Jewish Quarter - Kazimierz, Krakow

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    Kazimierz famous churches.

    by breughel Updated Jan 30, 2014

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    Skalka seen from the riverside
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    It might sound odd but several of the most famous and beautiful churches of Krakow are located in the Kazimierz district.

    I started, on a sunny morning, my visit of Kazimierz by following the promenade along the river Vistule-Wisla at the foot of the Wawel hill. Two hundred meters south of the bridge called Grundwaldzki appeared a white building commonly called Skalka which is one of the most important religious sites in Krakow.
    There is a convent and a church called Pauline Church -Kosciol Paulinow "Skalka Monastery & Pauline Church"
    Well worth the visit. It was here that the bishop Stanislaw Szczepanski was beheaded by King Boleslaw in 1079. It was the family of the murderer who built the church to atone for the murder.
    After that visit I continued to Plac Wolnica where at the corner stands the Corpus Christi Church - Kosciol Bozego Ciala "Corpus Christi". It is a massive brick church, one of the largest in town. Like often in Krakow the treasures of art are inside the churches. Most amazing is the imposing pulpit (1750) in the form of a boat with mast and sails supported by two mermaids.
    Impressive both in size, handicraft and gilt is the main altar by Baltazar Kuncz in 1634.

    On Plac Wolnica I visited the Ethnographical museum. Overlooked by tourists but really interesting.
    Getting tired I did not continue to visit the Synagogues (for another year or another life) and on my way back to the river I visited St. Catherine's church - Kosciol Sw. Katarzyny. A church hiding a coffee bar in the cellars of the convent!
    After three churches and one museum I thought deserving some rest at my hotel.

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    St Catherine's Church in Kazimierz.

    by breughel Updated Jan 30, 2014

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    St Catherine's Church - nave and choir
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    On my way back from Plac Wolnica (Kazimierz), where I visited the Ethnographical museum, to the Vistula riverside I made a stop at the St Catherine's Church considered as as one of finest Krakow's Gothic churches (photo 1) . The church was founded in 1363 for the Augustinian order that possess the adjoining monastery. On the other side of the Skaeczna Street, leading to the Skalka, there is a typical covered porch connecting the church to the convent of the Augustinian Sisters .

    I hesitated to visit the St Catherine's Church. It appears from history that this church felt victim to repeated disasters: the roof collapsed in 1443 as a result of the earthquake, there was a flood in 1534 and a fire in 1556. To add to these adversities, during the Swedish invasion the church and monastery were turned into a field hospital, munitions storehouse, and stables. Later it was victim of Austrian vandalism .
    Although earthquakes in Poland are rare, the church was again seriously damaged in 1786. St. Catherine was the only church in Krakow that suffered. Again in 1826 the vaulting of the nave collapsed !

    In spite of this the three-aisle basilica with no towers and no transept is still standing and has kept its gothic look. On the contrary of most Krakow churches the interior is somewhat austere although embellished by a splendid Baroque altarpiece of 1634 (photo 2) and the late Renaissance tomb of Spytek Jordan .
    The adjoining 14th c. monastery with many outstanding medieval and Renaissance frescoes can be visited, it seems.
    St. Catherine shows very fine acoustics so that concerts are held here. That probably explains the fact that at the entrance the visitor is invited to a café (with toilets) in the cellars of the monastery (photo 3 & 4) .

    Open (according to Krakow in your Pocket) from May 10 - 16 h, Saturday 11-14 h, Sunday 13.30-17 h. The website of the church mentions masses on week-days at 7, 8 & 18 h. On Sundays 7, 9, 11, 12.15 & 18 h. No visit during the masses.
    Free entry, photos allowed.

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    Tempel Synagogue

    by Airpunk Written Oct 20, 2013
    Synagoga Tempel, Krak��w
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    The Tempel Synagogue was finished in the 1862 as a religious home for the non-orthodox (reformed) Jews. The design inspired by Leopoldstädter Tempel in Vienna. It survived the Nazi years where it was used as an ammunition chamber and was reconstructed in the late 1940s.
    Tempel Synagogue is active, but due to the reduced Jewish population after WWII, it is rarely used.
    Entry fee 5 zloty, photo permitted (2009). It's nice to see and in my opinion worth a visit. But do not expect an exhibition or a large space inside. You should not need more than a couple of minutes for a visit.

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    Old Synagogue

    by Airpunk Written Oct 20, 2013
    Old Synagogue, Krakow

    The largest Synagogue in Kazimierz was built in 1570 in a clear Renaissance style. The style is clearly visible, though the building has been expanded and refurbished several times. In the war years, it was used by the Nazis as a warehouse. Today, it is not used as a synagogue any more and
    contains Jewish History Museum (opened 1958).
    Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see the exhibition and the collection of Judaica. Please check the website for entry fees and opening times.

