Old Synagogue, Krakow

Old Synagogue, Krakow

The Old Synagogue (Synagoga Stara), an Orthodox Jewish place of worship, graces the Kazimierz district of Kraków. Known as the Alta Shul in Yiddish, it stands as Poland's oldest remaining synagogue and ranks among the most cherished symbols of Jewish architectural heritage in Europe. Until the onset of the German invasion in 1939, it held paramount significance as one of the city's primary synagogues, serving as the central hub for religious, communal, and organizational activities within the Kraków Jewish community.

The Synagogue's construction date varies across sources, pointing to either 1407 or 1492. In 1570, the original edifice underwent reconstruction under the careful guidance of Italian architect Mateo Gucci. This refurbishment included fortifications such as an attic wall equipped with loopholes, high-set windows for defense, and robust masonry walls supported by hefty buttresses—a design inspired by military architecture. This makes the Old Synagogue a rare survivor, embodying the concept of a Polish fortress synagogue.

World War II witnessed the synagogue's utter devastation and plunder at the hands of the Germans. Its artistic treasures and Jewish artifacts were pillaged, and it suffered the indignity of being repurposed as a warehouse during the occupation. In 1943, its walls bore witness to the execution of 30 Polish hostages. However, the Old Synagogue was restored between 1956 and 1959 and now serves as a museum. Operating under the Historical Museum of Kraków, it holds a special focus on the city's Jewish heritage. The exhibitions are thematically organized to explore aspects such as birth, prayer rituals, dietary practices, divorce, and death.

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Old Synagogue on Map

Sight Name: Old Synagogue
Sight Location: Krakow, Poland (See walking tours in Krakow)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Krakow, Poland

Create Your Own Walk in Krakow

Create Your Own Walk in Krakow

Creating your own self-guided walk in Krakow is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Historical House Museums Tour

Historical House Museums Tour

Well-preserved historical buildings can often tell the stories of their city more vividly than any history book. Krakow, the old capital and cultural center of Poland, for many years, has been the home of many important Poles. Today, their former residences have been converted into house museums where visitors can learn about their inhabitants and see what life was like in the past.

One such...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

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By far the most iconic of these is the Basilica of Saint Mary. A...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Jewish Heritage Tour in Krakow

Jewish Heritage Tour in Krakow

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During the war, the Nazis separated ethnic Jews from the rest of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Krakow Introduction Walking Tour

Krakow Introduction Walking Tour

A unique entry on the list of the World Heritage Sights, Krakow is a recognized center of the academic, artistic and cultural life of Poland. Established in the 7th century as a tiny hamlet at the top of the Wawel Hill, overlooking the Vistula River, it is one of the country's oldest cities. Over the course of the next fifteen centuries it has evolved into the nation's second-largest...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles