Poland was the largest Jewish community in Europe before World War II, with more than 3 million Jews. Visiting Kraków's Jewish Quarter is not an easy tour, of course. It is a place that holds memories of a tragic chapter in Polish, European and world history.
But it is undoubtedly at the same time an opportunity to connect with history, through our own footsteps. From Szeroka Street, the Old Synagogue, Nowy Square or the Jewish Museum of Galicia, find out how to do it.
1. Take a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter
I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. This will allow you to explore in a more detailed way the cultural and historical richness of this part of the city with an expert.
In addition, it can also be an economical option, as in many cases guided tours include entrance fees to specific attractions or sites in the area you are visiting. In this case, you can include the Oskar Schindler Factory in your guided tour.
2. Szeroka Street Tour
Undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. A place from which to start your tour, as this is where four of the seven synagogues in the whole neighbourhood are located. These are:
- Remuh Synagogue
- Popper Synagogue
- Upper Synagogue
- Old Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Poland
If you saw Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List, this street served as Zgody Square in the Krakow ghetto. In addition, every year the closing concert of the Festival of Jewish Culture, which has been organised in Krakow since 1988 between the end of June and the beginning of July, is held on this street.
You can also find cafes, restaurants and other local shops on this street to connect with the Jewish tradition and discover one of the most representative neighbourhoods of Krakow.
3. Visit the Jewish Museum of Galicia
A place set up to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to pay tribute to the Jewish culture of the area of Galicia (Galicia), a Central European region divided between Poland (Western Galicia) and Ukraine (Eastern Galicia).
Around the museum you will find other sites of interest such as the Old Synagogue (Stara), the Museum of Urban Engineering, the Isaac's Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue.
The museum offers visitors a permanent photo exhibition about the victims of the Holocaust.
- The museum is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm.
- The entrance fee for an adult is 16 zł, equivalent to approximately 3.50 euros.
On the museum's official website you can get your tickets online and avoid the queues when visiting the museum.
4. Visit the Corpus Christi Basilica
Krakow is home to the largest number of churches in Poland and this one is on my must-see list. It was built in the 14th century and is one of the largest religious buildings in Krakow.
An ideal place for those who like religious architecture, as you will be able to appreciate gothic and baroque details and see the largest organ in the city up close.
Without a doubt, visiting the churches of Krakow is another of the unmissable plans that you have to include in your itinerary.
5. Enjoy a stroll through the now vibrant Nowy Square or New Square
It's not all museums and churches, there should also be space for more relaxed tours to enjoy the modernity of a neighbourhood that has been transformed and offers a lot of good vibes to visitors from all over the world. This is the case of Nowy Square in Krakow's Jewish quarter.
It was formerly known as the Bird Market Square. Now here you will find food stalls where you can taste the traditional zapiekanki, a loaf of bread on which you can put a bit of everything such as mushrooms, ham, cheese and your favourite vegetables. Very tasty and very cheap. Perfect for a stop along the way to recharge your batteries.
If you also like street markets, after lunch you can take a look at the antiques market in the square, ideal for taking home some souvenirs of your trip.
6. Have a beer in one of the most famous local pubs
I have always believed that it is very important to connect with the local culture, beyond visiting the tourist attractions that are recommended to us. That's why I love on my travels to visit traditional restaurants and bars and talk to the people who live there. They turn out to be the best guides. In Krakow's Jewish quarter you are spoilt for choice.
- Singer: This is a bar where you can eat or have a drink, very close to the Isaac's Synagogue. You will find an old house transformed into a modern pub, whose tables are Singer sewing machines. The place is renowned for its mulled wine and high quality beer.
- Mleczarnia: Another traditional bar in the Jewish quarter, decorated with family paintings. They have a full vodka menu that you might want to try.
- Alchemia od Kuchni: Another recommended neighbourhood bar that has kept its original furnishings. Here you can have a refreshing beer and although these are places already known by tourists, you will also find locals who will be able to give you many more recommendations to continue enjoying Krakow.
7. Old Synagogue (or Stara)
A must-see if you want to visit the oldest synagogue in Poland. It was built in the 15th century and had to be renovated several times. The Nazi regime used this place as a warehouse. At the end of the war it was restored and today houses the Jewish collection of the Historical Museum of Krakow.
On your visit to this place you can see an exhibition of traditional objects and instruments used in the celebration of Hanukkah.
- The synagogue is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm in winter and closes at 5pm in summer. On Mondays there are special opening hours from 10 am to 2 pm.
- The entrance fee is 10 zł per person and on Mondays the entrance is free of charge.
8. The Synagogue and Remuh Cemetery
The Remuh Synagogue is perhaps the smallest of all the synagogues you can see in the Jewish Quarter, and when you visit it you have access to the cemetery. It is an austere place but it will connect you completely with the Jewish tradition in a very nostalgic way that is hard to explain.
The name Remuh comes from Moses Isserles, a prominent intellectual and rabbi of the time (16th century). Originally built in Renaissance style, it was later destroyed by the Nazis, who used to use these holy places as storehouses.
This Synagogue remains active and when you visit it you can explore up close what is a bimah, the square iron space where the Torah, the holy book of Judaism, is read. You can also see a hejal, a small cloth-covered boot where the Torah is kept.
If you visit this Synagogue, be aware of the required dress code, as in most cases you will be required to wear simple clothing and modest, reserved clothing that shows little skin.
9. The New Cemetery
For many people it may seem strange to include cemeteries in a list of recommended travel destinations. However, there are many examples around the world of cemeteries with details that make them attractive to travellers. The New Cemetery in the Jewish quarter of Krakow is one of them for me.
It was opened in 1800, when the Remuh Cemetery was closed. After the Nazi invasion the cemetery was closed and its gravestones were used as building material. In the 1950s the reconstruction of this place began, which today houses about ten thousand graves, memorials to victims of the Holocaust, many of them built from pieces of headstones that were recovered.
The cemetery is open all week, except Saturday, from 9:30 am to 6 pm. Admission is free.
10. Podgórze, the former Kraków Ghetto
I include this place in this list because although it is south of the Vistula River, it is the other area of the Jewish quarter that I consider important to know, as this is where the ghetto of the city of Kraków was established.
Both Podgórzyn and Kazimierz were independent districts of Kraków before the 18th century. Today this place is one of the city's districts, especially for young university students and professionals. It has also become home to families with small children.
If you visit Podgórze, you will be within walking distance of the famous Oskar Schindler Factory, a place you will definitely want to visit for its historical impact.
11. Father Bernatek Bridge
Of course I couldn't forget a recommendation for romantic travellers. You know that in almost every European city you will find a bridge from which hang padlocks left by lovers. In Krakow this place is the Father Bernatek Bridge, which connects the districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze. Two areas that are known as the Jewish District and the Old Jewish Ghetto, respectively.
The bridge was opened in 2010 and is 130 metres long. Some call it, not surprisingly, the "bridge of love". No cars cross this bridge. It can only be crossed on foot or by bicycle.
There are undoubtedly many things to see and do in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. But I would also like to recommend that you include in your trip to the city other places that are a must if you want to explore the rich culture and history of this city. The Auschwitz Concentration Camp is one of them. A visit that may not be suitable for every type of traveller, as it requires special sensitivity. I recommend this article with 10 tips for visiting Auschwitz from Krakow.