“ Address: Rynek Główny 1 „
**Rynek Underground Museum, Krakow**
Back in January 2012 I visited the Rynek Underground Museum in Krakow. At the time I had been living in Krakow for just over 3 months and decided it really was time that I learnt something about the city.
**A Little Bit of History**
The history of Krakow itself is obviously a very long and detailed one, as well as one that I can only really scratch the surface of without boring you all to death!
Krakow is home to the largest Market Square in Europe and way back in history Krakow was the capital city of Poland. Back in 2005 archaeologists embarked on a 6 month dig beneath the surface of the Market Square with the aim of uncovering a deeper insight into the history of the city. This 6 month dig was largely under estimated and ended up taking just over 18 months to complete. From my students I have been told that at the time of this dig taking place there was a lot of controversy surrounding the project and many objections were put forward, however, the powers that be allowed the dig to continue and the results are now wonderfully displayed in what I would describe as possibly one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited.
**Rynek Underground Museum**
Located beneath the Market Square you will enter Rynek Underground Museum by the entrance located next to the tourist information shop on the outside of the Cloth Hall (the huge building in the centre of Market Square). From the entrance you will walk down a staircase to a desk where you will need to pay for entrance. At this point there is also a cloakroom where you can choose to leave your coats, free of charge, if you wish.
Once we had paid we entered the museum through a thin smoke screen onto which an image of medieval times was being projected, I instantly knew this was not going to be a boring museum!
Starting in Medieval times the Rynek Underground Museum took us on an interactive and interesting journey through time showing us not only the history of this city but also how they made a lot of the discoveries during the archaeological dig. The setting for the museum is perfect because it is underground on the actual site of the dig meaning that it is also the actual site of many of the events which you are now learning about.
As you work your way around the museum you will find yourself playing with the many touch screen exhibits including taking part in a virtual dig to uncover hidden artefacts and waving your guidebook, which you are given with your entry ticket, around in front of a camera to make a secret image appear on the screen. Obviously I wont reveal this secret image as you need to see it for yourself, but trust me it is good!
I particularly liked the way that as well as all of these modern interactive displays the museum also features a lot of traditional 'look and read' style exhibits with the text in both Polish and English. Most of the exhibits which are displayed in this way are ones where they have reconstructed a scene from the past such as a blacksmiths shop or a scene from a village and rather than show a video or touch screen they have given you the text to read instead. I found this to be a nice variant as often when I am watching a video or playing with a touch screen I kind of zone out, whereas reading a text and seeing the fantastic reconstructions not only created variety in the museum but also kept my attention and interest. They have also used this method to display exhibits where a video or touch screen wouldn't be appropriate, an example of this is the part of the exhibition which shows real skeletons uncovered during the dig. I found this a little freaky so it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the kids here.
My favourite part of the museum is known as 'The Fountain'. This area contains a model of Krakow city centre. Ok, so this doesn't sound that exciting, however if you look up to the ceiling you will see you are beneath a large glass pyramid which is actually a water fountain located outside on the Market Square. As we visited in January the fountain was switched off which allowed for a fantastic view of Saint Mary's Church from an perspective which you can only see from this point.
Towards the end of the museum you will come to an area consisting of around 5 or 6 rooms, each room is showing a video giving a summary of different periods in history. The videos are between 5 and 10 minutes long so depending on how patient and interested you are then you may or may not want to watch them all. I personally only watched a couple as I felt like I had learnt a lot from the exhibits, plus the fact that I was tired after nearly 2 and a half hours here!
Children and Museums... Sometimes not the best mix as kids tend to get bored easily. However, if your little ones do seem to get bored here, although I'm not sure this is possible as everything looks really cool here, but anyway, if they do then you can always take a seat in the Children's Theatre where you can sit and watch a 3D show using videos, holograms and life-like animated models to give children a fun yet educational view of the history of Krakow.
Rynek Underground Museum does have a 360 degree cinema, however at the time we visited this exhibit was closed so therefore I cannot include this in my review.
Guided tours are available in audio form. We didn't take one of these though as we wanted to take our time and do it all ourselves.
Due to the fact that guests enter the museum down a staircase and I see no sign of a lift I would say that this museum isn't suitable for wheelchair users. There is a lot of walking involved as the museum is really big, so be prepared for aching legs at the end of the day.
The Rynek Underground Museum has toilet facilities which were nice and clean at the time we visited. They also have a little cafe and a gift shop and while I didn't make any purchases I did noticed that they are reasonably priced and the cakes in the cafe did look rather tasty!
**Opening Hours & Entrance**
Rynek Underground Museum is open 7 days a week from 10am until 10pm or 8pm on a Monday and 4pm on a Tuesday. The entrance fee is 17zl (Polish Zloty) for an adult over 18 years and 14zl for students and anyone under 18. Entrance on a Monday is free!
Current exchange rate as of June 2012 is £1 = 5.3zl
Overall I highly recommend a visit to the Rynek Underground Museum if you are ever in Krakow. We spent 2 and a half hours here and I can honestly say I didn't get bored and really enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading :)
Underground museum in Krakow