He spent the following years in Kraków, living with the Rieger family, where he fully absorbed the atmosphere of the city. “In Kraków I wasn’t really in a state to play the piano too much, or write, or learn properly,” he recalled. “I achieved six ‘insufficient’ marks for the first half year of the school and two at the end (with which one could then go to the next class (...) I visited Wawel Castle, museums, I walked through the Planty, admired the works of Wyspiański and Jan Matejko. I was crazy for the theatre. (...) In fact, I drank Kraków and its atmosphere, I got to know the streets and allowed myself a cup of coffee in Maurizio’s (then going to a cafeteria full of adults, where the waiters remember pre-war times had a taste of sin). I also went to concerts, of course.” (Klaudia Podobińska, Leszek Polony, conversations with Wojciech Kilar "Cieszę się darem życia", 1997). While in Kraków he studied piano with Maria Bilińska-Riegerowa and took private lessons in harmony with Artur Malawski.
In 1948 he went to Katowice. There he finished his music middle school in Władysława Markiewiczówna’s class and the State Higher School of Music in the class of Bolesław Woytowicz (piano and composition). He described his learning with Woytowicz as „complete education.” “We undertook,” he said, “discussions on various topics including, for the first time in my life, deep discussions on philosophical topics. It was also my first contact with the wider world, a prominent artist who spent many years in Paris, and so quite simply inspiration.” (Leszek Polony, "Kilar. Żywioł i modlitwa", 2005). In completing his studies with distinction he became an assistant to B. Woytowicz at the Kraków PWSM (1955). In the same year he won second place at the Competition for Symphonic Works as part of the V Youth Festival in Warsaw. „Mała uwertura” was Wojciech Kilar’s first work published by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne.