March 08, 2024

7 must-visit museums in Kraków: A curated guide

#krakow

Krakow is a city full of history and culture, boasting a richness of museums that offer captivating insights into its rich heritage. From the poignant memories of wartime to the splendour of royal heritage and the intriguing depths of underground excavations, Kraków's museums are not just places of learning; they are gateways to understanding the heart and soul of Poland and its former capital. Some of them might even surprise you not being associated with what typically comes to your mind when you think about Poland. Curious? Read on to learn about some of the most enthralling museums in Kraków.

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Schindler's Factory Museum

Schindler's Factory Museum: A testament to the city’s most tragic times

Immortalised by Steven Spielberg's film "Schindler's List", Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory has been transformed into a museum that chronicles Krakow's wartime history. Visitors can explore immersive exhibits detailing the experiences of Krakow's residents during the Nazi occupation, with a particular focus on Schindler's efforts to save Jewish people. However, it’s better to come here with fair expectations - even if it is exhibited in the original office building of the factory, only a few rooms kept the original character of the place, as the memory of the Schindler’s List was largely forgotten during the communist period. Nevertheless, the rich content, full of artefacts, people’s belongings, interviews and photographs will bring times of WWII back to life. If you want to combine the visit with a good narrative you can join one of our tours where experienced Walkative! guides will help you to focus on the most important parts of this story and help you to not get overwhelmed by the number of details.

If you have more time to focus on WWII and its aftermath, it’s good to know that Schindler’s Factory is a part of the so called ‘Memory trail’ - the chain of the city museums which are complementary in presenting a coherent vision of human stories and people's efforts to survive those difficult times. Apart from the factory, you can also visit The Eagle Pharmacy (WWII pharmacy that existed in the ghetto) and Pomorska street (former Gestapo and communist secret police headquarters with the death cells).

Czartoryski museum

Czartoryski Museum: A noble legacy of art and history

To sell this place with one word, we should say: “The Lady”. Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the “Lady with an Ermine” reveals no less mysterious secrets than Mona Lisa in Paris, although it wouldn’t be fair to say it’s the only reason to visit. The Czartoryski family, an old noble house of Poland, made a lot of efforts preserving numerous pieces of art, which are making the oldest art collection ever made in this country. After the long renovation works in Czartoryski Palace, the place is really impressive right now - the 26 exhibition halls on two floors also showcases Rembrandt van Rijn's “Landscape with a Good Samaritan”, as well as many other masterpieces not only from the field of painting, but also sculpture, crafts, militaria or applied arts.

Underground Krakow museum

Rynek Underground Museum: Exploring Kraków's mediaeval mysteries

Beneath Krakow's bustling Main Square lies a hidden world waiting to be discovered at the Rynek Underground Museum. This subterranean attraction showcases the city's mediaeval past through interactive displays, multimedia exhibits, and archaeological artefacts unearthed during excavations. Visitors can delve into Krakow's origins, exploring original mediaeval streets and learning about daily life in centuries past. The parts of it were also… vampires - or whoever was considered to be one. Yes, go and check it for yourself! All these secrets were revealed during one of the greatest excavations made in the centre of modern European metropoly, taking place in 2005-2007. Seeing photographs of this huge work is quite something as well!

Wawel in Krakow

Wawel Castle & the Cathedral: Icons of Polish heritage

We shouldn’t forget about Krakow's most iconic landmarks. Impossible to miss while walking through the streets of old Kraków, nestled atop a limestone hill overlooking the Vistula River, the Wawel Royal Castle houses an array of exhibitions, including royal chambers adorned with opulent tapestries and regal furnishings. Next to it stands the Wawel Cathedral with its stunning architecture holding within centuries of Polish history and artistic treasures. It would be at least half of a day to visit every exhibition, so it’s a good idea to check the offer and pick the most interesting options for you.

Galicia Jewish Museum

Galicia Jewish Museum: Preserving the memory of Jewish life

Located in the heart of Kazimierz, Krakow's historic Jewish quarter, the Galicia Jewish Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of Jewish life and heritage in Galicia. Through poignant exhibitions, photographs, and personal stories, the museum chronicles the vibrant history and culture of Jewish communities in Poland and beyond. Visitors can gain a deeper understanding of Jewish identity, resilience, and contributions to society.

Manggha museum

Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology: A fusion of tradition and modernity

Seen from the top of Wawel Hill, Manggha Museum draws attention because of its intriguing shape. Situated along the banks of the Vistula River it celebrates the beauty and diversity of Japanese art and technology. This huge collection was gathered thanks to 19th century Japanese culture enthusiast, Feliks “Manggha” Jasieński. Apart from many great temporary exhibitions, the place is also famous for a really decent bistro that can offer you a hint of Orient and a nice break from Polish specialties. Combine it with the beautiful terrace next to Vistula boulevards and you have a perfect spot for a lunch break.

Nowa Huta Krakow

Nowa Huta Administrative Centre: A glimpse into the Communist era

When communism came to power in Poland immediately after the Second World War, it was in Krakow that one of the greatest propaganda urban projects was created - a new city for the socialist people, which grew up in the neighbourhood of a giant moloch, the Lenin Steelworks. The Administrative Centre of the steelworks is now a building owned by a large metallurgical corporation, somewhat left to itself. Nevertheless it stands as a model example of socialist realism and the splendour with which the communist elite surrounded themselves, despite their declared equality and solidarity.

A real rarity will be the visit in its shelters that, in the event of the outbreak of a real conflict between East and West, were to act as a crisis management centre. We mean a real bunker from which the party bosses were supposed to manage civil defence and observe the struggle between the two blocs. Although such events never happened, a visit there is great for understanding the spirit of the time. If you want to get to the heart of communist Krakow, it is worth contacting the Foundation for the Promotion of Nowa Huta, which runs group and individual tours of the site.

Those 7 museums of Kraków we picked for you offer vibrant and very diverse reflections of the city's past. Whether it's delving into the depths of ancient streets, marvelling at the genius of Da Vinci, or reflecting on the resilience of human spirit in times of turmoil, each museum offers a unique lens through which to view the multifaceted jewel that is Kraków. Combined with exploration of the city with Walkative! walking tours they will give you a profound understanding of the forces that have shaped this nation, city and its people.

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