What to see in Krakow Old Town
There are very few Old Towns in Polish cities with an equally turbulent history and as many significant and fascinating monuments as the Old Town in Krakow. Whether you’re a resident of this magnificent city or a tourist visiting it on vacation, it’s practically impossible not to be impressed by its mesmerizing beauty and fascinating history. Even if you’re not a passionate fan of history, you will surely find something in this area that will amaze you.
This article will introduce you to the most famous attractions of the Old Town of Krakow that you cannot miss while visiting this city.
The Main Market Square in Krakow
The Main Market Square is the largest plaza in Krakow and the largest medieval market square in Europe. Krakow was located on the Magdeburg Law On June 5th 1257 by prince Boleslaw Wstydliwy of Krakow. Originally, the Main Market Square was owned by the king. In 1358, king Kazimierz the Great relinquished the right to most of its objects for the benefit of the city. Through the Main Market Square runs the Royal Route – the main communication route of the medieval town. The Market Square has several imnportant monuments, such as st. Mary’s church, the Cloth Hall and the Town Hall Tower.
The Adam Mickiewicz monument
The Adam Mickiewicz monument is located at the eastern side of the Main Market Square in Krakow, between the Cloth Hall and the outlet of Sienna street. It commemorates Adam Mickiewicz, a famous poet and author of one of the most important works of Polish literature – „Pan Tadeusz”. The monument was created based on the design by Teodor Rygier. It was officially revealed on June 26th 1898, in honor of the author’s 100th birthday.
Nowadays, the Mickiewicz monument is the favourite meeting place of people from Krakow. It is also the place of various celebration. For example, during the poet’s birthday on December 24th, florists from Krakow put flowers under the monument.
The Slowacki Theatre
The Theatre of Juliusz Slowacki in Krakow was opened on October 21st 1893. It is located at Swietego Ducha square in the Old Town of Krakow. The building of the theatre was constructed between 1891 and 1893.
The grand opening of the new theatre took place on October 21 1893 at 12:00 noon. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Slowacki theatre experienced the best period in its history, largely thanks to its first directors – Tadeusz Pawlikowski, Jozef Kotarbinski and Ludwik Solski. One of the theatre’s highlights at that time was its modern repertoire.
The Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall is a monumental building in Krakow, located in the middle of the Main Market Square. The prototype of the current Cloth Hall were wooden cloth stalls surrounded by butcheries and smaller stalls. Around the year 1300 the passage with stalls was covered with a roof, which made it look like a market hall.
The new gothic cloth hall was created by King Kazimierz the Great before 1358, and its shape looked very similar to the current Cloth Hall. Currently inside the Cloth Hall there are two rows of stalls, most of which sell jewelry. Souvenirs and handicraft. The building also has a gallery with 19th century paintings and the famous „Noworolski” cafe.
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica is a monumental, Roman Catholic church located in the Old Town of Krakow at 5 Mariacki Square.
According to Jan Dlugosz, the first brick-made church in romanesque style was founded by the bishop of Krakow between 1221 and 1222 in the place of the former wooden temple. But shortly afterwards, that church was destroyed during the Tatar invasion.
St. Mary’s Basilica is strongly associated with the legend of the bugle call, according to which the bugler played his trumpet to warn the townspeople of the Tatar invasion. Although he did save the city, he was killed when the Tatar arrow hir his throat.
The Town Hall Tower
The gothic Town Hall Tower in Krakow was constructed in the early 15th century. It is located at Rynek Glowny 1. The first historical mention of the town hall’s tower originated from 1383. The current tower was constructed around the year 1444.
On May 24th 1680, a lightning struck in the tower, which resulted in a fire, which burned the tower’s helmet and clock. Between 1683 and 1686, the tower was reconstructed by Piotr Beber – the royal architect, who elevated the tower and designed a new baroque-styled helmet. The current entrance to the tower is guarded by two lion statues from the early 19th century,
The Barbican is the most northern part of the city fortifications in Krakow. It was constructed between 1498 and 1499 during the reign of king Jan Olbracht because of the fear of of the Wallachian and Turkish invasion, which threatened Krakow after the failed Battle upon Kozmin.
