World Heritage Site
The original area of Kraków’s memorable entry on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List covered nearly 150 hectares: with the Old Town area founded in 1257, Wawel Hill, the districts of Kazimierz (a medieval Jewish town, founded in 1335) and Stradom. The entry was made on the basis of criterion IV – classifying those sites as ‘an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history’. In 2016, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee adopted a retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the historic centre of Kraków.
Kraków was a strong commercial, artisanal and artistic centre, and it also became a strong university centre as of 1364, bringing together representatives of various nations. It includes the largest number of historic buildings of the highest historical and artistic value in the country. The area of the world heritage is still a vibrant cultural, administrative, commercial, academic and religious centre of the city, varied in terms of the amount and value of the monuments, cultural traditions, and the social status of the residents. It is the most visited city in Poland (over 13 million tourists annually). The wealth of the preserved heritage and its high rankings among the cities in the country require a multi-directional approach in the management process.
The area of the world heritage is protected by legal conservation by entering both the urban layout and individual objects into the monuments register. Objects of lesser value are included in the records of monuments. Since 1994, this area has also been covered by an additional form of protection, it is a Monument of History –‘Kraków – Historic City Complex’, established by the President of the Republic of Poland in a decree of 8 September 1994.
A Monument of History is one of the five forms of monument protection listed in the Act of 23 July 2003 On The Protection Of Monuments, distinguishing immovable monuments of particular importance to culture. The Monument of History ‘Kraków – Historic City Complex’ includes the area of the World Heritage Site, as well as the surrounding areas of the districts of Kleparz, Piasek, Nowy Świat, Wesoła and Podgórze. In recent years, the city authorities have also been endeavouring to obtain recognition as a monument of history for the cultural landscape of Nowa Huta with the Cistercian abbey in Mogiła and part of Krzesławice.
A buffer zone was established around the area inscribed in the List, approved in 2010. It was largely established in the Monument of History area. The zone coincides with the urban systems of nineteenth-century Kraków and the former town of Podgórze founded by the Austrians in 1792 on the right bank of the Vistula River. It also encompasses the northern part of the Vistula boulevards that offer panoramic views of the city.
The inscription in the Register of Historic Monuments of Urban Planning allows for the limitation of large-scale investments interfering with the views of the UNESCO area. The buffer zone provides a wide range of protection possibilities with local acts, especially local zoning plans, cultural parks and management plans.
Historic Centre of Kraków on the official UNESCO website
Text: Halina Rojkowska-Tasak
Edited by the Kraków Heritage team