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Museums Tour in Krakow's Old Town (Self Guided), Krakow

Krakow, the second capital of Poland, is the cultural center which is why you will find a lot of museums of all kinds here. Learn about the history of Krakow and Poland at the Historical Museum and learn about the nation’s traditions at the National Museum. There are also unique collections you will not find anywhere else in the world. A great deal of museums are dedicated to ancient, medieval and modern art. Take the following tour to discover the most popular museums in Krakow’s Old Town.
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Museums Tour in Krakow's Old Town Map

Guide Name: Museums Tour in Krakow's Old Town
Guide Location: Poland » Krakow (See other walking tours in Krakow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Czartoryski Museum
  • Palace of Arts
  • Wyspianski Museum (The Szołaysky House)
  • Historical Museum
  • Hipolit House
  • Sukiennice Museum
  • Museum of Archaeology
  • Archdiocesan Museum
Czartoryski Museum

1) Czartoryski Museum

The Czartoryski Museum was established in 1796 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska and its collections are actually the work of five generations of the Czartoryski family. The collection has been moved to another city, gone underground and even missing; a small percentage of the original collection is what is open to the public today. The tale of the Museum is a story everyone must know. 

With the motto ‘From the Past to the Future’, Princess Izabela set up the museum in Pulawy, Poland to store Polish and other historic memorabilia. Da Vinci’s ‘The Lady with an Ermine’ was added to the collection by Izabela’s son, Adam, upon his return from Italy. After his political career failed, Adam moved to Paris along with the collection which was set up at Hotel Lambert. Adam’s children, Prince Wladyslaw and Princess Izabela Działyńska, also added to this collection. In 1878, the return of Prince Wladyslaw to Poland led to the inauguration of the current Czartoryski Museum. His son, Adam Ludwik, and Adam’s wife then took over the museum and further expanded the collection. During the Second World War, the museum was raided by the Germans and most artifacts were stolen. After the War, a massive attempt to recover lost collections was made but over 800 artifacts were lost forever.

The museum has been closed since 2010 due to repairs and improvements to modernize it, but it may reopen in 2019. Some parts of the collection are displayed in other venues. 350 selected exhibits are displayed in the Arsenal building, while Lady with an Ermine is displayed in the Kraków National Museum.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palace of Arts

2) Palace of Arts

The city of Krakow is filled with historic monuments and structures from different eras of architectural history, and therefore, Krakow is nicknamed the art capital of Poland. One such place to marvel at the historical and architectural wealth of the city is the Palace of Arts. This present day museum houses some of the finest and most prestigious exhibitions in the city. Works of established artists and those who have gained global reputation are proudly displayed at the Palace of Arts. The venue is also used for art auctions and exhibitions of contemporary Polish art.

The building was constructed as the headquarters of the Society of Friends of Fine Arts (Stowarzyszenie Przyjaciol Sztuk Pieknych in Polish) which was founded in 1854. Erected at the beginning of the 20th century, the Palace of Arts is the first Art Nouveau structure in Krakow. Designer Francis Mączyński was said to have drawn inspiration from the Pavilion Secession in Vienna for the construction of the Palace of Arts.

The facade of the structure was designed by the famous symbolist painter Jacek Malczewski. Other famous Polish artists like Madeyski Antoni , Konstanty Laszczka and Theodore Rygier contributed to the facade with busts of masters of Polish art.

Opening hours: Monday - Friday: 10 am - 7 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am - 7 pm.
Wyspianski Museum (The Szołaysky House)

3) Wyspianski Museum (The Szołaysky House)

The Wyspianski Museum takes you into the world of Stanislaw Wyspianski, where you are invited to take a closer look at some of his best works and their making. Located in the house of the Szołayski family, the building too, is one of the city’s monumental buildings in its own right. Dating back to the 14th century, the structure underwent several reconstructions and renovations in the 19th and 20th century. Roped in as a part of the National Museum of Krakow in 1904, it has been home to several exhibits and treasures of the city.

Off late, the Szolayski house is playing home to the most prized possession of the city’s recent past – the works of its beloved Stanislaw Wyspianski, along with collections from Feliks Manggha. One of Poland’s most cherished artist of the 19th century, Stanislaw Wyspianski was one of the pioneers who merged modern trends and styles of art with the Polish folksy touch. Unique in his every endeavour, Wyspianski’s was also unofficially tagged as the Fourth Polish Bard.

The museum displays a wide collection of Stanislaw’s sketches, paintings, furniture, documents, stained windows, pastels etc. Although Stanislaw died young, his work lives on as proof of the maestro that he was.
Historical Museum

4) Historical Museum (must see)

The Main Square is home to many important sights in Krakow, one of which is the Historical Museum. Housed in one of the most magnificent buildings, this Museum is filled with artifacts that prove that Krakow truly is Poland’s cultural capital.

The building that the Museum is located in is the Krzysztofory Palace, a part of Krakow’s prized heritage. A beautiful Baroque structure, the Palace was owned by Crown Court Marshal Adam Kazanowski in the mid-17th century. It underwent a series of renovations and even housed a popular restaurant named Pod Palmą on its first floor. The interiors of the building display the brilliant Stucco work done by Italian architect, Baldassare Fontana.

