The history of Kraków’s Jewish community is both vibrant and shocking. It has shaped how whole districts of the city look and much of Kraków’s culture. For many, Kraków and Auschwitz are synonymous with the Nazi genocide. But there are joyful aspects of Jewish Kraków, with plenty to offer visitors to the city. This guide covers the key areas and attractions of Jewish Kraków.
Szeroka Street – image © Jason Weaver
There has been a Jewish community in Kraków for 700 years and, by the early 20th century, this formed a significant percentage of the city’s population. Historically, Jewish people have lived mainly in the district known as Kazimierz, just outside the old city walls. Today, Kazimierz is one of the most vibrant areas, full of great bars and restaurants, but it also retains something of its pre-war flavour around Szeroka, which once functioned as a main square and which houses a number of important synagogues.
This community was destroyed in the 1930s when the Nazis enacted a brutal campaign against Jews, first by banishing citizens to a ghetto across the river in Podgórze. This is an up-and-coming district of Kraków but the main reason to visit today is the museum at Oskar Schindler’s factory. It tells in exacting and frightening detail how quickly the Nazis worked. This malevolent history is told most affectingly at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, which is a profound and troubling experience.
Please be sure to wear a head covering as a mark of respect when you enter any holy site or cemetery and dress appropriately. Also, be aware that opening hours are subject to change, especially in synagogues which may be closed for private events.
A Brief History Of Jewish Kraków
The story of Jewish life in Kraków is long and extremely rich, though marked with periods of terrible violence. These historical extremes are still clearly visible in the city today, which make for a profound – and sometimes frightening – experience. Few places in the world offer the unspeakable warning of Auschwitz-Birkenau but also the vitality of contemporary Kazimierz.
During the 13th centry, Kraków lay on a trading route from Prussia to Prague and Vienna, when the first recorded Jewish merchants arrived in the city. By 1335, King Casimir the Great had founded the town of Kazimierz, outside Kraków’s city walls, naming it after himself. Throughout the 14th century, Kazimierz became an established centre for the Jewish community.
Disagreements between Jews and Gentile residents of Kraków are first recorded in 1369 and continued into the following century. This include governmental strictures around property, finance, and business, and anti-Jewish violence erupted periodically. Finally, Jews were expelled from Kraków to Kazimierz. However, the Jewish community firmly established itself as a key religious centre during this period and in 1407 construction began on the Old Synagogue, which you can still visit today.
Kazimierz grew in size and stature during the 16th century. This was the era of Rabbi Moses ben Isserles, one of the most revered Jewish commentators and intellectuals. By 1644, there were seven main synagogues in Kazimierz and the population continued to welcome Jewish immigrants fleeing conflict elsewhere. However, there were more disputes with Christians over trading rights and the Jewish community suffered during the Swedish occupation of 1655-57. Plague devastated Kazimierz in 1677.
Kraków’s history is increasingly complex during the 18th and 19th century, as Kazimierz became part of Austria, then the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, then as part of the Kraków Republic. This era saw Kazimierz divided from and finally merged with Kraków, with huge consequences for the population. Rights were taken away and granted, depending on whom controlled the region. A particularly brutal period, known as the Confederation of Bar, saw Jews murdered and exploited by both Polish nobles and encroaching Russians.
By 1900, Jews became more assimilated into the wider, but more secular, culture of Kraków. At the same time, there was a flourishing of Jewish nationalism, and self-defence groups began to organise in defence against rising anti-semitism. By 1939, there were 60,000 Jews living in Kraków, a quarter of the entire population.
The museum at Schindler’s factory gives a sobering overview of how rapidly the Nazis destroyed Jewish life in Kraków after the invasion of Poland in September 1939. In April 1940, Jews were ordered to evacuate the city, reducing the population from 35,000 to 15,000 within four months. In March 1941, all remaining Jewish residents were moved to the ghetto in Podgórze, from which the ZOB resistance group operated. There is now a stark monument to the Kraków ghetto in Plac Bohaterów. Deportations to the extermination camp at Bełżec began in June 1942 and then to the Płaszów labour camp from March 1943. After the Holocaust, the population dwindled to nothing in Kazimierz.
Poland was part of the Soviet Bloc until 1989 but, since then, there was been a renewed interest in Jewish history and culture in Kraków. The early 2000s, in particular, saw concerted attempts to rebuild the Jewish community here and the proliferation of excellent new museums has opened up this world for tourists. Today, Kazimierz is one of the most vibrant parts of Kraków.