In 1910, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the battle of Grunwald, a design was created to put the Grunwald Panorama in the Baribican, but the project was never fulfilled. Currently the Barbican is a division of the Historical Museum of the city of Krakow and is often the location for various exhibits.
The Florianska Gate
The Florianska Gate is a medieval city gate with a bastion, located at the end of Florianska street in the Old Town of Krakow. It is the remainings of the former city walls.
In the 13th and 14th century, Krakow was surrounded by a wall. Written documents mention the Florianska Gate since 1307. In the 16th century, the city stables were located inside the gate. In 1882, the gate was defended from demolition by prince Wladyslaw Czartoryski, who decided to create the chapel for the Czartoryski family. The council agreed, but they expected the gate and the bastion to maintain their 18th-century look.
Florianska street is located in the Old Town of Krakow. It is the first element of the former route, which ran to the north. Florianska street was set out on the location plan back in 1257. Its name didn’t change for 700 years, but its buildings went through lots of changes. The houses at Florianska street were originally gothic, but later they were reconstructed in renaissance and baroque styles.
At Florianska street there are several famous houses, such as the house of Jan Matejko, constructed in the 16th century, which was the home of a famous painter named Jan Matejko. After his death a museum dedicated to his memory was created here.
Collegium Maius and Collegium Novum of the Jagiellonian University
Collegium Maius and Collegium Novum are the famous buildings of the Jagiellonian University – the oldest public college in Poland.
Collegium Maius is the oldest building of the Academy of Krakow, located at 15 Jagiellonska street. Its origins date all the way back to 1400, when the academy was renewed. The building was expanded in the 15th century through the acquirement of nearby buildings.
The construction of the Collegium Novum building began in 1883 based on the project by Feliks Ksiezarski. The building constructed in neo-gothic style. It was finished and put to use in 1887. Despite being a very long time ago, both of these buildings are still operating and hosting students from all around Poland today.
Kanonicza street is the oldest street in the Old Town of Krakow. It used to be part of the former Okol settlement, which was located between location Krakow and Wawel Originally, Kanonicza street was known as Grodzka. Since the second half of the 14th century, brick houses began to appear at the street. It gained its current name in 1401. Kanonicza street also has several famous buildings, such as:
Number 19 – the Archdiocese Museum and the former house of st. Stanislaw constructed before 1370, in the mid-16th century it was reconstructed as a renaissance residence.
Number 21 – the Dean House, a beautifully preserved renaissance constructed in the mid-16th century by an Italian architect named Santi Gucci.
Number 25 – the 14th-century house of Jan Dlugosz.
All Saints’ Square and the Pope’s Window
All Saints’ Square is a city plaza located in the Old Town of Krakow. It used to be part of a pre-placement settlement known as Okol. The current form of All Saints’ Square was created in 1838. At the famous Franciszkanska street there is the Bishop’s Palace, where you can visit the Pope’s window – an extremely popular attraction. This is the place where Pope John Paul II was resting during his pilgrimages to Poland. This is also the place were young people prayed ardently, when the Pope got very sick. Unfortunately, John Paul II no longer appears in the window, but there is a permanent image of the beloved Pope.
St. Peter and st. Paul’s church in Krakow
St. Peter and st. Paul’s church is a monumental roman Catholic church located at 52a Grodzka street in Krakow. It is the first building of baroque architecture in Krakow. The plan of the church was most likely created by Giovanni de Rossis. The building got its ultimate shape between 1605 and 1619 thanks to Giovanni Trevano, who created the design of the facade, the dome and the interior decoration. The church was officially consecrated on Jult 8th 1635. Since 1830 it is part of the All Saints’ parish.
If you are looking for a tour that cover all mentioned places check our Guided Old Town Walking Tour.