Kraków: A city of festivals


Festivals are celebrations of culture and a manifestation of the city’s potential. To understand Kraków is to understand their annual rhythm, to notice how they reach for Cracovian identity and heritage to build new meanings and become an indelible part of contemporary city life.

Today’s Kraków hosts almost 80 festivals every year. The shortest run is for just a couple of days, while the longest are spread over months. The oldest, such as the Krakow Film Festival celebrating documentaries, go back many decades. The first Jewish Culture Festival, now world-famous, was held in 1988, a year before the fall of communism. Some were founded in the wake of Kraków being awarded the title of European City of Culture in 2000 (e.g. the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, the EthnoKrakow/Crossroads, and later the Sacrum Profanum), while others emerged in response to high public demand for quality events (e.g. the Film Music Festival, Unsound, Divine Comedy).


The cities host events ranging from grassroots initiatives to strategic municipal decisions, rooted in local contexts and founded in local conditions, traditions and urban spaces. Such a consistent strategy allows those cities to rise to the rank of global leaders in the field.

Festival cities abound with cultural life throughout the year, making their mark on public space, the lives of residents and visitors alike, and the development of strategic and tourist policies. Festivals become a medium through which the city brand gains fresh energy by endorsing local businesses, attracting talent and new residents, and promoting tourism. Festivals turn into seasons, work together and introduce innovations.