Warsaw's museums cover a wide range of different topics, including themes such as archaeology, emigration, ethnography, industry, pharmaceutical arts, sport and transport.
So many different museums in Warsaw that it is likely that you will only have the chance to visit a small percentage, so it is worth planning ahead and choosing those which most appeal to your tastes:
The National Museum
The mother of Warsaw's museums, replete with everything from ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek art to European furniture and decorative arts from the Renaissance. The museum's painting departments are certainly amongst the highlights, not least the nineteenth century Polish rooms, which boast portraits by little known masters such as Piotr Michalowski, Stanislaw Wyspianski and Jan Stanislawski. Edging into the twentieth century, there's a smattering of works by Witkacy - another artist who is sure to start cropping up in Western auction houses as interest in his life snowballs.
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Chopin is perhaps Warsaw's most famous son and so it won't come as a surprise to find that the city has a museum in his honour. You'll find it in an appropriately exquisite venue; the baroque Ostrogski palace, the kind of place where the composer cut his teeth as a young performer. Concerts of the great man's music are still held here, whilst there's also a panoply of Chopin memorabilia, from portraits, letters and manuscripts to a grand piano on which the maestro composed his wondrous works.
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Founded in 1888, this belter of a museum is a perfect introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Polish folk art. With everything from folk costumes to hand painted wooden curios, it's a fair consolation if time doesn't allow for a trip to the countryside itself. Regular exhibitions of international art too, especially African and Oriental.
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Warsaw's archaeological epicentre can be found in the 17th century Arsenal building. The fruits of many generations of digs within Poland's pre-war historic borders can be discovered, as well as a smattering of exhibits from across the world. For a more hands on insight into the ways of our hairy ancestors, you can arrange for a clay pot making session and get down and dirty prehistoric style.
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Centre for Contemporary Art
Although more a gallery than a museum this oasis of modern art deserves a shout regardless, as it hosts some first class exhibitions. It's without doubt one of the most happening places in town and a must for culture vultures. It's located in the stark interiors of the Ujazowski Castle and there's a fine bookshop and restaurant attached.
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Marie Curie Museum
Born Maria SkĹ‚odowska on November 1867, and better known as Marie Curie, this small museum inside the building she was born in contains a charming homage to the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Artifacts on display include many personal effects, such as original letters and one of Curie’s black dresses, as well as a small collection of scientific instruments. One room has been adapted as a recreation of Curie's laboratory. The lady who gave the world so much, including the chemical element polonium, named after the country of her birth, died in Savoy, France, on July 1934, the victim of leukaemia, which she is believed to have contracted during her many years of dangerous research.
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The word Katyn was out of bounds in Poland's post-war press. Hundreds of thousands of Poland's officer class perished during the war at the hands of the Soviets, some were shot, others died during the trials of deportation. Katyn has come to symbolize all these crimes. In March 1940 Stalin gave the order for the execution of 25,700 Polish reserve officers. The first victims were discovered by the Germans in 1943, buried in the Russian forest of Katyn. This museum preserves the memory of the crime, and a host of personal effects that were discovered in the graves lend an intimate dimension to the fate of thousands.
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Polish Army Museum
It's a slightly forbidding name, and indeed, this is not the freshest museum in town. However, if you have a bent for the swashbuckling side of history, there are plenty of curios to enjoy here. Those interested in the Napoleonic Wars will find some uniforms of the Polish lancers of the Imperial Guard, who were amongst Bonaparte's most prized cavalry. Your standard selection of medieval arms and armour is also on hand, whilst the latter part of the exhibition focuses on more recent history, not least the Warsaw Uprising.
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Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature
This museum has a delightful location inside two merchants houses on the Old Town Square. Named after Poland's bard of bards, the much-loved Mickiewicz, this museum has a panoply of curios relating to that great nineteenth century adventurer. But there's plenty more besides, with treasures from the world of Sienkiewicz, Slowacki, Tuwim and more. Regular exhibitions.
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The Caricature Museum
A cracker of a museum and the only one of its kind anywhere. Founded by cartoonist Eryk Lipinski in 1978, this museum is housed in the former gardener's house of the Primate's palace. The lion's share of the collection is of Polish artists, and the hilarious work of figures such as Kazimierz Sichulski is certainly deserving of wider recognition. The museum also owns a growing collection of international works.
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Museum of the Motorcar
A true galaxy of classic cars, this expansive museum will be almost too much to bear for lovers of the vintage vehicle. Ownership of any one of these motors would immediately classify you as the coolest cat in town, be it a 1969 Buick, a 1930's Chrysler or a vintage Rolls. A smattering of historic novelties, such as a limousine used by Stalin and cars owned by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe add spice to mix.
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Museum of the Warsaw Uprising
A long time in the making, this ambitious new museum has become one of the major fixtures in the city's cultural life. It tells the story of one of the decisive chapters of the second world war, the doomed Uprising of the Polish underground army against the Nazi occupiers. Although the full opening didn't occur until the Autumn of 2005, a section of the museum was opened to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the Uprising on August 1st 2004. Located in an imposing building that once housed a power-plant for Warsaw's trams, the museum is aiming for an interactive, fresh approach to historical documentation. Many of the 6,000 surviving veterans witnessed the opening of the project - for fifty years their legacy was suppressed by the Soviet regime.
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Wilanow Poster Museum
Polish poster art has achieved international renown, and justly so. This museum, which is located in an outbuilding of the splendid Wilanow palace complex, has some 30,000 Polish posters from the years 1992-2002 - it's a phenomenal collection. Their collection of international works is also considered one of the world's best so you're unlikely to come away feeling short-changed. Coupled with Wilanow palace and its gardens you've got a veritable feast of a day-out for culture vultures.
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