Kraków seems to never reveal all of its secrets. Even those who have been wandering the streets of the city for many years find it challenging to explore all the enigmas. And while it could be hard to keep it a secret that Kraków belongs to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, activities undertaken within the programme remain a mystery to many.


It’s been nearly ten years since Kraków has been officially named the UNESCO City of Literature; over the decade, the city has completed multiple projects linked to widely understood creative endeavours. From literature, through folk art, to gastronomy, both Cracovians and tourists can make the most of programme-related opportunities.


What is UNESCO Creative Cities Network?

Established in 2004, the programme aims at supporting cooperation between cities that centre their development around creativity. Culture is the main focus of activity for 246 member cities, with city authorities’ striving to create and spread artwork, promote creative projects, develop new career paths in the art sector, as well as make culture more accessible. Within the framework of the programme it is easier for Kraków to engage in dialogue with local institutions, as well as international partner cities.


What are the main programme-related projects handled by Kraków? The former capital city focuses mainly on promoting its literary heritage, popularising reading, as well as providing support for local initiatives concerning the publishing industry.


Kraków, the City of Literature: events, festivals, creative residence programmes

The year unfolds to the rhythm of two main events: Conrad Festival and Miłosz Festival. The latter is held simultaneously with the Kraków International Book Fair, an event that makes not only publishers, but also readers from all over the world visit southern Poland. Both festivals aspire to familiarise broader audience with various aspects of literary works, as well as visual arts, cinema, and translation. These are presented by artists and content creators whose ideas are both familiar and distant to our cultural heritage.


The activities are also undertaken abroad; among others, Kraków participates in the ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network) programme. Member cities of this independent network give shelter to creators persecuted for their activity. The network strives to promote freedom of speech and support artists and human rights defenders whose actions resulted in displacement. Currently, there are over 70 cities offering artists a safe place. ICORN is constantly seeking new locations to join the network.


Creative residence programmes are also an interesting option; in case of Kraków, these are mainly addressed to writers and translators. Such programmes are a unique opportunity to work on current assignments in a new environment, far from daily distractions. The artist is provided accommodation, often in places that can boast a stunning literary history, such as the Potocki Palace located right by the Main Square or at the flat that once belonged to Wisława Szymborska. Moreover, the residence is an opportunity to engage with the local community, participate in panel discussions with authors and workshops.


For artists only? Not at all! Kraków, UNESCO City of Literature for Cracovians

It’s worth noting that authors and publishers aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits of the programme. A network of affiliated libraries, working under the common name of ‘Biblioteka Kraków’ receives substantial funding from the programme. This support translates directly into better opportunities for local communities: easy access to new book releases as well as a multitude of events such as book signings or thematic weeks presenting literature from various corners of the world. Cracovians can also participate in workshops, panel discussions, or concerts held during various festivals.


Kraków, the City of Literature, also organises attractive theme walks. During these meetings, authors and publishers reveal the literary mysteries of the city. No matter whether we get a glimpse of places where literary works are set or follow in the footsteps of Kraków’s most notable authors, the walks always attract a crowd – don’t forget to book a place to join them!