What to do in Krakow - Museums and Galleries
Krakow is home to many fantastic bars, pubs, clubs cafe and restaurants, but buzzing restaurants and crowded cafes aren’t all that city has to offer. Despite the vibrant nightlife and crazy events, the history of Krakow comes to life in its museums.
You do not have to be a history freak or an art-connoisseur – if you’re looking for things to do in Krakow, this city is packed with more museums and galleries than any other in Poland. Some of them have been modernized, but others look just the same they looked years ago.
Ready for a real culture trip? Here they are – the best museums and galleries in Krakow!
Probably one of the best museums in Krakow and definitely the most famous one. It was established in 1897, and it currently has eleven branches located around the city. There are permanent exhibitions like the Gallery of Weaponry & Uniforms or Gallery of Decorative Arts, as well as many others that are temporary. Also, the exhibition of Stanislaw Wyspianski’s paintings is really worth seeing. It takes the whole day to see everything in their main location.
Location: 1 May 3rd St.
Have you watched Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List? I believe you have so if you’re about to visit Krakow, you just cannot miss out on Oskar Schindler’s Factory. The museum (re-opened to the public as a world-class museum in 2010) is housed in the industrial hall used by Schindler as an enamelling plant during the war. It tells the true story of Polish Jews and the city under Nazi occupation. Besides the history of Krakow, you get a very emotional journey with a brave man who conspired against the Nazis to save Jews.
The museum is nothing but inspiring and fascinating, and I can definitely say it’s one of the best museums in Krakow or maybe even in Poland. It’s interactive but in a tasteful way. It actually makes the place unforgettable – you feel like you’re taken back in time. You can buy tickets online but usually need to book at least three days in advance. To find out more about Jewish life in Krakow and the history Polish Jews and the city under Nazi occupation you can join or free walking tour of the Jewish Quarter.
Location: 4F Lipowa St., right next to MOCAK
Not that obvious choice, as the name of the museum, doesn’t really sound exciting to visitors wondering what to do in Krakow. However, this is one of the city’s biggest surprises. Do you want to see various historic pharmacy rooms full of test tubes and dust-caked glass bottles of all sizes and shapes? Here you go – the Krakow Old Town Pharmacy Museum is waiting. The museum is located in a beautiful townhouse, in a historic burgher’s tenement in the Royal Road. It’s a bit quirky, but the collection is truly impressive. There are around 22,000 pieces, including laboratory equipment, pharmaceutical instruments, jars, barrels, medical books and different glassware.
The great thing is that Krakow’s Pharmacy Museum is actually one of the few museums of this type in the world. A big part of the permanent exhibition is devoted to Tadeusz Pankiewicz who was running an ‘Aryan’ pharmacy in the Jewish Ghetto during the German occupation.
Location: 25 Floriańska St.
Another place for those craving interesting things to do in Krakow is the Rynek Underground Museum. It’s jokingly considered Krakow's version of the Louvre...or the glass pyramid at least, is a sky light letting a little bit of daylight into Krakow's underground Rynek museum.(ADD PHOTO)
This exceptional museum is located beneath the cobbles of the Main Market Square. It's an interactive museum which shows you the foundations of the buildings that used to stand here centuries ago, and is basically the result of huge excavations that took place in the square from 2009-2010. You get to see how the current level of the city has raised over the centuries.
Rynek Underground is kind of a journey back in time. Well, back to when merchants traded various goods in the centre of the town in the 11th – 13th centuries.
The museum is dark, and there are speakers above your head which makes the general feeling a bit weird but in a positive way. The best option is to visit the museum with a professional guide as the place is full of medieval objects. It’s really valuable listening about the history of them. If you want to experience a real medieval Krakow, this museum is not to be missed.
The Entry is limited to only 300 people at a time so you have to buy a ticket with a time slot allocated to it, which can be done either online or from the information office on the other side of the square from the entrance to the museum.
Location: 1 Main Market Square
MOCAK stands for Museum of Contemporary Art. It was opened in 2011. The museum is popular, especially amongst young visitors – mainly students. MOCAK is situated right behind Schindler’s Factory. The building is beautiful, and it has avant-garde styling coming together with an extremely modern layout. MOCAK has a great collection of modern works of art. The collection has been enriched on a regular basis because on top of permanent exhibitions, and there are many temporary ones.
The permanent exhibition includes various pieces of modern art by both Polish and foreign artists. There is also the Mieczyslaw Porębski Library with hundreds of works on art theory and history. MOCAK’s permanent exhibition also includes Krystian Lupa’s interactive installation “Live Factory 2”. The installation was inspired by Warhol’s cult NYC studio. Oh, and make sure you visit the museum’s bookshop!
Location: 1 Lipowa St.
Zdzislaw Beksinski Gallery
Zdzislaw Beksinski is one of the most famous (and actually internationally recognized) 20th-century painters, as well as a photographer and sculptor. He died in 2005, and he’s mostly known for his emotionally charged canvases and apocalyptic landscapes. The gallery was opened in October 2016 – most of the artworks come from the private collection of Anna and Piotr Dmochowski – the artist’s friends and art dealers. The exhibition mainly includes paintings from the 1980s. Beksinski created his best-known iconic works during that time.
The paintings can seem to be a bit disturbing (be prepared for scenes of death, deformed figures and skeletons) but most tourists say that Zdzislaw Beksinski Gallery is one of the best galleries in Krakow. Once there, you just cannot stop staring at the paintings. Make sure you don’t miss out on an amazing performance by Art Color Ballet Kryptonim 27. The show accompanies the opening.
Location: 232 Al. Jana Pawła, Nowa Huta
The gallery is located on Plac Szczepanski, in a fascinating building dating back to 1854. The Palace of Art is one of the best day activities in Krakow, and your trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting this gorgeous venue. The building was built in the style of the Viennese Secession. It was designed uniquely for the Society of Friends of the Beaux-Arts. Palace of Arts is one of the most prestigious exhibition spaces in the whole city.
There are three exhibition spaces with around 30 contemporary art exhibits each year. Usually, the gallery hosts exhibitions by some of the most famous Polish artists. The gallery is surrounded by a gilded frieze designed by Jacek Malczewski (an eminent Polish painter). On top of exhibitions, the Palace of Arts also hosts commercial events.
Location: 4 pl. Szczepański
There are many things to do in Krakow, and this gallery is one not to be missed. Andrzej Mleczko Gallery’s fame is a great proof that anti-establishment, funny and sometimes even blasphemous cartoons can be treated like a modern art loved by crowds. Andrzej Mleczko (born is 1949 in Tarnobrzeg) is a famous and admired cartoonist in Poland. So far, he has created over 20,000 cartoons, widely printed in different parts of the country.
In the gallery, you will find everything but boredom – get prepared for a variety of surprises, an excellent sense of humour and unique cartoons. Mleczko’s works are sharp and universal – sometimes they can be difficult to get for foreigners (yet understood just perfectly by locals), but still, it’s one of the best galleries in Krakow. The gallery is an ideal place to buy some souvenirs from Krakow. Who wouldn’t want an original print, bedding set or a humorous mug?
Location: 14 St Jan St.
Bunkier Sztuki (‘Art Bunker’) is one of the most popular contemporary art galleries in Krakow. It’s located in the Old Town, in one of the very modern buildings. The building was first opened in 1965 and was a real shock because of the building’s design. The originator of the construction of the gallery – Boleslaw Drobner wanted to create a unique, brutalist venue in the heart of the city and he made it. Since 1994 Bunkier Sztuki has been the greatest city gallery in the region. Bunker is now a lot more than just a gallery. There are three floors with the changing exhibitions.
Most of the exhibitions are accompanied by meetings with artists, as well as critics. Works exhibited within Bunker include works of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tadeusz Kantor, Rafal Bujnowski and many other famous names. There are lectures and conferences, so the venue is definitely a great idea if you’re wondering what to do in Krakow. There is also a small mezzanine bookshop and an amazing café located on the ground floor.
Location: 3A Pl. Szczepański
Isabella Czartoryskich was a Polish noblewoman in the 18th century who used to meet with important figures of the Enlightenment such as the philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as Benjamin Franklin. She would collect distinguished artworks along her travels and eventually decided to open a museum for her collection which is housed inside an old monastery.
The museum's most famous art piece is a piece by Leonardo Da Vinci called, Lady with an Ermine, making Krakow one of only 9 places in the world where you can see an original Da Vinci painting, and according to Poles it is his best work, so that's convenient!
The museum closed in 2010 for a renovation that was supposed to take 2 years, but only just reopened in December 2019, 7 years late, so it’s a great time to visit Krakow if you are interested in seeing the museum.
Graphic poster art (usually for film and theatre) is kind of a trend in the Polish tradition. This is why you cannot be surprised that the Krakow Poster Gallery is considered to be one of the best galleries in Krakow. It’s visited by old and young, teachers and students, tourists and post-lovers from all over Europe. The gallery was founded by Krzysztof Dydo in 1985. The venue specializes in promotional and commercial posters.
In the Krakow Poster Gallery, you’ll find hundreds of designs for various plays, alternative film posters and propaganda campaigns. In total, there are around 2,500 different poster titles by almost 200 Polish graphic artists and designers. Some of them you can buy or even order online. Looking for a perfect yet humorous gift from Krakow? You’re now all set! On top of exhibitions and catalogues, the gallery also cooperates with film festivals.
Location: 8 Stolarska St.
Want to learn more about Krakow and it's rich history and culture? Then join one of our daily free walking tours.