Michałowski studied classical archeology and art history at the University of Lwów; he studied at the Universities and Archaeological Institutes of Berlin, Heidelberg, Münster, Paris, Rome, Athens and Cairo. In 1939–1981 he acted as the Vice-director of the Warsaw National Museum and headed the chair of classical archeology at the University of Warsaw. During this time he educated a solid group of specialists in classical, Near Eastern and Egyptian archeology.
Michałowski's interest in Egyptology began in 1937–1939, when he took part in Polish-French excavations at Tell Edfu (see Edfu), organized by him, and published later in three volumes. Objects from Edfu enriched the collections of the Warsaw National Museum. After World War II he participated very actively in the reconstruction of Polish academic life and in building Polish participation in the international program of studies on Mediterranean cultures. In 1959 he founded in Cairo the Polish Center for Mediterranean Archeology, now named after him. He was a specialist in many areas of Egyptian art and archeology.
Michałowski directed Polish excavations at many sites, including Tell Atrib (ancient Athribis) from 1957, Alexandria from 1960, Dabod 1961, Faras 1961–1964, Deir el-Bahari from 1961 and Dongola from 1964. In 1963–1971 he presided over the International Committee of Experts for Rescue of the Abu Simbel Temple. His publications included the famous L'Art de l'ancienne Egypte (English-language version: Art of Ancient Egypt, 1968).
- Fouilles franco-polonaises. Tell Edfou (1938)
- Sztuka starożytna (1955)
- Kanon w architekturze egipskiej (1955)
- Fouilles polonaises, kilka tomów (od 1960)
- Nie tylko piramidy. Sztuka dawnego Egiptu (1966)
- Faras. Centre artistique de la Nubie chretienne (1966)
- Art of Ancient Egypt (1969)
- Arte y civilizacion de Egipto (1969)
- Karnak (1969)
- Luksor (1971)
- Aleksandria (1972)
- Piramidy i mastaby (1972)
- Teby (1974) (wspólne z A.Dziewanowskim)
- Od Edfu do Faras. Polskie odkrycia archeologii śródziemnomorskiej (1974)
- Egypte (1978)
- Wybór prac Opera Minora (1990).