- A History of Kazimierz in 30 seconds
- Where exactly is the Kazimierz District?
- Top 5 Things to Do in Kazimierz
- Kazimierz Tours
Kazimierz, which lies to the south of the Royal Castle, was once a town in its own right. With its labyrinthine streets and low-standing houses, it feels like a different world to the Old Town, and indeed, you may well get lost here. However, this is not a bad thing, but very much part of the whole experience.
A History of Kazimierz in 30 seconds
The town was founded in 1335 by King Kazimierz the Great, and as its splendid churches and synagogues evoke, it was once a world of prosperity and tolerance. Before the Second World War started, Kazimierz was the centre of a thriving community of Jews (around 65,000), who were - amongst others - traders, bankers, restaurateurs and celebrated craftsmen. Yiddish and Hebrew was spoken and written, and Krakow had no less than 6 synagogues. However, the death-knell for this thriving centre of Jewish Krakow was sounded in September 1939 with the Nazi invasion, and the sweeping away of this whole world. Step-by-step the Jewish community was dehumanised, stripped of its dignity and possessions, moved to a Jewish ghetto in the Podgórze district, and finally, those who had survived were deported to the nearby concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau (and others) to meet their ultimate fate.
As recently as the year 2000 much of Kazimierz was still in ruins, a crumbling shell of its former self. Numerous houses, which initially gave the appearance of a squatters' paradise were, on closer inspection, simply treacherous shells, where whole floors had collapsed, rendering many areas highly dangerous. Kazimierz was known as a dirty, not altogether safe place, inhabited by stray dogs and morose alcoholics. And to add to this there was the highly emotive issue of land repatriation. The former owners, almost all Jews, had had their property confiscated by the Nazis during the Second World War, and most were killed in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, during the horrifying holocaust. With the difficulty in locating any surviving heirs, and the complications of ascertaining the legal owners, many buildings were simply left to rot. However today, out of the blue, Kazimierz is undergoing a major renaissance. Both its Jewish and Christian heritage is being restored, and colour has returned to its alleys and squares. Just wandering about is an experience in itself, but here are our suggestions for the 5 most important things to see or do.
Where exactly is Kazimierz in Krakow?
Most visitors to Krakow will start their trip in the Old Town, where most of the more important sights are to be found. Kazimierz is an easy 10 minute walk from there, and a wandering stroll through the network of back streets and tramways will give the visitor a good indication of local life in Krakow.
Top 5 things to do in Kazimierz
1) Grab a 'Polish Pizza' on Plac Nowy
Italy has pizza. Poland has 'zapiekanki'. One of these foods has become a global hit, whilst the other, well, has stayed firmly in its place. But if the latter has a beating heart, it must be here in Kazimierz, and more specifically on Plac Nowy, the old market square in the centre of the former Jewish quarter. Late night clubbers flooding out of the pubs and bars are inevitably hungry, and a roaring trade grew up providing them with, essentially, pizza toppings on a long sliced and toasted baguette - the said 'zapiekanka'. The round building in the centre of the square started out with just one kiosk serving these - Endzior - but now many of the windows serve up their own variations on the theme. The reason why the zapiekanka never became a global food hit? Frankly, because its not as good as pizza. But while in Krakow, best do as the Krakowians do, and give it a try.
2) Hala Targowa Flea Market on a Sunday
We all like a rummage around other people's stuff, right? Now you get your chance to legitimately pick your way through the discarded, unloved or stolen contents of Polish households. What will you find? Perhaps you'll stumble across a Hogarth Press first edition signed by Virginia Woolf? (Unlikely - my father has tried) More likely you'll settle for an 2001: A Space Odyssey poster, which looks oh so much cooler in Polish. Or an Eastern Bloc bakelite radio. Or a set of rusty spanners. Fight your way through the hordes who settle here every Sunday and grab yourself a dust-collector to take home.
3) Second Hand Clothes Shops
Whilst shopping for second hand clothes has been popular for years in many countries, the Poles have turned it into an art form. In the UK, customers drift quietly through charity shops staffed by genteel ladies, with stock neatly priced and racked. In Poland, patrons line up at the front door like its a Black Friday sale, then handbag each other out the way to grab clothes by the armful and buy their articles by weight, the price per kilo determined by the day of the week and thereby the 'freshness' of the stock. Confused? You will be. But you'll also be excited by your chance to pick up a truly unique item or two to impress your fellow hipsters back home. Kazimierz has more than its fair share of second hand clothes shops, so just keep your eye out for them, or read our article here for some more specific advice.
