Main Market Sqare - the city's heart
Cracow’s Main Market Square is the largest medieval urban centre in Europe. The centrally positioned Cloth Hall, a construction from the turn of the 12th century, was originally designed for the cloth trade. The Cloth Hall, topped with gargoyles, acquired its decorative appearance in the 19th century, when arcades were added. Today, the ground floor continues to be a trading centre for crafts and souvenirs, while the upper floor houses the Gallery of 19th Century Polish Painting.
Overlooking the square from the east is St Mary’s Church with its magnificent high altar, carved by the Nuremberg sculptor Veit Stoss (known to Poles as Wit Stwosz) and acclaimed as the greatest masterpiece of Gothic art in Poland. Carefully renovated, the church enchants visitors with its simplicity, high vaulted naves and beautiful wall paintings. Every hour, the hejnal (bugle-call) is played from the higher tower to commemorate the destruction of the city during the 13th century Tatar raids. After listening to the hejnal melody that breaks off abruptly in midbar, one can never forget the town’s special ambience. In the southern corner of the square is the small, domed St Adalbert’s Church. A good example of Romanesque architecture in Poland and one of the oldest churches in Cracow.
The Town Hall Tower dominates the western section of the square; its basement contains a very well preserved medieval torture hall, a theatre and a café.
Lined with magnificent houses, the Main Market Square attracts crowds of tourists day and night. After long and successful rounds of shopping, they can sit and relax in the many restaurants and cafés located here; they can also enjoy savoury meals in the ambience of their original interior decorations. The Main Market Square has always been Cracow’s salon.