Krakow’s Cloth Hall: the Beautiful Baroque Juggernaut
Jutting from the center of Krakow’s Market Square like the crown of some giant, half-buried king, the Cloth Hall (Polish: Sukiennice) is one of the largest, and most stunning examples of baroque architecture in Southern Poland. First built in the 14th century as a market for Polish textiles merchants to ply their wares, the Cloth Hall still serves its original purpose as a marketplace where visitors to Krakow can buy souvenirs, eat traditional Polish cuisine at one of many fine restaurants, or learn about Krakow’s 1,000 year history at two world-class museums – one of which is underground!
The original Cloth Hall appeared much different to what we see today. The structure was built in the medieval times as a place for merchants to sell textiles (thus, the “cloth” in Cloth hall). It reached its heyday as an international marketplace in the 15th century, when Krakow was one of the largest and economically powerful cities in Europe, before it slowly declined into disarray over the course of the next four centuries due to various fires, wars, and political partitioning of the country. The Cloth Hall was finally renovated during Southern Poland’s economic boom under Austrian rule during the latter half of the 19th Century, when Polish architect and Renaissance enthusiast Tomasz Pryliński gave it the baroque facelift seen today. Renovations began in 1875 and finished in 1879, including the opening of the modern Sukiennice Museum on the upper level. Today, the Cloth Hall is almost never empty, and constantly bustles with foot traffic, from tourists, diners, shoppers, and travel photographers looking for that perfect shot.
The souvenir stands in the Cloth Hall are open from 10:00 in the morning until 06:00 at night. After dark, the north-south passageway is blocked off, but the east-west passageway remains open. The Cloth Hall’s many restaurants, which include some of the city’s best dining, stay open until late. The Cloth Hall boasts two museums, both different in tone and the variety of exhibitions. On the upper level is the Sukiennice Museum, which holds an impressive collection of famous 19th century Polish paintings and statues. Venturing downstairs, the Rynek Underground museum on level B1 features myriad small but interesting modern exhibits about Krakow’s history, including holograms, smoke screen displays, and even a 1,000 year-old segment of the city’s stone foundations.
Images by Hannah Bialic for Absolute Tours
Krakow Cloth Hall Info
Address: Rynek Główny 1-3
31-044 Kraków, Poland
Map ref: 50.0615991, 19.9373313
More info: Details of the Rynek Underground Museum can be found here.
Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 06:00 PM.
Costs: Entry to the Cloth Hall is free. Tickets for the Rynek Underground museum can be purchased for 19zl for a normal ticket, 16zl for discounted ticket for elders and young adults under the age of twenty-six, and 15zl for group tickets.
Best time to see it: Daytime