The Historical Museum houses some interesting exhibits like 16th through 20th-century city maps, paintings, prints, photographs, guild objects and works by Krakow artists and artisans, as well as portraits of nobility from the 16th to the 20th century; 14th through 20th-century weapons; a collection of 16th through 20th-century clocks. Apart from these historical artifacts, the Museum is also home to 'Szopki' which are the famous Polish nativity scenes. Made of paper mache, these cribs attract a lot of attention in the museum and are a delight to see.

Why You Should Visit:
To be catapulted into a spectacular anachronistic dimension, immersing yourself in a reality belonging to the city in a time not even remotely imaginable.

Admission is free on Tuesdays! It's helpful to go by the tourist office to get your tickets in advance; they limit admission to 30 people each half hour – though once you're in, you can stay as long as you like.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hipolit House

5) Hipolit House

Although museums may be the only window to look at how life was in yester years, rarely do you actually come across one that gives you a feel of how life was back then. The Hipolit House is one of the rare examples which give its viewers an experience of how everyday life was way back in time.

The Hipolit house was once owned by a wealthy Italian merchant family in the 17th century who went by the same name. The mansion saw a number of wealthy families throughout its years and underwent many renovations of its interiors. Today, the museum proudly displays life that the aristocrats lived in 17th century Krakow. Each room of the House is specially decorated to give it a look of the life in Krakow between the 17th and the 20th century.

Interesting exhibits include the Collector’s Room, Young Lady’s Bedroom, The Study and Granny’s room. With intricate details like fabric, furniture, paintings and decorations, one is bound to get transported to the 17th century and so on. This museum is highly recommended if you are a curious about the day to day activity of the years gone by.

Opening hours: Wed-Sun: 10:00 - 17:30.
Sukiennice Museum

6) Sukiennice Museum (must see)

The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art at Sukiennice is housed on the upper floor of the Renaissance Sukiennice Cloth Hall in the center of the Main Market Square in Old Town Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand rooms.

The gallery's arrangement resembles that of a 19th-century salon. Each of the four large exhibition halls is defined by historical period and the theme usually revolving around the one central painting extending into an entire artistic epoch.

The Gallery re-opened in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout of the display, providing a broader view of Polish art of the time.

Why You Should Visit:
Small enough to complete in about an hour and full of interesting art.
Convenient bag check, free toilets, and a nice café that overlooks the square.

Go out onto the large café balcony to take some neat photos of the square below!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat: 10am-6pm; Sun: 10am-4pm
Museum of Archaeology

7) Museum of Archaeology

When one says that Krakow is a seat of ancient civilization, well here is your chance to actually see it. Established in 1850, the Museum of Archaeology is the oldest of its kind in Poland. The Museum takes pride in their mammoth collection of over 500 thousand artifacts dating to Paleolithic era.

At the Museum, one can really get a glimpse on the inhabitants who once walked the world. Among many things, the Museum of Archaeology is a proud owner of the four faced idol of the Slavonic God Swiatowit (God of Battle, Harvest and Travel), which dates back to roughly the 9th or 10 century and was excavated from the Zbruc riverbed in 1848. It is a four-sided sculpture with the four heads of the god. This monument of Slavonic belief is the only representation of its kind in the world.

The Museum also has some interesting exhibits on the Gods of Ancient Egypt where one can see the mummy of Aset-iri-khet-es, four sarcophagi from the excavations in El Gamhud carried out by expert and the first Polish Egyptologist, Tadeusz Smoleński. Another interesting exhibit is Malopolska in Prehistory and the Early Middle Ages, which includes artifacts collected in and around Poland that cover almost 70,000 years of history right from the Neanderthal cavemen to the Scythians to the early-medieval Poles.

Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 am - 3 pm; Tuesday, Thursday: 9 am - 3 pm; Saturday: 10 am - 6 pm; Sunday: 11 am - 4 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Archdiocesan Museum

8) Archdiocesan Museum

On a pilgrimage visit to the city, one of the must visit sites is the Archdiocesan Museum. Dedicated to presenting ecclesiastical art, craft and other artifacts, the Museum has the most extensive collection of Gothic paintings, sculptures from the 17th century, robes, clothes, books, documents, altars etc. collected from priests and churches over the years.

The Museum is often visited because of its association with one renowned personality of modern history - Pope John Paul II. Believed to have resided in these premises on two occasions during his tenure as the Bishop of Poland, museum visitors can actually walk the room he lived in, see his work desk and the gifts he received from all over the world. A total of over 400 valuables are deemed and exhibited as Papal Gifts in the museum. Among the Museum’s most prized possession is a painting that dates back to the 13th century. The Painting of Sts. Catherine and Agnes on wooden board and recovered from a church in Debna is the oldest painting of its kind in the country and can be found in the Museum.

The museum today also hosts exhibitions for artists who have an international reputation as well as for the local upcoming ones whose works have been inspired by the religious institution.

Opening hours: Tue-Sun: 10 am - 5 pm.

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