The Royal Route

The Royal Route – which begins at the Kleparz marketplace, goes past the Barbican, through St. Florian’s Gate and along Floriańska Street, crosses the Main Market Square and then follows Grodzka Street to finally reach the Wawel Castle – has for centuries been the most popular and busy trail in Kraków.

At the very beginning of the route, it is worth paying attention to St. Florian’s Church from the 12th century (it was then that the relics of the saint were brought to Poland). Then, the route crosses the vast square of Jan Matejko (Plac Matejki) with a huge monument commemorating the Battle of Grunwald (1410), won by Poland and Lithuania. Among the buildings surrounding the square there is the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. It is the oldest art university in Poland. Interestingly enough, its first director was the famous painter – Jan Matejko. Right next to the square that bears his name there is the most famous marketplace in Kraków, known as Stary Kleparz, where as soon as in the 15th century people sold grains and farm animals.  

Then, the Royal Route leads us past the Barbican, one of the best-preserved fortified structures in Europe, built in imitation of the European and Arabic ones. The Barbican guarded the city owing to its strong walls (3 metres thick), 7 turrets and 130 embrasures – deployed on four storeys. The entire building was surrounded by a deep moat filled with water.

Right behind the Barbican there is St. Florian’s Gate, the only gate that survived out of eight which once used to surround Kraków. This is the main entrance to the city, displaying an eagle designed by Jan Matejko on one side and a statue of St. Florian on the other. Floriańska Street was built as soon as in the 13th century and throughout all those years it was one of the busiest and most crowded streets of Kraków. Jan Matejko himself lived and worked here at number 41.

Floriańska Street leads us to the Main Market Square, the largest square of medieval Europe. This unique place is bustling with life 24 hours a day. In one of the corners of the square rises up St. Mary’s Basilica (Kościół Mariacki), built yet before the foundation of the town, with its most valuable monument – the wooden altar made by Wit Stwosz. However, it is the nearby tiny church that is considered the oldest temple of the city – the Church of St. Adalbert (Kościół św. Wojciecha), located at the entrance to Grodzka Street, which in its present form was established at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries.

The central point of the Main Market Square is the several hundred years old Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). It was once composed of two rows of stone stalls that were later joined together and covered up with a roof. Just like in the olden days, it is now a place of trade, only today the bales of cloth that used to be sold here were replaced by souvenirs.

A 70-metre high Town Hall Tower is all that remains now of the former Kraków Town Hall. It is slightly deviated from the vertical and topped with a huge clock.

Heading towards the Wawel Castle along Grodzka Street, it is hard not to notice the oldest baroque church in Kraków – the Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Kościół św. Piotra i Pawła). The stone wall in front of the entrance supports large statues of the twelve apostles. There is also another street that leads to the Wawel Hill, which you may find to be a nice alternative to the parallel Grodzka Street. On Kanonicza Street, a place with a unique history, lived such famous people as: Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik), chronicler Jan Długosz, painter Stanisław Wyspiański and Karol Wojtyła, future Pope John Paul II.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019
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