The Cracow city centre was planned in accordance to Magdeburg Law, carefully and clearly laid out in 1257. The Main Market Square is the largest mediaeval square in Europe, one of the largest squares in Europe (40,000 square metres!). It is larger than St. Peter's Square in the Vatican and even St. Mark's Square in Venice. It is astounding in its dimension and its perfection of design. Historic burgers townhouses and noble mansions add to the beauty of the huge area which has been witness to the most important events in Polish history. Special plaques in the Market ground commemorate the Prussian Homage paid by Duke Albrecht Hohenzollern to Polish King Sigismundus the Old in 1525 and the patriotic oath taken by the national hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, which started in 1794 the insurrection - the fight against Russia.
The Market Square is still the scene of major ceremonies, grand processions as well as the city's everyday life. Its vast space easily contains dozens of restaurants and cafés, flocks of pigeons, street artists, a flower market, a regional TV studio installed in an old tram, a stage for open air concerts, and - every now and then - a travelling art installation, an antiques fair or a crafts bazars. And although practical every Cracovian and visitor crosses the Rynek at least once a day, it is never uncomfortably crowded.
gant Artveau decor.
The Market Square is the largest stage and gallery in the city. So why not enter the Cloth Hall, the first middle age storehouse? The building was originally a commercial establishment for trading in cloth. It has existed on its present site since the 13th century but the late Gothic building was thoroughly reshaped in the Renaissance-Mannerist style by Santi Gucci and Giovanni Maria Padovano. The Cloth Hall kept its function of major trade centre throughout centuries and it is now the biggest souvenir market in Cracow, crowded with boutiques selling anything from tacky Wawel dragons to elegant amber jewellery. Within its interior you will find the gallery of Polish Painting, one of many exhibitions belonging to the National Museum. Not far from here is located the Czartoryski Family Museum, where you can meet the 'Lady with an Ermine', which according to experts, is Leonardo de Vinci's most beautiful painting.
A gothic tower is all that remains of the former, mediaeval Town Hall builiding. It was built in the Main Market Square in the mid-14th century. The old twon hall itself was taken down at the beginning of 19th century due to its deplorable state which caused danger to those passing by. It was the seat of the local authorities and court, also serving as a city treasury and prison. In the former prison cellars nowadays we find a famous Folk Theatre and a café. Visitors ready to climb the tower up its 100-step narrow and steep stairs can enjoy the panoramic view from the to tower.
In the north-eastern corner of the square stands St. Mary's Church, frequently referred to as a basilica, with its two towers reaching high above the whole city. It is undoubtedly one of the most characteristic monuments in Cracow and the only building facing diagonally the plate of the Main Square, which can suggests that the church was built earlier, during the Roman period. The Nuremberg master, Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) created his opus magnum here - the monumental, gothic High Altar of St. Mary's - a marvel that attracts a thousands of tourists every day. More about St. Mary's Church ...
Towers of St. Mary's Church
Not only traditional Cracow fiacres, but since recently also rikshaws have their stands on the Main Market Square. Sometimes very elegant carriages set off from here with the newly-weds to make traditional tour of old Cracow which always ends at the Mickiewicz Monument.
The statue of Adam Mickiewicz - the most famous of Polish national poets - is an inseparable symbol of the Main Square in Cracow and contributes to its romantic aura. It is also the favourite meeting spot of citizens of Cracow - 'Pod Adasiem' what means 'meet up under the statue.'
A longer stay is encouraged by the ring of restaurant and café gardens surrounding the square, which can easily provide a place to rest for several thousands people. Some of them operate from early in the morning into the small hours in the night, nearly all year round, with but a short break during the fiercest frosts. In winter, patrons move to the cellars so characteristic of the centre of Cracow. Here, you can additionally listen to a live concert. The live music played in most places is jazz - Cracow has well deserved the title of the capital city of Polish jazz. The night life and clubbing have recently begun to bloom here: after all, we are in a city of nearly 130,000 students.
The Main Market Square never really sleeps. At night you can hear echo of footsteps of late passers by; every hour is marked by the bugle call played from St. Mary's Church tower.