Folk Museum Open Air Museums Poland

Sanok Open Air Museum in winter

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter

Sanok Open Air Museum is a wonderful place to visit during the winter. Wooden architecture of old, Subcarpathian villages and rural towns covered with snow, makes you feel like a time-traveler, who somehow managed to get back to the 18th century.

Sanok Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture, also known as „ethnographic park”, or simply „skansen”, covers 38 hectares of the natural riverbank landscape, but the museum activities extend to over 25 000 kilometers squared. It is the biggest museum of this type in Poland and one of the most diversified ethnographically. It stretches over the South-Eastern region of Poland, that borders with Ukraine in the East and Slovakia in the South, and consist of Bieszczady Mountains, the uplands, and the river valley. Different parts of this region were inhabited by various groups of people, whose tangible cultural heritage is now presented in the museum in Sanok – my hometown.

Photo-guide to Sanok Open Air Museum

Folk Architecture Museum in Sanok lies on the right bank ot the San River. The museum is located on the opposite site of the river than the center of the town. The path to the museum is well-marked, so it’s quite difficult to get lost. Today the way beside the river was truly remarkable – I don’t remember seeing a mist moving above the river’s surface in a winter for a long time…

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Mist rising from the icy river

The entrance

There’s a roofed stage, where folk performances take place at least a few times a year. There’s also an inn, where you can enjoy a Polish traditional meal and a mug of beer. The last photo shows a suburban manor house form Sanok, which is now adopted for the ticket office. A small souvenir shop is located inside the building.

Galician Market Square

The first thing you will see after entering the ethnographic park is the Galician Market Square. It’s a reconstruction of a Galician rural town’s square from the turn of the 19th century. Galicia (do not confuse with a Spanish Galicia) is a historical and geographic region in Central-Eastern Europe, which now is divided between South-East Poland and Ukraine.

In the Galician Market Square you’ll find everything what was necessary in every small, rural town. Twenty six houses are arranged around rectangular square. There’s a hairdresser, photographer, tailor, shoemaker, tobacconist, clock-maker, pharmacy, Post Office, authority office, an inn, fire station, and my favorite – a shop with colonial products, which used to sell imported food and spices.

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
The hairdresser for gents and ladies, Mr Adam Motyka
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Mr Totoro visiting the Post Office. The writing says „Post Box. The letters are being taken out at…”
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Galician Market – the general view
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
My favorite shop with imported spices and products
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Big, natural Christmas tree is placed in the middle of the square every December
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
House of the carpenter
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Orthodox icon writer. Here you can order your own, handwritten icon.
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
The red fruits of kalina (Viburnum opulus) makes the winter even more beautiful!

The Galician Market Square is often open to the visitors without an entrance ticket to the Museum. Although it looks quiet and calm in my photos, it’s rather a vivid venue of many antique fairs, local festivals and folklore events. In December several Christmas fairs are being organized.

A Jewish Synagogue is being reconstructed on the suburbs of the Galician Market Suqare. Before the Second World War, the Jewish minority was a substantial part of  the multicultural society of Galicia.

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Synagogue dates back to the 18th century. Even thought the original building was destroyed, the reconstruction is based on the archival photos

Visiting the interiors

Some of the buildings are open to all visitors, but most of them is available only after booking a guided tour (3 hours, price around 13 EUR). If it’s your fist visit to Sanok Folk Architecture Museum, I would strongly recommend you to book a guide in advance. In the high season most of them are quite busy!

The interior of the clockmaker house in the Market Square. Inside the main, „living” room, there’s a traditional Christmas tree. Behind it – a small, wooden nativity scene.

It was the last place I visited during my trip to the Sanok Open Air Museum. Just after entering the building my camera’s lens (exposed to minus 20 degrees Celsius for last 4 hours) got steamed up – that’s why the photos look a little „misty” 😉

Entering the ethnographic sectors

Over 500 years Subcarpathian region used to be an ethnic border between Polish and Ruthenian (currently Ukrainian) population. Both groups spoke different languages and practiced different religions (Polish were Roman-Catholics, while Ruthenians were Greek-Catholics). The ethnographic park presents the folk architecture of all ethnic groups that once inhabited this region: the Eastern and Western Foothills (Polish), the Boykos (Ukrainian), the Lemkos (Ukrainian) and „the Mixed” (Ukrainian).

