The Old Town Square: A Walking Tour

27 Feb 2018

So here we are, right in the middle of this gorgeous historical city, Poznań. You're in the right place - as it happens, this lovely square isn't just a looker. Packed with monuments, landmarks, museums, and mementos from the city's rich history, it warrants more than a passing glance and smartphone pic. Faithfully reconstructed after the immense damage of WWII, the Main Square can easily take a few hours to properly explore and enjoy.

The most impressive structure on the Main Square has to be the deliciously elaborate Town Hall at its centre. First erected in the early 14th century, it truly flowered in mid-1500s when Italian architect Giovanni Quadro of Lugano added the Renaissance loggia, attic, and classical tower, earning the structure acclaim as “the most beautiful Renaissance town hall north of the Alps”. Unfortunately, a catalogue of historic disasters - including a 1675 fire, 1725 hurricane, and WWII bomb damage - have resulted in the sad reality that today little of the original structure actually remains, though it has been faithfully rebuilt to retain its status as the city's showpiece.

Today the Old Town Hall houses the Historical Museum of Poznań, whose collection encompasses exhibits from the 10th century till the present day. The biggest draw is the Great Entrance Hall with its elaborately decorated vault, supported by two huge pillars. The tableaux are inspired by Biblical and mythological figures. Similar decorations, including four pairs of female allegories of virtues, can be seen gracing the building’s facade.

Crowds gather outside the Town Hall each day to witness two mechanical billy goats emerge from a door above the clock at precisely noon and proceed to butt heads twelve times. Simultaneously, a trumpeter plays the town’s traditional bugle call from a balcony. The bugle call (hejnał) dates back at least to the 15th century, and the goats have been ramming heads since 1551. Replaced and restored over the years, the present pair have been at it since 1954. Of course there’s a half-baked legend to go along with them: when the clock was completed in 1511, the governor of the Poznań province was invited for the unveiling. The hapless cook preparing the celebratory feast burnt the venison, so he went out and managed to steal a pair of goats to serve instead. Alas, the goats escaped and traipsed up to the top of City Hall, where they began butting heads, amusing the collected crowd and the governor himself, who decreed they be added to the clock.

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