“The treasure of Poland,” Kraków is a city born from magical lore. Legend has it that it was founded upon the defeat of a dragon, slain by the mythical King Krak. It is this telling tale—coupled with a history stretching as far back as 20,000 B.C.—that seems to infuse a certain magical quality into Kraków travel through its picturesque streets.

Standing in southern Poland near the border of the Czech Republic, Kraków is not simply a historic and visual gem. It is Poland’s second largest city and spreads across both banks of the Wisla (Vistula) River along the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. It is perhaps best known for its well-preserved medieval urban center, the largest in all of Europe, as well as its haunting Kazimierz, the former Jewish Quarter.

Kraków travel reveals a history where the city was almost entirely destroyed in 1241 by Tatars and subsequently rebuilt to a design that remains largely unchanged to the present day. The only obvious difference are the architectural influences cherry picked across the eras, with Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau structures and additions overlaid on top of one another. This unique journey through time is best experienced along Kraków’s Royal Route, which begins among the soaring churches, impressive museums, and vast Rynek Główny market square—the site of Europe’s largest market square as well as the Renaissance-era trading post Cloth Hall and the 14th century Gothic church of St. Mary’s Basilica—within medieval Old Town. It then continues south toward the royal residence, Wawel Castle, atop Wawel Hill. From the remnant synagogues of Kazimierz and their accompanying stories of 20th century tragedy to the bohemian western quarter symbolizing the renewal of 21st century nightlife, it is no wonder why Kraków was included as the first of its kind on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and why Kraków travel remains integral to the Central European tourism industry.

Kraków travel with Ker & Downey is an entree into the real Polish way of life. Private tours through the mysterious underground crystal galleries of the Wieliczka Salt Mine metropolis and vodka and pickle tastings in a Polish family’s private home are just a couple of the special experiences exclusive to Ker & Downey in your next Kraków travel diary and Central European escape.