The focal building of Krakow’s fanciful Main Square (Rynek Główny), the Cloth Hall has stood in the same spot in various forms for about 800 years but was originally built to house the local textile traders. From its humble beginnings as a small open-air market, the Renaissance-style hall is now 354 feet (108 meters) long and hosts Krakow’s biggest and best souvenir market, with stalls on the ground floor selling painted eggs, amber jewelry, wooden puppets and organic goods. The hall is gloriously floodlit by night.
On the first floor of the Cloth Hall is the charming, revamped Gallery of 19-Century Polish Art (Galeria Sztuki Polskiej XIX wieku w Sukiennicach). It reopened in 2010 after an extensive facelift, and its artwork hangs in elegant Renaissance salons. The highlights are the two massive satirical works by Polish nationalist artist Jan Matejko.
Well below ground and actually constructed underneath the Cloth Hall, a fairly new addition to Krakow’s museum scene is the Podziemia Rynku (Rynek Underground). Romping through Krakow’s turbulent backstory from prehistory to modern day, the high-tech museum uses interactive displays, special effects, informative touchscreens and holograms to engage the public. After some five years of construction, during which time the Main Square was partially under cover, the museum finally opened in 2010.