Town Hall Tower - History and Facts | History Hit

Town Hall Tower

Krakow, Poland

Lily Johnson

10 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Town Hall Tower

Town Hall Tower is a Gothic 14th-century structure in central Krakow and is all that remains of the city’s medieval Town Hall. Located in the historic Main Square, it has become something of an icon within the city’s Old Town district and allows for an atmospheric 70-meter climb through the building’s 700-year-old rooms. 

Town Hall Tower history 

Built in 1316, the Town Hall – or Ratusz – of Krakow was the administrative hub of the city and the seat of the mayor until the early 19th century. The tower of the early Town Hall was built from stone and brick in the 14th century, and held in its basement a medieval dungeon and torture chamber.

Throughout its centuries-old history, the tower has undergone a battering of remarkable proportion. In the 17th century, lightning struck the tower setting it alight, badly burning the tower and its bell, while in 1703 vicious storms and strong wind forced the tower into an unusual lean, a feature still seen to this day!

Evidently the tower refused to fall, and from 1820 would stand alone when the adjoining Town Hall was demolished to open up space in the Main Square. Its historic tower was luckily saved from destruction however, following the protests of Krakow’s local residents.

The Tower today

Today the tower is open for visitors to explore the remaining medieval structure, with its intriguing architecture and decorative stonework. A peek through the tower’s small 14th century windows provide views of the Main Square and St. Mary’s Basilica from above – once you’ve climbed the winding 110 steps to the top! 

The machinery of the old clock tower can be viewed inside, alongside a small exhibit of medieval clothing and historical photographs of Krakow’s evolution.

The space beneath the tower once used as a torture chamber may also be visited, yet now holds much more pleasant exploits in its cafe and theatre, today used by the renown Teatr Ludowy. 

Getting to Town Hall Tower 

Town Hall Tower is located in Krakow’s Main Square, just west of the Cloth Hall. It is a 10-minute walk from Wawel Castle and a 20-minute walk from the train station. The nearest bus and tram stop is Teatr Bagatela, a 5-minute walk away.