located within the ecological 'corridor' of the Vistula River valley. This corridor is also assessed as being of international significance as part of the Pan-European ecological network. The city centre is situated on the left (northern) bank of the river.
Kraków has an oceanic climate (Cfb) according to the Köppen climate classification system, one of the easternmost localities in Europe to do so. A mere 100 km (62 mi) north-east of Kraków (east of Tarnów, and north of Kielce), the January mean dips below −3 °C (27 °F) and thus becomes continental (Dfb) in nature. The Kraków climate is also influenced by its far inland position, with significant temperature differences between seasons. Average temperatures in summer range from 17.0 to 19.2 °C (63 to 67 °F) and in winter from −2.0 to −0.6 °C (28 to 31 °F). The average annual temperature is 8.7 °C (48 °F). In summer temperatures often exceed 25 °C (77 °F), and even 30 °C (86 °F), while winter drops to −5 °C (23 °F) at night and about 0 °C (32 °F) at day; during very cold nights the temperature can drop to −15 °C (5 °F). Since Kraków lies near the Tatra Mountains, there are often occurrences of halny blowing (a foehn wind), causing temperatures to rise rapidly, and even in winter reach up to 20 °C (68 °F).
The climate table below presents weather data from the years 2000–2012 although the official Köppen reference period was from 1981–2010. According to ongoing measurements, the temperature has increased during these years as compared with the last series. This increase averages about 0.6 °C over all months. Warming is most pronounced during the winter months, with an increase of more than 1.0 °C in January.
The Kraków City Council has 43 elected members, one of whom is the mayor, or President of Kraków, elected every four years. The election of the City Council and of the local head of government, which takes place at the same time, is based on legislation introduced on 20 June 2002. The current President of Kraków, re-elected for his fourth term in 2014, is Jacek Majchrowski. Several members of the Polish national Parliament (Sejm) are elected from the Kraków constituency. The city's official symbols include a coat of arms, a flag, a seal, and a banner.
The responsibilities of Kraków's president include drafting and implementing resolutions, enacting city bylaws, managing the city budget, employing city administrators, and preparing against floods and natural disasters. The president fulfills his duties with the help of the City Council, city managers and city inspectors. In the 1990s, the city government was reorganised to better differentiate between its political agenda and administrative functions. As a result, the Office of Public Information was created to handle inquiries and foster communication between city departments and citizens at large.
In 2000, the city government introduced a new long-term program called "Safer City" in cooperation with the Police, Traffic, Social Services, Fire, Public Safety, and the Youth Departments. Subsequently, the number of criminal offences went down by 3 percent between 2000 and 2001, and the rate of detection increased by 1.4 percent to a total of 30.2 percent in the same period. The city is receiving help in carrying out the program from all educational institutions and the local media, including TV, radio and the press.
Kraków is divided into 18 administrative districts (dzielnica) or boroughs, each with a degree of autonomy within its own municipal government. Prior to March 1991, the city had been divided into four quarters which still give a sense of identity to Kraków – the towns of Podgórze, Nowa Huta, and Krowodrza which were amalgamated into the city of Kraków as it expanded, and the ancient town centre of Kraków itself.
The oldest neighborhoods of Kraków were incorporated into the city before the late-18th century. They include the Old Town (Stare Miasto), once contained within the city defensive walls and now encircled by the Planty park; the Wawel District, which is the site of the Royal Castle and the cathedral; Stradom and Kazimierz, the latter originally divided into Christian and Jewish quarters; as well as the ancient town of Kleparz.
Major districts added in the 19th and 20th centuries include Podgórze, which until 1915, was a separate town on the southern bank of the Vistula, and Nowa Huta, east of the city centre, built after World War II.
Among the most notable historic districts of the city are: Wawel Hill, home to Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral, where many historic Polish kings are buried; the medieval Old Town, with its Main Market Square (200 metres (660 ft) square); dozens of old churches and museums; the 14th-century buildings of the Jagiellonian University; and Kazimierz, the historical centre of Kraków's Jewish social and religious life.
The Old Town district of Kraków is home to about 6,000 historic sites, and more than 2,000,000 works of art. Its rich variety of historic architecture includes Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic buildings. Kraków's palaces, churches and mansions display great variety of colour, architectural details, stained glass, paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.
