In 2013, Kraków was the seventh city in the world to be granted the prestigious title of City of Literature, awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The title recognises Kraków’s heritage and contemporary literary potential, as well as serving as inspiration for further growth.
In 2016, Kraków developed an innovative programme bringing together public institutions, municipal cultural institutions and non-governmental organisations involved with literature. The Kraków UNESCO City of Literature programme, operated by KBF, is a pioneering venture on a national scale.
We have plenty to work with: Kraków is the cradle of Polish language and literature, it has been home to Poland’s most important writers, and it has been the melting pot of the most important literary trends across the ages. The first scriptoriums were founded in Kraków in the 11th century, and it was here that the first printed materials in Poland were produced, first in Latin and later also in Polish. Today the city is home to unique manuscript collections, held in numerous libraries including that of the Jagiellonian University. Kraków has been home to numerous acclaimed authors, including Stanisław Wyspiański, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, Anna Świrszczyńska, Stanisław Lem, Halina Poświatowska, Sławomir Mrożek, Adam Zagajewski, Ewa Lipska and Ryszard Krynicki. Two Nobel Laureates, Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska, lived and worked here at the same time, and the historic city centre was one of the first locations to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978.
But literary Kraków isn’t just about the past: it is also the dynamic present, and home to acclaimed authors, translators, publishing houses, literary periodicals, libraries, awards, literary programmes and the Jagiellonian University with its leading languages and literature faculties. Kraków hosts Poland’s most important literary festivals: Miłosz and Conrad festivals. It is also home to Poland’s longest-running publishing houses Wydawnictwo Literackie and Znak, as well as many younger publishers. The Conrad Festival runs in parallel with Poland’s largest Book Fair. There are dozens of bookshops and second-hand book stores across the city. There is also a dynamic network of local libraries operating as part of the Kraków Library, the popular Voivodeship Public Library and numerous academic and university libraries.
Kraków also looks after the literary industry. The Kraków UNESCO City of Literature programme runs a project supporting independent bookshops, authors, translators and publishers. An example is the Kraków UNESCO City of Literature Prize awarded since 2020 for best publishing projects. Kraków UNESCO City of Literature is an open, diverse, friendly and empathetic city. In terms of literature, there is something for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest readers.
The deeply engaged literary circles of authors, publishers, institutions, libraries and NGOs shape one of the most dynamic and fascinating literary programmes in Poland.
In Kraków – a city of wide-open gates and myriad stories – everyone can feel at home.