Krakow City Walls - Krakow
Ideally, start next to Florianska Gate, where you can climb the walls and learn more about.
The peaceful, winding walks of the Planty gardens that surround Krakow's Old Town trace the path of what was once a deep moat, dug at the base of high protecting walls that effectively kept invading armies out of Poland's capital city for hundreds of years. Little remains of these walls today, but their path can still be traced around the perimeter of the city, and remnants found jutting out beside the trunks of shading oaks.
Perhaps the most famous of Cracovian legends is that of the trumpeter of the Mariacki Church tower who sounded the alarm when he spotted Tatar armies descending on the city in 1241. A Tatar's arrow pierced his throat mid-tune, and the invaders soon demolished the city's earthen embankments and wooden palisades, burning the settlement to the ground. As the city was rebuilt, it was clear that a series of defensive walls would be necessary to its survival.
Construction of the city walls began in 1298 and continued for about 200 years, ending with the construction of the Barbakan at the end of the 14th century. The city was ringed with two sets of walls - an inner loop of stone and brick reached 7 meters high, while an outer loop stood 2.5 meters high and 2.5 meters thick. Beyond the walls, a deep moat about 8 meters wide made access possible only at strategically located gates.
There were seven gates to the city, carefully protected by iron grates. A bugle call from the Mariacki Church tower signaled their opening every morning and closing every night. Remnants of the oldest gate, Brama Rzeznicza (the Butcher's Gate), can still be seen in the wall of the convent of Dominican Sisters "Na Gródku", bordering the Planty gardens.
The other gates, usually named for the streets they opened onto, included Grodzka, Florianska (Saint Florian's Gate), Slawkowska, Szewska (the Shoemakers' Gate), Wislna, and Nowa (New Gate) at the end of Sienna Street. Of these, only Brama Florianska remains. Beautifully renovated, it towers above Florianska Street, a busy and elegant shop-lined avenue that leads from the Main Market Square and Mariacki Church up to the only remaining fragment of the old city walls. As you pass through the gate's archway, you can still see traces of the iron grates. Today the gate and stretch of walls are open to tourists, allowing a short walk along the parapet and entrance to the Barbakan opposite.
At their high point, the walls had nearly forty towers, each assigned to a different guild or group of townspeople who were responsible for the city's defense. By the fifteenth century, however, the walls were no longer sufficient to ward off a modern army, as proven tragically by the Swedish invasion. By the end of the eighteenth century, the crumbling walls were inhabited by the poor and homeless, and the surrounding moat stank with sewage and waste. In 1810, the decision was made to tear the walls down, fill the moat and create the surrounding Planty gardens in their place. We owe the preservation of the northern bit of wall to the scruples of city leaders, who feared the health hazards posed by the northern winds if all the barriers around the city were torn down, and especially the havoc they would play with the skirts of church-going ladies at the foot of the Mariacki towers.