The calendar is filled with festivals of all kinds; the most popular are connected to religious dates or Poland's folk or cultural traditions. The annual Marian pilgrimages culminate in August at the Jasna Góra shrine in Czestochowa for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocaw, and Poznan all host various jazz and classical music festivals throughout the year. Check with local tourist information offices when you arrive to see what's going on during the time you're there. For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Shanties: International Sailors' Song Festival, Kraków. A true anomaly for a landlocked city, each February, Kraków hosts this international festival dedicated to maritime and sailors' songs (think nautical poetry and ballads). Events are held around town. Call tel. 12/423-22-36 or visit www.shanties.pl.
Cracovia Marathon, Kraków. Kraków's marathon draws well over 1,000 runners each spring. Call tel. 12/616-63-00 or visit www.cracoviamaraton.pl.
Ludwig van Beethoven Festival, Warsaw. Though this Easter festival bears Beethoven's name, it's not just about him. The program features a variety of classical composers. The festival unfolds over 2 weeks, timed to coincide with the Easter holidays. Concerts are held around town. Call tel. 22/331-91-91 or visit www.beethoven.org.pl.
Film Music Festival, Kraków. Three days of concerts dedicated to music composed for the silver screen. Composers join audiences for concerts accompanying film showings at various venues. Call tel. 12/424-96-50 or visit www.fmf.fm.
Florianski Fair, Warsaw. This popular street fair takes place across the river in Warsaw's gritty but lively district of Praga. The highlight is a street market bustling with antiques, crafts, and foods. On the card are live bands and local celebs. For details, visit http://en.praga-pn.waw.pl.
International Book Fair, Warsaw. A strong line-up of international writers and publishers attend this event held at the Stalin-era Palace of Culture & Science. Call tel. 22/509-86-00 or check out www.bookfair.pl.
Juwenalia, Kraków. A fun fair dedicated to the city's thousands of students. In a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, the mayor gives the students the keys to the city. Lots of concerts, parades, and shows. Lots of alcohol, too. Call tel. 12/633-35-38 or visit http://juwenalia.krakow.pl.
Night of Museums, Warsaw. For one night each May, the city's museums, galleries, and other art institutions stay open late into the night. Part of the fun is visiting the exhibits, but mostly, it's a late-night street party. For more information, visit http://noc-muzeow.pl.
Fair Hetmanski, Zamosc. Lots of fun if you're into handicrafts and Renaissance culture; events are held on the city's large market square. Lots of music and food, and plenty of things to buy. Early June.
Jewish Culture Festival, Kraków. Over the past decade, this festival of Jewish culture, music, dance, and film has evolved into one of the city's premier events. Most of the action takes place in Kraków's historic Jewish district, Kazimierz. Synagogues, cafes, and outdoor venues celebrate the richness of Jewish culture. Street musicians play klezmer tunes, and everyone ends up dancing. Book well in advance; the festival draws thousands. Call tel. 12/431-15-17 or visit www.jewishfestival.pl.
Malta International Theater Festival, Poznan. A week of street theater and events draws tens of thousands of people to the country's biggest festival dedicated to the dramatic arts. Visit www.malta-festival.pl.
Selector Festival, Kraków. Fans of dance, trance, electronic, and techno arrive by the thousands for 2 days of gigs from top bands and DJs. Visit www.selectorfestival.pl.
Sonisphere, Warsaw. A festival of rock and metal music held in the Warsaw suburb of Lotnisko Bemowo. Past acts include Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Visit http://pl.sonispherefestivals.com.
Warsaw Chamber Opera Mozart Festival. Reputedly the only company in the world to present all of Mozart's stage works every year. Call tel. 22/831-22-40.
Wianki & Free Music Festival, Kraków. This pagan-era fertility festival features maidens floating garlands (wianki) down the river to predict when they'll be married (and to whom), as well as top Polish and international music acts. After the concerts, crowds head to the city's bars and clubs. Call tel. 12/424-96-50 or visit www.wianki.krakow.pl.
Chopiniana, Warsaw. Concerts, theater, film, and ballet performances dedicated to the composer whom the capital claims as its own. Performances take place in venues connected to the composer's life. Call tel. 22/620-39-62 or visit www.mckis.waw.pl.
Crossroads Traditional Music Festival, Kraków. This annual music festival fills the streets of Kraków with folk music from the nearby Tatra Mountains. Many concerts take place in Kraków's Market Square (Rynek Glówny), with musicians mixing traditional folk with genres such as jazz. Call tel. 12/424-96-50 or visit www.rozstaje.pl.
International Street Arts Festival, Warsaw. Warsaw's biggest outdoor festival of music and dramatic arts, with performances in 20 or so of the city's most popular spots. Visit www.sztukaulicy.pl.
International Street & Open-Air Theaters Festival, Gdansk. The streets of Gdansk come alive each July for the annual FETA festival, which features jugglers, mimes, stilt walkers, dancers, and storytellers from around the world. Call tel.) 58/557-42-47 or visit www.feta.pl.
St Dominic's Fair, Gdansk. Lively 3-week street fair of arts and crafts in Gdansk's Old Town that goes back some 750 years. Most events take place in Dugi Targ, one of the city's nicest areas. Call tel. 58/554-92-00 or visit www.mtgsa.com.pl.