Galicia Jewish Museum – image © Jason Weaver
Jewish Kraków: Kazimierz
Kazimierz is one of Kraków’s most exciting districts. There are lots of places to eat and drink, and a real buzz, despite being a tourist favourite for a few years. It was where the Jewish community lived for over 500 years and this is most immediately apparent in the streets around Szeroka. We include a number of highlights on our Kraków itinerary pages, but the best way to see the area is to take part in a tour of the area.
Things To Do In Kazimierz
Although we focus on Jewish attractions on this page, Kazimierz is full of other interesting things to do and makes a great base if you want the livelier side of Kraków. It’s a great area to get to know on foot.
- Streets Around Szeroka: Right in the centre of Kazimierz and historically the main town square, many points of interest are in or around ul. Szeroka. One side of the street is lined with restaurants and cafes, and a number of key synagogues can be found here. The top end of the street, to the left of the Hamsa restaurant, has reconstructed storefronts to represent the thriving community that once lived here.
- Galicia Jewish Museum: Dedicated to exploring the Jewish culture of the wider region through contemporary photography, this gallery offers a rich and complex story, and is a Kazimierz highlight; address: ul. Dajwór 18; opening hours: daily 11am-6pm; website: galiciajewishmuseum.org/en.
- The Old Synagogue / Jewish Museum: The Old Synagogue dates back to the 15th century and is the oldest of its kind in Poland. The Jewish Museum is in the same venue, and and houses relics and photographs; address: ul. Szeroka 24; opening hours: Mon 10am-2pm, Tue-Sun 9am-5pm; website: muzeumkrakowa.pl/en/branches/old-synagogue.
- Remuh Synagogue: The smallest and second oldest of the Kazimierz synagogues, the Remuh was established in the mid-16th century and is still in regular use today; address: ul. Szeroka 40; opening hours: Sun-Thu 9am-6pm; website: gwzkrakow.pl/en/services/synagogues.
- Remuh Cemetery: Tucked behind the synagogue of the same name, this meticulously-restored cemetery has roughly 700 gravestones, dating from the 16th-18th century; address: ul. Szeroka 40; opening hours: Sun-Mon 9am-4pm, Tue-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri 9am-4pm; website: gwzkrakow.pl/en/services/synagogues.
- High Synagogue: The third oldest synagogue in Kraków, the High Synagogue takes its name from the prayer hall is on the first floor; address: ul. Józefa 38; opening hours: daily 9.30am-7pm; website: gwzkrakow.pl/en/services/synagogues.
- Tempel Synagogue: Richly-decorated synagogue in an eclectic late 19th-century neo-Renaissance style; address: ul. Miodowa 24; opening hours: daily 10am-6pm; website: gwzkrakow.pl/en/services/synagogues/.
- The Kupa Synagogue: A small but exquisite synagogue from the mid-16th century, with plenty of fascinating architectural features, including a zodiac mural; address: ul. Miodowa 27; opening hours: Sun-Fri 10am-6pm; website: gwzkrakow.pl/en/services/synagogues.
- plac Nowy Market: Plac Nowy is a modern (and somewhat ugly) square in the centre of Kazimierz. There is a daily market, selling fresh produce during the week. But, at the weekend, it becomes a flea market, sometimes known as the Jewish Market. It’s fun to root around and can pick up all manner of interesting souvenirs; address: plac Nowy; opening hours: daily 6am-2pm.
- Jarden Jewish Bookshop: Small, friendly bookshop focused on history, heritage, and literature, with a selection of music; address: ul. Miodowa 41; opening hours: daily 10am-6pm; website: jarden.pl.
- The New Jewish Cemetery: Just outside Kazimierz itself, the ‘New’ Jewish Cemetery was founded in 1800. This large and peaceful site is actually much reduced from its original site. It’s a beautiful space for reflection; address: ul. Miodowa 55; opening hours: Sun-Fri 9.30am-4pm; website: zck-krakow.pl/?pageId=24.
- Austeria: Located at the Wolf Popper Synagogue, Austeria is the bookshop of a publishing house focused on Jewish works and literature translated into Polish; address: ul. Szeroka 16; opening hours: Mon-Thu 10am-6pm, Fri-Sun 10am-7pm; website: austeria.pl/en/o-sklepie.
