A market square was a space for trade and a place where roads leading to the city converged. On the market square usually we can find the town hall, the seat of the municipal authorities and most often, also the main temple of the city nearby. In the territory of today's Poland, the spatial layout of the market square, its function and tasks were related to the adoption of German (most often Magdeburg) law. Other buildings typical to market squares are cloth halls, bread stalls, a scale as well as a pillory and a well. Most market squares were most often drawn on a quadrilateral plan, although some of them have the form of a triangle or a widening street. From the Renaissance period, symmetrical polygonal markets were also sometimes designed.
The Crakow Main Square is Europe's largest medieval square. It has the shape of a square exceeding 200 meters on each side. St. Mary's Church towers over the Royal Market Square. Every hour a bugle call is played live by trumpeters from the higher tower of the church, called Hejnalica. In the middle of the square there is the Cloth Hall. There is the department of the National Museum on the first floor. On the eastern side of the Main Square, between the Cloth Hall and the exit of Sienna Street there is Adam Mickiewicz monument - a place of meetings, performances by street artists, and a landmark on the Krakow market square. The 70-meter-high Town Hall Tower located on the Market Square offers a wide panorama of the city, while inside is a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. There are many beautiful tenement houses around the square, which add charm to this place. Many of them have restaurants, pubs, also outside. Under the Market Square, there is the Main Market Underground, made available to visitors in 2010 as a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. The entrance to them is in the Cloth Hall.
The Old Market Square in Wrocław has almost 3.8 hectare and is one of the biggest old squares in Poland (after Kraków) and Europe. It is a rectangle of 213 and 178 meters. 11 streets start at this market. In the centre of the square there is a big Town Hall with 66 m tower, which is the biggest in Poland. Around the market there are 60 decorative, historic tenement houses. In the basement of the Town Hall there is Piwnica Świdnicka restaurant. It is one of the oldest gastronomy points in Europe. The Town Hall is currently a city’s museum. On the market square tourists can find Aleksander Fredoro monument (one of the most famous Polish comedy writers), a whipping post and a modern fountain. The Market Square is a place of Christmas fairs, New Year’s parties and religious, academic and army celebrations and a beating heart of Wrocław for all tourists.
The Old Town Square was established at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. It has the shape of a rectangle measuring 90 x 73 m. The market served commercial and public functions. Here fairs, executions and burning of forbidden books took place. There were also municipal and state ceremonies and processions. Now, the Old Town Square is one of the most important places on the cultural and tourist map of Warsaw, due to the fact that in 1980 Warsaw's Old Town was entered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. Delights with colourful tenements and the unique atmosphere of narrow streets. On the old town square you will meet the Mermaid - the official symbol of the city.
The main city square in Poznań was delimited around 1253. It is a square with a side length of 141 meters, and each wall has three streets, two of them at the extreme corners. It is the third largest market square in Poland (after Kraków and Wrocław – with square shape) and one of the largest in Europe. Currently, the Old Market Square is one of the main tourist attractions of the city and the Renaissance Town Hall with Poznań goats, located at it, are the best well known symbols of the city.
Sienny Market Square is the main square in Szczecin. It has rectangular shape. The market was established in the Middle Ages. Its name also comes from that era, which derives from the hay trade taking place there (Polish Siano means hay). During World War II, the Allied bombing caused significant damage to the market square. Tenement houses around the square were built initially in the Baroque style, then rebuilt into an Eclectic had to be rebuilt. The Hall was rebuilt in Gothic and Baroque styles.
The Great Market Square in Zamość has ideal dimensions of 100 x 100 meters and fits perfectly into the concept of the ideal Renaissance city. At first glance, it seems enormous because there is no town hall in the center. Town Hall is built into the layout of tenement houses to which leads magnificent fan-shaped staircase. The Town Hall Tower has 52 m, at noon every day a bugle call at the tower is being performed. In the undergrounds of the Town Hall there is a tourist rout showing the history of the building and town. When they look around, tourist notice not only rows of even tenement houses, but also restaurant gardens exposed in the summer. Majority of tenement houses have the famous arcades. It is especially worth paying attention to the five interestingly decorated mannerist-baroque Armenian tenement houses located in the northern frontage of the market square. Nowadays, they host Zamojskie Museum.
It is a large, main square of the city with cute tenement houses and an impressive Town Hall in the middle. It is a characteristic building from the 14th century, rebuilt in the 16th century in the Renaissance style and it is one of the most beautiful and recognizable town halls in Poland. Sandomierz Market Square is quite unusual because it is sloping. The difference in levels is 15 meters. The square itself measures 110 x 120 meters. It is surrounded by the beautiful tenement houses, each of which looks different. It also has beautiful reconstructed wooden well in the middle.
The rectangular market square in Chełmno was shaped in the Middle Ages. Over the years, the Gothic tenement houses disappeared from the market square, only one tenement house remained - the eighteenth-century Cywiński tenement house. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, completely new tenement houses were built, which today decorate the square in Chełmno. Still the focal point and the biggest landmark of Chełmno is the Renaissance town hall in the middle of the market square.
This town can boast the longest market square in the country and in Europe in general. Its length is 400 m.
This market square is the national holder of the size record. It has the shape of an irregular trapezoid with dimensions of 255 x 215 x 228 x 225 m and is the largest market square in Poland in terms of area.
Above examples of market squares are just our chosen samples, still there are many more interesting urban units of this type. We heartily recommend discovering also other ones. Still, always remember to plan some free time in these places just to sit in restaurants and cafes that are always located at market squares and enjoy the atmosphere of these beautiful spots. If any of the above examples caught your interest contact our group coordinators. We will be more than happy to help you organise your stay in Poland.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska