Kraków notched up another record in 2015. The city was visited by over 10 million people, of whom 2.6 million were tourists from abroad. Over the last 15 years, the number of tourists visiting Kraków has tripled. They spent more than PLN 4,450,000,000 in the city. More than 2,100,000 visitors who visited Krakow in 2015 stayed there for more than a day. In the same year, half of all foreign tourists arrived in the city by plane.
Why visit Kraków? The main attractions are the historic monuments (35.6%) and recreation (21.1%). The main attractions are, invariably, the Main Square, the Old Town, the Royal Route, Wawel Castle and the Jewish district of Kazimierz. The features of Kraków which tourists rate highly are (on a scale of one to five): the atmosphere (4.5), the friendliness of local people (4.4), hospitality (4.3), discotheques and clubs (4.2), the food (4.2) and the accommodation (4.2).Poll prepared by "Gazeta Wyborcza"
Foreign tourists coming to Kraków take distinctive views. The Japanese see Kraków as a second Kyoto. According to a Japanese translator and expert on Polish culture, Professor Tokimasa Sekiguchi, what Kraków and Kyoto have in common is that they are the old capitals of their countries and represent continuity of tradition. Today, both Kraków and Kyoto have the status of major centres of learning and culture. The historian Peter Oliver Loew argues that, in Germany, where Kraków sausage is as popular as cottage-cheese-stuffed dumplings are in Poland, the city and its heritage have an established brand. For Krzysztof Czyżewski, creator of the “Pogranicze” ("Borderland") centre, looking at the city from the perspective of the Polish-Lithuanian border, Kraków is reminiscent of Vilnius - both are places where remarkable spiritual and cultural wealth is concentrated. Israeli historian Yaarah Bar points out the value of Kraków’s heritage for the memory of both Poles and Jews; this memory, painful where associated with the Holocaust and the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, may be helpful in re-building common bonds.
During the panel "Kraków – the city heritage" Philadelphia-born journalist Ruth Ellen Gruber, who has lived in Europe for many years, focused on the phenomenon of Kazimierz: the district where Jews and Christians lived in close proximity for many centuries. The Jewish people, who came to Kazimierz in the second half of the fourteenth century, formed a distinctive community up to the beginning of the nineteenth century - an autonomous enclave, ruled by the rabbis and elders, subordinate only to the authority of the king, exercised on his behalf by the governor of Kraków. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Jewish people played a part in the city’s development, as investors, building contractors and architects. Their social and economic activity was intensified further by the granting of equal rights in 1867. Before the outbreak of World War II, Kraków was home to more than 64,000 Jewish people, comprising approximately 25% of the city’s population. After the cataclysm of the German occupation and the Holocaust, the revival of Kazimierz came only in the 1990s. Today it is a bustling district of Kraków, extremely popular with the locals and tourists. The seven surviving synagogues and the Jewish cemeteries remind us of the city's past. An extremely important event for the restoration of consciousness of Kraków’s Jewish tradition is - as was highlighted by Gruber – the Festival of Jewish Culture which has been organized annually since 1988. Today, it enjoys a reputation as one of the most important events for Jewish culture in the world. It is also one of the most recognizable and popular of Kraków’s cultural events, bringing together around 30,000 people every year, during countless concerts, meetings and workshops.