Krakow is home to many fantastic bars, pubs, clubs cafe and restaurants. However buzzing restaurants and crowded cafes aren’t all the city has to offer. There are plenty of things to do in Krakow and its history comes to life in its museums.
You don’t have to be a history buff, or artsy-type to appreciate the best museums in Krakow. There are more museums in Krakow and unique galleries than anywhere else in Poland. Some of them modernized, whereas others look just the same as they looked years ago.
You can also visit most of the best museums in Krakow for free on one day of the week. Check out our list of Free things to do in Krakow.
Right, ready for a real culture trip? Here they are – the best museums in Krakow!
National Museum in Krakow
Probably one of the best museums in Krakow and the most famous. The National Museum was established in 1897. 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 best part of a whole day to see everything in their main location. Location: 1 May 3rd St.
Have you watched Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List? If you’re about to visit Krakow, don’t miss a visit to the Schindler’s Factory. The museum (re-opened to the public as a world-class museum in 2010). Housed in the industrial hall used by Schindler as an enamelling plant during the war. The Schindler factory museum tells the true story of Polish Jews and Krakow under Nazi occupation. The museum is full of history. However more than that, you also get the emotional journey of a man who conspired against the Nazis to save Jews.
The museum is both inspiring and fascinating. Definitely one of the best museums in Krakow and even in Poland. The Schindler Factory is both interactive and tasteful; you’ll feel like you’ve got back in time. You can buy tickets online but usually need to book at least three days in advance.
However tourists walk straight through Jewish quarter Krakow and the former Krakow ghetto just to see the museum; missing out on two fascinating areas. We recommend finding out more about Jewish life in Krakow during World War Two. You can join the Jewish Quarter Krakow free walking tour that takes in the Jewish Quarter Krakow, as well as the former Krakow ghetto, and hear the history of those areas. Before heading to visit the Schindler factory.
Location: 4F Lipowa St., right next to MOCAK
Krakow Pharmacy Museum
Not the obvious choice for what to do in Krakow. The name of this Krakow museum doesn’t sound too exciting. 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 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.
Underground Museum Krakow
Another place for those craving interesting things to do in Krakow is the Underground Museum Krakow. It’s jokingly considered Krakow’s version of the Louvre…or the glass pyramid part at least. The fountain is actually a skylight letting a little bit of daylight into this Krakow underground museum.
Krakow underground museum is located beneath the cobbles of the Krakow main Square. It’s interactive, showing you the foundations of the buildings that used to stand here centuries ago. It 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 Krakow Old Town has risen over the centuries.
Krakow underground museum is a journey back in time. Back to when merchants traded in the town in the 11th – 13th centuries.
The museum is dark, although surprisingly big. There are even skeletons of mummified bodies found in the area. Make sure to leave some time at the end to watch the fascinating videos of Krakow under Nazi occupation. As well as video reconstructions of famous events in the city’s history.
Entry is limited to only 300 people at a time. Buy a ticket with a time slot allocated to it, either online or from the ticket office on the other side of the cloth hall building, from the entrance to the museum.
Location: 1 Main Market Square
MOCAK stands for Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow. It was opened in 2011. The museum is popular, especially amongst students. MOCAK is situated right beside the Schindler’s Factory. The building has avant-garde styling, coming together with a modern layout. MOCAK has a great collection of modern works of art. The collection is enriched on a regular basis with permanent and temporary exhibitions.
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 Polish painters. As well as a photographer and sculptor. He died in 2005. He is mostly known for his emotionally charged canvases and apocalyptic landscapes. This 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 to those not expecting it (be prepared for scenes of death, deformed figures and skeletons). However those who do visit often think 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
Krakow Palace of Art
This gallery is located on Plac Szczepanski, close to Krakow main square. Housed in a beautiful building dating back to 1854, built in the style of the Viennese Secession. 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 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
Andrzej Mleczko Gallery
There are many great Krakow things to do, but only so much time. If you can 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. He has created over 20,000 cartoons. Which are widely printed in different parts of the country. In the gallery get prepared for a variety of surprises, humour and unique cartoons. Mleczko’s works are sharp and universal – although sometimes they can be difficult to ‘get’ for foreigners. While being certainly understood perfectly by locals. The gallery is an ideal place to buy some Krakow souvenirs. 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. She 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 bring them back to Krakow. Eventually her son Adam opened the 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. Lady with an Ermine. This makes Krakow one of only 9 places in the world where you can see an original Da Vinci painting. Obviously 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! Which means you’ve timed it right to visit Krakow now, if you are interested in seeing the museum.
Krakow Poster Gallery
Graphic poster art (usually for film and theatre) is kind of a cultural trend in the Polish tradition. Don’t be surprised that the Krakow Poster Gallery is considered one of the best museums in Krakow.Visited by old and young, teachers and students, tourists and poster-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.
We hope this guide of the best museums in Krakow serves you well when lookings for things to do in Krakow.
To learn more about the city’s rich history and culture, we recommend joining our free walking tour Krakow. The best way to really get to know Krakow!