Nuclear Bunkers in Nowa Huta - Atlas Obscura

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Nuclear Bunkers of Nowa Huta

Muzeum Nowej Huty

An underground city beneath Krakow's postwar socialist utopia.  

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Nowa Huta, the easternmost district of Kraków, Poland, has a secret. The post-war district translates to “New Steelworks” and was built to house the city’s steelworkers. The ambitious urban planning project was designed as a model utopian socialist city. But that’s not even the most interesting part of Nowa Huta.

Under Nowa Huta, there is a second underground city. Hundreds of bunkers and shelters were built during Poland’s communist era in case of war with the West. Many of the underground structures survive to this day, including a hospital, a command center, and rooms for residents. In total, there are over 250 rooms.

Walking along the streets of Nowa Huta, few people pay attention to the small booths and vents sticking out of the ground. But they are the only link between two worlds: the lively streets and the quiet, forgotten shelters. Small ventilation holes are all that connect the present and the past.

Work on the oldest shelters began in 1949 in the area of today’s Na Skarpie and Wanda estates. The history of these underground structures is inseparably linked with Nowa Huta’s history and early construction.

The later shelters were built as Nowa Huta grew, such as under the former Światowid cinema, where the Nowej Huty Museum is now located. Underground shelters were also located under residential buildings, such as under Stalowe 16 estate (formerly the House of Young Workers, a workers’ hotel) where there was a command post for district authorities. Modern building cellars are also located in the shelters.

The condition of the shelters varies. Some, like the one at Szkolny 22 estate, are decently preserved. Others require a thorough renovation.

Only a few shelters are easily accessible to the public. One is the Command Post Shelter built in the late 1950s. This shelter was built beneath the main administrative offices of the steel plant and can be seen on the Kombinat Steelworks Office Tour (located at 1 Ujastek). The Muzeum Nowej Huty, formerly the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) Museum, also leads tours of its underground bunker (their address is the one provided here). 

Know Before You Go

The address given here is for the Muzeum Nowej Huty. See their website for more details.

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January 11, 2024

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