Kraków, or Cracow, Poland, one of the nation's largest cities and the capital of Malopolskie province. It is on the Vistula River in southern Poland near the Carpathian Mountains.
Kraków is a major industrial city, producing iron and steel, machinery, transportation equipment, chemicals, and foods. Huge iron and steel works are in Nowa Huta, a suburb. Kraków is also a center of commerce and a transportation hub.
Culturally, Kraków is one of the leading cities of Poland. Noted buildings include the royal Wawel Castle, with its medieval walls and towers; a large Gothic cathedral; and the 14th-century Cloth Hall, which stands in the main downtown square. Jagiellonian University (also called the University of Kraków), founded in 1364, is one of the oldest universities in Europe. Kraków has excellent museums and libraries, several symphony orchestras, and an opera company.
Kraków was founded about 700 A.D. and by the 10th century had become the seat of a bishopric and an important trading center. The city was the home of Polish kings from 1320 until 1596. Many of the fine buildings and monuments date from that time. Although Warsaw was the capital, Kraków continued to be the coronation and burial site for Polish monarchs until the late 18th century.
Kraków city came under Austrian rule after Poland was partitioned in 1795. The city and adjacent areas were an independent republic from 1815 until 1846, when the city again came under Austrian rule.
After World War I Kraków was made part of the reestablished Poland. In World War II, the city was captured and held by the Germans. It was occupied by the Soviets in 1945.
Karol Wojtyla was the archbishop of Kraków before becoming Pope John Paul II in 1978.