Cracow Sukiennice
Poland,  Travel

Cracow Museum Marathon

Cracow – a city where every corner whispers history. And what better way to unveil the secrets of its past and present than to run a museum marathon?

Every day, different museums offer free entry with Tuesdays featuring the most attractive selection. And the great news is that many of them are located within or close to the Old Town, so it is possible to just walk from one place to another.

From Chelmonski to da Vinci

From outside a beautiful palace, inside a modern exhibition space – Czartoryski Museum is displaying one of the most expensive art pieces in Polish collections – The Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci.

Did you know that there are less than 20 paintings by Leonardo still in existence?

In the heart of the Main Square, the famous Cloth Hall (Polish: Sukiennice) is a tourist trap with the most expensive souvenirs. But it is also a home for a National Museum branch with a great collection of Polish impressionists with pieces, such as ‘Frenzy’ (Pol. Szał) by Władysław Podkowiński, and the famous ‘Four in Hand’ (Czworka) by Jozef Chelmonski. This exhibition is a must-see for fans of Malczewski and Matejko.

📷Photo tip: go to the rooftop of Cafe Szał for a great view of the Main Square and Saint Mary’s Basilica. 

Libraria and dark academia vibes

Jagiellonian University is the oldest university in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe. Its first building – Collegium Maius was built in the 14th century! Over the years it went through many transformations, function and style-wise: from teaching and studying space, a library to now being a museum. The entrance to the courtyard is free. To see the interiors you can choose between a guided tour or a free visit.

JU has many notable alumni including Nicolaus Copernicus, Pope John Paul II or Noble laureate Wislawa Szymborska. You can find their memorabilia and other precious souvenirs in the museum’s treasuries: a scepter of Queen Jadwiga, film awards from Andrzej Wajda or the Olympic gold medal of Robert Korzeniowski, just to mention a few.

Wawel dragon and botanical tapestries

A famous Polish fairy tale talks about the dragon living under Wawel hill, killed by the inconspicuous shoemaker thanks to a trick with a fake ram and exploding sulfur. The legend is alive and the dragon is still breathing fire at the gates to the castle.

An almost 1000-years-old castle built on Wawel hill has over 2 million visitors every year and it is undoubtedly one of the most popular attractions in the city or even the country.

The visitors can spend hours exploring the chambers filled with antique furniture, art pieces and botanical tapestry. But first, they need to climb the hill to reach the gates (and not be killed by the dragon of course).

📷Photo tip: there is a great view of the city and Vistula River from castle towers and royal gardens.

To see the castle in its full glory, cross the Grunwald Bridge and walk towards the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology. This is a relatively small space and exhibitions are frequently changing. I have seen so far the Spirit Hidden in the Trees about Japanese carpentry, and two collections featuring mountains – The Tatras and Fuji and Other Mountains.

You shouldn’t miss the visit to the museum shop offering beautiful stationery and books with patterns and pictures referencing Japanese artists.

Botanical Museum

    Probably the smallest museum on this list. It is not worth going there just for a museum, but it is good to enter while visiting the botanic garden (it is included in the ticket). In just 4 rooms of the old astronomical observatory, you get insights into the history of the garden and appreciate specimens collected by Polish botanists during tropical expeditions.

    Virtual paths

    Now you can also watch some of the museum exhibitions from the comfort of your sofa. The virtual experience includes both images and audioguides.

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