In the Market Square stands the Gothic St. Mary's Basilica (Kościół Mariacki). It was rebuilt in the 14th-century and features the famous wooden altar (Altarpiece of Veit Stoss), the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, carved by Veit Stoss. From the church's main tower a trumpet call (hejnał mariacki), is sounded every hour. The melody, which used to announce the opening and closing of city gates, ends unexpectedly in midstream. According to legend, the tune was played during the 13th-century Tatar invasion by a guard warning citizens against the attack. He was shot by an archer of the invading Tatar forces whilst playing, the bugle call breaking off at the moment he died. The story was recounted in a book published in the late-1920s called The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly, which won a Newbery Award.
The current divisions were introduced by the Kraków City Hall on 19 April 1995. Districts were assigned Roman numerals as well as the current name: Stare Miasto (I), Grzegórzki (II), Prądnik Czerwony (III), Prądnik Biały (IV), Łobzów (V), Bronowice (VI), Zwierzyniec (VII), Dębniki (VIII), Łagiewniki-Borek Fałęcki (IX), Swoszowice (X), Podgórze Duchackie (XI), Bieżanów-Prokocim (XII), Podgórze (XIII), Czyżyny (XIV), Mistrzejowice (XV), Bieńczyce (XVI), Wzgórza Krzesławickie (XVII), and Nowa Huta (XVIII).
Map of districts of the City of Kraków
Kraków is one of Poland's most important economic centres and the economic hub of the Lesser Poland (Małopolska) region. Since the fall of communism, the private sector has been growing steadily. There are about 50 large multinational companies in the city, including Google, IBM, Royal Dutch Shell, Motorola, Delphi, MAN SE, General Electric, ABB, Aon Hewitt, Cisco Systems Hitachi, Philip Morris, Capgemini, and Sabre Holdings, along with other British, German and Scandinavian-based firms. The city is also the global headquarters for Comarch, a Polish enterprise software house. In 2005, Foreign direct investment in Kraków has reached approximately US$3,500,000,000. Kraków has been trying to model itself as a European version of Silicon Valley, based on the large number of local and foreign hi-tech companies. The unemployment rate in Kraków was 4.8% in May 2007, well below the national average of 13%. Kraków is the second most-visited city in Poland (after Warsaw). According to the World Investment Report 2011 by the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Kraków is also the most emergent city location for investment in global BPO projects (Business Process Outsourcing) in the world.
In 2011, the city budget, which is presented by the Mayor of Kraków on 15 November annually, has a projected revenue of 3,500,000,000 złoty. The primary sources of revenue were as follows: 14% from the municipal taxation on real estate properties and the use of amenities, 30% in transfers from the national budget, and 34% in state subsidies. Projected expenditures, totaling 3,520,000,000 złoty, included 21% in city development costs and 79% in city maintenance costs. Of the maintenance costs, as much as 39% were spent on education and childcare. The City of Kraków's development costs included; 41% toward construction of roads, transport, and communication (combined), and 25% for the city's infrastructure and environment. The city has a high bond credit rating, and some 60% of the population is under the age of 45.
Kraków is one of the co-location centres of Knowledge and Innovation Community (Sustainable Energy) of The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
InnoEnergy is an integrated alliance of reputable organisations from the education, research and industry sectors. It was created based on long standing links of cooperation as well as the principles of excellence. The partners have jointly developed a strategy to tackle the weaknesses of the European innovation landscape in the field of sustainable energy.
Public transport is based on a fairly dense network of tram and bus routes operated by a municipal company, supplemented by a number of private minibus operators. Local trains connect some of the suburbs. The bulk of the city's historic area has been turned into a pedestrian zone with rickshaws and horse-drawn carriages; however, the tramlines run within a three-block radius (pictured). The historic means of transportation in the city can be examined at the Museum of Municipal Engineering in the Kazimierz district, with many old trams, cars and buses.
Railway connections are available to most Polish cities, e.g. Katowice, Częstochowa, Szczecin, Gdynia and Warsaw. International destinations include Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Lviv, Kiev, and Odessa (June–September). The main railway station is located just outside the Old Town District and is well-served by public transport.
Kraków's airport, officially named: John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice (IATA: KRK), is located 11 km (7 mi) west of the city. Direct trains cover the route between Kraków Główny train station and the airport in 20 minutes. Krakow Airport served around 5,000,000 passengers in 2016. Also, the Katowice International Airport is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) or about 75 minutes from Kraków.
In Autumn 2016 Poland's oldest Bicycle-sharing system was modernized and now offers 1,500 bikes at 150 stations under the name of Wavelo (pl), which is owned by BikeU of the French multinational company Egis.
