Warsaw Festivals

As you might guess, the nation’s capital has no shortage of cultural events to keep citizens and visitors entertained. If you want music, there’s plenty of jazz, classical, folk, sacred music, world music, and big rock/pop/metal festivals drawing international stars (we’re looking at you, Impact and Orange Warsaw); if you want film, you’ll find festivals dedicated to Russia (Sputnik Over Poland), south-east Asia (Five Flavours), Africa (AfryKamera), Jewish Culture (Jewish Motifs and Jewish Film Fest), documentaries (Watch Docs), and then - of course - there’s the prestigious Warsaw Film Festival. The city also pays homage to its Jewish past with the interdisciplinary Singer's Warsaw Jewish Festival and celebrates the great Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin, whose heart now rests in Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church, with not one, but two events (Chopin’s Birthday Concerts and Chopin and His Europe). Here’s a month-by-month rundown of the most popular festivals:


Chopin’s Birthday Concerts -  The great Polish composer was born on either February 22nd or March 1st, 1810 - it's difficult to say for sure which is correct, so concerts span both dates. Classical performances are mixed in with jazz and folk renditions of his works. www.chopin.smolna.org



AfryKamera - This competitive film festival brings the work of African filmmakers to Poland and is the first festival of its kind in the Central/Eastern European region. The organisers point out that our usual perception of Africa is seen from the viewpoint of Western directors, and presenting African films seen through the lens of native filmmakers plays a vital role in forming an accurate understanding of the continent. www.afrykamera.pl

Jewish Motifs Film Festival - This festival focuses the lens on the Jewish nation - its tradition, history, and identity, both past and present. Filmmakers compete in three different categories: fiction, documentary, and short/experimental. www.jewishmotifs.org.pl

Mazurkas of the World - Dedicated to one of Poland's best-known musical forms and folk dances, the timeless mazurek (mazurka in English), Mazurkas of the World seek to keep the tradition alive and add modern elements where appropriate. http://festivalmazurki.pl/

Movie Spring - See the best of recent films awarded at international competitions during this springtime event organised at Praha Cinema. http://www.wiosnafilmow.pl/



Sacred Music Festival - Organ music, Eastern Orthodox choirs, Georgian and Ambrosian songs, and pieces by Händel performed in beautiful Warsaw churches. www.kapitula.org/mfms.html

New Jewish Music Festival - This festival examines how Jewish musical tradition influences modern artists and seeks to promote Jewish culture in general. It's not just music: there are film screenings, workshops, and special projects to go along with the concerts. www.nowamuzykazydowska.pl



Big Book Festival - An international literary festival featuring discussions, meetings with writers, and workshops. If you speak English, you will not be lost. http://www.bigbookfestival.pl

Street Art Festival - Two weekends of outdoor plays, performances, workshops, and even an avant-garde fashion show taking place at the New Town Market Square and the Agrykola Park. The festival has been organised since 1993 by the artist association Stowarzyszenie Scena 96 to facilitate social dialogue and cultural exchange. www.sztukaulicy.pl

Mozart Festival - Every summer, the Warsaw Chamber Opera organises nearly forty shows and concerts featuring music by the great Austrian composer, taking place in prime locations like the Royal Castle, Łazienki Park, and the Wilanów Palace. www.operakameralna.pl

Impact Festival - The tickets might be expensive, but if you're into metal, fresh air, and huge crowds, then it's probably worth it - past stars have included Slayer, Rammstein, Korn, Behemoth, and Thirty Seconds to Mars. www.impactfest.pl

Orange Warsaw - One of the most important music festivals in Poland, with past guests including Beyoncé, Linkin Park, The Prodigy, The Offspring, Moby, Jamiroquai, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Cypress Hill, Nelly Furtado, Skunk Anansie, Basement Jaxx, and Fatboy Slim. www.orangewarsawfestival.pl

Positive Vibrations - This music festival took a hard hit when Pharrell Williams canceled his appearance in 2014, leading to organisers scrapping the entire affair. We’re counting on Positive Vibrations to make a strong comeback soon. www.stx-jamboree.com



Music Gardens - Over thirty concerts, film screenings, operas, and ballet performances taking place in a huge tent set up in the Royal Castle courtyard. Each year the focus is the country currently holding EU presidency. www.ogrodymuzyczne.pl

Summer Jazz Days - This celebration of jazz began back in the early nineties as a rival event to the Jazz Jamboree Festival. Previous editions have welcomed stars like Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Steve Coleman, and Modern Jazz Quartet. www.adamiakjazz.pl

Sonisphere - This touring rock/metal festival makes it to Poland every so often, bringing with it stars like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth. However, it looks like Sonisphere 2015 will be cancelled - we’ll see how it goes. www.pl.sonisphere.eu