Sanok Skansen in winter
A smithy from the second part of the 19th century (in the background)

When I was a child, I used to spend a lot of time wandering around old houses of Sanok Open Air Museum. More than fifteen years ago, when I was still a teenager, my mom started to work as a museum guide. Back then, we only heard rumors about „this magnificent Galician Market Square that was going to be built”, but no one ever seen it. Back then, the fist building the visitors came across when entering the museum was this poor, tiny smithy. The little house in front of it was added recently, and I have no idea what was it. Maybe the smith’s house? See the interior of this tiny house here.

The people of Foothills

The Foothills was a big Polish ethnic group that inhabited the Subcarpathian uplands. They mainly dealt with agriculture and handcrafting (especially weaving and shoe making).

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
A cottage of a multi-building farmstead from 19th century (Eastern Foothills) 
Sanok skansen winter
Twin building farmstead from 19th century (Eastern Foothills)
sanok open air museum in winter
An example of a single farmstead from the Western Foothills
A parsonage house

Parson (along with the landlord, who was the local authority) was the most important person in the village. He was a literate man, and often the church evidence books he was responsible for, were the only registration documents of the local population. Even nowadays, when people wish to learn more about their ancestors and build a family trees, they often seek the information in the old evidence books kept in local parsonages.

Parsons were receiving a tribute from the local societies (cereals, potatoes, rarely money) on the regular basis. People from the village also were obliged to cultivate the parson’s land. His living conditions were drastically different from the conditions of the common villagers.

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Parsonage house from 1865 (open to visitors without a guide)

Where’s parsonage, there’s a church. This one is even two centuries older than the house!

Wooden church covered with snow
A wooden, Roman-Catholic church from 1667
Sanok open air museum in winter
Inside of the church
Sanok open air museum winter
Crossroad. White building on the left is a local school and the teacher’s house at the same time
Sanok open air museum snow
Poor peasant cottage from 1901, sometimes called „the house of the lovers”

Bee-keeping was not such a good business back in the old times. A single bee-house was able to deliver only about 2 kg of honey each year. Moreover, the old bee-houses, made from the hollowed tree trunks, made honey harvesting more difficult. Below, an apiary made from bee-houses collected from the whole foothill region. My favorite one depicts St Francis with a small bottle.

skansen sanok winter
The way to the apiary
Polish open air museum winter
St Francis bee-house
Sanok skansen in winter open air museum
A wayside shrine of St. John Nepomuk, located in front of the apiary
winter in open air museum in Sanok
Another bee-keeper’s house covered with white

Different types of footprints that can be found in the park. I found rabbit’s „jumping” footprints (photo on the right), cat’s paws, horseshoes, dogs, and of course tourists. No need to mention that I „took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost) – Ha! See what I did there? 😉

The Dale Dwellers

The Dale Dwellers was a mixed Polish and Ruthenian group living in the area of Sanok. They specialized in farming and wood-crafting (e.g. making wooden spoons). The villages of Dale Dwellers were usually located along the riversides. After the Second World War some of the Dale Dwellers were relocated to the Soviet Union and to regained after the war, Western territories of Poland.

Skansen Sanok in winter
A multi-building farmstead of the Dale Dwellers with a windmill
Sanok Open Air Museum in winter
Fire-station from 1934 (housing the exhibition of fire-engines). Open without a guide
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Inside this building there’s an exhibition of a crude oil exploitation tools

Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok is a good place for… a birdwatcher. I’m totally serious! Almost no dogs, a few cats, away from the city – it’s a perfect bird sanctuary.

skansen sanok birds
A small bird feeding on a thornapple (hawberry)
Sanok open air museum in winter
Little fellow looking for food on the frozen pond

A Manor complex

The manor sector consist of a huge, 19th century wooden manor house, a manor granary, some ponds and a farmstead, which will be reconstructed in the future. The complex is planned be surrounded by reproduced park and garden layout.