4) ulica Szeroka
A square which looks like a street, or a street which looks like a square? The latter. ulica Szeroka (literally 'Broad Street') is the heart of Kazimierz, home to three of its surviving synagogues, hotels, cafes, restaurants - and the local police station. Visitors can spend half a day here, choosing between guided walks (mostly very good), being driven around the district on an electric golf trolley (universally an expensive and bad idea), enjoying the local cafes and places to eat, and picking up some tourist knick-knacks to take home. Locals, however, may also be found visiting the police station to pick up their wayward teenage children (who shall remain nameless) for breaking the law by drinking beer from cans on local park benches. Yes. In Poland, drinking in public is prohibited. Coming to Krakow for a lads weekend, hen party or stag do? Keep your drinking activities to the pubs and bars. You have been warned.
5) Galicia Jewish Museum
As Kazimierz began its long, slow recovery from the horror of the holocaust, it wasn't until 2004 that the district had a proper place to reflect on everything that had befallen it, documenting life before the Second World War, as well as encouraging and providing a focus to document its rebirth in the context of the whole region. Founded by photographer Chris Schwartz, the Galicia Jewish Museum was launched with his collection of over 1,000 photographs documenting the traces of Jewish culture in Poland. With both permanent and temporary exhibitions taking place in this former warehouse, it is an important place to reflect on Kazimierz's traumatic history and hopes for the future.
Whilst wandering around Kazimierz on your own is a great way to enjoy the atmosphere of this fascinating part of Krakow, to learn more about its history, taking a local tour with a qualified guide will give you extra insight. Here are some of the best options from GetYourGuide.
A final Word
There is so much to do and see in Kazimierz that you are sure to need a break at some time. Although we have a comprehensive list of pretty much all the drinking holes, here is a shorter list of some of our personal favourite bars in Kazimierz. Kick back at one (or all!) of these places and get the real vibe of the district over a coffee, beer, or something stronger.
Property prices here have shot up since I visited in 2012 for the Euro football tournament. Feeling a bit stupid I didn't buy a small flat LOL!Reply
Too many bearded hipsters and vegans for my liking, but at least there's cheap beer everywhere....Reply
Getting a bit more touristy these days, but still a good place to spend an afternoon. Good selection of cafes.Reply
A special part of Krakow. Skip the tourist-trap Old Town and spend your time here. Lots of great bars and restaurants, and a better pace of life....Reply
Krakow has many wonderful places, but I love Kazimierz best of all. It combines the leading edge of the development of the young, artistic, craft-based, eating & drinking places (just watch the wiring - you don't want to get electrocuted by the often terrifying amateur efforts!), with the recently renovated old buildings and the poignant sadness of the remaining Jewish structures. The people seem to be especially friendly & many speak English (and other languages). It is good value and we can get in on the ground floor of its resurgence. If you like to eat out there is only one big problem: how to choose from the plethora of establishments that you'd love to try. I'd say go for one of the kosher places for an authentic meal with enteratining staff, obviously at least one classic Polish main meal, and if you are walking through the market square at night the round building in the centre has a few 'take-aways' selling a ciabatta-like base with your choice of topping - now a staple food in my own home. If you drink alcohol, I would go for the more unusual places, such as the bar that sells every type of Bols, and dozens of types of home-steeped vodka (eg you will see a bottle with chillis in it) - this is now another idea we have copied at home. Or enjoy wandering, stopping off for coffee or something stronger at one of the many fascinating bars. Do not miss Jozefa (a street of little shops that leads up to the square - they got together to make a free cartoon map of the street which is useful & a nice reminder). It is also pleasant to cross the footbridge over the Vistula & see it from a different perspective as you drink your piwo or kawa, maybe with a dish of pierogi. I need to go back right now, so please follow in my footsteps! ONLY WARNING: the transport security people are a scandalous shame of Krakow - always buy a ticket BEFORE getting on, you then stamp it on the bus to show when it is activated.Reply
My kinda town!Reply
The best part of Krakow. I hardly spend any time in the Old Town when I visit these days....Reply
Full of atmosphere, and great nightlife. Actually, preferred it to the Old Town, which is a bit touristy.Reply
I stayed at the Astoria hotel in the neighborhood. Nice, quiet area that is walking distance to the central square. Loved every minuteReply
