Warsaw is the main center of the contemporary Polish artistic scene. In contrary to Cracow, which has very rich collections of older masterpieces, the capital can boast with a great variety of exhibitions of the youngest generations. Amongst the main museums in the Polish capital, you will find the ones devoted to displaying temporary shows gathering modern and contemporary art, but also an amazing collection showing the best Polish names. So, if you are an art enthusiast, here is a list of the best art museums to visit in Warsaw.
This biggest museum in Warsaw is a truly magnificent place to get acquainted with the whole range of Polish art history. Initially opened in 1862, it is now situated in a stunning 1920s monumental building. The National Museum is a house for some of the most famous Polish masterpieces, such as the magnificent 'Battle of Grunwald', measuring almost 10 meters of width. It was painted by the most famous 19th-century artist - Jan Matejko. Due to the events of World War II, the museum lost a big part of its collections; however, it can still boast with the best examples of regional and foreign painting, sculpture, and craft. This museum is a good place for anyone interested in culture - the core program includes ancient objects from Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire as well as a stunning display of medieval art. Next to that, there is a number of rooms devoted to modern times up until contemporary examples.
Zachęta started as the 19th-century art society located in a beautiful renaissance-style palace. The main aim of the association was promoting young artists, with the main focus on painting. It was turned into the National Art Gallery in 1994. Even though Zachęta has its own collection, there is no core exhibition on display. Surely, the gallery's program can always guarantee temporary exhibitions of the best quality. The curators organize the shows of contemporary and classic Polish and international artists. The gallery is also responsible for curating the exhibition for the International Biennale in Venice each year. The building of Zachęta is one of the nicest preserved palaces in Warsaw and, together with its surroundings, creates a beautiful sightseeing spot in the capital.
The Museum of Modern Art is one of the youngest institutions of this kind in Warsaw. Created in 2005, it already changed its location twice, waiting for a new building that is erecting in front of the Palace of Culture and Science. Currently, the institution is housed by the Vistula River banks and because of that fact, it took a common name of the 'Museum by the Vistula'. It is especially nice to visit during the summer to enjoy the vicinity of the boulevards and the museum cafe, with an open terrace. For now, the institution displays only temporary exhibitions of the best Polish and foreign artists. The museum has a collection that is constantly expanding in order to be shown in the new building as a core exhibition. An interesting part of the museum is a department located 80 km away from Warsaw, in Szumin. It is a house of two famous Polish architects- Oskar and Zofia Hansen, who created a special manifest of the Open Form. You can visit it through the trips organized by the museum each month during the summer.
The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art offers exhibitions of the most recent examples of Polish and International creations. Located in an old royal residence, it has a very picturesque surrounding of a park and a pond beneath. The Ujazdowski Castle is a good place for the enthusiasts of more avant-garde contemporary art. The centre also has a small cinema with a great alternative movie program that hosts film festivals. They also have a rich art residency program that hosts international artists each year. While wandering around the castle, pay attention to the surroundings, as there are many works of art displayed in the public spaces, such as the benches of Jenny Holzer leading to the main entrance.
As you can see, Warsaw is a good place to discover the modern and contemporary art scene in Poland. The sightseeing experience of the Polish capital surely will not be full without visiting one of the best art museums in Warsaw, and I hope this list will help you choose the one most suitable for you.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.