Main Market Square (Rynek Glówny)
Dating from 1257, the Central Market Square was one of the largest squares in Medieval Europe, and remains the social heart of Krakow today. Surrounded by historic buildings, museums and magnificent churches, the impressive expanse of flagstones is a hub of commercial and social activity. Flower sellers, ice-cream vendors, musicians, pigeons, students and groups of tourists fill the square.
Occupying the centre of the square is the splendid medieval Cloth Hall, a covered arcade with a soaring vaulted interior where merchants once sold their wares; today, it is filled with lively market stalls. The upstairs art gallery houses a collection of 19th-century Polish paintings and sculptures. Along the outside walls of the building there are elegant terrace cafes. Most famous of these is Noworolski, which was the centre of Krakow social life before the war, with Lenin a notorious regular. The cafe has now regained its reputation as the prime cake and coffee venue in the city.
The most striking church on the square is St Mary's, an impressive twin-spire Gothic structure. Every hour a mournful bugle sounds from the tallest church spire in memory of the lone watchman whose trumpeted warning of an invasion was cut off mid-note by a Turkish arrow in the throat. Within is the famous carved wooden altar, a majestic piece of Gothic art.