Kraków - Step into Poland's exquisite second city

30-301 Kraków City center: 1.2 km
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Historical Kraków has seen its popularity soar in recent years, but the city still holds some secrets. Visitors are attracted to the medieval beauty of the Main Square, the festive feel of the Christmas markets, or the cheap drinks and traditional Polish cheer in the city’s many pubs and bars. However, for curious travellers, there is much more to Kraków. This is one of the most religious cities in Eastern Europe, and the Roman Catholic churches are well worth a visit. The St. Mary's Basilica is a must-see, as is the 900-year-old Wawel Cathedral, where Pope John Paul II was ordained. Underneath the city there are even more churches and places of worship–all carved out of salt! The city’s salt mines are out of this world, and give a gruelling insight into the lives of the Polish working class just a few years ago.

Location: Kraków–Where Western Europe meets Eastern Europe

Kraków is situated in the south of Poland, and is well serviced across Europe by the John Paul II International Airport, just outside the city. There is a busy network of trains and trams that connect the city and its suburbs, but unless you speak at least a little Polish, they can be tricky to navigate. Luckily, taxis are cheap and easy to find.

Business: New opportunities for contemporary Kraków

For decades, Kraków was closed off to the outside world under Stalinist Russia, but while a few relics from the Soviet era remain, Kraków has now completely reinvented itself. As a member of the EU, Poland has capitalised on its existing manufacturing bases and skilled workforce to attract huge investment in the industrial sectors. Kraków has been one of the main beneficiaries of this economic revolution. Huge multinational companies, such as Warner Bros, Google, and IBM have their European headquarters in the city, and a 2011 UN report named Kraków the most promising city location for investment in global outsourcing projects.

Culture: Respect for the past

The Old City of Kraków was one of the first places to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. As such, it is beautifully preserved and offers a fascinating insight into the city’s past. While Kraków has modernised over the past few years, with American-style malls and fast food outlets, the city’s history is reflected in its culture. The Opera Krakowska and the Academy of Music frequently play music from Poland’s own composers.

Activities: A haven for winter sports

Kraków has long and snowy winters, so it is no surprise that the city is surrounded by ski resorts. Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and ice hockey are popular with the locals, and a lot more affordable than other European resorts. Kraków residents are also football mad, and the city boasts a number of popular teams. The recently opened Kraków Arena hosts regular indoor sporting events, such as the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship.