Kazimierz - History and Facts | History Hit


Lily Johnson

10 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kazimierz

Kazimierz is home to Krakow’s historic Jewish District, and provides an atmospheric walk around its beautiful streets. With ample food and drink establishments and a wealth of Jewish history to explore, Kazimierz is a must-see for any visit to Krakow.

Kazimierz history 

Kazimierz was traditionally outlined by an old island in the Vistula River, on which 3 early medieval settlements are known to have sat. At the tip of the island lay Skałka, a significant pre-Christian Slavic shrine with a sacred pool, that in the 11th century was Christianised as the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. At this legendary site St Stanisław was martyred. 

On 27 March, 1335 King Casimir III of Poland declared this area of Krakow to be named Kazimierz, after himself. Defensive walls were built around the area, and the new city was given special privileges.

Jews had long played an important role in Krakow’s cultural and economic life, and following devastating fires in 1494 many of the Jewish community were moved out of the ravaged Old Town and into Kazimierz. With permission, they built a wall around their new community which was gradually expanded as the Jewish population grew. The area became known as Oppidum Judaeorum – the Jewish City – and quickly installed itself as the community’s spiritual and cultural centre.

During World War Two, the Jews of Krakow were forced by the Nazis into the Podgórze ghetto across the river. When it was liquidated in 1942-3, most of its inhabitants were sent to extermination, slave-labour, and concentration camps including the nearby Auschwitz, and Kazimierz’s Jewish population was largely wiped out.

In 1988 however, a rejuvenation of the district’s culture began to occur with the annual Jewish Cultural Festival established. This became Europe’s largest Jewish festival of cultural and music, and helped to restore some of the area’s immense cultural and spiritual energy.

Kazimierz today

Today Kazimierz provides an atmosphere unlike any other in Krakow. Its historic streets remain as they did decades ago, while in some places striking murals breathe new life into the area. A number of historic Synagogues also feature throughout Kazimierz, including the impressive Old Synagogue that now houses a museum focused on Jewish history.

Dozens of restaurants and cafes welcome visitors to enjoy their unique menus, while the local market at Plac Nowy offers a host of delicious Polish delicacies. Singer Cafe is a particularly good spot to grab some food or a drink in the evening, with its moody interior and sewing machine tables an intriguing backdrop for a well-earned rest stop!

Getting to Kazimierz 

Kazimierz is located just south of Krakow Old Town, and is a 15-minute walk away from the Main Square. The nearest bus and tram stops are at Miodowa (on Starowislna) or Stradom (on Stradomska), both on the edge of the district.