The Charming Tale of Lajkonik: Krakow’s Hobbyhorse – A Symbol of Triumph and Tradition

Steeped in history and rich in tradition, the city of Krakow boasts an array of legends that have been passed down through generations. Among these captivating tales, the story of Lajkonik, also known as Krakow’s hobbyhorse, holds a special place for its historical significance and enduring charm.


The roots of this fascinating legend trace back to the year 1287. Unseen by the inhabitants, Tartar armies stealthily approached the city, planning to launch an attack at the break of dawn.

They decided to take a night’s rest in the bulrushes by the Vistula River, near the village of Zwierzyniec, intending to invade the city under the cover of morning mist.

However, fate had other plans. Local raftsmen, known as włóczkowie, stumbled upon the sleeping Tartar army. Displaying immense courage, they seized the opportunity to overpower the unsuspecting invaders, thus saving Krakow from potential devastation.

Lajkonik Festival Poland

In celebration of their victory, the raftsmen donned the Asian attire of the defeated Tartar army and rode into the city on the horses they had claimed as spoils of battle. Initially, their appearance struck fear among the townsfolk. However, as the true nature of their visit unfolded, fear gave way to jubilation.

On that memorable day, the Mayor of Krakow decreed an annual commemoration of this event. Each year, a raftsman dressed as the Tartar Khan would lead a procession of Krakow’s włóczkowie from Zwierzyniec to the Main Market Square.

Lajkonik Annual Festival

This tradition continues to this day in the form of the Lajkonik Procession, one of Krakow’s most anticipated annual festivals. The main attraction is Lajkonik – a man dressed in Mongol-style attire, symbolizing the brave raftsmen, riding a wooden horse.

As he leads the parade, Lajkonik disperses good luck with his mace, a gesture that has become synonymous with the festival.

The tale of Lajkonik is more than just an intriguing legend; it is a testament to the bravery and spirit of the people of Krakow. It’s a charming narrative that continues to be celebrated, keeping the city’s vibrant history alive and reminding us of the courage that lies in each one of us.

Bartosz is a travel writer, photographer & founder/editor of theuniquepoland who tells stories of adventure, history and current affairs. He writes mainly about travel, with special focus on Poland. He loves travelling, discover new unknown and inspire others.

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