Interesting Krakow Facts That Will Blow Your Mind!
Poland has long stood as one of the key crossroads of culture in Europe, and nowhere is this truer than in Krakow. After Warsaw, it is the largest city in Poland, was the nation’s capital until 1596, and remains one of the most vibrant commercial and cultural centers in Eastern Europe.
Moreover, Krakow has been a historic multicultural melting pot, with Poles, Germans, Jews, Russians, Slavs, and groups from all around Eastern Europe. The city’s architecture reflects that diverse and ever-evolving history, being home to buildings built in Gothic, Eastern Orthodox, Baroque, Soviet, and Modern styles.
That diversity has given rise to many fun facts about Krakow.
Interesting Krakow facts #1
Krakow or Cracow?
“What’s in a name?”
Ask citizens of Krakow – or, should we say, Cracow? Should this article be about “Krakow facts” or “Cracow facts?” Why the confusion?
In the West, we use “C” for a lot of things that Polish, Russian, and other Eastern European languages designate with a “K.” For centuries, “Cracow” was the more popular English spelling. Then along came Google, the world got more interconnected, tourism to “Krakow” shot up, and before you knew it, the “Krakow” had supplanted “Cracow” as the most common version. Search the two on Google, and you get 139 million results for “Krakow” and just under 6 million for “Cracow.”
Go back in time, and you’ll get even more variations. The Arab-Jewish traveler Ibrahim ibn Yaqub refers to it as “Cracoua” in his 966 records of the city, Ptolemy in the second century refers to it as “Carrodunum,” and any Polish readers have probably been waiting for us to give the official Polish version, “Kraków.”
The spelling of the name is just one of countless quirky Krakow or Cracow, Poland facts.
Fun Cracow Facts #2
It’s forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. Locals hate them, no wonder why. They are pooping on the balconies and steal the food.
We lived in Krakow for more than 2 years and we know how awful these birds are.
One summer day, a pigeon flew into our apartment and hid under the bed. We spent a lot of time trying to kick him out!
Krakow Fun Facts #3
A Record-Setting Market Square
For a historic spin on our fun facts about Krakow, Poland, consider its core. The entire Old City is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the one city to receive that honor.
Moreover, the Old City’s Main Market Square is the largest remaining Medieval plaza in Europe, measuring an astonishing 40,000 square kilometers. It boasts 154 shrines, including the oldest remaining shrine in the city of St. Adalbert, built in the tenth century, and seven synagogues, testaments to the city’s storied Jewish community.
Check out our ultimate guide to Krakow to see the best places to visit in this city!
Krakow Poland Facts #4
Big Head Sculpture
It’s behind the Sukiennice at Rynek.
The Big Head sculpture is a really weird landmark of Krakow.
For locals, it’s a very popular meeting point. What exactly this sculpture presents? It’s Eros Bendato, the head of love god. The band on his eyes symbolize the blindness of love.
Krakow Facts #5
A History-Making Pope
For more Krakow, Poland facts, we turn to one of its most famous residents.
John Paul II was without question one of the most memorable popes and Catholic figures in modern history. He was the Archbishop of Krakow from 1964 until his election as Pope in 1978, becoming the first Polish pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. A statue of John Paul II now stands outside the Archbishop’s Palace.
Interesting Facts About Krakow #6
Penis in Adam Mickiewicz Statue
Adam Mickiewicz sculpture is the most popular statue in Krakow. It’s in the center of Market Square.
At the bottom of the sculpture, there are statues of the Four Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel and courage.
Every tourist that comes to Krakow sees it. But only a few people see a hidden penis in the courage sculpture.
You can see it only at a right angle.
It’s a prank sculptor made for the most perceptive tourists.
Fun Facts About Krakow #7
For Whom the Bell Tolls (and Trumpets Blare)
One of the most pervasive facts about Krakow, Poland which visitors immediately notice is St. Mary’s Trumpet Call, a traditional five-note Polish tune that marks every hour, and has been a staple of life in the city for centuries.
Legend has it that it commemorates a trumpeter warning the city of a Mongol invasion in 1240. The trumpeter was killed, and likewise, the tune stops abruptly after the fifth note. On a more triumphant note, the trumpet blast was played to announce the Polish troops’ part in the Allied victory at the Battle of Monte Cassino on May 18, 1944.
St. Mary’s Trumpet Call is one of those fun facts Krakow citizens of all stripes know. So great a symbol of Krakovian and Polish life is St. Mary’s Trumpet Call that the noon playing of the tune is broadcast globally on Polish radio for Poles around the world.
St. Mary’s Trumpet isn’t the only sound that defines a Krakow life, however.
Still, more Krakow interesting facts surround the mighty Royal Sigmund Bell, cast in 1520, is tolled on days of great royal or national importance. What sets this 500-year old bell apart? The fact that it’s so massive at 13-tons that it takes 12 bell ringers to toll, and that local legends claim touching it when no one is looking will bring love to those who are feeling lonely.
Fun Facts About Krakow Poland #8
The Jewish Quarter
No list of interesting facts about Krakow and the city’s unique cultural heritage would be complete without a mention of Kazimierz.
Of Krakow’s seven synagogues, six are in Kazimierz, the city’s Jewish Quarter and one of the historic hubs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. For centuries, the city remained separate from Krakow until its integration in the eighteenth century, with many of its homes decorated with the Star of David, and continued to be distinctly Jewish until the Nazi invasion of Poland.
However, the historical and cultural legacy of Kazimierz as a center of Polish and Jewish life has remained, so much so that Steven Spielberg shot most of Schindler’s List in the city despite most of the events on which it is based taking place elsewhere. Further helping Kazimierz reclaim and preserve its Jewish identity is its Jewish Cultural Festival, begun in 1988, a nine-day celebration of Jewish cuisine, music, culture, art, and life from around the Diaspora.
Krakow Interesting Facts #9
When you are entering Sukiennice walking from Mariacki church, look up. You will see a knife there.
It has a very bloody history … According to the legend, one man killed his brother with this knife and then he committed suicide.
Other people say that the knife was a warning sign to residents. He reminded that in Krakow a crime was punishable by death.
Fun Cracow Facts #10
Wawel Legend of the Dragon
Let’s end our look at fun facts about Krakow with a fantastical legend. Those certainly aren’t unheard of for Polish city origins. A popular legend about Warsaw involves a fisherman saving and falling in love with a mermaid, and a statue of the Mermaid of Warsaw now adorns the Old City.
Where Warsaw has a mermaid, Krakow’s legend features a dragon. This legend has it that a dragon once lived near Wawel, demanding regular offerings and threatening to eat the local population before it was slain by either a cobbler’s apprentice or the sons of King Krakus, the founder of the city. Wawel has been a center of Krakow life throughout its history, from the construction of Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral to its days at the center of the Grand Duchy of Krakow.
This also lets us take a look at some facts about Krakow internationally. A column from Wawel Castle was incorporated in Chicago’s Tribune Tower in 1925 as a tribute to the city’s huge Polish population, one of the biggest in the world outside Poland.
Fun Facts About Krakow #11
Krakow is a city with the largest number of students in Poland. There are more than 200,000 students and only 700,000 inhabitants.
That’s why one of the best parties in Poland are in Krakow!
Not only the Poles study in Krakow. Students from all over the world also come here, mainly because of the Erasmus student exchange.
Interesting Facts About Krakow #12
It is believed that under St. Gereon’s chaple there is a chakra that emanates intensive power. This power can heal illness and gives strong boost of energy.