Polish Culture and History Abounds in the Main Square, Krakow (Rynek Główny)
Whenever I speak to someone about visiting Krakow, the first attraction that comes to mind is the Main Square, or Rynek Główny. Named the “Best Public Space in Europe” by the Project for Public Life, the Main Square epitomizes the beauty, charm and character of Krakow. Built as the cultural and financial heart of Poland in 1257, the massive gathering place remains one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. Krakow’s hub is world-renowned for its festive street life as well as its rich and eventful history.
Whether you visit in the spring, summer, fall or winter, the Main Square is home to numerous celebrations, festivals and cultural events. I like to bring guests during the holidays to experience the incredible Christmas Bazaar or the largest New Year’s Eve party in Poland. The Christmas season hosts a colorful explosion when the city’s florists come together to decorate the Adam Mickiewicz Monument on Christmas Eve. The square plays host to the cultural Krakow Szopka Festival during the holiday season, featuring uniquely Polish interpretations of the Christian crib scenes.
In the summer, the Main Square hosts a 700-year old Festival, the Lajkonik Festival. Occurring every June, the Lajkonik is a warrior from the east who rides a white horse through the city. Accompanied by a rich procession of people in traditional garb, spectators crowd around hoping to be touched by his mace for good luck.
In the summer, there are few places in the world more interesting and enjoyable for outdoor dining. The many cafes lining its perimeter bring out their chairs and tables, offering visitors the perfect place to enjoy a beverage while soaking in Krakow’s rich culture. Street mimes, buskers, horse-drawn carriages, rock pigeons, florist stalls and more provide constant entertainment for the eye, while the awe-inspiring architecture provides a beautiful backdrop for a summer meal.
Hundreds of diverse vendors fill the Main Square, which has commercial roots dating back to the 13th Century with the opening of the Black Sea trade. The square remains true to its centuries-old market function over the Christmas holidays, and travelers on Your Destination Poland's Polish Christmas Tour can witness and peruse its famous market stalls.
I always enjoy showing architecture lovers the many period styles that adorn the famous Main Square, Krakow. Centered around Cloth Hall, which was rebuilt in 1555 after being destroyed by the Mongols, it features ornate Renaissance carvings on its roof or “attic,” decorated with masks.
Also still standing is the Town Hall Tower, which lives on despite the absence of a Town Hall, which was destroyed. Among the oldest structures in the Main Square is the 10th century Church of St. Adalbert.
Literary buffs and building lovers alike will enjoy the massive St. Mary’s Basilica, rebuilt in the 14th Century. The building is often cited as the example of the Polish Cathedral architectural style and is the subject of the 1929 book The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly.
Visit Krakow This Christmas
Krakow is featured on both of Your Destination Poland’s upcoming winter tours. The Fascinating Poland tour as well as the Polish Christmas Tour offer the Main Square, Krakow experience as well as many other beautiful experiences in Poland. Visit our Tours page today to select your tour, and experience the wonder of Poland yourself!