Kraków or Cracow, also known by its alternative and foreign names, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland, with a population of 780,000 in 2004 (1.4 million after including surrounding communities). This historic city, dating back to the 4th century, is situated on the Vistula River in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Plateau, between the Jurassic Rock Upland, and the Tatra Mountains 100 kilometers (62 mi) to the south. It was the capital of Poland until 1596 and the capital of Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to the year 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship in the Lesser Poland region.
The historic centre of Kraków lays at the foot of Wawel Hill, where the Royal Castle is located, a former residence of Polish monarchs. The surrounding, oldest neighborhoods of Kraków include the Old Town, Wawel District and Kazimierz, originally divided into Christian and Jewish quarters. The city's historic centre was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 1978.
Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading scientific, cultural and artistic centres of the country and Europe. As the former national capital, with a history stretching back over a thousand years, the city remains the spiritual heart of Poland. It is a major centre of local and international tourism, attracting seven million visitors annually. Famous landmarks include the Main Market Square with St. Mary's Basilica and Sukiennice Cloth Hall, Wawel Castle with armory, National Art Museum, Zygmunt Bell at Wawel Cathedral, and medieval Florian Gate with Barbican along the Royal Coronation Route.