Krakow third largest city in Poland.,known primarily for its grand historical style and cultural leadership.Its marketplace(Main Square) has existed since 13 th century. and a modern landscaped area is laid out on the site of past fortifications.

Krakow was the home of the Wislanie tribe(Vistulans), who occupied Malopolska(Little Poland) until the 10th century.From 988 to 990 King Mieszko I united the southern and northern territories to form a powerful kingdom: and his son, Boleslaw I the Brave, made Krakow the seat of Polish bishopric.The city expanded rapidly as a trade centre, becoming capital of one of Poland`s major principalities in 1138.It was devastated by Tatar invasion during the 13th century but was quickly rebuilt, receiving "Magdeburg rights," which consisted of municipal constitution, in 1257.

When King Wladyslaw I the Short reunited Poland he made Krakow his capital in 1320, after which the kings of Poland were crowned in Wawel Castle and entombed in Wawel Cathedral, booth on Wawel Hill.Throughout the 14th century Krakow served as Poland`s economic and political centre and as a major trading point between England and Hungary.The city`s architectural development was overhelming.The many medival structures include the Jagiellonian University, founded by Casimir I , the Great in 1364, second oldest in central Europe; it made Krakow one of Europe`s foremost culturalcentres.

By 1600 Krakow`s grandeur had begun its decline.The Jagiellon dynasty soon come to an end, and in 1609 King Sigismund III Vasa moved his capital to Warsaw.With the 17th century came the devastating Swedish wars, the plague, numerous fires, and religious upheval.In 1794, Tadeusz Kosciuszko led an anti-Russian insurrection.As the political and religious order was destroyed, so Krakow`s physical appereance fell to ruin.Between 1795 and 1918 the city was controlled by Austria, except from 1809 to 1815, when it existed as part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, and from 1815 to 1846 when, with its surrounding territory, it formed an independent republic.Duringthe latter half of the 19th century the city redeveloped under relaxed Austrian control until it regained its formed stature.

In 1918 Krakow returned to Poland only to be taken by the Germans at the beginning of World War II.The German governor , who made his headquarters in Wawel Castle, sent some 55.000 Jews from the city to the Oswiecim - Brzezinka (Auschwitz-Birkenau) concentration camp.In 1945 Krakow was liberated by a suprise attack made by Russian forces,thus preventing destruction of the town by the Nazis.After the war , Krakow rebuilt its industry, which includes textile milling, chemical works, food processing,stone cutting and metallurgical facilities.

A vast number of historical buildings remain in the city. Some 60 old churches have notable architecture.Among the most renowned is the Church of Virgin Mary(Mariacki Church), whose main section dates from 1497. It contains a stained glass window from 1370 and magnificent altar (1477-89) by Vit Stwosz.Wawel Cathedral(built c.1018: rebuild 1142 and 14th century) was renovated in 1772 in the Gothic style.Krakow`s more modern cultural attractions include 22 museums (especially National Museum), 6 theatres, and an opera house.