Town Hall Tower is the only remaining part of the old demolished Town Hall. The top floor of the tower with an observation deck is open to visitors. The tower serves as a Division of the Historical Museum of Krakow featuring a permanent display of photographs of the Main Square Exhibition and as a performance space called the Stage beneath the Town Hall of the renowned People’s Theatre.
The tower is open to public daily from April to October between 10:30 and 18:00.
Among the buildings located on the Main Square, the Town Hall was distinguished by its tall tower, once topped by a Gothic spire with a clock. Built of stone and brick at the end of the 13th century, the massive Gothic tower of the early Town Hall stands 70 metres tall and leans just 55 centimetres, the result of a storm in 1703.
Over the entrance is the original Gothic portal with the city coat-of-arms and the emblem of Poland. The entrance to the tower is guarded by a pair of stone lions carved at the beginning of the 19th century. They were brought to Krakow from the classicist palace of the Morstin family in Pławowice during the renovations of 1961–1965, during which the bay windows on the second floor of the tower were incorrectly reconstructed. On the ground floor you can find a set of 14 house marks, dated 1444 and unique in Europe.
The Town Hall was erected at the turn of the 14th century. When after 500 years part of the building was earmarked for demolition, Krakow’s authorities didn’t realise that the consequences of this decision would be almost disastrous to the entire edifice.
In 1524, a clock imported from Nuremberg was mounted on the tower. Over one and a half century later, fire caused by lightning destroyed the cupola. The ensuing reconstruction of the tower that took place between 1683 and 1686, was conducted by the royal architect, Piotr Beber. He designed a new, Baroque spire but without the clock. It survived only until 1783. At that time, the spire began to crumble, and was replaced by a smaller structure sponsored by Archbishop Kajetan Sołtyk.
In March 1817, a decision to dismantle part of the Town Hall was made by the authorities of the then Free City of Krakow. It was an element of the city plan to open up the Main Square. The part of the building meant to be pulled down was the granary. When the operation began three years later, the walls of the whole building started cracking. This led to the demolition of the entire building, with only the tower spared.
Soon also the tower faced the danger of being dismantled. In 1821, one of the senators of the Free City of Krakow proposed it should be knocked down. Fortunately, this notion was never realised and to this day the tower remains the last remnant of the Town Hall.
Its cellars once housed a city prison with a mediaeval torture chamber.