What to See on Kraków's Market Square
Taking centre stage is the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). Built in the 14th century this huge hall was effectively the first shopping mall in the world. To this day it is still crammed with merchant stalls selling amber, lace, woodwork and assorted tourist tat. In 2010, Rynek Underground - a 4,000m2, hi-tech museum tracing the history of the Cloth Hall, and that of the entire city - opened underneath it, while the second floor hosts the underrated 19th Century Polish Art Gallery.
Directly next to the Sukiennice stands Poland’s most eminent scribe: Adam Mickiewicz. Ironically, the bard never visited the city until after his death when his remains were transferred to the Wawel Cathedral crypt, but this hasn’t stopped the statue from becoming one of Kraków’s best loved monuments. Across from Mickiewicz looms the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica, its crowning glory being Veit Stoss’ altarpiece. The area surrounding the Basilica was formerly a cemetery, and the bodies of hundreds of Cracovians still lie beneath the cobbles. Ghoulish tourists will also appreciate the set of metal neck restraints displayed on the side door of St Mary’s, formerly used to punish philandering women. Also, don't miss the famous bugle call played from the tower of St. Mary's every hour, on the hour - one of Kraków's most charming and famous traditions.
On the square’s other side is the 70 metre Town Hall Tower, the only element of the 14th century Town Hall remaining after many fires, renovations and uncaring demolitions. From March until the end of December visitors can ascend up lots of stairs to the 3rd floor through Gothic vaulted rooms which contain, amongst other things, 1960s photographs of Kraków and rather underwhelming views to the west and south.