Urząd Miasta Krakowa
Wydział Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego
ul. Wielopole 17A , 31–072 Kraków
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In Austria

by Kraków Heritage team
In Austria In Austria
For Krakow, the entire 19th century was a period of changing fortune. The Austrian partitioner attempted to reduce the city to the status of a garrison, but at the same time it was a period when the Young Poland cultural and artistic movement flourished.

After the fall of the Kościuszko Uprising, Krakow came under Prussian occupation, which, however, didn’t last long: less than a year later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was erased from the maps and the Małopolska region became part of the vast Habsburg Empire. This, in turn, meant that the city was once again relegated to the periphery. However, its symbolic significance was still strong: in 1815, the Congress of Vienna resulted in the establishment of the Free City of Krakow, a state under the influence of the three partitioning powers but with certain privileges and opportunities for development.


The decision to establish a new state body stemmed from the conflict between the empires of the Holy Alliance focused on who should exercise actual power in the former Polish capital. The importance of Krakow grew gradually and its economic situation improved thanks to its location on the important trade routes. The moment of historical prosperity resulted in the completion of a highly successful urban planning project: the Planty Park. Work on the three-kilometre-long green belt surrounding the Old Town, replacing the medieval fortifications, was completed in 1830, and Planty remains one of the city’s showpieces to this day.

At the same time, Krakow lost its deteriorating Town Hall on the Main Square, deemed by the authorities to be ‘misshapen’ and unnecessary – it was demolished in 1820. Only the Gothic tower, still standing today, was left. However, the city gained another symbol: in the same year, three years after the death of Tadeusz Kościuszko, the leader of the failed uprising – who died in Solur, Switzerland, and was buried at Wawel Castle – the building of the Kościuszko Mound began. This unusual form of commemorating a national hero referred to the Krakow tradition of the mounds dedicated to Wanda and Krakus. The Botanical Garden of the Jagiellonian University, managed by Alojzy Estreicher, also flourished during the time of the Free City: in 1824 it had 3,470 plant species and was one of the most interesting sites of this kind in Europe.


After the suppression of the Krakow Uprising, the city was again occupied by the army, this time by that of the Austrians, thus putting an end to the existence of the Free City. In November 1846, Krakow was incorporated into Austria, which crushed aspirations to make it a railway hub. Although a magnificent modern railway station designed by the Breslau architect Peter Rosenbaum was opened a year after the annexation, the city’s development came to a halt.

Krakow once again became a provincial city, not only on the Austrian scale, but even in Galicia itself, as Lviv was designated as the capital of this province. Professor Jacek Purchla believes that, in economic terms, until the World War I, Krakow was deprived of the possibility of rapid metropolitan development. It was a relatively poor town, without industry and – by extension – the bourgeoisie. In turn, the former capital of the country, located near the Russian border, became a fortified city: Emperor Franz Joseph decided in 1850 to establish the Fortress of Krakow. Its numerous reconstructions continued until 1914 and made Krakow a garrison, with military alterations affecting even the Wawel Castle. The fortifications themselves, however, never played a significant strategic role.


Closed in the shackles of fortifications, ramparts and bastions, Krakow continued to develop, to the great credit of Mayor Józef Dietl, considered one of the most outstanding administrators in the history of this city. It was Dietl who saw the possibility and the need to make Krakow a modern centre of economic and cultural life. Among other things he was responsible for, he had the bed of the old Vistula River filled in (today, Dietl Street runs atop the old riverbed) put the municipal budget in order, and saw to the care and maintenance of Planty Park, the Main Market Square and the historic walls of the Old Town, and last but not least another crowning achievement, founding the Academy of Fine Arts, with Jan Matejko as its first director.

Matejko, the most famous Polish painter of the 19th century was linked to Krakow throughout his life, and his patriotic paintings depicting scenes from the history of the city and the country contributed to the popularisation of Polish culture in Europe and the perpetuation of national myths. Some of the most important of Matejko’s works can be seen in Krakow today, for example, Prussian Homage (1879–1882). There is a small museum in the Krzesławice manor house that the artist purchased in 1876.

The second half of the 19th century was also the time of the restoration of the Cloth Hall after the great fire of 1850, as well as the construction of the eclectic Juliusz Słowacki Theatre and the neo-Gothic building of Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Novum – the seat of the rector and the academic authorities. New residences of the landed gentry families were erected, palaces were constructed and townhouses were refreshed. In 1870, the Czartoryski family moved their valuable art collection to Krakow; a few years later, the museum that bears their name was inaugurated where visitors can see to this day Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine and Rembrandt’s Landscape with a Merciful Samaritan. The symbolic role of Krakow as the ‘Seedbed of Polishness’ – the spiritual capital of the non-existing country divided between the three partitioners – was being strengthened.

At the same time, Krakow was becoming a city of artists. For example, young poets met in the Lwowska confectionery run by Michalik on Floriańska Street, still in operation today, where the Zielony Balonik (Green Balloon) cabaret was in full swing. This comedy group was animated by Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, a physician by profession, but mostly remembered for his gargantuan work on translating French literature into Polish. The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre hosted the premieres of dramas by Stanisław Wyspiański, known as the ‘fourth Polish bard’, including the famous staging of ‘The Wedding’ in 1901. Wyspiański’s painting perhaps best captures the Krakow Zeitgeist of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: on his paintings, the city looks almost fairy-tale-like: it’s full of colour and light.


As paradoxical as it may seem, the period of Austrian rule in Krakow is considered with a certain sentimentality. This is a double paradox, because this affection not only concerns a period when Poland didn’t exist as an independent state, but also an era that no one can actually remember any more as personal experience.