A side-view on a manor-house from the end of 19th century
Take a ride in Sanok Open Air Museum

If you don’t feel like walking a lot (the park has 38 ha!), you can always rent a horse carriage or horse sledges and go from one ethnographic village to another. One horse open sledges (just like in the „Jingle Bells” song) are quite popular this winter. And  they look quite awesome!

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One horse open sledges in Sanok Open Air Museum

Looking through the fern frosted glass

In the temperature as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius you can easily observe the fern frost growing on the window’s glass. I remember it from my childhood, but I haven’t seen any window frost recently. It was a pleasure to see this winter flowers covering the glass once more 🙂 Also, when looking inside the houses, frost created beautiful, decorative frames. Take a look!

The Boykos

The Boykos’ village in the Sanok Open Air Museum is located uphill, in the forest. As it’s always partially covered with the shadows of surrounding trees, it is not as popular among tourists as foothill villages. The Boykos were a specific group of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) people inhabiting the Bieszczady Mountains. They mostly dealt with cattle breeding and shepherding on a high mountain’s meadows. This ethnic group became nearly extinct after the mass displacement that took place after the Second World War.

One-building cottage house from 1861
Sanok Open Air Museum in winter
A complete Greek-Catholic church complex from 1750, with belfry and mortuary

The Lemkos

The Lemkos (Lemki) is one of four legally recognized ethnic minorities in Poland. Lemkos are the most famous ethnic group of this region of Poland, because of their specific culture and strong identity. They made their living on agriculture and breeding domestic animals. Wooden and stone-related handicrafts were common. After the Second World War Lemki, similarly to the Dale Dwellers, were displaced to Ukraine and to the Western, regained territories of Poland.

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
The way to the Lemki village in the forest

In the Lemki village, there’s a beautiful Greek-Catholic church dated 1801. I also managed to find „something new” (by „new” I mean – something I didn’t see before) – an outdoor Stations of the Cross. Stony figures were even more interesting when covered with a layer of white snow. I particularly liked a statue of Saint Veronica wearing a snowy cap, scarf and a pair of mittens.

The nature

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
It looks like someone just couldn’t wait for the spring to come
Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
Willows – an integral part of every Polish landscape

Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter

Last weekend I visited a similar museum – Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, but unfortunately there was no snow there 🙁 During the trip to Riga I bought a pair of Latvian ethnographic mittens. I like them so badly, that I couldn’t resit taking a photo session of them 😉 Aren’t they lovely?

If you ever wonder how a tourist looks like in the temperature 20 degrees below zero? Here you have – this is me during my 4-hour walk. Thanks to my warm clothes, high shoes and a patch with an adhesive body warmer I basically didn’t feel any cold. With my touch screen gloves I was able to operate my smart camera without any problems. When I was just walking, I put on my Latvian mittens on the top of the gloves. Worked perfectly 🙂

I even didn’t mind when my hair got frozen. But when my sandwiches got frozen – that was really a big deal!

Sanok Open Air Museum, where is it?

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Sanok Open Air Museum 49.572869, 22.217556 Sanok Open Air Museum in winter

Gallery of Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter

(click to enlarge)

Sanok Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture is open all year round:

  • 1-30 April from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • 1st May – 30 September from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • 1-31 October between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • 1st November – 31 March from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Entrance prices:

  • Adults: 14 Polish Zloty
  • Youth: 9 Polish Zloty
  • Guided tour (in Polish): 50 Polish Zloty
  • Guided tour (in English): 60 Polish Zloty
  • Booking a guided tour in English: +48 013 493 01 77 or
  • the admission to the Galician Market Square during the events is free of charge

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Warsaw-based international relations analyst, traveler & folklore enthusiast. Expert on North-East Asia region, particularly Japan. Blogging for fun, in my free time :)

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