Kazimierz, the heart of Jewish Krakow,
is now a thriving district, a mixture of cultural festivals,
café culture, antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and bars, a place to watch the world go by over a coffee or to catch up with friends.
However, it would be wrong to talk about Kazimierz merely in those terms, for any visitor, regardless of nationality or religious persuasion, it's worth pointing out that Kazimierz's history spans centuries. It was originally established in 1335 and named after its founder, King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great), who intended it to rival the established city of Krakow.
It remains one of the most culturally significant Jewish areas in the world. In 1495, the Jews who were expelled from Krakow settled here, and Kazimierz became a mixture of Christian and Jewish culture.
During the war the Nazis did all they could to destroy and ruin Kazimierz. After the war, decades of communist neglect left Kazimierz a crumbling ruin. It became a dark and dangerous place, a district to be avoided after nightfall.
With communism's fall, Kazimierz has changed beyond all recognition. As well as the aforementioned art galleries and cafés, buildings have been renovated and museums opened. There has also been a reawakening in the importance of Jewish history and culture in Poland, for instance, the Jewish Culture Festival which takes place every year attracts thousands of visitors, both Jews and non-Jews alike.
Perhaps one of the most important factors in Kazimierz's renewal was Steven Spielberg's film, Schindler's List, which was filmed here and which generated intense interest in the area.
With its beguiling streets, unforgettable and unique atmosphere, synagogues and museums, as well as its cafés, bars and art galleries, Kazimierz is a place that anyone who comes to Krakow must visit.