If you are looking for a festival or concert, then you need to know that Krakow is a city that lures in droves of tourists from every corner of the globe, year after year. Its magnetic pull stems from its impressive cultural events and captivating atmosphere. A stay in this city, with its top-notch accommodation facilities and a wide array of attractions, is a must, whether you’re Polish or from overseas.
I can tell you, the Main Market Square and Wawel Hill are hotspots not to be missed. But the cherry on top, I think, are the countless cultural and entertainment events that Krakow offers. If you need a chance to let loose and immerse yourself in local traditions, these events and festivals are your best bet. But which ones should you be lining up for?
The Lineup of Festivals in Krakow
As I already said, Krakow is a city that is constantly buzzing with a wide variety of events and festivals all year round. I am convinced that there’s something for everyone. I know that some festivals are so well-loved that they become annual affairs, drawing in fresh faces interested in the festival’s theme, year after year.
These unconventional festivals not only promote the city but also provide a platform for independent or young artists and foster the growth of knowledge and art.
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I think it’s worth to say that the annual cultural events have something to offer for everyone:
- Music aficionados
- Movie buffs
- Literature enthusiasts
- Art admirers
- History and tradition followers
- Religion seekers
- Culinary lovers
So, if you’re a lover of fine arts, music, theater, movies, or a foodie or an enthusiast of Polish traditions, there’s definitely something for you. Trust me, being there, you need to know there’s never a dull moment in Krakow.
Krakow’s Regular Festivals
I believe Krakow, the capital of Małopolska, takes pride in hosting numerous recurring festivals. These events serve to elevate and spotlight the culture, history, and traditions of Poland and the local region. And I can tell you, a substantial number of these festivities enjoy international participation.
Music Festivals in Kraków
Allow me to tell you about the Film Music Festival in Krakow. This event is one of the industry’s most prestigious festivals, organized by the Krakow Festival Office and RMF Classic Radio Station. It merges music in unique arrangements, played by the best musicians, and film art.
All the audiovisual works showcased here are characterized by considerable production boldness, but they never compromise on quality. Each year, Krakow welcomes outstanding artists, composers, and the crème de la crème of the music, culture, and film world.
You’ll even find the latest film music pieces making their debuts at this festival, giving attendees a rare chance to experience them firsthand.
Next, we have Sacrum Profanum, an international music festival that ranks among the most fascinating in Europe. Here, you’ll get a chance to listen to the newest music, which aims to blur the lines between contemporary music genres that are often deemed hard to understand. The Krakow 2000 Festival Office, the Krakow Philharmonic, and the Polish Music Publishers have been jointly hosting this festival since 2003.
Misteria Paschalia is yet another recurring festival that has become a trademark of Krakow. The event revolves around Renaissance and Baroque music, tied to the Paschal Mystery and the music of Holy Week and Easter. At this festival, renowned masters and performers of early music showcase their works.
This high-profile event attracts hundreds of music lovers from across the country every year, reinforcing Krakow’s reputation as a prime venue for top-tier festivals.
More Festivals to Explore
Opera Rara is a three-week-long festival that takes place annually during the carnival period. The event offers a diverse range of operas from four centuries, giving you the chance to acquaint yourself with some of the greatest operatic works, reconstructed by leading exponents of historical performance.
Since 2017, the festival has also featured theatrical works from the borderline of semi-opera, complete with splendid scenery, costumes, and stellar acting.
Then, there’s Wianki. A vibrant, music-filled celebration in Krakow that truly epitomizes the spirit of the city. The festival invites all to partake in its grand celebration, which is why stages are set up in various city locations, ensuring there’s something for everyone.
A significant part of the program is planned in collaboration with Krakow organizations and clubs, extending the fun to an even broader audience, children included. Both residents of Krakow and visitors have the opportunity to participate in music workshops, learn to weave wreaths, and enjoy numerous concerts and performances.
The best part, I think it’s worth saying, is that all events are open and free of charge, making them accessible to all.
Exploring Krakow’s Literary Festivals
Let’s delve into the Conrad Festival, an international literary event spearheaded by the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, and the Tygodnik Powszechny Foundation. Despite the name, the festival isn’t solely dedicated to the works of Joseph Conrad but has grown to symbolize international literary exchange.
