One of the most famous and most exemplary streets of Kraków, it leads straight to the heart of the city – the Main Market Square. Today it tempts with a variety of shops, restaurants, and clubs, while centuries ago it hosted the solemn coronation and funeral processions of monarchs.
Floriańska Street is a part of the Royal Route leading to Wawel Royal Castle. It starts by St Florian’s Gate, and owes its name, which has not changed for nearly 700 years (sic!) to the Church of St Florian. It was one of the first cobbled streets in Kraków, and by the end of the 15th century, most houses standing on Floriańska were constructed of solid masonry. At the time they were mostly inhabited by the nobility and wealthy burghers. Late in the 19th century, the first line of the horse-drawn tram was launched here, to be later transformed into an electric one.
Although the majority of the houses standing on the street have been redesigned, especially in the 19th/20th centuries, plenty of details attesting to their ancient, frequently medieval origins have been preserved. Walking from St Florian’s Gate towards the Main Market Square, it’s worth paying attention to individual townhouses and their architectural details:
The house at No. 45 is the famous Jama Michalika, a stomping ground of the Young Poland movement. In 1895 Jan Michalik, a confectioner from Lviv, opened his business here; although he called it Cukiernia Lwowska i.e. the Lvov Confectionery, the name quickly fell into oblivion, and the people of Kraków began to call it Jama Michalika – Michalik’s Den, one of the reasons being the lack of windows. This name has been retained to this day. In 1905–07 Małopolska artists made it the home of Kraków’s first literary and artistic cabaret Zielony Balonik – The Little Green Balloon. The walls of the café are still decorated with murals, pictures, and caricatures by artists connected to the cabaret. Exhibited in the cabinets are puppets from the plays staged by the cabaret.
Going further, you pass by a narrow house (No. 41) on the left-hand side. This is the former House of Jan Matejko – the most eminent among Polish historicist painters. Today the building is a museum with personal artefacts, documents, photographs, and jewellery from the artist’s collection, accompanied by a wealth of paintings, sketches, and his collection of militaria. The collection of executioner’s tools retrieved from the town hall’s dungeon is a noteworthy exhibit.
The House No. 25 accommodates the Museum of Pharmacy, one of few in the world and Poland’s largest. It is managed by the Jagiellonian University and its exhibition space includes reconstructions of historical pharmacy interiors from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as pharmacies in Empire, Biedermeier, neoclassicial, and neo-baroque styles. One of the rooms is a reconstruction of the study of Ignacy Łukasiewicz, the inventor of the oil lamp, and it contains a collection of 19th-century specimens.
The city’s oldest hotel stands on the other side of the street, at No. 14: The Pod Różą Hotel (Under a Rose) was established around 1800. It is here that the composer Franz Liszt stopped on his travels. On the other hand, the information about Honoré de Balzac spending the night here that can be read from a commemorative plaque is a tall story. The famous French writer chose his lodging in one of the cheaper inns of Stradom.
Another house worthy of attention is the Pod Matką Boską (at the Sign of Our Lady, No. 7), with a beautiful, late-renaissance figure of the Madonna and Child. The interior of the building contains well preserved late-Gothic portals.
Standing on the corner of Floriańska Street and Mariacki Square is the House Pod Murzynami (Under the Blackamoors, No. 1). It owes its name to the bas-relief showing two black people, an allusion to the 16th-century pharmacy Ad Aethiopes (being Latin for “under Ethiopians” i.e. black people). It was by this house that the city councillors would build a triumphal arch to accommodate processions of future kings and their coronation corteges.
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