Krakow Trips

The Old Town of Krakow. A walk along of the Royal Road.


The Barbican and the Florian Gate

Krakow has many original buildings dating from different epochs; the whole of the old town was included on UNESCO's first list of the world's cultural heritage in 1978. The favourite starting point of tours around the Old Town is the Barbican, all that remains of the medieval fortifications. It is an interesting example of military architecture and one of the finest of its kind still intact in Europe. It was earlier connected to the Florian Gate by a covered passage, which ran over the former moat surrounding the Old Town. Together with the Florian Gate it formed the beginning of the Royal Road used by kings, princes, foreign envoys and guests of distinction. The Florian Gate is the only City Gate of the original eight, to survive the "modernisation" of the early 19th c.


The Main Square

A few meters down Floriańska Street and we reach the Main Square. With its surface area of four hectares it's the largest medieval square of its kind in Europe. For centuries it has acted as the centre of economic, religious and cultural life. In the centre is Poland's oldest Cloth Hall built in the 13th c., which fell victim to fire in 1555. Today's appearance is thanks to the plans of the Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni il Mosca. An art gallery is now located on the upper floor while the lower covered arcades are taken up by numerous stalls selling souvenirs and art works.


St. Mary Church

On the north side of the square is St. Mary's Church, Krakow's most important after Wawel. It was rebuilt between the middle of the 13th c. and the first half of the 15th c. It is now a symbol of the present wealth and honour of Krakow's inhabitants. The basilica with its 3 naves is also known for its large number of works by Nuremberg artist Veit Stoss. In 1477-1489 he created the grand winged, late-Gothic altar. Behind the altar there are Poland's most beautiful, original stained-glass windows from the end of the 14th c. On the west wall there are two towers of uneven height. The highest tower's function was as Krakow's watchtower and is known for the Hejnal, a trumpet tune sounded every hour in the four directions of the world. On the opposite side is the Town Hall Tower, all that remains of the Town Hall, pulled down last century. This building has acted as the seat of the mayor since the 14th c. A torture chamber and prison were located in the basement which later became known for the sale of Świdnicki beer, where the citizens of Krakow drank the beer brought in from Świdnica in Lower Silesia.


The Dominican and Franciscan churches and monasteries

Leaving the Main Square along Grodzka Street, we get to All Saints' Square. On the left is the Dominican Church and Monastery of the Dominican Brothers who came to Krakow in 1222. Today's three-nave basilica was damaged by the frequent fires of Krakow, which finally destroyed its rich Gothic appearance completely in 1850. Worth mentioning is the bronze tablet by Filippo Buonaccorsi, located by the main entrance, moulded according to a design by Veit Stoss. Interesting Renaissance and Baroque chapels and old Gothic cloisters are to be found within the church.

On the other side of All Saints' Square, next to the former palace of the Wielopolski Family is today's seat of the town's president and the town offices. The seat of the main rivals of the Dominicans, i.e. the Franciscan Church and Monastery is also situated here. It is a huge Gothic monastic church, created in the middle of the 13th c. by Prince Bolesław the Shy. This church alike survived several fires over the years but its interior was completely destroyed in 1850. Today's interior comes from the 19th c. and is characteristic of the Neo-Gothic style. Worth seeing are the wall paintings in the main nave and the huge monumental windows all designed by Stanisław Wyspiański, a representative of the Young Poland movement. Worth visiting is the Gothic cloister with its unique gallery of portraits of Krakow's Bishops and wall paintings from the 15th c.


St. Andrew Church

On the way to Wawel Hill, we go past St. Andrew's Church. It survived the Tatar attacks and acted as a place of shelter against enemy attacks during the invasion of 1241. This church was the centre of the Okół settlement, which existed well before the Main Square, and the grid-plan centre, from as early as the 9th c., stretching between the main part of Krakow and Wawel Hill.


The Kanonicza Street

Further along we get to Kanonicza street, dating back to the same period, and probably one of Krakow's most enchanting side streets. Here the Canons built their residence in the 14th c. There are interesting architectural details to be found in almost every house along this street. Indeed the whole street has a very special atmosphere.

Walking down Kanonicza Street we reach the Wawel Hill. 


See also our Krakow tours offer >>>