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    Izaak Synagogue

    by Airpunk Written Oct 20, 2013
    Izaak Synagogue

    The rich merchant Izaak Jakubowicz donated the money to build the synagogue which was finished in 1644. Some baroque in the interior, but from outside it looks rather simple. The building was vandalized in the nazi years and after being used by the artist union post-WWII, it was damaged by fire in 1970. Old murals were re-discovered during the following renovations. Izaak Synagogue is still temporarily used as such. However, most people come to see the small exhibition. There is an entry fee, sometimes concerts (Klezmer and Classic) are played here.

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    Galicia Jewish Museum

    by Airpunk Written Oct 20, 2013

    I liked this one very much - though it's rather an exhibition of photos than of items. The Galicia Jewish Museum has its focus on Jewish life before and after the war years, but does not forget the Shoa. What I appreaciated was the photo exhibition with ruins and the question what should be done with all the places which are not used anymore. This goes especially for Kazimierz which has lost most of its population. Should you leave the ruins as they are, should you pull it down, should you make an artificial tourist attraction of it? The change is still in process here in Kazimierz. Beside well-explained pictures (English and Polish), it also has temporary art exhibitions. Plan at least an hour for the Galicia Jewish Museum.

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    Places of Interest in Kazimierz

    by Airpunk Written Oct 18, 2013

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    Kazimierz - Landau's House
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    Beside the synagogues and museums, there are some spots which may be of interest too.

    Plac Nowy is one of the main squares and was once famous for its market. Now, many stalls are deserted and it has not the lively atmosphere it had decades ago.

    Kowea Itim le-Tora Synagogue was known as a famous Talmud study centre. The building at Jozefa Street 47 was acquired for the study group in 1810. In the Nazi Years, it was confiscated. After WWII, it was turned in to a living house. (Ul. Jozefa 42)

    Landau's House was once a living house for several rich families and now houses a shop and a restaurant. It became known as Landau's house when all the appartments were joined to form one single mansion for the Landau family. Note the 16th century bricks which are visible in the facade of this building. (Szeroka Street 2)

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    Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery

    by Airpunk Written Oct 18, 2013

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    Remuh Synagogue
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    Remuh Synagogue was finished in 1557 and survived to this date. The building was altered and expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries, but some renaissance elements can still be seen. During the holocaust years, the inventory was sold or destroyed. The synagogue building was used as a storehouse for fire fighting equipment. It was in 1968 that it was refurbished and opened as a synagogue again.
    The cemetery also dates back to the 16th century and is known as the old Jewish cemetery. The last graves date from the early 19th century after the New Jewish Cemetery opened. During the Nazi Years, many tombstones were used as paving stones, but some have been recovered and re-erected at this place.
    There is a small entry fee (5 zloty, 2009) which includes synagogue and cemetery. Men should cover their head when entering either synagogue or cemetery, the synagogue have a limited number of caps (kippahs) which can be borrowed for free.

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    Kazimierz

    by Airpunk Written Oct 18, 2013

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    Restaurants in Kazimierz
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    Once a separate town (founded in 1335 by King Kazimierz Wielki and incorporated into Kraków in 1800), later one of the centres of Jewish life in Europe. With this heritage, it is no surprise that Kazimierz has become a popular spot with tourists after the fall of the iron curtain. Especially since the early 2000s, this area has seen a lot of activity with refurbished buildings as well as the opening of restaurants, shops and museums.

    After the Nazi years, there were very few Jews left in Kazimierz and is still only slowly returning. Therefore, you have to be aware that most places are rather artificial than authentic. For example, of the many synagogues preserved, only two are still used as such while the rest are mainly museums. Still, a lot of effort has been put into the restoration, documentation and revival of Jewish culture.

    There are many places of interest in Kazimierz and those very interested in Jewish culture can easily spend two full days here. For a short overview, half a day should be OK. The single attractions are described in separate tips each.

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    Remuh synagogue.

    by leics Updated Jun 28, 2013

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    Remuh synagogue
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    Remuh is a small synagogue on Ul. Szeroka, dating from 1533 and the second built in Kazimierz. It is still used by the small Jewish community remaining in the area (men have to wear a kippah [skullcap] to visit; available to borrow at the door).

    There have been several changes to its architectural style over the centuries and, of course, it had to be reconstructed post-war. On the left as you enter the prayer hall is a stone offering-box which dates back to the 17th century, and there are some early 20th century murals still to be seen on the wall beneath the women's gallery.

    I was particularly moved by the plaques on the courtyard walls. Erected by survivors and their families (from far and wide), they bring home the reality of being the only one left alive at the end of the war.

    The cemetery attached to Remuh should not be missed.