- Festival Of Jewish Culture: An annual 9-day festival, held late June / early July, with concerts, exhibitions, plays, lectures, workshops, and tours. The event is bookended by an inaugural concert on the first Sunday in one of the Kazimierz synagogues, and the final klezmer concert on the last Saturday in ul. Szeroka; website: jewishfestival.pl/en.
Where To Eat And Drink In Kazimierz
- Hamsa: Unmissable at the very head of Szeroka, Hamsa is a Middle-Eastern restaurant with tons of healthy vegetarian and vegan options; address: ul. Szeroka 2; opening hours: Mon-Thu 10am-10.30pm, Fri 10am-11pm, Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 9am-10.30pm; website: hamsa.pl/en.
- Klezmer-Hois: A vintage hotel with restaurant and live concerts, the Klezmer-Hois has a traditional Jewish menu, including lots of soups and goose, and Jewish caviar; address: ul. Szeroka 6; opening hours: daily 10am-9.30pm; website: klezmer.pl/en.
- Ariel: The main dining room has a timber ceiling and furniture, while the 16th-century fireplace dining room on the first floor has lovely curved ceilings. Ariel has tons of atmosphere; address: ul. Szeroka 18; opening hours: daily 12noon-12midnight; website: ariel-krakow.pl/en.
- Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu: A cosy pre-war restaurant and beer lounge. In addition to the Jewish menu, you can get breakfast here until 1pm; address: ul. Szeroka 1; opening hours: daily 10am-10.30pm; website: en.szeroka1.com.
- Cheder: A stylish and modern cafe with Israeli coffee and a large library of books in Polish and English. Cheder is a great place to meet friends; address: ul. Józefa 36; opening hours: Mon-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-10pm; website: jewishfestival.pl/en/cheder-2/kawiarnia-eng.
- Bagelmania: Perfect range of bagel fillings to grab and go. Wraps and soups are also available; address: ul. Dajwór 10; opening hours: Wed-Mon 9am-4pm, Tue 12noon-4pm; website: pl-pl.facebook.com/pg/bagelmama/menu.
How To Get To Kazimierz
Kazimierz is located between the Old Town and the Vistula River, and is really very close to Wawel Hill. Szeroka is roughly 1.5km from Rynek Główny (the main Market Square) and only a brisk 15-minute walk. However, you can also take a number of trams from the Teatr Słowackiego stop at the north end of the Old Town, including the 24, 73, and 74. Get off at the Miodowa stop and ul. Szeroka is less than 200m away.
Alternatively, you could book a tour that includes transport from your accommodation or a central meeting place.
Pharmacy Under The Eagle – image © Jason Weaver
Jewish Kraków: Podgórze
With few of the traditional charms of Kazimierz, Podgórze can seem a bit lonely and even a bit ugly in comparison. However, the relatively recent opening of a world-class museum and gallery gives the impression that this area may be completely transformed in future. For now, Schindler’s Factory is reason enough to cross the river and get to know this district.
Things To Do In Podgórze
- Schindler’s Factory: Recommended. Oskar Schindler was an industrialist who helped protect a number of local Jews by employing them in this factory, but this museum is also an evocation of Jewish life in Kraków through the 20th century; address: Lipowa 4; opening hours: Mon 10am-2pm, Tue-Sun 10am-7pm; website: muzeumkrakowa.pl/oddzialy/fabryka-emalia-oskara-schindlera.
- plac Bohaterów Getta: Ghetto Heroes Square is an abstract (and currently somewhat forlorn) memorial to the Kraków ghetto. Empty chairs represent possessions of the now absent people who were left here in terrible limbo; address: plac Bohaterów Getta; opening hours: daily 24 hours.
- Pharmacy Under The Eagle: At one end of the square is Apteka Pod Orłem, an intimate and tactile recreation of Tadeusz Pankiewicz’ chemist shop which continued to function as the ghetto was created around it; address: plac Bohaterów Getta 18; opening hours: Wed-Sun 10am-5pm; website: muzeumkrakowa.pl/oddzialy/apteka-pod-orlem.
- Ghetto Wall: A few streets south of plac Bohaterów Getta is a fragment of the wall which surrounded the Kraków ghetto; address: ul. Lwowska 29; opening hours: daily 24 hours.
- Płaszów Concentration Camp: In what is now ostensibly a pleasant public park are reminders of the SS camp that was once here; address: Henryka Kamieńskiego 97; opening hours: daily 24 hours.