The organizers’ primary mission is to showcase world literature grounded in various cultures and experiences. Festival gatherings spark discussions and encourage an exchange of viewpoints. They also create a platform for authors, readers, and literature aficionados to connect.
As a participant, you can engage in numerous debates and workshops, attend theater and film screenings, enjoy concerts, view exhibitions, and take part in literary walks.
On the other hand, the Miłosz Festival offers a unique chance to meet poets from Poland and beyond, especially those from Central Europe. The event prompts a question about poetry’s place in the contemporary world.
Each edition sees numerous stars of world literature gracing the event. The inspiration behind the festival comes from the Krakow Meetings of Poets of the East and West, organized by Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz.
Film Fests in Krakow – Independent Cinema
Let me tell you about the Off Camera Festival. It’s one of the most significant film events in Central and Eastern Europe. The festival’s focus is on audacious independent cinema, presenting captivating narratives.
As part of the festivities, a main competition takes place, where ten films from across the globe compete for the Krakow Film Award. The winning movie gets a hefty cash prize, and the director receives funds for the production of another film set in Poland.
During the festival, you’ll get to see numerous out-of-competition films, some even making their premiere. If you want to experience works that have made their mark at other global festivals, or even slightly older productions that have yet to reach a broader audience, then this is the place to be.
I believe, it’s worth saying, the Off Camera Festival is a must-visit for anyone interested in discovering the world of independent cinema.
Krakow’s Rich Cultural Fests
Let’s dive into the St. John’s Fair, one of Krakow’s most popular events that pull not just the locals but also many tourists. This event is planned in June, just before Midsummer Night at the base of Wawel Castle.
Canvas craft and artistic tents enliven the medieval town vibe. Artists stay there overnight, showcasing old Polish traditions, customs, crafts, and dances during the day. You can witness horse and archery shows, stalls filled with food, old costumes, weapons, jewelry, and much more at the St. John’s Fair.
For kids, the organizers set up special educational trails and genre scenes, teaching young ones about Polish history and tradition in a fun, interactive way.
Local Customs & Traditions
The Cracovian Crib Competition is a tradition loved by locals. Every first Thursday of December, artists gather at the Adam Mickiewicz monument with their nativity scenes. After hearing the St. Mary’s bugle call, a colorful procession moves to the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow in the Krzysztofory Palace.
All the works are showcased at a post-competition exhibition, which is quite a hit among both residents and tourists. Since 2015, the organizers have taken the innovative step of presenting winning nativity scenes in shops, restaurants, cafes, and bookstores aruound Krakow’s Main Market Square. I think it’s worth saying, it offers a fantastic chance to go on a walk hunting for small artistic masterpieces.
Krakowskie Zapusty, an event that debuted in 2018, was so enthusiastically received that it now permanently features in Krakow’s party calendar. The event revolves around the communal frying of brushwood, a traditional carnival treat. Attendees can learn about the history and culinary traditions of cafes and confectioneries, and enjoy the sweets and carnival snacks offered by local exhibitors.
Charitable Events and Folk Parties
The finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOSP) is a nationwide event that has been held for many years across Poland. It is a way for people to join Jerzy Owsiak’s charitable work, rallying Poles to fundraise for hospital and clinic equipment nationwide.
In Krakow, the Main Market Square becomes a stage where leading Polish stars and Krakow music bands perform. There are also numerous auctions of valuable items and street fundraisers. The traditional „light to the sky” event wraps up the evening.
Lastly, let me tell you about Lajkonik – the traditional scouts of the Zwierzyniec Horse. It’s a folk party that happens every year in Krakow, on the first Thursday after the feast of Corpus Christi.
The star of the show is Lajkonik, a bearded rider in a pseudo-oriental outfit, riding an artificial horse attached to his waist. According to tradition, the hero travels from Zwierzyniec to the Main Market Square in Krakow, surrounded by a procesion dressed in traditional Krakow and Tatar costumes, with music playing in the background.
I am convinced that this event, listed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, is a must-attend for every visitor.