After the Tary mountains and Zakopane, there’s just no way not to visit Cracow. Historically Poland’s former capital and oldest university town lies in a broad valley on the banks of the Vistula river, and is a treasure house of national culture. Its ancient, elegant Old Town has been placed on the UNESCO list of World Historic Sites. It is ideal for a long weekend break, without the tourist hoards and high prices. Be dazzled by its art and architecture, from baroque to Art Nouveau, renaissance to Gothic, and by the sheer spectacle of the city. Here are some of the gorgeous places I’ve visited this time…
The Józef Mehoffer House is a museum located in the former residence of the painter at 26 Krupnicza street and is listed in the Register of Historical Monuments. It boasts an adjacent, blooming garden extending to the south. In 1932, the house was purchased by Józef Mehoffer who was captivated by its old-fashioned look as well as its spacious courtyard and garden shaded by old green trees. The building already constituted part of the city’s history. Mehoffer carried out its thorough renovation, leaving the structure of the building unchanged but introducing new interior divisions. The process endowed the house with features of a carefully devised family residence, which was dubbed „The Cone Palace”. The outbreak of the war in 1939 interrupted the finishing works. After their return from a German camp in Ash in the Sudetes, the Mehoffers – despite the misery and horror of the occupation – continued the tradition of musical and literary gatherings in their home. It was here that the painter also worked, having lost access to his atelier in the building of the Academy of Fine Arts in Matejko Square. After Józef’s death, the family stayed in the house filled with works of art, archives and memorabilia. As early as in 1963, Zbigniew Mehoffer, the painter’s son, began to expend efforts to create Józef Mehoffer’s museum in Krupnicza street, which bore fruit only many years later. In 1986, in accordance with the will of the artist’s family, the house and the land became the property of the State Treasury and was transferred to the National Museum in Krakow for the purpose of establishing a branch dedicated to the artist. After further renovations and redecorations, the Museum was opened to the public in 1996.
For a proper dose of art and architecture, you should definitely visit St. Francis’s Church with its original, floral polichromies by Stanisław Wyspiański, the Wawel castle and cathedral, and the 19th Century Polish Art Gallery at Sukiennice (in the same building you will find the best store with locally-sourced decorations and traditional, hand-made rugs -“kilim“).
The Princes Cartoryski Museum. The most valuable art collection in Poland, and one of the most valuable ones in Europe. The Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci or the Landscape with the Good Samaritan by Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as many other masterpieces of not only painting, but also sculpture, crafts, military, applied arts, can be viewed in 26 exhibition halls, on two floors of the renovated Princes Czartoryski Museum. In 1801, Princess Izabela Czartoryska née Flemming created a collection of national treasures. The resources she collected were presented in Puławy, in two park pavilions: The Temple of the Sybil, and since 1809 also in the Gothic House. It was in the Gothic House that the Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine and Rembrandt van Rijn’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan were exhibited. During that time, the pearls in the Czartoryski collection also included the Portrait of a Young Man by Rafael Santi (lost during World War II). However, the museum did not survive the November Uprising, and in 1831 – following Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski’s emigration – the collection was transported to Paris. It only made its way back to Poland in 1876, in connection with the scheduled opening of the museum in Krakow. World War II brought about significant losses to the collection. After the war, the museum was taken over by the National Museum in Krakow, and in 1991 fell under the management of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation. On December 29, 2016, thanks to the purchase by the Polish government, the Czartoryski resources became an integral part of the National Museum in Krakow. After all these years, visitors can finally see Czartoryska’s precious collection.
Cracow is also a great place for vintage fashion! Vintage Shop on Szpitalna street has a lovely selection of unique jewellery, designer items and adorable, tapestry bags from 1960s and 70s.
Photos by Edward Kanarecki.