Kraków had a recorded population of 762,508 in 2015. According to the 2006 data, the population of Kraków comprised about 2% of the population of Poland and 23% of the population of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. Selected demographic indicators are presented in a table (below), compiled on the basis of only the population living in Kraków permanently. The larger metropolitan area of the city encompasses a territory in which (in 2010) 1,393,893 inhabitants live.
Already in the Middle Ages, the population of Kraków consisting of numerous ethnic groups, began to grow rapidly. It doubled between 1100 and 1300 from 5,000 to 10,000, and in 1400 counted 14,000 inhabitants. By 1550, the population of metropolitan Kraków was 18,000; although it went down to 15,000 in the next fifty years due to calamity. By the early 17th century the Kraków population had reached 28,000 inhabitants.
In the historical 1931 census preceding World War II, 78.1% of Cracovians declared Polish as their primary language, with Yiddish or Hebrew at 20.9%, Ukrainian 0.4%, German 0.3%, and Russian 0.1%. The ravages of history have greatly reduced the percentage of ethnic minorities living in Kraków. The official and unofficial numbers differ, as in the case of Romani people. Hence, according to the 2002 census, among those who have declared their national identity (irrespective of language and religion) in Kraków Voivodeship, 1,572 were Slovaks, followed by Ukrainians (472), Jews (50) and Armenians (22). Romani people, officially numbered at 1,678, are estimated at over 5,000. Statistics collected by the Ministry of Education reveal that, even though only 1% of adults (as per above) officially claim minority status, as many as 3% of students participate in programmes designed for ethnic minorities.
The metropolitan city of Kraków is known as the city of churches. The abundance of landmark, historic temples along with the plenitude of monasteries and convents earned the city a countrywide reputation as the "Northern Rome" in the past. The churches of Kraków comprise over 120 places of worship (2007) of which over 65 were built in the 20th century. More are still being added. In addition to Roman Catholicism, other denominations present include Jehovah's Witnesses, Mariavite Church, Polish Catholic Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Protestantism and Latter-Day Saints.
Kraków contains also an outstanding collection of monuments of Jewish sacred architecture unmatched anywhere in Poland. Kraków was an influential centre of Jewish spiritual life before the outbreak of World War II, with all its manifestations of religious observance from Orthodox to Chasidic and Reform flourishing side by side. There were at least 90 synagogues in Kraków active before the Nazi German invasion of Poland, serving its burgeoning Jewish community of 60,000–80,000 (out of the city's total population of 237,000), established since the early 12th century.
Most synagogues of Kraków were ruined during World War II by the Nazis who despoiled them of all ceremonial objects, and used them as storehouses for ammunition, firefighting equipment, as general storage facilities and stables. The post-Holocaust Jewish population of the city had dwindled to about 5,900 before the end of the 1940s. Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah without visas or exit permits upon the conclusion of World War II. By contrast, Stalin forcibly kept Soviet Jews in the USSR, as agreed to in the Yalta Conference. In recent time, thanks to efforts of the local Jewish and Polish organisations including foreign financial aid from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, many synagogues underwent major restorations and serve religious and tourist purposes.
Kraków is a major centre of education. Twenty-four institutions of higher education offer courses in the city, with more than 200,000 students. Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland and ranked by the Times Higher Education Supplement as the second-best university in the country, was founded in 1364 as Studium Generale and renamed in 1817 to commemorate the Jagiellonian dynasty of Polish-Lithuanian kings. Its principal academic asset is the Jagiellonian Library, with more than 4 million volumes, including a large collection of medieval manuscripts like Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and the Balthasar Behem Codex. With 42,325 students (2005) and 3,605 academic staff, the Jagiellonian University is also one of the leading research centres in Poland. Famous historical figures connected with the University include Saint John Cantius, Jan Długosz, Nicolaus Copernicus, Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, Jan Kochanowski, King John III Sobieski, Pope John Paul II and Nobel laureates Ivo Andrić and Wisława Szymborska.
AGH University of Science and Technology, established in 1919, is the largest technical university in Poland, with more than 15 faculties and student enrollment exceeding 30,000. It was ranked by the Polish edition of Newsweek as the best technical university in the country in 2004. During its 80-year history, more than 73,000 students graduated from AGH with master's or bachelor's degrees. Some 3,600 persons were granted the degree of Doctor of Science, and about 900 obtained the qualification of Habilitated Doctor.
