In the fourth of our Postcards from Poland blog posts, we wanted to highlight some of the incredible museums and galleries that can be found in Kraków.
Kraków is a historical city that is full of culture, winding medieval streets, and beautiful architecture. It is no wonder, then, that visitors can explore more museums here than any other city in Poland. We’ve compiled a list of just a handful of the many places to visit, and some useful websites for discovering more.
Rynek Underground Museum
Hidden underneath the Cloth Hall in the city’s historical Main Square is a gem of a museum dedicated to the archaeology of Krakow, and uncovering its medieval past. Visitors can explore the city’s entire history through artefacts, virtual exhibits, and interactive touch screen displays. At the heart of the museum are the unique finds from an archaeological excavation of the Main Square which took place in 2005. During the 5-year dig (which was originally scheduled to last for 6 months), archaeologists discovered over 1,000 years of history, including the foundations of wooden merchant stalls, and cobbled stone paths with grooves worn by the wheels of wagons.
Admission: 21 zł. Tickets can be booked online via the Museum’s website (recommended for peak times) or bought at the desk on the day. Concessionary prices are available.
Location: Rynek Główny
MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow)
Opened in 2010, MOCAK’s permanent collection focuses on post-war avant-garde and conceptual art. The Museum is located on land and within buildings that are on the site of the forOskarmer Schindler Factory in the Zabłocie district. Designed by Claudio Nardi and Leonard Maria Proli, the Museum’s aim was to introduce contemporary art into an industrial space. As well as their permanent collection, which features contemporary artists from around the world, the Museum also features a varied programme of touring exhibitions and associated artist talks.
Tip: The Oskar Schindler Museum is opposite MOCAK, both museums can be seen within a day, and a joint ticket can be bought at a discounted rate. Here you are also just a few minutes from Ghetto Heroes Square, a poignant memorial in the centre of the former Jewish Ghetto.
Admission: 14 zł. Concessionary prices are available. A joint ticket to visit the Oskar Schindler Factory is also available.
Location: 4 Lipowa St, 30-702 Krakow
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
Oskar Schindler was credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories. Located on the site of Schindler’s Enamel Factory, the museum itself primarily tells the story of Kraków and its inhabitants during the Second World War. Visitors can explore artefacts, documentary photographs, eyewitness accounts, film documentaries and multimedia exhibitions, which show the vivid history of life and tragedy in Nazi-occupied Kraków.
Admission: 24 zł. (or 22 zł with the joint MOCAK ticket). Prior booking is strongly advised.
Location: Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków
National Museum, Main Building
The Main Building of the National Museum in Krakow is one of the city’s largest and oldest museums. With a collection of over 800,000 items, the museum covers a range of subject areas and themes such as Polish painting and sculpture, decorative art and material culture, military collections, graphic art, textiles and a range of western European art from the middle ages to the 20th century. Perhaps one of the museum’s most cherished treasures is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous oil painting Lady with an Ermine, which is on display until April 2020.
Admission: For all permanent and temporary exhibits (including Wyspianski and Lady with an Ermine) 50zł. Family and concessionary rates are available.
Location: Al. 3 Maja 1, 30-062 Kraków
The Galicia Jewish Museum
The Galicia Jewish Museum is home to the internationally acclaimed permanent photographic exhibitions, Traces of Memory: A contemporary look at the Jewish past in Poland, and An Unfinished Memory. The objectives of the Museum are to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions typically associated with the Jewish past in Poland. Used as a mill before the war, today the renovated Museum building has a light, contemporary, post-industrial feel, and has an excellent coffee and book shop for those with a little extra time on their hands.
Tip: Located in the heart of Kazimierz, visitors can easily combine this with a trip to the Stara Synagoga (The Old Synagogue), one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Poland.
Admission: Free for conference delegates (usual price: 16 zł)
Location: ul. Dajwór 18, 31-052, Kazimierz
The Old Synagogue
The Old Synagogue is one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Europe, and until 1939, it was the central synagogue of the Orthodox Jewish community. Built in the Gothic style in in the 15th Century, the original building was destroyed by a major fire in 1557. Florentine Architect Matteo Gucci rebuilt the synagogue with Renaissance features. Today the synagogue houses an exhibition about Jewish traditions, practices, and family life.
Admission: 10 zł
Location: 24 Szeroka Street, 31-053, Kazimerz
Cricoteka – Centre for the documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990) was an avant-garde artist, theatre director, set designer and a major figure in 20th century theatre reform, known for his revolutionary theatre productions. Located on the site of the former Podgórze power station, the building itself is an apparent homage to his experimental approach, literally hovering above the existing buildings with a bizarre facade of rusted metal and black mirror. As a museum, it has divided opinion, and it is a little strange and alien to those that are unfamiliar with the work of Kantor. However, for those interested in eccentricity and unusual architecture, it’s worth a visit!
Tip: This museum is just a few minutes’ walk from Ghetto Heroes Square.
Admission: 10 zł
Location: Nadwiślańska 2-4, 30-527 Kraków
For more ideas of museums and galleries to visit in Krakow, take a look at the Lonely Planet website, which also features top tips for other areas to visit in the city.