Main Marquet Square, Krakow, Poland, …Plaza del Mercado, Cracovia, Polonia

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Kraków’s main market square (Rynek) serves as the city’s gravitational centre, and is the natural start and finish point for any tour of the city. Originally designed in 1257 – the year Kraków was awarded its charter – the grid-like layout of the Old Town and its central square has changed little in the years that have followed. Measuring 200 metres square, the Rynek ranks as one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, and is surrounded by elegant townhouses, all with their own unique names, histories and curiosities. Through the centuries it was in Kraków’s Rynek that homage to the king was sworn and public executions held. Most famously it was here that Tadeusz Kościuszko roused the locals to revolt against foreign rule in 1794. The Rynek has always been the natural stage for public celebrations, with everything from parades of sausage dogs to Christmas crib competitions taking place. Not all the events have had been happy affairs however, and back in the 17th century King Jan Sobieski III was privy to a firework display which ended in bloodshed when some of the explosives were accidentally fired into the crowd. More recently the market square was subjected to a Nazi rally attended by Der Führer himself when the square’s name was changed to ‘Adolf Hitler Platz’ during German occupation. Fortunately the moniker didn’t last long and today the Rynek occupies itself by hosting annual Christmas and Easter markets, as well as numerous festivals and outdoor concerts.
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.

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Plaza del Mercado de Cracovia
Con unas sorprendentes dimensiones de 40.000 metros cuadrados, la Plaza del Mercado de Cracovia (Rynek Główny) no sólo es la más importante de Polonia, sino que también constituye la plaza medieval más grande de Europa.
Trazada en 1257, la plaza constituye el centro de la ciudad y cuenta con un importante significado histórico, cultural y social. A lo largo de los siglos ha sido el lugar elegido por los comerciantes y un impasible testigo de numerosos acontecimientos, tales como ceremonias, celebraciones y ejecuciones públicas, llegando incluso a adoptar el nombre de Adolf Hitler Platz durante la ocupación nazi.
Puntos de interés de la plaza
Rodeada por casas burguesas y palacios de origen medieval la plaza es el principal punto de reunión de los ciudadanos y turistas de Cracovia y siempre se encuentra animada.
Entre sus numerosas y agradables terrazas y los hermosos coches de caballos que esperan a sus clientes podríamos destacar los siguientes puntos:
Lonja de Paños (Sukiennice): Situada en el centro de la Plaza del Mercado, la Lonja de Paños fue inaugurada en el siglo XIII como una especie de “centro comercial” compuesto por tenderetes que más tarde se verían transformados en el edificio que es en la actualidad.
Basílica de Santa María: Con una imponente fachada flanqueada por dos torres de diferentes alturas, la Basílica de Santa María es uno de los principales monumentos de la ciudad.
Torre del Antiguo Ayuntamiento: Construida en el siglo XIV, esta torre de 70 metros de altura es la única parte que se conserva el antiguo Ayuntamiento de la ciudad. Es posible subir hasta la parte superior para ver la ciudad desde las alturas.
Iglesia de San Adalberto: Tan pequeña y modesta que podría pasar desapercibida, fue construida en el siglo X en el lugar en el que, según la leyenda, San Adalberto predicaba sus sermones.
El corazón de la ciudad
La Plaza del Mercado de Cracovia es el lugar más importante de la ciudad y resulta agradable recorrerla tanto de día, para disfrutar de su ambiente animado y sus agradables terrazas, como de noche, cuando las tenues luces le aportan un aspecto aún más romántico.
Al pasar un rato en la plaza tendréis la posibilidad de escuchar la melodía “hejnal” tocada por un trompetista cada hora desde la más alta de las torres de la Basílica de Santa María.

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