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Krakow's Kazimierz - spaces worth seeing

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

"Take the train anyhow." Let me tell you that from time to time I like to do, as the reliable Maryla suggested. As you may have guessed, due to the height, I don't necessarily have to worry about ticket inspection. Today I will tell you about my last trip in this style. The train I jumped on was going to Krakow.

I walk into the compartment, and one type immediately caught my attention. Backpack, off-road boots, a worn-out case with a cherry guitar. My attention was caught by the gleam in my eye and the bright gaze, which I think he wanted to reach further than what was visible outside the window. I had a few hours of driving ahead of me, I was bored, and I'm a talker, so I immediately asked:

G. "Are you going somewhere? I'm Gajdek ...".

M. "Actually, I'm coming back" he smiled and looked at me, evidently the dwarf did not make an impression on him - you can see that he was eating bread from more than one oven. "It's nice that you talked, Krakow is a long way. My name is Mateusz."

G. "So what, Krakus? Maybe you would recommend something in Kazimierz, by the way, I will direct my steps there?

M. "Oh yes, I've been living near Wawel for a dozen or so years, and I have lived in Kazimierz district itself for an equal amount of 7"

G. "Great, I hit it! Could you tell me something about this district?"

M: Sure, what exactly do you need?

G. I don't know, actually. The last time I was in Krakow was 10 years ago at a bachelor party and I don't remember much. What am I going to see?

M. I will tell you, what it looks like from my perspective - it will be easier for me. For me, Kazimierz has several overlapping spaces. The first, classic, are places associated with Jewish culture. If you see groups of Jewish tourists on Szeroka Street, they will probably disappear sooner or later within the walls of the almost 500-year-old Remuh synagogue. Why there? Because at the back of the synagogue, among the trees, you will find the tombstone of Mojżesz Isserles - probably the most famous rabbi of Kazimierz. Anyway, it's not just about him. For Jews, the cemetery at the synagogue is an avenue of fame and a religious pantheon rolled into one. Pilgrims from all over the world come here. This creates the local atmosphere of this place. At the very street, there are three of the seven preserved synagogues in Kazimierz on Szeroka, and in one of them you can see a museum exhibition about Jewish culture in this area of former jewish district.

G: Ok, you are talking about pilgrims, did any local Jews survive in Kraków?

M. Yes, we have a few Jewish communities but compared to the pre-war times it is a negligible number. If you want to get to know this environment a bit more, check the JCC website at Miodowa Street or the Galicia Jewish Museum - they organize a lot of open activities available to everyone. In the latter institution, you can even attend the opening of the Sabbath on Friday.

G: Just like that, no one will protest that a dwarf joins?

M. Just like you've seen British tourists in Krakow, nothing impresses you anymore. Better check the website beforehand, because there are events that you need to sign up for. On this topic, I recommend you also atmospheric restaurants with Jewish cuisine and klezmer music - you will also find them at Szeroka Street. Come sometime in June and you will come to the Jewish Culture Festival. It lasts several days and has dozens of different events in Kazimierz. It presents Jewish culture as it is today, so don't be surprised if you will encounter Argentine rhythms or an Israeli rapper alongside klezmer concerts in synagogues.

G: You live in Kazimierz from what I hear. I already like it. What about the other spaces you mentioned.

M. The latter is actually related to the former - it is impossible to understand this district without going back in time. The history of the last century in Kazimierz is associated with great pain and human tragedy, because the world of Polish Jews almost disappeared after the war. I like to talk about it myself, showing frames from Steven Spielberg's excellent film "Schindler's List", whose scenes were shot, among others, on the pavement of Kazimierz. Foreign guests often ask about this film, and I can take them, for example, to Szeroka Street, which played the main square of the Krakow ghetto in the film, or to the courtyard between Józefa and Meisels Street, where Spielberg shot one of the scenes of the liquidation of the ghetto. In such places it is easier to interpret this space.

G. You intrigued me, every Krakus talks about his city in such a way?

M. I don't know if everyone, but you found a Krakow guide at the train station in Gdańsk: D

G. That's good! So you do it every day?

M. Actually, yes. More broadly, it deals with storytelling. I do it on the city pavement, mountain trail, stage boards or on the dance floor of the training room. I am a tourist guide and trainer.

G. Okay, but let's go back to Kazimierz, anything else I should know?

M. There is also the third, most visible space of the district. You will experience it most clearly near Plac Nowy and on Joseph Street. Part of Kazimierz, inhabited by Jews, was considered poor before the war. Until the 1990s, there was a 'black legend' of a run-down, dangerous neighborhood that was avoided after dark. When I moved in in 2006, I was mostly warned. Such an environment has become a paradise for alternative artists and pubs and galleries related to the niche art began to appear. In the 90s, Singer was first, and then Alchemia was founded, the founders of which initiated many concerts, including the entire jazz festival in Kazimierz. The oldest pubs are similar to each other, i.e. you feel like at your grandfather's in the attic. They are full of old furniture, family photos on the walls, and you can go from one room to another through the wardrobe. Such an old school, but resulting not so much from fashion as from need, because in the 90s there was a shortage of new equipment and money for them in newly created pubs. When you walk around the district, it is necessary to enter one of them: Singer, Alchemia, Dairy or Eszeweria. Walk along Józefa Street and look into tiny galleries and atmospheric shops. For shopping or just for photos.

G. Thanks, I haven't received such a dose of knowledge for a long time. I feel that to assimilate it now I have to accept one beer in Wars bar, I invite you.

M. Here you go! I have recorded a dozen or so stories about Kazimierz, which make up the tourist route - they will help you clarify, what we were talking about and clarify a few threads needed to understand the district. Krakow is not jus Wawel castle and market square.

I will send you a link to the mobile application with this route. I believe that it will be useful to you.

G: City Guides App? I know this tool from somewhere: D thanks a lot!

PS. If you want to learn more about the attractions of Krakow, this post may also prove useful:

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