The historic city of Kraków, Poland, especially the Old Town, is the hub of many outdoor and indoor festivals, cultural events, and street parades. Many of them are seasonal and take place only one time, while others are organized annually for many years by various festival societies.
All of them draw interest from locals and visitors alike. Some of the events are organized by the city, some by private companies, but most express Polish and Kraków living traditions kept and celebrated by its citizens.
Kraków is home to many different and unique street festivals, parties, and parades.
Most famous are its Nativity Cribs Festival held every December, the Jewish Culture Festival held at the end of June, the International Jazz Festival held in April, Lajkonik Parade during the spring, and a number of indoor festivals held throughout the year.
Below is the list of popular cultural events arranged by month.
Welcoming of the New Year
The New Year’s party is organized on the Main Market Square of Kraków. During this open-air show, the locals and the tourists have the opportunity to welcome the New Year and take part in concerts (performed also by international artists) that are organized by the city.
New Year’s concert
Each year the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra organizes a concert that takes place exactly on 1 January.
Carol Songs concerts in churches
In Poland, there is a very strong tradition of singing Carol songs during Christmas and after.
It is a custom that in January many churches organize Carol songs concerts during which one can listen to traditional versions of the songs and traditional music of Polish folk groups.
International Sea Songs Festival (“Shanties”)
Sailing songs (so-called: Shanties) are popular, and not only among sailors or people living in coastal areas. For many years a Shanties Festival has been held in Kraków, where Polish and international performers present songs of this type.
March & April
Easter Celebrations in Krakow
Easter Holidays is the period full of customs celebrated by the locals (some of them are spread around Poland while others are typical only for Kraków). Among them, one may take part in Rekawka, Emaus, food blessing, or Smigus Dyngus.
Easter is a movable feast that falls somewhere between March and late April.
Misteria Paschalia Festival
The festival presents historical music and takes place parallel to Easter Holidays. The concerts are held at the Kraków Philharmonic as well as in historic churches around the city.
The Night of Museums
This event gives you the opportunity to visit all the museums in Kraków (for a symbolic fee of 1 zloty). All of them prepare special concerts and show interactive exhibitions – to attract visitors and gain their interest. The museums are open till late at night.
International Soup Festival
The festival is organized in the Kazimierz district (on Nowy Square). It is a musical event joined with the contest of the best soup (between the local restaurant-keepers) that may be tried out by the visitors.
The feast of Kraków students. During the three days of the event, the students rule Kraków. Numerous concerts are organized and the students (who traditionally get dressed) are welcome by the President of the city who gives them the keys to Kraków.
The great Dragon Parade
A parade is a spectacular event during which huge dragons (created by Kraków youth) are carried to the banks of the Vistula river — all accompanied by brass bands, stilt walkers, and dancers.
Equality March in Kraków is an annual demonstration in the form of a street march of people opposed to homophobia and discrimination against sexual minorities in Poland, part of the May Queer Festival.
Corpus Christi is a movable feast that falls in May or June. Churches of Kraków organize colorful processions for the locals (during which some of the citizens take part in the event dressed in folk costumes).
About a week after the Corpus Christi, the parade of Lajkonik (a man traditionally dressed as a Tatar) takes place.
Floating of the Wreaths (Wianki)
The Midsummer festival is organized by the Vistula river (at the foot of the Wawel castle). There are concerts held, artistic shows – and the whole event culminates with huge fireworks.
The bread festival
The event takes place in the Kazimierz district. The bakers present traditional methods of baking bread, while the whole event is accompanied by folk dances and singing. The visitors may purchase regional fare.
Jewish Culture Festival
The festival became internationally renowned happening. During the week of the festival, the visitors can take part in workshops, exhibitions, and numerous concerts – all connected with Jewish Culture.
The festival culminates with an open-air concert “Shalom on Szeroka street”.
Summer Jazz Festival
The festival features jazz concerts that are held in various places of Kraków (many in the legendary “Under the Rams cellar”). Polish and international performers are invited.
Traditional Music Festival “Crossroads”
The festival presents a variety as well as common elements of traditional music from numerous countries, especially those situated along the Carpathian mountains.
Pierogi (Dumplings) Festival
The festival presents one of the most famous items of Polish cuisine – the dumpling. The event will help you to get to know the Polish tradition of cuisine better as well as to try out the specialties.
Music at Old Cracow Festival
The annual event is during which the soloists, orchestras, and eminent musicians take part. The concerts are held in historical places of Kraków – such as churches, Wawel castle, and the Kraków Philharmonic.
Sacrum Profanum Festival
The main idea of the event is to present instrumental and vocal-instrumental music masterpieces in geographical order.
International Cycling Film Festival
The International Cycling Film Festival is an independent film festival that screens films related to bicycle culture. The best film is awarded the Trzy złote szprychy (English: Three Golden Spokes), the audience award of the film festival.
International Festival of Old Music
This event presents old music, played on old, traditional instruments in historic parts of Poland.
All Saints’ Day
During 1 November (as well as the 2nd) the Poles pay visits to the cemeteries to embellish the graves with flowers and light the candle. During those days the cemeteries become a spectacular sites with thousands of candles.
Especially it is worth visiting the cemeteries that boast unique architecture (such as Rakowicki cemetery).
International Film Festival Etiuda&Anima
Etiuda&Anima International Film Festival, organized in Kraków since 1994.
It is the oldest international film event in Poland confronting the achievements of art and film school students from all over the globe with the works of the authors of artistic animation including professional, student, and independent filmmakers.
It always takes place in November.
Jazz at All Saints’ Day
It is the oldest Jazz festival in Europe during which one can listen to Polish and international jazz musicians. Concerts and workshops are organized within this event.
The opening of the Christmas Market falls in November. The visitors can purchase hand-made local products, and exceptional gifts, as well as try out specialties of Polish cuisine.
Nativity Scenes Contest
Building colorful Nativity Scenes is an old Kraków tradition. The Christmas Cribs (called: Kraków szopka ) are exceptional as they remind Kraków in their architecture (especially St Mary’s church).
The contest takes place on the Main Market Square – by the Adam Mickiewicz monument. After the contest, the most interesting pieces (together with the ones presented in previous editions) are displayed in the Historical Museum of Kraków.
The international contest of young Jazz groups gives the opportunity for well-known groups as well as inexperienced musicians to meet together and present their skills in front of the Kraków audience.
New Year’s Eve
The locals and the visitors, who decide to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Main Market Square of Kraków, are entertained by concerts and additional happenings organized by the city.