The cultural capital of Poland.
Krakow has been a cultural and academic center for about as long as there has been civilization in Europe, but these days it's known more for being Poland's biggest tourist destination. Don't let that scare you off though - Krakow has definitely not turned into a circus of Prague-like proportions, and its charm is palpable. Wawel Cathedral may be its main landmark, but Krakow's real draw lies in its mix of historical Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture that emerged relatively unscathed after WWII. Add to that one of the largest, most atmospheric public squares in Europe and you've got a city meant for strolling. But a city that is such a physical celebration of long-gone eras is double-edged with sadness - the old Jewish quarter and nearby Auschwitz are both testaments to the tragedies of more recent times. Perhaps Krakow's deeper appeal lies in its ability to remind one of the extremes of human nature, but in any case, it's a city of complex roots that you will have a great time untangling.