Krakow Guide for Art Lovers
Everything You Need to Know about Krakow's Cultural Life


Art comes in many shapes and sizes, but Krakow has them all. If you’re planning to travel to Krakow, you should know that you’re about to visit a perfect place for art lovers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the history of fine arts, architecture or theatre – Krakow has it all to make your stay unforgettable.

What will you find in this post?

Krakow Art Lady with an Ermine

  •  what are the the most important contemporary art galleries in Krakow
  • where to find the only da Vinci’s painting in Poland
  • who is Jan Matejko?
  • which modern Polish poets received Nobel prizes in literature
  • and many, many more…

Here you have it: a comprehensive Krakow guide for art lovers.

Fine arts and architecture in Krakow

If you’re interested in the art of the Middle Ages, Krakow is the best place for you. Masterpieces created during that period today grace the city’s churches, and many have been relocated to museums.

During the late XV century, Krakow was home to Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz), one of the most famous sculptors of the Gothic era. You can admire his majestic altarpiece in the Basilica of Virgin Mary.

Krakow Art
The stunning altar in St. Mary’s Church – an example of high class art in Krakow


Those who love the Renaissance art and architecture will be delighted to visit the Wawel Royal Castle and its golden-domed Sigismund Chapel.

Krakow Art Wawel Cathedral
Sigismund’s Chapel, Wawel Castle – beautiful architecture in the very heart of Krakow


When it comes to architecture, Krakow boasts some breathtaking Baroque churches and palaces built in the XVII and XVIII century that are all worth your attention.

Krakow’s painting tradition

During the first half of the nineteenth century, the painter Piotr Michałowski rose to fame as the first Polish artist of the highest European format. His masterpieces were considered as equal to the works produced by the greatest French artists like Eugene Delacroix or Teodor Gericault.

Krakow Art Michalowski
Piotr Michałowski Wypadek w Podróży (Accident during the journey)


The latter part of the century saw the emergence of historical painting, in particular, Jan Matejko who has been capturing the key moments in Poland’s tragic history in his remarkable works and established the Polish tradition of historical-patriotic painting later exemplified in the works of Wojciech Kossak.

Krakow Art Matejko
Jan Matejko Prussian Homage


But Krakow is a real treat for those who love modern art as well. In the late 1890s, Krakow exploded with talent and attracted an amazing group of painters, poets, sculptors, and writers united by the Young Poland movement that was related to the Art Nouveau.

You simply need to see Stanisław Wyspiański‘s majestic stained-glass windows and frescoes at the Church of St Francis! You can admire the collection of Krakow’s 20th-century art in the main gallery of the Krakow National Museum.

Krakow Art Wyspianski
Stanisław Wyspiański A view of Kosciuszko Mound from my atelier


Famous paintings in Krakow

Krakow’s numerous museums and art galleries are full of beautiful creations, but what are the most well-known paintings that you can admire here?

Well, there is an obvious front-runner in this category – da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine takes the cake for sure!

Krakow Art Lady with an Ermine
Da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’ – the most famous painting in Krakow


Painted in 1489-1490 by master Leonardo, today it belongs to the National Museum in Krakow (link to Google Maps).

The fascinating beauty and interesting symbolism behind the lady (and the ermine!) stops everyone in their tracks.

A must-see for sure!

But what else is there to discover?

You can explore the works of art created by Jan Matejko.

One of the most famous Polish artists – born and raised in Krakow – painted several masterpieces in his lifetime.

You can find some of them scattered around in various local institutions: Prussian Homage and Wernyhora in Sukiennice and Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God in Collegium Novum (Jagiellonian University).

Krakow Art Copernicus
Jan Matejko Astronomer Copernicus 


Contemporary art collections

Today Krakow boasts a large number of active artists who graduated from Krakow’s renowned Academy of Fine Arts and found home in many local art galleries. A must-see for all contemporary art lovers is MOCAK – the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.

Established in 2010, the museum quickly became an excellent cultural venue and an essential place on Krakow’s artistic map. Housed in a building designed by Claudio Nardi, the museum is located in the industrial district of Podgórze and displays art produced during the last 20 years.

Another essential place is Bunkier Sztuki (Bunker of Art). Established in 1965, Bunkier Sztuki is today one of the most famous Polish institutions presenting contemporary art.

Krakow Art Bunkier Sztuki
Bunker of Art


Art galleries in Krakow

Krakow is a home to both big national institutions and young, independent artists with unique ideas and fresh outlooks.

If you are interested in either of them, make sure to check out this list. I am sure that you will find a place that will strike a chord with you – be it a national museum or an independent hidden gem somewhere off the beaten track.

One of my absolute personal favourites is Zdzisław Beksiński’s gallery in Nowohuckie Centrum Kultury (Google Maps). I recommend it to all of my friends – and now to you, of course! If you’re a fan of modern art with a gloomy twist – definitely check it out.

Krakow Art Beksinski
Zdzisław Beksinski Untitled Paiting


Krakow art museums

If you’re looking to spend some time in a museum and are still wondering where to go, let me redirect you to our ultimate guide to Krakow museums – it includes comprehensive information regarding some of the places that you should really consider paying a visit to!

Literature in Krakow

Krakow has always been important on the European literary scene. Some of the most outstanding Polish writers and poets at the turn of the 20th century were:

  • Stanisław Wyspiański,
  • Stanisław Przybyszewski,
  • Józef Mehoffer.

But Krakow is the capital of writers and artists today. Contemporary artists include the theater director Tadeusz Kantor, the science-fiction star Stanisław Lem, the writer Sławomir Mrożek, the film director Andrzej Wajda, as well as renowned poets and Nobel laureates Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska.

Krakow Art Szymborska
Wisława Szymborska


Krakow’s theater scene

Krakow is home to many theater groups and festivals. One of the most significant festivals is the Ulica Street Art Festival. In fact, it’s one of the oldest street festivals in the region and has been part of Krakow’s vibrant cultural scene since 1988.

The festival features a broad range of presentations and activities within just a couple of days. And it’s not only about traditional theater production and performance art, but also street performances that become part of the urban landscape for just a few hours.

Another interesting theater festival is Kto Theatre. Founded by a traveling theater company, the festival has long been part of Krakow’s dynamic theater scene. The theater would often take their performances to streets and involve both passersby and the audience.

Finally, there is Krakow International Festival of Theatrical Reminiscences which features theatrical performances from 45 countries that cover all possible variants of theater performance, ranging from dance and drama to comedy and art performance.

Krakow Art - Teart Slowackiego
Słowacki's Theatre


Music in Krakow

Krakow resounds with music of every kind and is home to some of the most prestigious music festivals in Europe, for example, Misteria Paschalia – a treat for fans of early music – or the Krakow Film Music Festival that boasts an impressive lineup of artists.

Krakow is home to a lively club scene as well. Jazz is especially appreciated and visitors can choose from shows held in different types of venues or festivals – most importantly, the Jazz Festival organized in the courtyard of the famous Pod Baranami club, right next to the Main Market Square.

Krakow – the city for art lovers

It should come as no surprise that Krakow is a city that is just perfect for all kinds of art lovers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in architecture or painting, theatre or music – visit Krakow if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience with everything the world of art has to offer.

Krakow art

It might be the medieval architecture, long-standing painting tradition, or lively theatre scene – Krakow fascinates many people who visit this vibrant city over and over again to experience its rich cultural offerings.

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