Where history meets legends - take a look at Kraków's Old Town from a medieval watchtower.

Iconic, brick silhouette; two soaring and asymmetrical gothic towers, watching over the medieval market square - this is one of the most recognizable historic buildings in Kraków:

St. Mary's Basilica.

It is where history meets legends - they can explain everything.

Why are the towers of different heights? Because while two brothers were building them, one killed the other out of jealousy.

Why does the bugle call play from the tower suddenly break in mid-note? It's in memory of events from 800 years ago. When the watcher played a signal to warn the inhabitants of the enemy's approaching troops, an arrow from the Tatar invader pierced his throat.

Did it all really happen? Well, for many of us locals - yes :)

I have known this church since I was a child because I live in Krakow. I used to come to the main Market with my grandmother to feed the pigeons - it was a great attraction for me. The pigeons are still here - just as cheeky and fat :)

The first meeting with the basilica is best to start from Floriańska Street. The temple is visible at its beginning. As you approach the market square, the basilica grows in your eyes. You have to raise your head high to look at the north tower, 82 meters high.




The basilica was built around 1320 on the foundations of a Romanesque temple, but its present shape results from hundreds of years of construction work. For example, the northern tower was enlarged in the 15th century, and it was then that its top was created - a distinctive cupola with turrets.

The higher tower played the role of the city watchtower from the Middle Ages. At its top, a guard on duty played the bugle call at dawn and in the evening - a sign to open and close the city gates. He also kept an eye on the city. He raised the alarm in the event of threats such as fire or enemy attack.


The bugle call is played to this day - every hour, to the four corners of the world. Trumpeters from the fire brigade continue the tradition of their predecessors. For almost a hundred years, the signal has been broadcast on Polish radio every day at noon. When I was a child, I heard it hundreds of times on the radio. I remember the whole sequence - a melody, a few loud steps, a tune again, and so on four times. I heard every sound from the tower, like clicks of a shutter opening and closing, the sound of shoes on the wooden floor.

I also heard it live many times.


Nowadays, the trumpeter from the St. Mary's Tower is like a star. Every hour tourists are waiting for his performance, gathered in the market square and St. Mary's Square.


After each of the four bugle calls has been played, the people below clap, cheer, and wave. The bugler also waves to the gathered tourists. I bet he likes this job;)


And here is another window, from the side of St. Mary's Square.


Hello! It was nice to play for you!


I like to pretend to be a tourist in my city and discover it anew. It takes some effort to reawaken my curiosity about something that I know very well. But in the case of St. Mary's Basilica, I didn't have to try very hard. While listening to the bugle call, I recently thought that the bugler certainly had great views of old Krakow. And then I had the idea to climb the tower! It turned out that it is possible until the end of October (the building is closed to tourists during the winter season), only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The tower is slender and doesn't have much space inside, so only eight tourists can climb to its top at a time.

The first attempt at sightseeing was unsuccessful because I came too late and all tickets were gone. The ticket office didn't accept reservations, so I arrived an hour before opening the next time - just in case.

While waiting for the tower opening, I walked a little around the Main Market and St Mary's Square. There was a cemetery in this place for 600 years; it was liquidated at the end of the 18th century.


Today it is a popular meeting place for everyone, including pigeons; they love to bathe in the fountain.



Finally - the ticket has been obtained, time to climb the tower!

The door to the tower looked like designed for Hobbits :)


There was little space inside too!

First, there was a narrow, stone spiral staircase - it would be challenging to pass someone here. I got a little dizzy; it was like a merry-go-round.



Then there was a little more space; I was climbing up the usual wooden stairs.


At the end I was climbing a modern version of a spiral staircase. It wasn't precisely spiral, but you know what I mean. The stairs were very narrow and built in the axis of the tower - they had to fit between the structural beams and the old stairs.


I watched these remnants of the past with exiting.



In some parts, the old, unused stairs were very steep, and the steps were narrow.


I finally entered a small room - I recognized those windows! But it wasn't the right floor yet - if you look at the tower in the previous photos, you will see that there are two tiers with such shutters.


I entered the last, 11th level through the hatch in the floor.


I could open the window through which the bugle call has been played for hundreds of years. See the honeycomb pattern? Hive is everywhere 😄


The windows were small; I didn't feel safe looking down from over 50 meters to the old town. But the views were fantastic! For the first time, I could admire the Main Market from such a height.

Here you see the cloth hall, a medieval supermarket (in a Renaissance "apparel"), behind it the town hall tower.


Do you see the pigeons on the market square? They are the great-great-great-grandchildren of those I used to feed as a child;)


It's October, but there are still plenty of beer gardens on the market square. The season never ends here; unless they announce a lockdown...


It's time to look south, towards the Wawel royal castle. In the foreground, you can see a fragment of a smaller tower, which serves as a belfry.


Castle on the hill, only the Wawel Dragon hovering above it is missing!


In the corner of the market square, you can see a small church of St. Adalbert. It was built in the 11th - 12th centuries (in the 17th century, it was rebuilt in the baroque style), but archaeologists found relics of an older, brick temple from the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries.


Let's look at the world through the north window. From this site, you have a view of Floriańska Street, which I mentioned at the beginning.


You can see the Florian Gate and the roofs of two towers (on the left and right) - fragments of the city walls.



The theater, built at the end of the 19th century. It was the first building in Krakow to install electric lighting.


Tenement houses on a small market square.



And a glance at Mariacki Square - a former cemetery.


I wanted to stay longer up here, but another group was already waiting at the bottom. Finally, I had a little chat with the guide, who advised me to climb the tower with the last group at 17.30 on some clear day in October. He showed me the photos he took with the phone the day before - he caught a beautiful sunset.

I guess it wasn't my only visit here.

Warm greetings from Krakow 💚

--- Thanks for stopping by! --- @astinmin
I'm the only author of the text and photos


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Very interesting place, love to explore someday! thank you for sharing.


Hiya, @choogirl here, just swinging by to let you know that this post made it into our Honorable Mentions in Daily Travel Digest #1353.

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