The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) is located in the middle of the main square (Rynek) of Krakow. The old market place in its current form dates from the 16th century. Numerous souvenir shops are located inside the market hall, and several cafes, pubs, and restaurants can be found around the Cloth Hall and on the market. It makes it one of the best things to do in Krakow.
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in Krakow is Sukiennice. Located in the center of Krakow’s main market square, the Cloth Hall refers to a rich trading tradition. In these halls, Sukiennice, in Polish, the wealthy merchants sold their textiles and salt from the nearby Wieliczka salt mines in the 15th century.
They, in turn, bought oriental spices, silk, leather, and wax in return. The cloth was often traded and stored here. This was used to make clothes during the Middle Ages, and it was traded in Krakow as early as the thirteenth century. The Cloth Halls are originally from the 13th century, but they were severely damaged in a fire in 1555, and the large complex was later rebuilt in a Renaissance style.
After a thorough overhaul in the 19th century, it got its current appearance, and Poland’s first national museum was established on the first floor. Even today, there is an extensive and beautiful collection of Polish paintings on display. For several years, the charming Rynek Underground museum has been located under the Sukiennice, where you will be transported back centuries and discover the history of the large market through excavations. No sheet has been sold in the Sukiennice for centuries.
Today, the halls are divided into numerous stalls where tourists flock bags full of fun souvenirs and crafts. You can also visit the National Museum of Krakow in the Cloth Halls. Due to its central location on the Rynek Glowny, the cloth hall is a real crowd-pleaser.
Things To Do and See in Cloth Hall
In the Cloth Hall, you can find lots of art as the National Museum of Krakow is housed in the Sukiennice. On the top floor, you can admire the Gallery with Polish art dating from the 19th century. The museum was founded to display the painting Nero’s Torches after one of the best Polish painters Henryk Siemiradzki donated it to the city.
The museum was opened in 1879 and became the heart of the art culture shortly after. Nowadays it is one of the best places to see and enjoy Polish art. Besides an extensive collection of artwork, the museum has a cafe with a terrace that offers great views on the market square Rynek Glowny and St Mary’s Basilica.
Besides the Gallery of 19th-century Polish art, you can find another exciting museum. However, for this one, you will need to go underground. Rynek Underground is – as the name suggests – an underground museum that features the history of Rynek Glowny.
A true must for those who love archeology and medieval history. The museum came about by accident: when the main market square was revamped in 2005, archaeological research had to be carried out – as usual in places of great historical value. It turned into a true feast for archaeologists: hundreds of objects, remains of buildings, streets, and even graves from the Middle Ages came to light again.
What would have been a 6-month project turned into a 5-year project. After the archaeological survey was completed, it was such a wealth of information and material that it was decided to open a new museum underground, where it was all found.
Getting hungry? Why not get a grab to eat in Sukiennice – Kompania Kuflowa, which is located on the east side of the building. There is a Galician vibe to be found here. It refers to the Galician heritage of Krakow. The restaurant is decorated with artifacts dating from that time and has a wide range of regional dishes to try out. Also, Cafe Szal, with its rooftop terrace, is worth a stop.
However, the Cloth Hall’s function was to trade cloths, and in a way, it still has this function. While there are no longer cloths traded or stored, the Sukiennice is now a tourist hot spot for souvenir shopping. There are numerous stalls to be found inside the hall offering regional crafts such as wooden statues, pottery, scarves, and commercial souvenirs.
A rusted knife hangs under one of the arcades of the Cloth Hall on the Market Square in Krakow. It is evidence in a fratricide that took place at the time of the construction of St Mary’s Church opposite. Two brothers (both architect) argued over who could build the tallest tower.
The church has two. The argument ended in the murder … the perpetrator was jailed. The two towers have remained different, and no one has ventured into the design anymore. The knife has always been preserved and was hung here to remind people that crime never pays off.
Practical information for your visit:
The Sukiennice Cloth Hall can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00, closed on Mondays.
How to get there
The Sukiennice is located in the main square of Krakow, Rynek Glowny, and divides it in two. The best way to reach this center of Krakow is by bus or tram.
These are the bus and tram routes you can take:
bus: 610, 662, 669, 902, 904
tram: 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 18, 19, 24, 52, 62, 69
Get off at the station Poczta Główna.
Tickets for Rynek Underground
You can book your tickets in advance. You can pick them up at the office on the Main Square, under the arches of the Cloth Hall. You can also just drop by here if you want to find out if there is an entrance ticket for sale on the day itself. The entrance is located on the outside of the cloth hall, which also houses the separate tower of the former town hall.
It is a milk-white door with “Podziemia Rynku” on it. The entrance to the museum itself is also under the arches on the outside, opposite the glass pyramid/fountain in the square. A regular ticket costs 19 złoty, but there are also discounts for children, students, and seniors.