Old Town Market

Medieval Polish cities share the same distinctive feature. They were established by marking out a regular network of streets with a centrally located rectangular market that served as a marketplace. Often there was a town hall and a church next to it.

The Old Town Square in Warsaw is no exception. Its area (90 x 73m) was marked out along with the other streets, establishing the town at the end of the 13th century. There were stalls and other shacks that served as a marketplace. There was also the house of the mayor (acting as a judge), and on the square there were a marten and pillory (as tools of public punishment). The center of the market square was filled with the town hall, where the city authorities resided. Until 1817, its demolition year, the Old Town Square remained the most important square, concentrating the life of bourgeois Warsaw.

Rynek Starego Miasta 1935
The Old Town with the Market Square from a bird's eye view around 1935; source: unknown

Marketplace tenement houses

Therefore, it is not surprising that the richest and most influential group of city citizens, called the patriciate, settled in the Market Square. The tenements around the square reflected their position in society.

The houses at the market square began as wooden huts to reach the height of the fifth floor in the 18th century. The material status of the owners was reflected in the richly decorated facades of tenement houses. Baroque and Classicism reigned, although there was a Renaissance attic here and there.

This is exactly the style of the contemporary Old Town Square. The tenement houses are four or five storeys high, often with the sixth storey in the form of a skylight (superstructure that allows light in). A characteristic feature of the market houses are stone portals topped with gilded spheres and richly decorated lattice in the lights. They are also distinguished by the colors of the facades, with sgraffito often found on the walls.

The Market Square and the entire Old Town were rebuilt after the destruction of World War II. Most of the objects visible today have been reconstructed from scratch, which was one of the reasons why Warsaw's Old Town was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Each side of the Market Square has its patron. They were distinguished citizens of Warsaw who made a great contribution to social and political life. Closely related to the work of the Four-Year Seym.

  • north - Dekert side
  • east - Barss side
  • south - Zakrzewski side
  • west - Kołłątaj side

You can find a more detailed history of the Market Square and its tenement houses here.

The most beautiful tenement houses at the Market Square are those with the following numbers:

  • 5 - tenement house near the Basilisk
  • 13 - tenement house near Lion
  • 19 - Mayor tenement house
  • 21 - Fricz tenement house
  • 21a - Klucznik tenement house
  • 27 - Fukier tenement house
  • 31 - tenement house near saint Anna
  • 36 - tenement house near Pickaninny
  • 32 - Baryczko tenement house
  • 28 - Falkiewicz tenement house
  • 18 - Orlemus tenement house
  • 10 - Troper tenement house

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What to do in the Market Square?

Currently, the Old Town Square is clearly associated with tourism. It is the core of Old Warsaw, where each building is a monument and has historical and architectural value. Several museums and institutions operate at the Market Square. There are also many eateries with beer gardens open during the summer.

If you want to go on a more detailed guided walk around the Market Square, read this article.

If you want to know the most important market attractions, visit the following places:

Museum of Warsaw

It is one of the largest museums in Warsaw. It occupies all eight tenement houses on the northern side of the Market Square. The three middle ones were purchased by the city as early as 1938, with the intention of building a museum. Initially, it was primarily a historical museum, but after a recent renovation and adaptation of the tenement houses to the needs of a modern museum facility, its form has been changed.

The museum tells the story of the city and its inhabitants by dividing the core exhibition into 21 thematic rooms. Each of them presents a different type of museum pieces, of which there are over 7,000 in total (in museum collections as many as 300,000!). Let us add that part of the exhibition is presented in historic cellars dating back to the 15th century! It is also possible to enter the historic old town backyard. Due to the multitude of exhibits and the size of the place, the purchased ticket (PLN 25) can be used twice in a given time.

Address: Old Town Market 28-42

Adam Mickiewicz Literature Museum

Two other tenement houses in the Old Town Square were taken over by the Museum of Literature in 1952.

The main exhibition focuses primarily on the work of our national poet - Adam Mickiewicz. The entire exhibition is divided into successive periods of the poet's life (whereabouts). You can find here manuscripts and first editions of his works, as well as family mementoes: photographs, letters, everyday objects.

The ticket costs only PLN 6, and on Sunday the admission is free.

Address: Old Town Market 20

Mermaid monument

The mermaid is a symbol of Warsaw and its coat of arms. It has an own legend Wars and Sawaand its image can be found on many buildings in the city. Although she earned two monuments in the city, the one in the center of the Old Town Square is so much more valuable as it was the first Mermaid statue in Warsaw!

The author of the sculpture is Konstanty Hegel, and its unveiling was associated with the commissioning of the first modern water supply system in Warsaw in 1855. Originally it had the form of decorating a water fountain that operated in the Market Square. Over the next 150 years of its existence, its setting and plinth changed, as well as the entire surroundings. Happily, it returned to the Old Town Square in 1999, and in 2008 it was replaced with a copy. The original is several dozen meters away - in the collection of the Museum of Warsaw.

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Gastronomy

Although the Old Town Square has several interesting eateries, I would particularly focus my attention on two. The first is a restaurant U Fukierarecommended by the Gault & Millau Guide. It has a beautiful interior, and owes its special atmosphere to the location of one of the rooms in the original Gothic cellars. The second is called Bazyliszekand serves delicious food and hence probably the most crowded summer garden in the whole Old Town. Both specialize in Polish cuisine.

Other places where we can eat tasty and drink in a pleasant atmosphere include: Latem Bar&Restaurant, Bistro Warszawa, Romantyczna, Cafe Keks and Cafe Lapidarium.

Other attractions

What other interesting places and attractions can be found on the Market Square ?:

In summer, you can listen to music in the Market Square, as it is held here every year Jazz Festival in the Old TownIn winter, half of the Market Square is occupied by an ice rink, and the other is a Christmas market, where you can buy traditional Polish products, as well as warm up with a cold glass and enjoy a hot meal.

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