Krakow being a popular holiday destination has a great many festivals throughout the year, there is at least one a month every month. The biggest festivals are held on Rynek, the great medieval square in the Old Town and in the Jewish quarter, Kazimierz although many others are held in and around Krakow according to the theme of it and involve many different venues collaborating. A useful guide to choosing your type of festival and the various participant or places is managed by Krakow’s council the Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe. Here are the best picks of Krakow’s not to miss events covering cultural, entertainment and sporting occasions.
Krakow’s legend of the Wawel Dragon is prominent in daily life and is a part of the city’s long history. The Wawel Dragon lived in a cave under Wawel Castle and terrorised the locals until an apprentice shoemaker cleverly tricked the dragon into eating a sheep filled with sulphur which caused the dragon to explode. Every year Krakow sees hundreds of schoolchildren participate in the Great Dragon Parade.
All the dragon floats pass through the streets of the Old Town to finish up on Rynek and a winner for the best Wawel Dragon is chosen followed by a picnic on the banks of the Vistula River. This celebration usually takes place at the end of May in collaboration with actors from the Grotesque Theatre Company re-enacting the folklore story. To follow up on the dragon legend you can visit the dragon’s lair with a fire-breathing dragon statue and visit Wawel Cathedral with a supposed bone from the dragon hanging over the entrance to it.
Another important festival is the Easter Festival or Misteria Paschalia which is also mainly staged on Rynek. Easter is a sacred time in Poland and thousands of visitors come to celebrate the Holy Week. Rynek is full of stalls offering all kinds of hand-made artefacts and wares. The Easter Festival in Krakow dates back to medieval times and is still immensely popular especially the ritual water fights quaintly called smingus-dyngus on Easter Monday. You have heard of the expression, ‘
The keys to the city’, during the month of May the Krakow university students are given them, they take control of Krakow in the Festival of Juwenalia and organise a great deal of entertainment and cultural events in various places all over the city after the traditional march from the campus to the square where the Lord Mayor presents the symbolic keys to Krakow. A huge open air party ensues and over the coming days concerts and exhibitions are organised all over the city. This tradition started in the 15th century and enthusiastically continues today with some very wild parties and open air events, faculty competitions, video gaming stage and fashion shows plus the Juwenalia Prince & Princess are chosen just like an American prom night.
Naturally, in Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter the most significant and highly appreciated Jewish Cultural festival which takes place at the end of June or early July. This international festival has everything, traditional and modern Klezmer music, literary, art and film exhibitions along with all things concerning the Jewish heritage. You must grab a Finjan coffee and hummus in the Cheder Coffee Shop, originally opened in 1890 as a house of prayers and the cultural centre of the festival, you can also be a volunteer or Macher and be in the heart of the festivities. The highlight is the Szeroka Road street party on the last day of the festival.
Also in June Krakow is invaded by rugby loving enthusiasts from all over the world for a weekend of that rugby social spirit on and off the field at the Krakow Rugby Festival. There are 3 nights of parties and 2 days of rugby all fuelled by unlimited beer and cider for the whole weekend as written in the 3rd half rule book. The entertainment and activities part is supervised by a Krakow stag do authority- the PartyKrakow, and rugby is supervised by Juvenia- so you can expect great fun and great rugby. The teams finish the tournament with a Grand Gala Dinner where 1st time rugby tour players have to be initiated and everybody sings their club anthems whilst swilling copious amounts of the amber nectar. You can be sure that the entertainment part is
These are the top picks highlighted but Krakow has so many festivals it’s worth listing a few honourable mentions. The highly acclaimed Krakow Film Festival attracting an international audience and short film makers and the Krakow Photo Month Festival with pro and amateur photographers entering. On the culinary front we have the Pierogi Festival, pierogi is a traditional Polish dish consisting of ravioli shaped pasta sacks filled with either meat or cheese also vegetables and a fruit version served as a dessert with cream. The Soup Festival, yes, Polish soups are extremely tasty and top chefs pit their skills to produce a winning recipe, delicious. Let’s give a shout out to the Krakow Food Truck Festival, fantastic menu choices from around the world. The Wianki Festival is a Pagan tradition of wreath floating celebrating the summer solstice on the Vistula River banks with live music and whole lot of entertainment. For the literary fans then the Conrad Festival is for you in October.
Krakow is a vibrant and cultural epicentre the city itself is steeped in historical facts and events which in turn are duly remembered and celebrated annually. So for whatever reason you come to Krakow you will always discover that little something extra in this magical and majestic city.