On the one hand, the liberal policy of the Austrian partitioner in later years of occupation plays a large part in this nostalgia, because after the reform of the monarchy in 1867, Polish was allowed as one of the official languages, thus permitting Polish as a language of education and leading to a flourishing of Polish culture. Krakow eagerly seized this opportunity, becoming a cultural and spiritual centre for the divided Polish nation.

At the same time, being part of the cosmopolitan, multicultural Habsburg empire put Krakow back into the great Central European story, in which seemingly very unalike cities such as Vienna, Budapest, Lviv, Bratislava, Prague, Zagreb or Trieste shared a common cultural denominator. Despite its provincial status and limited opportunities for development, the period of Belle Époque brought the sweep of the great world to the city, similar to the best traditions of the Jagiellonian era.

Emperor Franz Joseph I, one of the longest-serving monarchs in the European history (he reigned for 68 years), became the symbol of this contradictory period.


Dealing with the mighty heritage of the Krakow Fortress has become a great challenge these days. Dozens of forts abandoned by the Austrians and surrounding the ring of Krakow had been deteriorating for years, waiting for new functions. Some were given new roles thanks to their advantageous location, such as the fortress complex around the Kościuszko Mound that has housed the headquarters of Poland’s leading radio broadcaster RMF since the 1990s, or the Kleparz Forts, which have functioned as a popular music club for many years. Other sites deteriorated and became overgrown, turning into a curiosity known only to a few enthusiasts and Cracovians living nearby.

Thanks to the commitment of the city authorities, the circles of history enthusiasts, conservationists and, above all, the circles of architects gathered around the Krakow University of Technology, it was possible to launch the programme of the gradual revalorisation of the Krakow Fortress forts. The best example is the renovated fort ‘Jugowice’ 52a, known as Fort Łapianka, located in the south of the city, where, after the renovation finished in 2022, the Museum and Centre of the Scouting and Guiding Movement is being installed. The monuments of the Krakow Fortress have great potential and can be turned into full-blown tourist attractions, thus creating a new story about the city and its heritage. It can be said that the process of revitalising the post-Austrian heritage in Krakow is another example of how ‘difficult heritage’ can be brought into to the present.

Our Great Ones'. Meeting about Marian Kornecki and the protection of wooden architecture in Malopolska

Our Great Ones’. Meeting about Marian Kornecki and the protection of wooden architecture in Malopolska

by Kraków Heritage team
We kindly invite you to a meeting dedicated to the memory of Dr Marian Kornecki (1924-2001), an outstanding art expert, defender and populariser of wooden architecture. It will take place on 22 April 2024 (Monday) at 6 p.m. in the Karolina Lanckorońska Hall at the Jagiellonian University Institute of Art History (53 Grodzka Street). The meeting will be enriched by the screening of fragments of archival films unknown to a wider audience.
Ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors on the list of intangible cultural heritage

Ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors on the list of intangible cultural heritage

by Kraków Heritage team
The ceremonial march of Jagiellonian University professors inaugurating the academic year has been added to the list of intangible cultural heritage. This is yet another entry from the capital of Malopolska after the Cracovian nativity scene, the Krakow bobbin lace, the Lajkonik parade and Polish national dances – and proof of the strength and vitality of Cracovian traditions.
I see you, Kraków!

I see you, Kraków!

by Kraków Heritage team
On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the inscription of Krakow on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which falls this year, the City of Krakow, in cooperation with the International Cultural Centre, has prepared a unique, bilingual publication in which specialists and enthusiasts involved in the heritage of the city under Wawel Hill play the role of “collective narrator”.
The Future of the Past. How Krakow celebrates 45th anniversary of its inscription on the World Heritage List?

The Future of the Past. How Krakow celebrates 45th anniversary of its inscription on the World Heritage List?

by Krzysztof Żwirski
The 45th anniversary of Kraków being listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites is the perfect opportunity to look back at how far our city has travelled since 1978. It also allows us to answer the question whether present-day Kraków is as ambitiously self-aware as it was almost half a century ago.

“Black Art” – 550 years of printing in Poland

by Krzysztof Żwirski
In 1844, while moving one of the bookcases in the Jagiellonian Library, an inconspicuous sheet of paper slipped to the ground. Densely printed on one side in Gothic characters, it turned out to be the oldest known print in Poland.
A city re-written, or The Krakow Modernism Route

A city re-written, or The Krakow Modernism Route

by Krzysztof Żwirski
“A Guide to the Architecture of 20th Century Krakow” can be understood as an invitation to discover “our own” Krakow. The one outside the tourist brochures, where the daily life of its inhabitants actually takes place.
Conservation of the Veit Stoss Altarpiece with Europa Nostra Award 2023!

Conservation of the Veit Stoss Altarpiece with Europa Nostra Award 2023!

by Kraków Heritage team
The European Commission and Europa Nostra today announced the winners of the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2023. This year, 30 exceptional heritage achievements from a total of 21 countries were honoured with this highest European award. This year’s laureates in the Conservation category include the Veit Stoss Altarpiece at St Mary’s Basilica in Krakow.
Through Krakow to Central Europe

Through Krakow to Central Europe

by Krzysztof Żwirski
There is much more than a geographical fact hidden in the simple observation that Krakow is a similar distance from Warsaw as it is from three other Central European capitals – Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava.

No, this is not all there is to say about Krakow. Heritage is an open-ended collection – it’s up to us to fill it with meaning!

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