Krakow served as the capital of Poland for five centuries, and was awarded the title European Capital of Culture in 2000. Currently it is the artistic and intellectual centre of southern Poland, and one of the most popular tourist spots in Europe. No other European city can boast such a great number of art galleries, theatrical stages, cabarets, restaurants and pubs located in stylish, historical cellars. Krakow’s Main Market Square is the largest mediaeval square in Europe and has always been the heart of the city and still remains the most favourite meeting place for Cracovians, students, tourists and business people. For centuries, the florists’ stalls have been stocked with vibrant flowers, and pigeons have been pecking at crumbs from the local specialty – obwarzanki. The passage of time is market by the bugle call played every hour on the hour from the top of the taller tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – the only musical signal in the world sounded regularly for six centuries.
The city itself boasts 3 of only 12 cities in the world listed on the first UNESCO Heritage List from 1978: the Old Town, the Wawel Royal Castle (located by the Vistula river in Krakow, is one of the most important royal residences), and the Jewish Kazimierz district. The Wieliczka Salt Mine just outside of Krakow is yet another site on the list. The Błonia, because this is how the meadow is called, witnessed several gatherings of millions of the faithful who came here to meet Pope John Paul II.
Krakow is one of the most important university centres in Poland – more than 200,000 people living currently in Krakow are students studying at one of the local universities. The most prestigious one is the Jagiellonian University, the oldest university in Poland which was established in 1364.
Krakow has a well-developed congress and conference tourism infrastructure and hotel facilities adapted for the guests’ needs. Krakow’s convenient geographical location makes it one of the key road, railway and air nodes in Poland. Within just a few hours one can easily make it to Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Berlin or Budapest. All these advantages have already been noticed on numerous occasions, owing to which Krakow was one of the host cities of Poland’s Presid1ency in the European Union Council Council in 2011.