Welcome to Kazimierz, the historic Jewish district of Krakow! For centuries, Kazimierz was the capital city of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and it was home to some of the world’s most famous rabbis. Among them was Moses ben Israel Isserles, better known as Remu. Today, Kazimierz is a vibrant district with a rich history and culture. I hope you enjoy your time here! Below please find a short description of a walking tour in Krakow with a guide.
WALKING TOUR IN KRAKOW: JEWISH QUARTER
The tour begins at Szeroka street, which looks more like a square than a street. It is an essential place in the history of the district and for many years was one of its key spots. At Szeroka Street you will find the Remuh Synagogue and the Remuh Cemetery, which is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. However, these are not the only synagogues that survived in Kazimierz. During the tour, on Szeroka street you also have a chance to take a look at the Old Synagogue, which is the oldest synagogue in Poland, and the house of Helena Rubinstein.
But Szeroka is not only a historical site. It is still vibrant, with numerous restaurants located in the surrounding tenement houses, luring you to stop by after you’ve finished sightseeing Kazimierz. You will taste here not only traditional Jewish cuisine but also dishes from around the world. It is also here, at Szeroka Street, that the Jewish Culture Festival takes place, being one of the largest in Europe. Over a few summer days, the street resounds with Jewish music and Klezmer songs. During the festival, many other cultural events take place, including numerous exhibitions, lectures, and theatre performances.
Leaving Szeroka, you take a stroll along many other streets of the district, which is the perfect opportunity to admire more Synagogues: the High Synagogue and the Isaac Synagogue. By the way, during the walk, you pass by numerous stores that perfectly reflect the historic atmosphere of the district thanks to their signboards and decor. Make sure to visit them later, and peek into some of them to enjoy the interiors and the variety of goods they offer, from antiques of various kinds through handmade products to different pieces of contemporary art. These are truly magical places; many people like to return there on their subsequent visits to Krakow.
VISITING KRAKOW’S GHETTO
A visit to Krakow is not complete without a walking tour of the city’s important historical sites. One such site is the old Jewish ghetto in the Podgórze district. This district tells the story of brave and devoted people who risked their own lives during the Second World War to help the Jewish residents of the ghetto.
The ambiance of the present-day should not make us oblivious to the fact that, unfortunately, it has also darker secrets. World War II witnessed the extermination of Krakow’s Jewish community (approximately 60 thousand people). Right on the other side of the Vistula River was the Krakow Ghetto. Jews from Kazimierz were resettled there, and then, one by one, taken into extermination camps. A very meaningful monument in the Ghetto Heroes Square commemorates the history of this place. Empty chairs symbolize Jews waiting for deportation.
Not much is left of Krakow’s Ghetto, but pieces of what used to be walls surrounding it that still remind us of the tragic events of that period. There are also places reminding us that even in those troubled times there were people ready to help others, often at the risk of losing their own lives. One of such places is the Eagle Pharmacy, connected with the person of Tadeusz Pankiewicz – a Pole who helped to save many Jews. The pharmacy was turned into a museum and is open to visitors.
Another important place is the Schindler’s factory, whose owner saved over 1000 people of Jewish origin from extermination. In 2010, a museum was opened in the former factory building. The walking tour in Krakow Jewish Quarter & Ghetto will end here. Visiting the museum is not included in the tour program, but it is possible to request it additionally.
Additional information about the walking tour in Krakow
On this tour, you’ll also visit sites related to the film “Schindler’s List. You’ll hear inspiring stories from the Second World War and learn more about the city’s fascinating past. The above-described tour takes about 2 hours. To deepen your knowledge about World War II, I recommend visiting the Schindler’s Factory. Particularly noteworthy is the permanent exhibition with various multimedia installations allowing you to travel back in time and step into the shoes of Krakow residents during the war.