It is the biggest place of this kind in Europe, as well as one of the most beautiful squares in the entire world. Its dimensions are 200×200 m.
History of main square in Cracow
Its creation started in the 13th century. Tourists can easily reach such places as St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall, St. Wojciech Church, and Town Hall Tower from there.
In the past, a market was the key part of the Main Square of the city, as it was the place where numerous trade routes met. Merchants used to sell their goods there, which gave rise to the famous Cloth Hall.
While walking along the Cracow market area, one can admire oldest tenement houses in the city, which have been here for several hundred years – Hetmańska, Krzysztofory and Pod Baranami are especially worth checking out.
The said tenement houses have been renovated and numerous decorative elements have been added to them. The majority of them belonged to wealthy merchants and town citizens. The further from the market, the poorer the people living in the city were. At the back of the St. Mary’s Basilica, there was a local cemmentary.
The market area is strictly connected with Polish history. In 1525, homage ceremony, in which a Prussian prince took part, was held. What is more, in 1794, Kościuszko Uprising started there.
Legend about pigeons on main square
The atmosphere of the place is additionally enhanced by the stalls of florists and omnipresent pigeons, which are a part of numerous legends. According to one of them, prince Henry the Fourth wanted to become a king, but the consent of a pope was needed to be granted such a privilege. The said consent was granted after offering the pope a significant amount of gold, but the treasury of the king-to-be was empty.
Therefore, he decided to visit a fortuneteller, who transformed soldiers of the king into pigeons, which then sat at the top of the St. Mary Basilica and started chipping small stones off the building. Each particle that fell to the ground changed into gold. Thanks to the said transformation and help of the pigeon soldiers, Henry the Fourth was able to gather 3 carts of gold and travel to Rome. After his return, he was greeted by his soldiers, who returned to their former self.
However, rumor has it that Henry the Fourth spent his gold on women and wine, never even reaching Rome. Since time immemorial, there has been always a large flock of pigeons in a close proximity to the basilica at any time of day and night.
Main Square today
Currently, the market area is one of the favorite meeting spots of the citizens of Cracow. Teenagers usually meet under the statue of Mickiewicz to start their date.
Next to the market, there is always the famous Piwnica pod Baranami (Eng. the Cellar under the Rams) and the Wierzynek Restaurant. The historic tenement houses are the places where numerous coffee houses, restaurants, cinemas, shops, and museums are situated. The entire area of the market looks marvelous at any time of day and year.
The Main Square in Cracow is the place where many concerts, festivities, street theaters, and Christmas fairs are organized as well.
Quite regularly, renovation works of the Main Square area are performed. In many cases, they lead to unusual discoveries. For example, during one of such sessions, experts came across the traces of medieval cobblestone and other remnants from the area. The revealed elements were made a part of the underground tourist route.
If you want to admire the landscape of Cracow and look at the Main Square from quite a different angle, you should climb the tower of the St. Mary Basilica or visit one of coffee houses from where you will have a marvelous view of the market area.
We would also like to encourage you to discover various historic gates, yards, and basements of tenement houses, as they are exceptionally atmospheric in character.
It is also worth mentioning that some time ago, a tram drove through the Main Square. Nowadays, such a situation would be hard to imagine.