Reopened after almost a decade of renovation, Kraków’s Czartoryski Museum is home to a sublime portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. This is our complete walk-through of the experience with practical information for visitors.
Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Lady With An Ermine
Tucked just inside the city walls near the Floriańska Gate, the Princes Czartoryski Museum contains what is probably Poland’s most valuable art collection. Based on a private collection by Princess Izabela Czartoryska, there’s a dizzying mix of items from across the world and oddities from Polish history, as well as a rather large library. It is now one of the oldest museums in Poland and one of most valuable collections in Europe.
Booking a tour through Get Your Guide will help you understand the unique story behind the collection.
The Czartoryski has plenty to see but one item puts it in the Top 5 of things to do in Kraków – Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Lady With An Ermine. If you time it right, this indisputably gorgeous work can often be seen without the crowds you’d find in the Louvre. I had the painting completely to myself on two occasions.
The museum was closed for almost a decade for extensive renovations and reopened in December 2019 with an impressive light-filled atrium.
Read on for a full walk-through of the Czartoryski Museum, followed by practical information for a visit.
What To See In The Czartoryski Museum
Side view of the Czartoryski Museum from Świętego Jana
Princess Izabela Czartoryski began assembling this unique collection of artefacts in the mid-18th century, mainly to preserve Polish history, royalty, and identity. As such, it initially focused on recovering historical treasures from key periods, such as the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Over time, however, Izabela’s son, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski expanded the collection to include artistic and religious works from far beyond Poland.
The first part of the museum reflects the historical side of the collection, with material based around Polish royal dynasties, and military memorabilia, as well as the Czartoryski family itself. The second half of the museum focuses on the impressive collection of art.
The museum is justifiably famous for the da Vinci portrait, which is indisputably sublime and beautifully displayed. But there’s a fair bit more to see. The permanent collection covers 21 halls, with paintings from the Middle Ages through to the 17th century. Highlights include Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan, and two monumental genre canvas paintings by Jan Piotr Norblin. There are rooms dedicated to religious work and art from the Far East, as well as sculpture, crafts, and military memorabilia, and curiosities, such as Chopin’s death mask and an urn containing the remains of Copernicus.
What To Expect In The Czartoryski Museum
You first enter the Czartoryski through a door on ul. Pijarska, which brings you into a bright atrium with a glass roof. There’s a ticket office, cafe, cloakroom, gift shop, and toilets all clearly arranged off the main space.
Czartoryski Museum atrium
When it’s time to enter the actual museum, you go to the hallway next to the cloakroom and scan your ticket at the gate.
The museum is spread over two floors and roughly split into two halves, separated by a gantry across the atrium. The first half gives context to the Czartoryski family and Polish history, with a strong military emphasis. The second half most focuses on the art.
The exhibition begins up the stairs (or elevator) on the first floor. There two large oils by Jean-Pierre Norblin.
Czartoryski Museum start point
The stained glass features the crest of the House of Czartoryski, which is the focus of the first two rooms.
House of Czartoryski crest
Originally in Puławy, Princess Izabela Czartoryska founded her “Temple of Memory” to pull together strands of Polish heritage for future safekeeping, in, what we might call, an act of nationalist identity. The first room includes objects and paintings associated with the House of Czartoryski, including a portraits of Izabela herself.
Portrait of Izabela Czartoryska
A highlight of these first rooms is the Key to the Temple of the Sybil, used to open the original Temple of Memory. The key is in the form of a caduceus, which the Greek god Hermes carried.
Key to the Temple of the Sybil
The exhibition moves onto the Jagiellonian Dynasty, who were the kings of Poland from the 14th-16th centuries. Alongside a series of portraits from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Younger and an excellent altarpiece from 1517, there are various objects rescued from Wawel Cathedral and Castle.
Jagiellonian-era decorative arts
Room 5 features objects associated with the Swedish Vasa Dynasty, who ruled Poland from the late 16th-century. Despite the characterful painting of Grand Marshall Łukasz Opaliński, the highlight here is an extraordinary peacock toasting cup, made from a Nautilus shell gilded in silver.
From here, the museum moves into military history, with a room commemorating the 1683 “Victory of Vienna” against the Ottoman Empire. There’s an extraordinary array of armour, shields and sabres, and a Turkish ceremonial tent.
Victory of Vienna armour
Room 7 focuses on decorative art from the Saxon House of Wettin in the early part of the 19th century. These include delightful porcelain figurines in traditional Polish costume. The Enlightenment Room tells the story of an attempted kidnapping of the king in 1771, whilst Rooms 9 and 10 deal with religious artefacts and funeral rites.
Religious paraments and coffin portraits
The final three rooms on the first floor feature the oriental collection from Persia, India, China, and Japan, including a fine bronze cast of a Chinese dragon and statues of Indian deities.
Vishnu, Lakshmi and Parvati
At this point, the museum shifts to the main art collection and continues on the second floor, which was plundered by the Nazis during the Second World War. At the top of the stairs, there is a poignant reminder of Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, one of the 800-odd items still missing.
