This guide to the Sukiennice has everything you need to know about the iconic Cloth Hall that stands on the Main Square in the Krakow Old Town, from its rich history to what’s inside for visitors today…
Every picture you’ve ever seen of the iconic Main Square in the heart of the Krakow Old Town will have the Sukiennice front and center. This is one of the must-see, must-visit landmarks of the city; a spot with a history that goes back more than 700 years. It’s also home to bustling craft markets and important museums. Read this guide to plan your visit this year…
This article may contain affiliate links to hotels, services, and other extras that will earn us something if you click through and book. It’s what helps us keep offering great info on Krakow, so thanks for that!
This is just one part of a complete guide to things to do in Krakow
What is the Sukiennice, exactly?
The Sukiennice, also known as the Cloth Hall, is a historic building located in the heart of Krakow’s Main Market Square. It is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a symbol of its rich history.
Originally built in the 13th century, the Sukiennice was a central venue for merchants trading a variety of goods, particularly textiles, hence its name. Over centuries, the building has undergone several renovations, reflecting architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance.
In its current form, the Sukiennice is a large, rectangular building with an open passage running through its middle, allowing pedestrians to walk through.
Today, the Sukiennice continues to serve as a bustling marketplace on the ground floor, with the National Museum occupying the upper floor. This centuries-old monument stands as a symbol of Krakow’s vibrant history and enduring spirit.
Where is the Sukiennice?
The Sukiennice couldn’t be easier to find. The middle of the Krakow Old Town is the Main Square. The Sukiennice is the middle of that. Yep, that easy. Get to the Old Town – most first-time visitors choose to stay in that area anyway – and it’s right there in the thick of it all.
How to get to the Sukiennice?
The Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, is situated in the very center of Krakow’s Old Town in the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny), so it’s easily accessible from any point in the city.
If you’re staying in the Old Town area, it’s probably best to reach it by foot due to its pedestrian-friendly design.
If you’re coming from further away or from the airport (John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport), here are a few ways you could get to the Sukiennice:
- Taxi – This is the quickest but also the most expensive option. You can take a taxi or use a rideshare app, such as Uber, to get to the Main Market Square. It should be about 15-20 PLN from Kazimierz.
- By Train – If you’re coming from the airport, you can take a train to Krakow Glowny, the city’s main train station. From there, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the Main Market Square.
- By Public Transportation – Krakow has a comprehensive network of trams and buses. From Krakow Glowny, you can take a tram or bus that goes to the stop nearest to Rynek Główny.
The history of the Sukiennice
The history of the Sukkienice begins in the 13th century, when Krakow was an important stop on the trade route from the East to the West. Initially, it was a small open-air market for cloth vendors. In the 14th century, King Casimir the Great decided to erect a roofed structure to protect the merchandise, which marked the birth of the Sukiennice as we know it.
During the 16th century, the Renaissance swept through Europe, bringing a wave of architectural refinement. Around 1555, the Gothic-style building was rebuilt in the Renaissance style by Italian architect Jan Maria Padovano. It flourished as a vital center of international trade, with merchants selling a variety of goods from silk to spices.
However, the Sukiennice was devastated by fire in 1555 and had to be rebuilt. It was then given its now-iconic arcaded loggia and the attic embellished with a series of mascarons.
In the 19th century, Krakow fell under the partition of Austria, and the Sukiennice was renovated again. This time, it received a new function – it became the National Museum, the first public museum in Poland.
Things to see and do in the Sukiennice
The Sukiennice, or the Cloth Hall, in Krakow houses a variety of interesting things:
- Ground floor market – The ground floor of the Sukiennice is a bustling marketplace, filled with stalls selling a wide range of items. Here, you’ll find traditional Polish handicrafts, amber and silver jewelry, wooden carvings, ceramics, textiles, and a variety of souvenirs. The atmosphere is lively, making it a delightful place for both shopping and people-watching.
- Upper floor museum – The upper floor of the Sukiennice is home to the Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art, a branch of the National Museum in Krakow. This is the first permanent exhibition of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, showcasing major works from artists such as Jan Matejko, Józef Chełmoński, Artur Grottger, Jacek Malczewski, and many others.
- Cafes and restaurants – Around the Sukiennice, and even within the building itself, there are a number of cafes and restaurants where you can sample traditional Polish food and drink. It’s not the best in the city, but the first-floor cafe has the finest front-on views of nearby St Mary’s Church.
The Krakow Underground Museum
One of the peice de resistances of the Sukiennice is the Krakow Underground Museum. As the name implies, it lies beneath the Cloth Hall and spreads into chambers that have been uncovered by archaeologists below the Main Square.
The exhibition space is fantastic. It offers a hands-on glimpse into what life was like in Krakow throughout the Middle Ages. Visitors get to come up close to the historic trader stalls and shops that were dug out by historians working beneath the Sukiennice itself.
Also known as the Rynek Underground, the museum is probably our overall favorite in the city. It takes about 1.5 hours to go around in all and is the perfect option for a rainy day – it’s all underground, remember?