- Liban Quarry: One of the key filming locations for Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, this was a labour camp during WW2; address: Za Torem 22; opening hours: daily 24 hours.
- Starmach Gallery: Originally located at Rynek Główny, this contemporary art gallery is now housed within the 19th century Jewish Zucher’s house of prayer, and represents key figures of modern Polish art; address: Węgierska 5; opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-5pm; website: starmach.eu.
Where To Eat And Drink In Podgórze
The choice of places to eat around the main attractions in Podgórze is more limited than in Kazimierz. However, while breaking the Jewish theme of this page, the following are recommended and will certainly leave you satisfied.
- ZaKładka Bistro de Cracovie: French cuisine and wines from the in-house vineyard, all served in an elegant bistro; address: ul. Józefińska 2; opening hours: Mon-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri 4pm-10.30pm, Sat 12noon-10.30pm, Sun 12noon-9.30pm; website: zakladkabistro.pl.
- Restauracja Delecta: Pizza-based Italian restaurant; address: ul. Bolesława Limanowskiego 11a; opening hours: daily 12noon-10pm; website: restauracja-delecta.pl.
- Krako Slow Wines: Although mainly a wine bar, you can eat well here for a reasonable price. Very close to the Schindler Museum; address: Lipowa 6F; opening hours: Tue-Wed 2pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 2pm-12midnight, Sun 2pm-10pm; website: facebook.com/lipowa6f.
How To Get To Podgórze
On the opposite side of the Vistula river from Kazimierz, Podgórze is less convenient to reach and the area’s attractions are more spread out. You can cross the Bernatek bridge on foot if you happen to be coming from Kazimierz. Otherwise, the means of transport depends which attraction you want to visit first.
There are trains from the main station to Kraków Zabłocie, which is a five-minute walk to Schindler’s Factory in one direction, and a three-minute walk to plac Bohaterów Getta in the other.
The #50 tram from the Dworzec Główny Tunel (beneath the main train station) stops at Zabłocie, which is a six-minute walk from Schindler’s Factory. And you can get a number of different trams from the Teatr Słowackiego stop at the top of the Old Town to plac Bohaterów Getta, including the 24, 73, and 74.
Another option is to book a tour to Schindler’s Factory that includes transport from your accommodation or a central meeting place.
You’ll find Anne Frank here. – image © Ayesha Cantrell
Jewish Kraków: Auschwitz-Birkenau
The concentration camps in Oświęcim have come to represent the mass Nazi genocide of Jewish people from Germany and other occupied territories, as well as Poles, Roma, Soviet citizens, and others likely to have been murdered here.
Words do not convey the sombre, profound, even frightening experience of visiting the camps and, while it isn’t right to describe this as a tourist attraction, we recommend everybody takes the opportunity. You can get a good sense of what to expect from our walkthrough. There are some valuable tips at the end.
You’ll find information about opening hours and tickets on our How To Get To Auschwitz-Birkenau From Kraków page.
Where To Eat And Drink In Auschwitz
There is a small snack bar and other places to get food and drink outside the museum, but we recommend bringing a packed lunch with you and plenty to stay hydrated. This can be a long day.
If you are looking for a sit-down meal, try either of the following hotels, both of which are close to the museum:
- Imperiale Hotel: A four-minute walk from the museum, non-guests may be able to get a table in the restaurant of this modern, 4-star hotel; address: ul. Stanisławy Leszczyńskiej 16, Oświęcim; website: hotelimperiale.pl/restaurant.
- Hotel Olecki: Next door to the Imperiale, this 3-star hotel restaurant has Polish specials on the menu. Contact them to see if you can book a table; address: ul. Stanisławy Leszczyńskiej 16, Oświęcim; website: en.hotelolecki.pl/restaurant.html.
How To Get To Auschwitz
The remnants of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps are just outside Oświęcim, almost 70km to the south of Kraków. The best way to get to get there is as part of an organised tour. Every aspect will be organised for you, including a hotel pickup, if your specific tour includes the option. And, once you arrive, a guide will share expert knowledge of the camps.
Otherwise, you can get there by bus, private shuttle, taxi, or train. The bus is the cheapest, whereas a shuttle or taxi are the most convenient. The train is the least convenient option. See our comprehensive How To Get To Auschwitz-Birkenau From Kraków page for full details. This includes opening times and other details.