Rynek Główny or Main Market Square is the real heart of Krakow. Since ancient times it has been the central square, teeming with life at every hour, full of craft shops, good restaurants and cafes, and home to the most iconic monuments of the city.
Krakow’s Main Market Square will be your main point of reference for visiting the city, as it is located right in the center of Krakow’s Old Town, from where you can easily reach all the main attractions.
And you will surely fall in love with it if you visit it when it is decked out with its Christmas markets and stalls where you can taste delicious local street food.
What you will find in this guide about Krakow’s Main Market Square:
- Some interesting facts about Krakow’s Main Market Square
- Things to see and do in Krakow’s Main Market Square
Some interesting facts about Krakow’s Main Market Square
Krakow’s Main Market Square is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, measuring approximately 200 x 200 meters, and was one of the first sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage lists.
Its origins date back to the mid-13th century, when Krakow was an important crossroads of ancient trade routes. After the Mongol invasion the city was destroyed, and so it was decided to rebuild it according to the characteristic grid pattern used for medieval cities, with the Central Market Square located right in the center.
The name Rynek Główny means Main Market Square, and this is because this square was once the place where local and foreign merchants met, along the ancient routes that connected the East with Europe.
The Market Square was teeming with all kinds of goods: fabrics, carpets from Persia and the Ottoman Empire, Baltic amber, spices from the Far East, local food products, as well as salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Even today in the Gothic Cloth Hall located in the center of the square you can find many souvenir stalls and local handicrafts selling fabrics, carpets and amber.
The central square of Krakow was also the center of city life, here were the Town Hall and the St. Mary’s Basilica, which is the most important church in Krakow, and here public speeches and even executions and punishments took place, quite common in the Middle Ages.
Rynek Główny is located right on the Royal Route, the main street of Krakow’s Old Town, which connects the Barbican gate to the Wawel Royal Castle. Solemn processions, military parades, tributes to kings took place here, as well as many events that were important for the independence of Poland.
Over the centuries, the Main Market Square has become more and more similar to how we can see it today: between the 18th and 19th centuries some buildings (such as the Town Hall, of which only the tower remains) and stalls were demolished. The square has reached its heyday, surrounded by beautiful historic townhouses and old churches.
However, there are still some elements of the era that have survived to the present day, such as the horse-drawn carriages, a true icon that has become one of the most popular attractions for tourists.
Things to see and do in Krakow’s Main Market Square
Kraków Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)
The most iconic building in Krakow’s Main Market Square is undoubtedly the Kraków Cloth Hall, whose Polish name is Sukiennice. The Cloth Hall dates back to the Renaissance, and was the place where traveling merchants and traders met to haggle and trade goods.
Its warehouses were filled with goods from the East, such as silk, leather and spices that were exchanged for local products, such as textiles, lead and salt. Today it houses stalls selling souvenirs and crafts, textiles and amber jewelry, while on the upper floor is the Sukiennice Museum, a branch of the National Museum that houses the largest collection of 19th-century Polish art.
This underground museum was inaugurated in 2010 and houses permanent exhibitions to better understand the history of the Main Market Square and life in ancient Krakow. There are some interesting interactive installations located along a path where you can see the archaeological excavations of the old market square. Better to go with a guide, as otherwise it could be a bit bland.
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica is probably one of the most famous buildings in Krakow, and the most important church along with the Wawel Royal Cathedral.
This masterpiece of Polish Gothic architecture dates back to the 14th century and its foundations date back to the 13th century. It is characterized by its asymmetrical towers, the highest rising 80 meters above the city.
Inside is the famous altarpiece by Veit Stoss, also known as St. Mary’s Altar, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, carved between 1477 and 1489 by the sculptor Veit Stoss. It is considered one of the greatest artistic treasures in Poland.
Don’t miss the Hejnał Mariacki (St. Mary’s Trumpet Call), the traditional anthem played every hour from the top of the tallest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica.
Town Hall Tower
The Town Hall Tower is the lone tower that stands in the middle of Krakow’s Main Market Square, and is the only remnant of the old Kraków Town Hall that was demolished in 1820.
This beautiful Gothic tower dates from the 14th century and stands 70 meters tall. A curious fact is that the tower leans just 55 centimeters as a result of a storm in 1703. On the top of the Town Hall Tower there is an observation deck: you can go up and enjoy a nice view of the Market Square and St. Mary’s Basilica.
Church of St. Adalbert
The Church of St. Adalbert is the real jewel nestled in the heart of Krakow’s Main Market Square.
This small church is over 1000 years old, in fact it was built in the 11th century. It is an excellent example of Polish Romanesque architecture of the early Middle Ages, one of the oldest stone buildings in Poland, although today it appears to be covered with stucco. Its baroque appearance is in fact due to a 17th century restoration.
You can see it at the intersection of Krakow’s Main Market Square and Grodzka Street.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument
The large statue dedicated to Adam Mickiewicz, the greatest Polish Romantic poet of the 19th century, dates from the late 19th century and is considered to be one of the best known monuments in Poland.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland the name of Krakow’s Market Square was changed to Adolf Hitler-Platz and the statue, like many other elements of local culture, was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1955, also thanks to the recovery of most of its pieces found in a scrap metal heap in Hamburg.
Today the statue is an established meeting point from where most city tours and pub crawls depart.
Ancient Houses of Krakow’s Market Square
The ancient and elegant townhouses that line the edges of the Main Market Square are true masterpieces of Polish Baroque architecture.
Each house has its own history, its legends and small artistic masterpieces that can be seen on the facade. You could visit Krakow’s Market Square on a guided tour to learn more about the most interesting stories and architectural elements of this square, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
Things to see and do around Krakow Market Square
The Rynek Główny (Market Square) is probably the most famous landmark in Krakow, and is located right in the heart of Krakow’s Old Town.
From here you can easily visit most of the best Museums in Krakow and enjoy most of the best attractions in the city, such as Kazimierz or the Wawel Castle. Check out our must-read list of the Best Things to Do and See in Krakow.
From the Main Market Square depart the two main streets of Krakow’s Old Town, Florianska Street and Grodzka Street, full of restaurants, shops, pubs and clubs.
The best way to visit Main Market Square is with a guided tour of Krakow’s Old Town. There are also great free walking tours!
Krakow’s best food tours and pub crawls also depart from here, making the city’s nightlife quite lively.
Planning your trip to Krakow? Then these will come in handy: