The Czartoryski Museum is one of the most famous museums in Krakow and houses some of the finest European art collections in Poland. Its highlight is Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine, one of the most famous masterpieces, second only to the Mona Lisa.
But the Czartoryski Museum is also the ideal place to learn about the fascinating story of its founder, Princess Izabela Czartoryska, and her impressive collection, which boasts some of the most remarkable works of European and Oriental art.
What you will find in this guide to visiting the Czartoryski Museum:
- Czartoryski Museum: Interesting Facts and Things to Know Before You Go
- Czartoryski Museum: What to Expect
- Czartoryski Museum Tickets and Opening Hours
- How to Get to the Czartoryski Museum
Czartoryski Museum: Interesting Facts and Things to Know Before You Go
The Czartoryski Museum (Muzeum Ksiazat Czartoryskich), is the oldest museum in Poland and one of the most important and famous in Krakow. Here are some of the most precious works of European art preserved in Poland, including the world famous painting “Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci.
Czartoryski Museum is located in the heart of Krakow’s Old Town, a stone’s throw from the Krakow Barbican, and extends over three buildings: the neo-Gothic style Czartoryski Palace from the 19th century, an old monastery from the 18th century and the former Municipal Arsenal from the 16th century.
The museum is named after Princess Izabela Czartoryska, who was the wife of Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski. The Czartoryski family was one of the most prominent noble families in Poland, and Princess Izabela was one of the most notable European art collectors of the 18th century. It was Princess Izabela Czartoryska who founded the first art collection in Poland and then the Czartoryski Museum in 1796.
In her family residence in Puławy, the princess created a small exhibition of national art, featuring portraits of Polish nobles and national documents, objects and memorabilia, with the aim of protecting Poland’s artistic heritage. The earliest exhibitions were mainly devoted to trophies of the victory against the Turks of 1683.
Over the years the collection became more and more important, also thanks to the many valuable works purchased by the Czartoryski family. The collection of the Czartoryski Museum therefore began to host and preserve some of the most important works of the Polish heritage, such as those from the extensive collection of the Wawel Cathedral and the Wawel Royal Castle, as well as some prestigious works of European art, such as the Shakespeare’s chair and the world famous painting Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci.
The painting Lady with an Ermine was purchased in Italy in 1798 by the princess’s son, Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, together with Raphael’s “Portrait of a Young Man”. Unfortunately, the latter was lost during the Nazi invasion of WWII. The Czartoryski Museum also boasts a remarkable collection of Etruscan, Egyptian, Roman and Greek antiquities.
But the history of the Czartoryski Museum is not so simple: the Princess founded the collection, but many decades passed before it settled in Krakow. The town of Puławy, located just northwest of Lublin, where it is still possible to visit the Czartoryski Palace, was at the time under Russian rule and, when the so-called November Uprising (or Polish-Russian War) broke out in 1830, the prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski was forced to leave: the Palace was confiscated and part of the collection was destroyed or stolen.
The Czartoryski family then moved to Paris, bringing with them some of the most precious works of their collection. Here they bought the Hôtel Lambert, which became their new residence and home to a gallery dedicated to Polish art. After the Prince’s death, his two children, Prince Władysław Czartoryski and Princess Izabela Działyńska Czartoryski continued to expand the art collection, purchasing more paintings, vases, weapons, armor, carpets and much more.
It was only in 1876 that Prince Władysław Czartoryski decided to bring the collection back to Poland, specifically in Krakow, which at the time had a fairly stable political situation with Austrian rule. He thus founded the current Czartoryski Museum, which opened to the public in 1878 and became part of the National Museum in Krakow.
Czartoryski Museum: What to Expect
The main entrance of the Czartoryski Museum is located on the corner of Ul. Pijarska and Ul. Świętego Jana, one step away from Florianska Street and the Krakow Barbican. The museum boasts 21 exhibition halls spanning two floors. The collections range from Polish art to prominent works of European and oriental art.
The collection is divided into different sections, the most popular being the one dedicated to European painting, where you can see the main attraction of the Czartoryski Museum: the Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, which is also the most valuable piece of the collection.
The European painting section also boasts remarkable works by Rembrandt, such as the famous “Landscape with the Good Samaritan” and paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, Luca Giordano, Andrea Mategna and many other famous artists.
Another interesting part of the Czartoryski Museum is the one dedicated to European decorative arts and Pulawy’s memorabilia, which exhibits the refined collection of porcelain, furniture and crystals from the Renaissance and Baroque era that once adorned the Czartoryski Palace in Puławy. The collection also boasts a beautiful wooden chessboard, finely inlaid by a 17th century craftsman.
Also noteworthy is the Gallery of Antiquity with artifacts from the Roman, Greek and Egyptian periods, such as vases, sarcophagi and sculptures. One room is entirely dedicated to oriental art, with wonderful carpets, dragon sculptures, vases and porcelain.
And as this is a collection that comes from one of the most important families of the Kingdom of Poland, it is also worth taking a look at the interesting collection of the Armory, which boasts weapons, swords and armor. Here too, the armor comes from Poland, but also from Europe and the Orient.
The last section of the Czartoryski Museum is dedicated to the Czartoryski family, with an exhibition of artifacts and portraits, and to precious works of sacred art, with religious-themed paintings, crucifixes and statues.
Czartoryski Museum Tickets and Opening Hours
The Czartoryski Museum ticket costs 35 PLN (reduced 25 PLN).
You can also opt for a combo ticket to visit the Czartoryski Museum and the Arsenal at the discounted price of 40 PLN (reduced 25 PLN).
Admission is free on Tuesdays and every day if you have the City Pass Krakow Card, the city card that allows you to visit all the main museums of the city for free and travel for free on public transport.
Audio guides are available in the museum in several languages (Polish, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) for an additional fee of 10 PLN.
You can buy tickets online (skip the line) or at the Czartoryski Museum ticket office.
The Czartoryski Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00. More info on the museum’s official website.
How to Get to the Czartoryski Museum
The museum is located at ul. Pijarska 15, a few steps from the Krakow Barbican and about 500 meters from the Rynek Główny. You can easily get there on foot in 5 minutes from the Main Square: just go along ul. Świętego Jana until you see the museum on your right.
The closest bus stop is Stary Kleparz: buses 124, 152, 424 and trams 4, 14, 18, 20, 52 stop here.