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According to the legend the name Krakow comes from the prince, called Krak, who used to rule the city. Although people inhabited this part of the land already in Stone Age, it is probable that the settlement of the city was built here between 6th-8th century - as one of the 5 mounds that dates back to this period, is believed to be Krak's grave. The first one to mention Krakow's name was Abraham ben Jacob - Jewish merchant who described the city in 966 as an important commercial centre. The merchants, who added significantly to the development of Krakow, would come here to sell and buy goods - as the city was located on the important Amber Route (leading to the Baltic Sea).
DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY
The city started to flurish in about 1000 (when it became the seat of bishop and later on of princes) but it gained the municipal rights (based on Magdeburg Law) eventually in 1257. Soon after the city walls - to protect Krakow from invaders - were erected. The remntants of the city walls one can admire till nowadays (with the charming Florian gate that leads the visitors through so called Royal Route).
KRAKOW - THE CAPITAL OF POLAND
In 1320 the king of Poland was crowned for the first time in Krakow cathedral (on the Wawel Hill) what caused that Krakow became the official seat of the kings - the capital of Poland. Soon after the city gained Jagiellonian University - second university opened in Central Europe (after the one in Prague) - that was founded by king Casimir the Great. He also built Kazimierz city (where afterwards Jewish quarter was established) - that is now one of Krakow districts. Originally, the Jewish quarter was, where now the Jagiellonian University stands, and the Univeristy was in Kazimierz, they changed places later.
KRAKOW LOSES ITS SIGNIFICANCE
Krakow lost its significance during the existence of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - as the city seemed to be separated in the suburbs of the country. Although the kings (with the court) moved its seat to Warsaw at the end of 16th century, Krakow still remained official capital where the kings were crowned and burried (exactly in the cathedral on the Wawel Hill).
THE CITY IN 19/20 CENTURY
The development of the city was ceased by the partition of Poland - when Krakow got under Austrian rule. During this period the city underwent the process of restoration - changing its medieval shape, also Podgórze city was founded then. Krakow went back to Poland in 1918 - when the country anew became independent. Although during the WW II Krakow was occupied (as all the cities of Poland) it remained almost undamaged. During the communist regime it gained another interesting district - Nowa Huta - that can be still admired as an example of monumental architecture.
READ MORE ABOUT KRAKOW HISTORY: Krakow history by Wikipedia - the description is very complex. The history of the city is devided into periods and additional info are available.
Krakow history by Cracow-Life - very short history on Krakow (however, with additional links) but below the text you will also find history of Poland.
Krakow history by Krakow.pl - The text is short but contains the highlights in Krakow history. On the website you may find more links and additional info about the city.