In a country of exceptional literary tradition, four Literary Nobel laureates and over 30,000 new titles in bookstores each year, Poland stands out as the central literary destination for book-lovers. Its cities, Kraków and Wrocław, boast of UNESCO City of Literature and UNESCO World Book Capital status.
Even in the digital era, the Polish people still embrace printed books. The amount of public interest in the burgeoning book fairs and lit fests across the country corroborates this point. It also shows a massive expression of reading culture in a country of 40 million people.
So without further ado, let’s explore the Top Literary Festivals and Book Fairs in Poland:
1. Conrad Festival
Kraków bears the appearance of a city straight out of a Disney movie. Cobbled streets, old churches, UNESCO world heritage sites, the stunning Wawel Royal Castle and beautiful squares can transport anyone into a different dimension.
In addition to being an aesthetically pleasing place, Kraków is also known as the city of literature. Several bookstores and libraries dot the landscape of Poland’s second-largest city.
In a city of book lovers, it’s natural to have literature fests and book fairs. Thus, it’s no surprise that Kraków hosts the largest literary festival in Central Europe called the Conrad Festival.
Named after famous Polish novelist, Joseph Conrad, the festival has been in existence since 2009. Every year, the fest hosts authors from all over the world who write in different languages and hold different cultural perspectives.
The fest, truly international in its outlook, goes beyond the realms of literature and also attracts artists from film, theatre, music, and visual arts background.
2. Literary Heights Festival
About 90 kilometers drive away from the city of Wroclaw lies a sleepy commune called Nowa Ruda. It is the South-Western corner of Poland. Here you can take a break from the maddening city bustle, listen to nature and take in the glorious reflections of the past that are still present.
Nowa Ruda’s major claim to fame is the annual Literary Heights Festival.
The fest is the brainchild of two eminent Polish intellectuals. Olga Tokarczuk, a Nobel laureate in literature, and Karol Maliszewski, a poet and literary critic.
For several days in July every year, the town becomes witness to educational sessions, debates, concerts, poetry, literary workshops, film screenings, culinary workshops, and various exhibitions.
So the Literature Heights Festival is not only an encounter with literature, it is also about history, music, film, theater, and visual arts.
3. Miłosz Festival
If you are fond of poetry and want to mingle with your ilk from all over the world, then, the Milosz Festival should be your top destination in Europe. Along with the Conrad Festival, it is one of the flagship literary events of Kraków.
Named after the Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, the festival traces its roots in the historic meetings of poets of the East and the West, held in 1997 and 2000 under the guidance of Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska.
Each year the festival welcomes star poets from various countries, translators, and literary critics. For one week in Summer, Kraków’s conference halls, auditoriums, independent bookshops, and cafés turn into a space for poetic dialogue.
The first edition of the fest was held in 2009, five years after Miłosz’s passing. Ever since every year, the theme of the fest is named after the poet’s prominent works. The first edition was held under the banner The Captive Mind and the 2022’s edition was under Unattainable Earth.
Alongside, meetings with authors, lectures, concerts, workshops, and discussions on social, cultural, and political topics, the annual Wisława Szymborska Prize is awarded for the best volume of poetry written in Polish and for poetry translation.
4. Warsaw Book Fair
The Promised land for bibliophiles and literature lovers! Warsaw Book Fair draws the public’s attention to the importance of books, literature, and reading in society.
Every year in the month of May, hundreds of bibliophiles, librarians, booksellers, bloggers, and journalists make a beeline for the fair. This is a great opportunity to complete the missing books in home libraries and get new items and first copies.
The Warsaw Book Fair is also the largest international event in the publishing industry in Poland. Authors and exhibitors from other European countries such as Norway, Belgium, Czech, France, Germany, Hungary, the UK, etc., are in attendance, too.
In addition to the abundant publishing offer, there are meetings with authors, discussions, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions. Every year, another European country becomes the Guest of Honour and that makes the fair a great platform for better social and cultural exchange.
5. Big Book Festival
The Big Book Festival was established in Warsaw in June 2012 as a yearly event taking place in multiple locations across the capital city. Behind the festival are two of Poland’s literary scene’s famous faces – Anna Król, the festival’s director and a theatrologist, and Paulina Wilk, a writer and publicist.
Over the years, Big Book has carved a niche for itself. It boasts itself of being an original and independent fest. Unlike the bigger Warsaw Book Fair, it focuses mainly on the authors not on publishers and invites only a limited number of foreign guests.
Also, the festival happens in surprising locations – more than one – simultaneously. These include railways stations, sports complexes and even departmental stores, reaching out to those who enjoy reading and discussing no matter what kind of literature they like.
For one weekend Warsaw transforms into a common reading space. There are directed reading concerts, open-air reading and literary stand-ups. Literature is literally around the corner, with multiple events taking place in unexpected locations.
6. Sopot by the Book Literary Festival
Who would want to miss out on the chance of attending a literary fest at an exquisite sea resort? I wouldn’t.
Sopot – known for its healthy spas and sandy beaches – is one of the most charming cities in Poland. Nicknamed the Polish Riviera, the city is replete with luxury hotels, shopping avenues and restaurants. A vast sandy beach and Europe’s longest wooden pier highlight the place.
Sopot by the Book festival is one of the most important literary festivals in Poland. Each year, the organizers select one country and make its literature the main theme of the festival. So far, the festival has dealt with the literature of Scandinavia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Israel, Spain, France, the UK, Canada, and Italy.
The fest’s aim is not only the promotion of literature and reading but to also create a platform for the cross-pollination of ideas. Like the Big Book Festival, Sopot Fest organizes events in great venues around town such as theatres, libraries, cafes, galleries, bookshops and museums.
7. International Book Fair Krakow
Organized in Kraków since 1997, this annual event has gained prestige over the years. It is now an International event – the biggest of this type in Poland – that promotes readership.
Mainly a trade fair meant for exhibitors and authors, this congregation in Kraków sees thousands of book lovers visiting to buy their favorite books.
As you can see, Poland is a magnet for book lovers from all across the world. With its astounding libraries, bookshops and literary festivals, it really is a top-notch literary destination.
While Central Europe hosts several prominent book fairs and lit fests, those in Polish cities exude a charm of their own. You can surely take in a few of them if you are visiting this beautiful country in summer.
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