Ever lively tradition

Cracow cultivates numerous ancient customs. Every year in June, the Lajkonik, a horse rider dressed in a stylized Tatar costume, dances from the convent of the Norbertine Nuns to the Main Market Square. This figure originates from the time when the city was threatened by the Tatars. Legend has it that during one foray, raftsmen living in Zwierzyniec, near Cracow, entered the enemy camp and killed the khan. The Tatars withdrew from the gates of Cracow, and the joyous victors – with a raftsman dressed as the khan at the front – triumphantly entered the city.

Cracow Christmas creches are world-famous. Made by folk artists and craftsmen, they combine the traditions of Baroque decoration with motifs from folk tales and legends. The most interesting creches are displayed in the Main Market Square around Christmas.

The Main Market Square, approximately 200 m on each side, is the oldest part of the Old Town. Established at the crossroads of trade routes in 1257, it is one of Europe’s largest city squares. The square is surrounded by tenement houses that once belonged to its wealthiest residents. Above the square rise the two towers of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary, known as Mariacki (St. Mary’s) Church. This is the most valuable historic building in the Old Town. A bugle call is played from the higher tower every hour to the four corners of the world. The melody breaks off suddenly – apparently centuries ago, the bugler saw Tatar forces approaching the city and sounded the alarm. He was killed by the arrow of a Tatar warrior and although the bugler failed to finish the alarm call, Cracovians had enough time to prepare for the attack.