StreetArt International Festival of Street Theater, Kraków. Kraków's main market square plays host to magicians, jugglers, and puppeteers in one of the oldest medieval-style festivals in Central Europe. Call tel. 12/623-73-00 or visit http://teatrkto.pl.
Summer Jazz Days, Warsaw. One of the continent's leading jazz festivals, drawing international stars and emerging names to the Palace of Culture and Science. The program includes a concert of avant-garde jazz and free open air performances in Warsaw's Plac Zamkowy. Call tel. 22/620-50-72 or visit www.adamiakjazz.pl.
Chopin and His Europe International Music Festival, Warsaw. Inaugurated in 2005, "Chopin and His Europe" not surprisingly celebrates the life and work of Fryderyk Chopin. A number of venues across Warsaw, including the city's Philharmonic Hall, host concerts. Call tel. 22/441-61-17 or check out http://en.chopin.nifc.pl/festival.
Coke Live Music Festival, Kraków. Festival of indie and pop music held over 2 days and three stages at the airfield of Kraków's Aviation Museum. There's space to pitch a tent, as well as bathroom facilities and food stalls. The festival traditionally lures some of the biggest names in popular music. Visit www.livefestival.pl.
Feast of the Assumption, Czestochowa. Draws tens of thousands of pilgrims annually to the Jasna Góra monastery. If you're planning to visit during this period, be sure to book your accommodation far in advance. August 15.
Gdansk Shakespeare Festival. Both Polish and international theater companies come to the Baltic shoreline to host traditional and experimental versions of Shakespeare's plays. There are also concerts and a parade. Call tel. 58/300-01-70 or visit the festival website at www.shakespearefestival.pl.
International Mime Art Festival, Warsaw. Mimes. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Polish capital hosts Europe's largest mime fest. Theater companies from across Europe and the world take part. Call tel. 22/632-03-60 or visit www.mime.pl.
Music in Old Kraków. A 17-day event filled with classical concerts and recitals at venues around the city. Visit www.muzykawstarymkrakowie.eu.
Singer's Jewish Culture Festival, Warsaw. This popular festival hosts exhibitions, films, music, and theater performances relating to the history of Warsaw's Jewish community. Events are held around Plac Grzybowski. Call tel. 22/850-56-56 or visit http://festiwalsingera.pl.
International Highlanders' Folk Festival, Zakopane. One of the oldest and biggest folk events in Poland. Highlanders from all over the world congregate in Zakopane to celebrate their customs through regional costumes, music, and dance. Call tel. 18/206-69-50 or visit www.mffzg.pl.
Autumn Contemporary Music Festival, Warsaw. This acclaimed festival presents contemporary classical music from around the world. Concerts are held at the National Philharmonic Hall and other city venues. Call tel. 22/635-92-38 or visit http://warszawska-jesien.art.pl.
Cross Culture Festival, Warsaw. Musicians gather at the Palace of Culture and Science for a week-long series of concerts celebrating world music in all its diversity. Films and workshops are also included on the program. Call tel. 22/849-32-86 or visit www.estrada.com.pl/46.
Festival of Four Cultures, Lódz. This popular music, culture, and film festival celebrates the city's traditional point at the crossroads of four cultures: Polish, German, Jewish, and Russian. Call tel. 42/636-38-21 or visit http://en.4kultury.pl.
Wratislavia Cantans, Wrocaw. The annual Wratislavia Cantans celebrates sacred choral music. If it sounds boring, it's anything but. The quality of the performances is outstanding, and the atmosphere is nothing short of riveting. Call tel. 71/330-52-10 or visit www.wratislaviacantans.pl.
International Film Festival, Warsaw. One of Europe's leading international film festivals offers a great chance to see dozens of films you might never see anywhere else. Visit www.wff.pl.
Rawa Blues Festival, Katowice. Reputedly the world's largest indoor blues festival, it takes place in Katowice's futuristic Spodek concert hall. Visit www.rawablues.com.
All Souls' Jazz Festival, Kraków. Poland's oldest jazz festival takes place every year around All Souls' Day (Nov 2). Musicians from around the world perform in bars, churches, and other venues across town. Visit www.krakowskiezaduszkijazzowe.xt.pl.
Jazz Jamboree, Warsaw. For more than 50 years, the Jazz Jamboree has been bringing jazz to the Polish capital. Concerts are held in various venues, including Teatr Polski. Call tel. 22/827-39-26 or visit www.jazz-jamboree.pl.
Jazz Jantar Festival, Gdansk. The Zak Club in Gdansk is the traditional host of the annual Jazz Jantar Festival of improvised music. The event showcases experimental compositions and lots of blues. Call tel. 58/344-05-73 or visit http://jazzjantar.pl.
St. Martin's Day, Poznan. November 11 is a day of pageantry, featuring St Martin himself riding on a white horse accompanied by jugglers, clowns, stilt walkers, and lots of hangers-on. There are parades and festivities until well into the night, as well as the traditional eating of the St. Martin crescent-shaped buns, tasty croissants you can find around town. Visit www.poznan.pl.
New Year's Eve, Kraków. New Year's Eve brings thousands of revelers to Kraków's main square to celebrate with fireworks and live music. Large screens help the crowds see all the action onstage. This website can help guide you to the festivities www.wownight.eu.
Christmas Market, Warsaw. Poland's capital comes alive during Christmas. The center of the action is the beautifully restored Old Town, with market stalls, filled with gifts and holiday food. In Zamkowy (Castle) Square, the Christmas tree is lit at night.