Mime Art - If you think that miming couldn't possibly be diverse enough for a week-long festival, think again: the event features styles classic Marcel Marceau style pantomime, physical theatre, modern pantomime, and troupes from all around Europe, each with a flavor of its own. Might or might not be the only festival in the world dedicated exclusively to mimes. www.mime.pl

Chopin and His Europe - Organised by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, which is also responsible for the highly prestigious International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, this festival celebrates the life, times, and music of the brilliant Polish composer. www.en.chopin.nifc.pl

Singer’s Warsaw Jewish Festival - Jewish culture festivals abound in Poland, especially in Kraków and Warsaw, both large cities with a rich Jewish history. Singer's Warsaw - the Singer in question being Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-Jewish novelist and Nobel Prize laureate - is a yearly festival of music, film, literature, and visual arts. www.festiwalsingera.pl



Body/Mind - An international festival of modern dance featuring performers from all around Europe, usually centered around a somewhat artsy and vague theme. www.cialoumysl.pl

Burn Selector - An electronic/dance music festival that started out in 2009 (in Kraków) and has been repeatedly nominated for Best Medium Festival at the European Festival Awards. www.selectorfestival.pl

Cross-Culture - This is a world music festival with the aim of opening up to cultural and artistic variety and journeying into the most interesting musical regions. So far, Cross-Culture has hosted artists from over sixty different countries. www.festival.warszawa.pl



Warsaw Film Festival - Yes, film festivals are popping up all over the place now, but this one goes all the way back to 1985, when it began as a small student festival. Nowadays its a full-blown red carpet / posh frock affair with the prizes running to 100,000 zł. The programme includes films from all over the world screened in Poland for the first time. www.wff.pl

Free Form Festival - Catchy name, typical indie music festival. The venue is pretty darn cool - it happens to be the Soho Factory, a turn-of-the-century (19th and 20th, that is) industrial complex turned bohemian artist locale. http://www.freeformfestival.pl/

Varsovia Cantat - All of Warsaw is singing - in Latin, no less. Choirs from around the world come here to compete for the Golden Lyre in five categories: mixed, equal voices, youth, children, and chamber. Admission is free for those who want to have a listen. www.varsoviacantat.pl

Warsaw Photo Days - This is one of the newest events on Warsaw's cultural calendar, only dating back to 2013. Organised by the Polish Photographers’ Association, it showcases both modern and historical photography centered around a yearly theme. www.warsawphotodays.com



Jewish Film Festival - Currently organised by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Luna Cinema, this film festival sees filmmakers compete for the David Camera in a number of different categories. www.wjff.pl

Jazz Jamboree - One of the oldest and grandest festivals in Poland, Jazz Jamboree dates back to the summer of 1958. Each year, it welcomes stars like Tommy Emmanuel, Kevin Mahogany, or David Sanborn. www.jazz-jamboree.pl

El Sol Salsa Festival - Loosen your hips at four all-night parties spread out over a few dancefloors, each one with a theme of its own, or learn how to step your game up with Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, and Zumba classes. www.salsafestival.pl

Five Flavours Festival - This is not a culinary affair, but rather a film festival with the aim of promoting knowledge about south-east Asia and normalising relations between Poles and Vietnamese immigrants (one of the more prominent ethnic minorities in Poland). www.piecsmakow.pl

Sputnik Over Poland - This Russian film festival takes place in cinemas across Poland, but the bulk of the action seems to take place in the capital. Accompanying events include concerts, exhibitions, meetings with writers, and workshops. www.sputnikfestiwal.pl



Watch Docs - Currently in the top two of the world’s biggest film events focusing on human rights, Watch Docs features not only screenings of documentaries dealing with modern humanitarian crises, but also international panel discussions with experts, human rights advocates, and politicians. www.watchdocs.pl



Ludvig Van Beethoven Easter Festival - The Ludwig van Beethoven Society has been organising Easter Festivals aiming to popularise the great composer's music since 1997. International musicians perform at locations including the National Philharmonic and the Royal Castle. www.beethoven.org.pl


All Summer

Jazz at Old Town Square - A full summer (June through August) of jazz concerts by Polish and international musicians. Past editions have included performances by Anna Maria Jopek, David Murray, Kenny Wheeler, and Duffy Jackson. Concerts are free, so expect crowds - up to 4000 people gather on the square for any one show. www.jazznastarowce.pl

Bach Organ Festival - Usually spanning July and August, the Bach Festival means beautiful organ music (not just Bach) performed in the Carmelite Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście. www.wtm.org.pl

Warsaw » Culture & Events » Festivals

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