Barbican is one of Kraków’s most recognisable landmarks. It is situated at Basztowa Street in Planty Park just next to Słowacki Theatre. If you happen to arrive to Kraków by train, it is probably one of the first landmarks you will see. Locals call it in a friendly manner “a saucepan”, because of it shape but in truth it is the show-piece of the city's medieval defences. It was built in the 15th century and was part of the main Kraków defensive structures, connected to city walls and a moat. Built in Gothic style, this masterpiece of medieval military engineering was impenetrable. Nowadays, it is one of only a few preserved structures of this type in the world and distinct because of almost perfect preservation. From April till October it acts as an open air museum where you can learn a lot about old city walls and defences.
Barbican is the fortified outpost which was linked to the city walls in the Middle Ages. It was the historical gateway leading to the Old Town.
Barbican was erected in the second half of the XVth century at the time of Jan Olbracht’s reign. It was intentionally designed to protect Krakow from Ottoman army attack. The city avoided the invasion of the Turkish army when polish monarchs kept the right political relationship with Sultans.
Barbican is the round edifice with inner courtyard of 25 m and thick walls. It also has 7 turrets and 130 embrasures. It was linked to St. Florian Gate by the long corridor which was demolished in the XIXth century by local authorities. The main entrance was placed on the northern side of the building. It made enemies entering Barbican lose their way to the gate. The building was protected by a large, semi-circular moat.
Until the beginning of the XIXth century this edifice impregnable and successfully protected Krakow from invaders. At that time the fortifications were found in very bad technical condition. The city authorities decided to demolish them. Among all defensive pieces of the walls intended to destruct was Barbican. One of local conservators has objected it saving this monument.
On the eastern side of the building there is a stone board placed. It reminds the local character Marcin Oracewicz fighting for Krakow in the XVIII century. He was one of soldiers being on duty in the guard porch every day.
In 1768 Krakow was occupied by the Russian army. Oracewicz controlled the situation on the northern side of Krakow. Once he saw the commander of enemy troops. As he found it was the great occasion to rescue the city by shooting him. He tried to do it but he didn’t have enough ammunition. Due to lack of it he merged the fusion button with a cloak and hit the head of the Russian colonel.
Today Barbican in Krakow is one of only three such well-preserved barbicans in Europe, alongside the Warsaw one and in Carcassone. The Krakow’s one is the most magnificent.
Barbican operates as a branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow and belongs to the route of the City Walls. Entering it visitors can get to know all different systems of medieval defense. It is also attractive place for everyone who wants to be brought back to the Middle Ages. The museum organizes attractions for mostly kids at the summer time. Then Barbican turns to the main arena of them.
It is definitely the place let visitors to follow steps of polish monarchs going to the Wawel Hill and beginning his adventure with the polish history.
ITS Poland definitely recommends a visiting Barbican during your stay in Krakow.