Other institutions of higher learning include Academy of Music in Kraków first conceived as conservatory in 1888, one of the oldest and most prestigious conservatories in Central Europe and a major concert venue; Cracow University of Economics, established in 1925; Pedagogical University, in operation since 1946; Agricultural University of Cracow, offering courses since 1890 (initially as a part of Jagiellonian University); Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest Fine Arts Academy in Poland, founded by the Polish painter Jan Matejko; Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts; The Pontifical Academy of Theology; and Cracow University of Technology, which has more than 37,000 graduates.
Scientific societies and their branches in Kraków conduct scientific and educational work in local and countrywide scale. Academy of Learning, Cracow Scientific Society, Association of Law Students' Library of the Jagiellonian University, Polish Copernicus Society of Naturalists, Polish Geological Society, Polish Theological Society in Kraków, Polish Section of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Polish Society for Synchrotron Radiation have in Kraków their main seats.
Kraków was named the official European Capital of Culture for the year 2000 by the European Union. It is a major attraction for both local and international tourists, attracting seven million visitors a year. Major landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Mary's Basilica and the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, the Wawel Castle, the National Art Museum, the Zygmunt Bell at the Wawel Cathedral, and the medieval St Florian's Gate with the Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route. Kraków has 28 museums and public art galleries. Among them is the National Museum featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.
Kraków's 28 museums are separated into the national and municipal museums; the city also has a number of art collections and public art galleries. The National Museum, established in 1879, as well as the National Art Collection on Wawel Hill, are all accessible to the general public and well patroned.
The National Art Collection is located at the Wawel, the former residence of three dynasties of Polish monarchs. Royal Chambers feature art, period furniture, Polish and European paintings, collectibles, and an unsurpassed display of the 16th-century monumental Flemish tapestries. Wawel Treasury and Armoury features Polish royal memorabilia, jewels, applied art, and 15th to 18th century arms. The Wawel Eastern Collection features Turkish tents and military accessories. The National Museum is the richest museum in the country with collections consisting of several hundred thousand items kept in big part in the Main Building at Ul. 3 Maja, although there are as many as eleven separate divisions of the museum in the city, one of the most popular being The Gallery of the 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice with the collection of some of the best known paintings and sculptures of the Young Poland movement. The latest division called Europeum with Brueghel among a hundred Western European paintings was inaugurated in 2013.
Other major museums of special interest in Kraków include the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology (at M. Konopnickiej 26), Stanisław Wyspiański Museum (at 11 Szczepanska St), Jan Matejko Manor in Krzesławice, – a museum devoted to the master painter and his life, Emeryk Hutten Czapski Museum, and Józef Mehoffer Manor.
The Rynek Underground museum, under the main square, is an evocative modern display of Kraków's 1000+ years of history though its streets, activities and artifacts. This followed the massively extended excavations which started in a small way in 2005 and, as more and more was found, ran on eventually to 2010.
A half-an-hour tram-ride takes you to the little-heralded Polish Aviation Museum considered eighth world's best aviation museum by CNN and featuring over 200 aircraft including a Sopwith Camel among other First World War biplanes; a comprehensive display of aero engines; and essentially a complete collection of airplane types developed by Poland after 1945. Activities of small museums around Kraków and in the Lesser Poland region are promoted and supported by the Małopolska Institute of Culture; the Institute organises annual Małopolska Heritage Days.
The city has several famous theatres, including the Narodowy Stary Teatr (the National Old Theatre), the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, the Bagatela Theatre, the Ludowy Theatre, and the Groteska Theatre of Puppetry, as well as the Opera Krakowska and Kraków Operetta. The city's principal concert hall and the home of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra is the Kraków Philharmonic (Filharmonia Krakowska) built in 1931.
Kraków hosts many annual and biannual artistic events, some of international significance such as the Misteria Paschalia (Baroque music), Sacrum-Profanum (contemporary music), the Cracow Screen Festival (popular music), the Festival of Polish Music (classical music), Dedications (theatre), the Kraków Film Festival (one of Europe's oldest short films events), Etiuda&Anima International Film Festival (the oldest international art-film event in Poland), Biennial of Graphic Arts, and the Jewish Culture Festival. Kraków was the residence of two Polish Nobel laureates in literature, Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz; a third Nobel laureate, the Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric, lived and studied in Kraków. Other former longtime residents include internationally renowned Polish film directors Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski, both of whom are Academy Award winners.