be sure to choose a guided tour so you can see much more than their own. be sure to explore the old town. in the old town you can find the desired guide, there will be cheaper than a hotel or through the Internet. necessarily need to go to the salt mines. Kazimierz, the area is rich in history by day and by night an active life.Reply
We went to Kazimierz in May and was amazed at what we saw. The best part was the Jewish restaurants with the wonderful food and music. We are planning another trip for next year.Reply
I found Kazimierz to be the most interesting (for me, anyway) part of Krakow, and spent most of my time here last week during a 5 day holiday.Reply
Having just returned from a trip to Krakow, we stayed at a superb appartment in Kazimierz which was very cheap. I was in awe of this beautiful place so steeped in history. They are working hard at rebuilding/ conserving the older derelict property. The atmosphere was wonderful as were the people. I will certainly go back to soak up some more history of those poor poor people who must have suffered beyond comprehension. What happened there must never be forgotton. The history of the holocaust should be taught in schools world wide.Reply
I've always wondered if jews that were in Kazimierz in the 14th cent. were Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula ? since the Inquisition started in 1391 not 1492 as historians would have us believe. I feel we were Sephardic before we were Ashkenazic.RMReply
Magnificient chu Magnificient craig regsrdlreds of the city wolud.judt eoul to sdsinl out. Everythig is going easy provideg You have got locsl gusrd.Reply
I think more people should visit beautiful places like Kazimierz, it makes you realise how precious life is. It is only a small area of Krakow which in a way is a bit run down, but please don't let that put you off,it really does add to the atmosphere of the whole area and one that the visitor must savour. From what I can see it is returning to its old Jewish enviroment, which at one time was so abundant there but was so sadly taken away from the people who lived and worked in the area.I went for a meal at the Ariel restaurant in the Square,and it was wonderful. Jewish cuisine and music which probably happened before the WWII and then world came crashing down for no apparent reason only that they were Jewish. I'm Jewish and for the life of me I can not understand the reasons for this mass murder, it really is beyond comprehension. I will say only one more thing and that is go to Krakow and Kazimierz and try to take in why a small suburb like this, a happy and vibrant suburb, should be subjected to such atrocities. For the love of God it must never happen again for our childrens sakes. Bless you all who read this.Reply
I went to Kazmierz in 2008 and I went to the Remuh Synagogue, being Jewish, and it has an atmosphere that is second to none.You go back in time,as you should, but unfortunately it seems to stop at 1939, and you can envisage the horror what must have occurred there. I went to the museum that is there, where apparently Oscar Schindler appeared and tried his utmost to save Jews. He was a remarkable man like many others who tried to save us.Reply
I am about to visit Krakow for the 3rd time in 12 months (I go again in March). I love this place. I have stayed in both the Old Town and Kazimierz. I prefer to stay in the Kazimierz district. The bars and retuarants seem to be cheaper here and busier and cater for all tastes. I prefer evenings in kazimierz and then making the 10 minute stroll to the old town for wondering around in the daytime.Reply
We visited Kazimierz the day after a trip to Auschwitz (Even now i cannot understand mans inhumanity to man) Its a beautiful place but you cannot help think of what was before. How it happened, how Hoess was able to run Auschwitz in europe in the 20th century. The place is enjoying a renaissance but if you visit and be mindful and respectful of the ethnic cleansing which occured here. TragicReply
Yes, I felt just the same. It is beyond comprehension. I do believe, however that the Polish Jews that survived the holocaust, were prevented from moving back to Poland after the war. Poland did not advertise this fact, but that is why there are so few Jews in Poland today. In Podgorze there are only two Jewish families (The site of the final ghetto)Reply
We visited Kazimierz in July 2007. On a souls searching trip to Auschwitz. We walked from Krakow to Kazimierz and it was well worth the walk. A lovely old town so full of history, visited the cemetary very very old and beautifull, be warned scull caps to be worn and legs to be covered.Stopped in a bar and was pricey but again well worth it just to sit in the square and take it all in. We then walked to the Oscar Shindler factory so much to see and not enough time, I will visit the jewish Quarter next time . But fantastic trip and will be returning in July 08.Reply
We had a great weekend in Kazimierz early June staying in the Hotel Kazimierz on Miodowa. Loved wandering the city and taking in the way of life of the normal person, enjoying the wide diversity of foods. Soaking up the history and trying to imagine what life was like during the war.We wil be back sometime in the not too distant future hopefully. Your website is very good.Reply