Stary Rynek (the Old Market Square) and its surroundings are among the most interesting places to see in Poznań. The Renaissance town hall, old houses, charming side streets, numerous museums, monuments, cafes and people walking about - all of them create the unique atmosphere of the place. Stary Rynek is the heart of Poznań.
Stary Rynek, a regular square whose sides are 140 m each, is situated in the middle of a network of streets which cross at right angles. The gabled houses surrounding the square were reconstructed after World War 2 in the Baroque and Renaissance styles. The dominant building is the mid-sixteenth-century town hall , designed by Giovanni Battista di Quadro of Lugano. Its monumental façade has a three-storey arcaded loggia and is topped with a high threetower attic. The oldest part of the building is its basement: four square rooms with early-Gothic cross vaults. These rooms and the impressive rooms of the first floor - including the Renaissance Room (a/k/a the Grand Entrance Hall ) with the famous 1555 vault - house the Museum of the History of Poznań . The permanent exposition, devoted to the history of Poznań from the tenth century to 1945, shows archaeological finds, a scale model of medieval Poznań, arts and crafts, fragments of sculptures, architectural details and pictures.
Since 1551, the town hall has had a clock with effigies of goats, produced by Bertel Wolf of Guben. Every day, as the town-hall clock strikes twelve, the doors of the small tower on top of the façade open to show two metal billygoats. The clockwork goats hit each other with horns twelve times. Legend has it that having completed the clock, Bertel Wolf decided to show his work to city councillors and the Poznań voivod. While preparing an official feast, the cook carelessly burned a piece of meat, so he decided to steal two goats in order to kill and roast them, but these escaped to the town-hall tower. When the visitors spotted the animals hitting each other on the cornice of the town hall, the voivod commissioned an additional mechanism with goats.
Next to the Town Hall there are former "merchants houses", complete with characteristic arcade passageway. A fountain stands in each of the square's four corners: Proserpine , Apollo , Neptune and Mars. The first of these is a rococo fountain dating from the 18th century. The rest were built between 2002 and 2005 on the site of historic wells dismantled in the 19th century. The fountains are complemented by the pillory post crowned by a statue of a sword-wielding executioner, the well and statue of a Bamberg woman , located behind the merchants houses, and the Baroque statue of St. John of Nepomuk.
Another building in the middle of Stary Rynek is the eighteenth-century classical (originally wooden) Guard House , designed by the Warsaw architect Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer. It was built on the initiative and with the money of Kazimierz Raczyński, the-then general starosta of the Wielkopolska region. Raczyński's coat of arms can still be seen on the attic. At present, the Guard House is the seat of the Museum of the Wielkopolska Uprising of 1918-1919 .
The post-war pavilions in the southern part of the square house the Wielkopolska Military Museum . Its permanent exhibition is devoted to the history of Polish arms and features Polish Army uniforms, side-arms, firearms and others, 10th-20th century armour and military equipment as well as a section of the panorama (A Battle of Pyramids), painted by Wojciech Kossak in 1901.