We were very pleased to see that the renovation works which during the VT meet of 2010 hampered the views are now finished so that we could see the Sukiennice in all its splendour. We especially liked the view from the west side of the Rynek Glowny market square at sunset as well as the floodlight of the building at night.
It has been said that this cloth hall from the 14th c. might be the oldest mall in the world.
In all honesty Wikipedia writes: "Other, similar cloth halls have existed in other Polish as well as other European cities such as in Ypres, Belgium (built between 1260 and 1304) ; Braunschweig (around 1300), and in Leeds (1711); but the one in Krakow is the best-known and best-preserved."
During WW II Krakow and the Cloth Hall escaped the destructions of the other Polish cities.
The Cloth Hall of Ypres, in a quite different architectural style, was completely destroyed during WW I and rebuilt from the ground level on. There is an historical link between the two Cloth Halls. Ypres was liberated on 4/09/1944 by the First Polish Division, part of the allied forces (ref. my tip on the Polish Winged Hussars), as remembered by a commemorative plaque.
The people of Ieper were grateful to the Polish troops that they did not use artillery to chase the Germans and avoided so a second destruction of Ieper.
Krakow was once a major centre of international trade, with the Rynek Glowny as its focus and the Sukiennice at its heart. Travelling merchants would meet here to discuss trade and to barter. In the 15th century at the height of Krakow’s prosperity, you would have found here all sorts of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax. Meanwhile Krakow itself exported its very best goods from here: textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
The Sukiennice still flourishes as a bustling centre of commerce, but today the stalls display mainly souvenirs for tourists, some of which struck me as above the average standard while others seemed quite cheap and tacky. In particular there is a good selection of amber jewellery available, although I resisted the temptation to buy any! These stalls fill the northern half of the hall, while the southern half is occupied by a café with the same name, entered from the west side near the Town Hall Tower. This café also has tables set out to the south of the cloth hall and was the location for the Sunday morning gathering of VTers (when I enjoyed delicious scrambled eggs and excellent coffee) and later for the final evening drinks for the Spanish and Brit contingents on their return from Lviv.
Located right in the middle of the central square is the giant Cloth Hall. Built in the 14th century as a center for the cloth trade, it was gutted by fire in 1555 and then rebuilt in Renaissance style. Arcades were added in the 19th century, giving it a more decorative appearance. Today the ground floor is packed with stalls where visitors can buy crafts and jewelry - LOTS of jewelry. I didn't realize it until visiting, but Krakow is known for its amber, and you'll probably never see more amber for sale than inside the Cloth Hall. You can by amber jewelry in various colors and almost any shape and size you can imagine. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable, so it's a great place to buy gifts for people back home.
Ladies and Gentlemen! In front of You the famous Clothes Hall. For Poles it's like Mecca for Muslims. Isn't beautiful? Oh! I love it. It's a must to see. It has been built by Italians and it's the most gorgeus monument i've ever seen. It's hard to explain it using just words. You have to just see it!!! At night, of course!
This is an amazing building, set in the centre of Rynek Glowny.
The Cloth Hall was originally constructed around 1344 and was to replace the stalls in the middle of the square. It was then rebuilt in the 16th Century and reconstructed in the 19th Century.
Upstairs is the a gallery fron the National Musuem and downstairs there is a fantastic craft market.*
**Closed for refurbishment till 2009, the bulk of the gallery's collections has been moved to the Niepolomice Castle, about 20km out of Krakow, with some also on show at the National Museum, 1 Al. 3 Maja, in Krakow**
Above the colonnaded arcades of the ground floor of the Sukiennice is a branch of the National Museum housing 19th and early 20th Century paintings by Polish artists.
The gallery is fairly small and intimate - and when we visited in March very quiet - but the paintings are far from small. Huge canvases such as 'Nero's Torches' by Henryk Siemiradzki and 'Four-in-Hand' by Jozef Chelmonski dominate and impress with their artistry and scope. Historical and romantic subjects are housed alongside symbolist paintings.
The small size of the gallery and the number of paintings displayed means that it doesn't take too long to look round. Though you may find, like we did, that you linger longer in order to sit and stare at every little detail in some of the pictures. The sense of speed and power conveyed by Chelmonski in 'Four-in-Hand' is wonderful.
The paintings are interesting, effecting and evocative. Of all the wonderfuls sights in Krakow the paintings in here left a very vivid impression.
The Sukiennice was built where a covered market once stood and dates from the mid 13th century, although a later fire meant that the present facade was added in the mid 16th century. It's a beautiful building in itself, with market stalls (the amber, amber bit) on the ground floor and an art gallery/museum on the first floor (Poland's first).
I've wandered the Sukiennice on all my three visits to Krakow. It's been extensively restored, but the scaffolding which shrouded it in 2010 had all gone by 2013. The stalls inside seem much as they were in 2006: amber and amber and amber, but also wooden artefacts, leather goods, stuffed dragons, t-shirts....a paradise of tourist souvenirs!
As you wander through do look up to see the heraldic shields of (I assume) all the various Polish districts and towns.
You'll find a further souvenir paradise in the permanent wooden stalls on the marketplace outside. There's beer and food on offer...kielbasa, soup, bigos (often eaten by locals, I noticed, so it must be at least acceptable!). Or try the freshly-grilled oscypcek, a smoked sheep's cheese from the Tatra mountains. And there's jewellery (some amber, some not), more wooden artefacts than you can shake a stick at (be careful..some are Chinese in origin), lacework doilies, furry slippers, toys, tablecloths, beeswax candles, pottery....
The Cloth Hall is, or so I am informed the Worlds oldest shopping centre?! Built around 1300's and then after the 1555 fire the Cloth Hall was rebuilt in the renaissance manner with an ornate roof adorned with grotesque masks. Inside the long hall there are many shops in the arcades that mostly sell assorted souvenirs and tourist related items.. Outside there are many Cafes...
The Cloth Hall (Sukiennce) stands proudly in the centre of Rynek Glowny, the medieval market square at the heart of the old city. It is an impressive building and one you will probably find yourself coming back to whether it is to stroll through its arcades, sit in one of its cafes or walk round and admire its façade.
Construction of the Cloth Hall began in 1344, a covered structure which would augment and provide protection some of the market stalls which crowed into the square. The building was rebuilt, after suffering damage through fire, in 1555 with further reconstruction in the 19th Century.
The long oblong building with its cream and brown stonework, internal and external arcades is still linked to its commercial roots. Walk through the inner arcade and you’ll find stalls selling a variety of souvenirs from amber jewellery, carved wooden figures of both secular and religious subjects to lace items and leather bags. It’s a pleasant place to browse for gifts and mementos. If the weather is good sit outside at one of the tables in the outer arcade and enjoy a coffee or beer as you people-watch the activity in the square. If the weather is bad sit inside one of the cafes and do the same!
From the outside, its a beautiful historical building littered with performers, fortune tellers, folklore dancers and outside bars.
Inside, its a shoppers' dream. There are dozens of vendors. If you want a polish souvenir or a good gift for a friend back home, you will find it here.
Thins you will find in the sukiennice:
hand made traditional dolls
traditional leather slippers
If you want something to remember Poland for and you don't want to spent a lot of money, this is your place.
Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the choice of goods and to spend a decent amount of time in there.
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