Krakow Old Town

The former capital of Poland and the coronation site of the Polish kings is an important testimony to medieval urban architecture. The city center, laid out in the 13th century, has been completely preserved in its historical form. The central place is the largest market square in Europe, which is surrounded by magnificent town houses, cloth halls and the Gothic St. Mary’s Basilica. The Jewish quarter of Kazimierz is also part of the world heritage.

Krakow Old Town: Facts

Official title: Krakow Old Town
Cultural monument: from 12.-17. Century Polish capital and also university town; medieval town from the 13th century with remains of the fortifications from the 14th century; Wawel Cathedral Coronation site and burial place of the Polish kings and the Polish national hero Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817); Gothic Marienkirche with baroque furnishings, largest market place of the Middle Ages; former Jewish quarter Kazimierz with Stara Synagoga from the 14th century.
Continent: Europe
Country: Poland
Location: Krakow, southwest of Warsaw
Appointment: 1978
Meaning: the coronation place of the Polish kings as a testimony to important medieval city architecture

Krakow Old Town: History

10th century first mentioned in a document
1223 Gothic Marienkirche
1364 University of Krakow
1359 Consecration of the cathedral
1430 Member of the Hanseatic League
1555 Almost 100 m long cloth hall built
1794 under Kościuszko the center of an uprising against the partition of Poland
1939-45 Occupation by German troops
2000 European Capital of Culture

Preserving the Middle Ages for the future

Whichever direction you enter Krakow’s Old Town from – it’s not far to the Market Square. “In Krakow every resident wandered the Market Square at least five times a day. Whether to the bank or to the café, wherever he went – he had to cross the market. And wherever he was, the four clocks and the trumpets of the tower-keeper of St. Mary’s Church reached him everywhere, ”said Krakow author Tadeusz Boy-Żelénski, recalling his hometown at the turn of the century. Even if the city at the foot of the Wawel Mountain has changed since then, the heart of old and new Krakow still beats here.

The Rynek Główny, the main market, is one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe – spacious, wide and not at all overwhelming. The Krakow Boleslaws owe that to the Chaste. In the middle of the 13th century, he had the market settlement on the bank of the Vistula, which had suffered badly during the attack by the Tatars, a new face with a large market square as the center of urban life: a square of 200 by 200 meters, open from all sides spacious streets. They divided the city into a chessboard of square blocks surrounded by a ring-shaped rampart. In its place today, a ring-shaped park separates the old town from the other districts.

Two-story, richly decorated town houses with narrow fronts and deep courtyards grew around the square; workshops were located downstairs, living rooms upstairs. Already built in the Gothic period, it was later redesigned in the style of the respective epoch. If the impression of a strict Renaissance prevails, the decorations on the facade are often characterized by playful baroque. There was also enough space for the medieval town hall, of which only the tower still stands, and for several churches. And of course the dealers were considered, because Krakow was at the crossroads of several major trade routes. Instead of numerous small stalls, the 100-meter-long cloth hall, »Sukiennice«, was built. Today, next to the Marienkirche, it is the eye-catcher of the old town.

From the exit of Uliza Florianska, which leads to the only preserved city gate and through which the kings rode to their ruler’s seat, you can enjoy the particularly beautiful view of the square: on the left the St. Mary’s Church with its two mighty towers, almost the swarm of passers-by, on the right the many flower stalls in front of the cloth hall and the fluttering pigeons around the monument to the poet Adam Mickiewicz, who are all supposed to be enchanted knights. At Maly Rynek, the small market just behind St. Mary’s Church, the additions to the houses catch the eye – terrace-like porches with small cafes that can only be found in Gdansk. The mighty complexes of the royal palace and cathedral rise above the roofs of the old town on Wawel Hill. Together they form an impressive ensemble, that cannot be found again in the whole country. According to zipcodesexplorer, its builders came from Poland and Germany, Italy and Bohemia – attracted by the spirit of openness to the world and a reflection on their own eventful history. Veit Stoss, the Nuremberg woodcarver who created his famous Gothic altar for St. Mary’s Church, also came to the Vistula for this reason. Krakow with the second oldest university in Europe and with its galleries, theaters and museums is still the guardian of Polish tradition and at the same time a center of modern art. And for many Krakow residents still a little bit the “secret capital”, even if the royal court moved to Warsaw at the end of the 16th century. Theaters and museums is still the guardian of Polish tradition and at the same time a center of modern art. And for many Krakow residents still a little bit the “secret capital”, even if the royal court moved to Warsaw at the end of the 16th century. Theaters and museums is still the guardian of Polish tradition and at the same time a center of modern art. And for many Krakow residents still a little bit the “secret capital”, even if the royal court moved to Warsaw at the end of the 16th century.

The fact that the city center has been completely preserved in its historical form – the German occupation troops had already mined the old town when the Red Army prevented it from being blown up in a surprising maneuver in 1945 – is what makes the city so attractive. But the medieval gem also has to struggle with environmental pollution. You are not least noticeable through the Nowa Huta steelworks located on the outskirts of the city. The mighty figures of the apostles at St. Peter and Paul Church, the first baroque building in the city, fell victim to air pollution. They have been replaced by copies, which now have to be dry-cleaned every year.

Krakow Old Town