One of Krakow’s most recognisable pieces of architecture is its Cloth Hall, located on the main market square of the Old Town. It dates back to the Renaissance period when it served as a major hub of trade for travelling merchants to barter spices, silk and leather from the East with Polish textiles and Wieliczka salt.
Krakow’s Cloth Hall exhibits an impressive roof adorned with elaborate masks by Santi Gucci, together with ornate staircases and galleries on both sides of the building. Its ground floor is still used as a commercial hub, home to stalls selling local handicrafts and souvenirs, as well as the Art Nouveau-style Noworolski cafe which first opened its doors in 1910. Since the late 19th century, its upper floor has been home to the Sukiennice Museum which boasts an impressive collection of Polish paintings and sculptures within its four exhibition halls. They are themed by historical period, with Baroque, Rococo and Classicist portraits, as well as the depiction of Polish battles, mythological stories and biblical scenes. Works from renowned Polish artists such as Jacek Malczewski, Józef Chełmoński and Leon Wyczółkowski are on display, together with the controversial masterpiece “Frenzy of Exultations” by Władysław Podkowiński. The Cloth Hall also features an upper floor cafe whose terrace offers beautiful views across Krakow’s Old Town.
The Cloth Hall is located in the very centre of Krakow’s Old Town and within a short walk from many of the city’s major sights. It’s also within walking distance from the main railway and transport hub at Krakow Główny which lies just to the north-east.
It was around the turn of the 14th century that the first trade hall was constructed in Krakow, with a roof built over two rows of market stalls where textiles were traded. After a fire in 1555 destroyed large areas of this hall, the Renaissance structure seen today was established, with its outside arcades and central transepts added in the late 19th century.