Kraków, also Cracow or Krakow, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. the Free City of Kraków from 1815 to 1846; the Grand Duchy of Cracow from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1998. It has been the capital of Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999.
The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Polands second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Kraków became the capital of Germanys General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to German extermination camps such as the nearby Auschwitz never to return, and the Nazi concentration camps like Płaszów.
In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II — the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. as well as one of the most unique destinations in the world, its extensive cultural heritage across the epochs of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture includes the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle on the banks of the Vistula river, the St. Marys Basilica, Saints Peter and Paul Church and the largest medieval market square in Europe, the Rynek Główny. Kraków is home to Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in the world and traditionally Polands most reputable institution of higher learning.
In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. In 2013 Kraków was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature. The city hosted the World Youth Day in July 2016.
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