Best time to go to Krakow

Wianki or Wreath Festival 2019

Meet the summer solstice in Krakow

Wianki or Wreath Festival in Krakow 2020 - Best Time
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© Ilja van de Pavert

This midsummer festival is a national Polish tradition, connected with the annual summer solstice. This cultural event usually takes place on the banks of the Vistula river. Girls make beautiful and fragrant wreaths of magic herbs and flowers and dreams.

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The legend says if one puts a lit candle inside the wreath and lets it float down the river, one's dream may come true. This custom was popular in Warsaw as well. It came to Krakow in the middle of the 19th century. Nowadays, it is a colourful show with fireworks and music. If you have a dream, you should definitely come to the river bank on this day!

Wianki originates from a pagan fertility festival honouring the Slavic goddess of love Kupala. During the night called Kupalnocka, people participated in wreath-floating and bonfire-jumping ceremonies which were supposed to ensure fertility. Every flower or herb in a wreath had its special meaning. However, when Poland became Christian the holiday was dedicated to St. John's Eve. Kupala's wreath floating ritual became associated with the baptism ceremony. Thus pagan Midsummer was incorporated into the Christian practice. But despite these efforts, some pagan customs survived.

Krakow's Wianki celebration also includes St. John's Fair, located near the Wawel Castle, with plenty of handmade crafts, wreaths and traditional foods. There are also folk dances and music to entertain the visitors.