Beside the Old Town, the Kazimierz District is the most significant center of cultural life in Krakow, where Christian and Jewish traditions intertwine, and modern cafés and night clubs are located right next to traditional Jewish restaurants or antique synagogues.
In 1335, Kazimierz was granted a charter of Magdeburg rights by king Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki). Until the 19th century, it was a separate town south of Krakow. Although Kazimierz is mainly associated with the Jewish people that used to live there, the creation of the town was not caused by the necessity to provide a separate territory for the Jewish community. At first, Kazimierz was supposed to be a trade partner for Krakow and protect the city from the south. The Jewish inhabited Kazimierz in the late 15th century, after king John I Albert made them leave Krakow. They settled in the north-eastern part of the town (between the current Józefa, Bożego Ciała, Dajwór and Miodowa streets) which became the Jewish Town.
This has been the center of Jewish culture until the beginning of the 19th century. Moving to other parts of Krakow was made possible in the second half of the century. The outbreak of World War II led to the end of the Jewish presence in Kazimierz. From over 58 thousand Krakow’s Jews, only around 3 thousand survived the war.
Nowadays, the Kazimierz District is one of the most often visited parts of Krakow. There are numerous ancient synagogues (the Old Synagogue, Izaak Synagogue, Kupa, Remuh, and Tempel synagogues) as well as churches (the Corpus Christi Basilica, St. Catherine Church, Trinity Church, and the Skałka Church – a National Pantheon) to visit. It is a place bustling with social and cultural life, with the famous Alchemia, Singer and Les Couleurs cafés, and events such as the Jewish Culture Festival, the Soup Festival, the Bread Festival or the St. Joseph Street Festival that attract crowds of tourists every year. Despite the Wolnica Square with its magnificent Town Hall being the historical center of Kazimierz, Plac Nowy (the New Square) also called the Jewish Square is the place where everything happens.