The missing Raphael
Cross over the atrium gantry to reach the rest of the exhibition.
View from the gantry
The first room of the second floor is the Antiquities Parlour, which features the 15th-century portrayal of Brutus and Portia, just after the murder of Julius Caesar.
Czartoryski Antiquities Parlour
There are dedicated rooms for Renaissance and Medieval art, with paintings, tapestries, decorative objects, and religious pieces, including Crivelli’s Saints Anthony the Hermit and Lucy. She was a persecuted Christian who underwent a whole series of ordeals. Here, she looks at her own eyeballs.
Crivelli’s Saints Anthony the Hermit and Lucy
Room 5 features Northern European Art – mainly Dutch – from the 15th to the 17th century and Room 6 focuses in on Art of the Rembrandt Period, including his intriguing and mysterious 1638 Landscape with the Good Samaritan, one of the museum’s absolute highlights. The more you peer into the image, the more it begins to reveal.
Viewers look at a Rembrandt masterpiece
The Czartoryski has been leading up to the da Vinci room and it really does not disappoint. Beautifully lit, with seating directly facing the painting, the timed entry system means this room is rarely crammed with people and you will often get it completely to yourself.
The da Vinci Room
Rooms 8 features Polish national memorabilia in a recreation of the original Temple of the Sibyl. Items of interest include an urn with remains of great historical figures such as Copernicus and Poland Enchained, a painting by Jan Matejko. The museum finishes with a display of items from the Princes Czartoryski Library.
How To Vist The Czartoryski Museum
Czartoryski Museum entrance
Czartoryski Museum address: Pijarska 15, 31-015 Kraków, Poland
Tickets are given a strict time slot for entry, which means the museum never gets too crowded. You can spend as long as you like inside but you are strongly advised to book in advance.
Alternatively, a tour guide will take care of all this for you.
Entry times are as follows:
- Mon: Closed
- Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Last entry is 60 minutes before closing.
If you plan to visit the Czartoryski Museum on a public holiday, check ahead. Many attractions will be closed on January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday.
Entry tickets cost 65zł (50zł for concessions). You can also buy a 4-person family ticket for 130zł. Ticket for ages 7-26 years is only 1zł.
Entry is free on Tuesdays.
Check the official site for the latest information.
Czartoryski Museum archway
The Czartoryski Museum is on the corner of ul. Pijarska and Świętego Jana. Enter the Old Town to the north via Floriańska Gate and take the first right. Follow the town wall for a few minutes, past the statue of Mercury. You can spot the museum by the distinctive arch across the street – see image above. The small entrance door is on the left, just beyond the arch.
Tips For Visiting The Czartoryski Museum
- Tickets have strict entry times, so make sure you turn up early to use the lockers and toilets before entering
- Expect to spend 1.5 hours in the museum
- Entry to the Czartoryski Museum is included with KrakowCard Museum and Travel Pass. See our guide to the KrakowCard for more details
- Audioguides are available to rent in a number of languages for 10zł
- There aren’t many places to sit down in the museum, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes
- You can take small bags into the exhibition, but backpacks and larger luggage should be left in the free, self-service lockers to the right of the main atrium. There is a touchscreen with instructions in Polish and English. This prints out a locker number and automatically unlocks it. Keep the printout, as you’ll need the number to retrieve your stuff
- Photography is allowed, but no tripod or flash
- There aren’t many activities aimed at children, although some of the historical objects will appeal
- The museum is fully accessible with elevators between floors and sensory displays for the visually impaired throughout, who also get the audioguide included in the ticket price. The official website includes ‘pre-guides’, aimed at people with the autism spectrum and links to a smartphone app
- You cannot bring food and drink into the museum, but there’s a nice cafe on the ground floor with a limited menu, which you can use without buying a ticket to the museum. The toilets are also on the ground floor
- The gift shop is small but has some really imaginative items at reasonable prices. I got a cuddly toy ermine last time I was there
- You can pay for everything in the museum with a card
- The museum exits through a different door to the entrance, on Świętego Jana rather than Pijarska
- A supplementary exhibition space in the 15th-century Arsenal building, called the Ancient Art Gallery, includes artefacts from Egypt, Greece and Rome. This can be visited separately or an extension ticket can be bought as part of the general entry to the Czartoryski
Where Is This Place Located?Find this location on the Visit Kraków Google map:
- Open the Visit Kraków map
- Click on a marker and it will give you the name of the landmark, with a brief description and links for more information and directions. You can pan, scroll, and zoom around the map, or use the + or – buttons in the bottom left of the map to zoom in and out
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side, sorted by category. Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Each category is on a different layer, which can be switched on and off. So you can just see the Hotel or Restaurant pins, for example
- If you are using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location
Map pins are color coded:
- YELLOW: Kraków Sightseeing
- GREEN: Kraków Transportation
- DARK RED: Restaurants in Kraków
- ORANGE: Michelin Restaurants in Kraków
- LIGHT RED: Kraków Bars / Clubs / Music Venues
- BLUE: Kraków Hotels
- PURPLE: Shopping In Kraków