My defense

click on images for full-size:

Warsaw street

Warsaw church

If we are comparing only their Old Town centers I would certainly select Krakow's, since its Old Town is larger, more varied, historically richer, and has more connection to the daily life of the city. But it's the cities I'm comparing, not the Old Towns.

Here is my defense: first, those tourists in the Warsaw's Old Town were mostly Polish, school groups and others on historical pilgrimage to a site of national reconstruction. (I wasn't there at the height of the German vacation season.) Second, the Old Town in Krakow is full of tourists too, and not enough else. "The city can't support itself by selling museum tickets," wrote the mayor of Krakow, pleading for productive investment. The people making those investments, and what they invest in, make Warsaw more than a museum. It has a new kind of order. Of course Krakow as a whole is more, too, but foreign visitors don't get out into the suburbs of either city. The Poles know those too well already. Both cities are ringed by drab Soviet-era housing blocks, but Krakow is also afflicted with the Nova Huta concentration of coal-fired heavy industry that fouls the air of the city.