Opera Krakowska one of the leading national opera companies, stages 200 performances each year including ballet, operettas and musicals. It has, in its main repertoire, the greatest world and Polish opera classics. The Opera moved into its first permanent House in the autumn of 2008. It is in charge also of the Summer Festival of Opera and Operetta.
Kraków is home to two major Polish festivals of early music presenting forgotten Baroque oratorios and operas: Opera Rara, and Misteria Paschalia. Meanwhile, Capella Cracoviensis runs the Music in Old Cracow International Festival.
Academy of Music in Kraków, founded in 1888, is known worldwide as the alma mater of the contemporary Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and it is also the only one in Poland to have two winners of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw among its alumni. The Academy organises concerts of its students and guests throughout the whole year.
Music organisations and venues include: Kraków Philharmonic, Sinfonietta Cracovia (a.k.a. the Orchestra of the Royal City of Kraków), the Polish Radio Choir of Kraków, Organum Academic Choir, the Mixed Mariański Choir (Mieszany Chór Mariański), Kraków Academic Choir of the Jagiellonian University, the Kraków Chamber Choir, Amar Corde String Quartet, Consortium Iagellonicum Baroque Orchestra of the Jagiellonian University, Brass Band of T. Sendzimir Steelworks, and Camerata Chamber Orchestra of Radio Kraków.
According to recent official statistics, in 2016 Kraków was visited by over 12 million tourists including 2.9 million foreign travelers. The visitors spent over 5.4 billion złoty (€1.2 billion) in the city (without travel costs and pre-booked accommodations). Most foreign tourists came from Great Britain, followed by German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Canadian and American visitors. The Kraków tour-guide from the Lesser Poland Visitors Bureau indicated that not all statistics are recorded due to considerable number of those who come, staying in readily available private rooms paid by cash, especially from Eastern Europe. Kraków attracts LGBTQ tourism and has an infrastructure for this market wrote Robert Leckey and Kim Brooks.
The main reasons for visiting the city are: its historical monuments, recreation as well as relatives and friends (placing third in the ranking), religion and business. There are 120 quality hotels in Kraków (usually about half full) offering 15,485 overnight accommodations. The average stay last for about 4 to 7 nights. The survey conducted among the travelers showed that they enjoyed the city's friendliness most, with 90% of Polish tourists and 87% foreigners stating that they would personally recommend visiting it. Notable points of interest outside the city include the Wieliczka salt mine, the Tatra Mountains 100 km (62 mi) to the south, the historic city of Częstochowa (north-west), the well-preserved former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, and Ojcowski National Park, which includes the Renaissance Castle at Pieskowa Skała. Kraków has been awarded a number of top international rankings such as the 1st place in the Top city-break destinations 2014 survey conducted by the British Which?.
Kraków was the host city of the 2014 FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship and 2016 European Men's Handball Championship. It has also been selected as the European City of Sport for 2014.
Football is one of the most popular sports in the city. The two teams with the largest following are thirteen-time Polish champion Wisła Kraków, and five-time champion Cracovia, both founded in 1906 as the oldest still existing in Poland. They have been involved in the most intense rivalry in the country and one of the most intense in all of Europe, known as the Holy War (Święta Wojna). Other football clubs include Hutnik Kraków, Wawel Kraków, and one-time Polish champion Garbarnia Kraków. There is also the first-league rugby club Juvenia Kraków. Kraków has a number of additional, equally valued sports teams including twelve-time Polish ice hockey champions Cracovia and the twenty-time women's basketball champions Wisła Kraków.
The Cracovia Marathon, with over a thousand participants from two dozen countries annually, has been held in the city since 2002. Poland's first F1 racing driver Robert Kubica was born and brought up in Kraków, as was former WWE tag team champion Ivan Putski, and Top 10 ranked women's tennis player Agnieszka Radwańska.
The construction of a new Kraków Arena began in May 2011; for concerts, indoor athletics, hockey, basketball, futsal, etc. The Arena will be ready in 2013; the total cost is estimated to be 363 million Polish złoty. It will accommodate up to 15 thousand viewers. In the case of a concert, when the stage is set on the lower arena, the facility will be able to seat up to 18 thousand people.
Kraków was bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics with Jasná but the bid was rejected by a majority (69.72%) of the vote in a referendum on 16 May 2014. The referendum was organised after a wave of criticism from citizens who believed that the Olympics would not promote the city. The organizing committee of "Krakow 2022" spent almost $40,000 to pay for a citizen-approved logo, but many citizens considered this a waste of public money. The committee was rumoured to have fraudulently used several million zlotys for unknown expenses.