    When I re-visited in late March 2013 the synagogue and graveyard were closed to the public (both should have been open). It looked as if restoration work to the building was in progress. I could find no information at that time on how long the building would remain closed but another VT-er visited in May and it was open.

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    Kazimerz

    by roamer61 Written Jun 6, 2013

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    The Tempel Synagogue
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    This was and still is the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. Today, there are several Synagogues you can visit, 2 of them still in operation. The 19th Century Tempel Synagogue which is Reformed and the Remuh Synagogue, which dates to the 16th century and is Orthodox. You can also visit the Old Synagogue, which dates to the 15th century. Inside is a museum on Jewish Culture. And, the Isaac Synagogue, which still has visible hebrew text.
    Besides the synagogues, there are 2 museums. The Galicia History Museum, which tells the story of the jews of Southern Poland; and the Ethnographic Museum, not visited on this trip. There is admission to the Synagogues and the museums.

    Finally, you can visit the New Jewish Cemetery, which has monuments dating back to the early 19th century.

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    Plac Nowy - of no interest.

    by breughel Updated May 20, 2013

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    Plac Nowy - Kazimierz

    The booklet "Krakow in your pocket" mentions "if you want something completely different from the Old Town, here it is".
    Indeed completely different and of no interest.
    Comparing the fast food hatch Endzior as a must see like the Coliseum in Rome makes me suspect that either the redactor of "Krakow in your pocket" had been exaggerating on "pivo" or has acquired a high degree of self derision.

    Nevertheless there are two interesting things at Plac Nowy:
    1° There are a couple of taxis waiting to drive you back to the Old Town.
    2° At 200 m southwards you will find the Basilica of Corpus Christi (Kosciol Bozego Ciala) a real must see in Kazimierz-Krakow.

    PS. Reading again my nasty review and looking at those reviews about night life at Plac Nowy, I admit that my bad temper was due to the need of drinking a good Porter beer from Okocim brewery but this "Baltic Porters beer" seemed difficult to find in Krakow.

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    Remuh Synagogue

    by GentleSpirit Written Mar 31, 2013

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    The Remuh Synagogue is the only active synagogue still in Krakow. The original building was constructed in 1556 with permission of King Zygmunt August). Moses Isserles (known as Remuh) was Rabbi of Krakow and director of the local yeshiva. He was responsible for codifying Ashkenazi Jewish Law (Central and Eastern Europe) which is still used today.

    After a series of fires and disasters the synagogue had dilapidated. The Nazis took the building over during World War II and made it into a storehouse. Renovation was only partial, occurring from 1958-68.

    Next to the Synagogue is the Jewish Cemetery, Interestingly, the tomb of Rabbi Isserles has been maintained throughout the centuries by the local jewish community, regardless of the condition of the other graves.

    Hours:
    October: Mon-Fri, Sun 9am-5pm (until 6pm, if there is interest)
    Since November: Mon-Fri, Sun 9am-4pm

    Admission- 5 zloty.

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    the Old Synagogue

    by GentleSpirit Written Mar 31, 2013

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    Entrance to the Old Synagogue

    This is the oldest surviving synagogue in the country. Built in 1570 it was one of the examples of Gothic style synagogues in Central Europe. It was readjusted and expanded over the years, giving it a more Renaissance form.

    In 1941 it was taken over by the Nazis, its furnishing were destroyed and the building served mainly as a warehouse during World War II. Renovated during the Communist period, it now serves as a museum documenting Jewish life in Krakow.

    November – March:
    Mon 10am-2pm (admission free)
    Wed-Thu, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm
    Fri 10am-5pm

    April – October:
    Mon 10am-2pm (admission free)
    Tue-Sun 9am-5pm

    Admission -9 zloty (about 3 USD)

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    Stara Synagogue

    by leics Updated Mar 29, 2013

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    Stara synagogue
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    The Stara synagogue is the oldest in Kazimierz (dating from the early 15th century) and is now the oldest synagogue in Poland. It has, of course, undergone many architectural changes over the centuries and was badly damaged by the Nazis (who used it as a warehouse). The synagogue was renovated after the war, and opened as the Museum of Jewish History and Culture in 1958. There is a monument in front of the museum to the 30 Jews who were exceuted there in 1943 (yes, the two people in the main photo really are sitting on it).

    It is a particularly well-presented museum, with clear labelling in both Polish and English. There are many Jewish artefacts, including a number of Torah scrolls, photos of Kazimierz as it once was and an exhinbition of famous Krakowians. Some of the original wall decorations were uncovered during restoration.

    The rather lovely metalwork bimah dates from the 1600s.

    On my 2013 visit I saw that a rather good computerised version of the Torah scrolls was available. I'd have liked to explore, but a young lady was monopolising the computer! :-)

    It is worth making this synagogue your first visit in Kazimierz, as it really helps to put the area in its correct historical and religious context.

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