I have heard so many fantastic things about the cultural scene in Croatia. Whether you are interested in ancient traditions, such as sword dancing on the island of Korcula or the Days of Diocletian festival in Split, or cutting-edge contemporary music, such as that you’ll find showcased at the Music Biennale Zagreb, you are sure to find something to whet your cultural appetite.
If you are visiting two of Croatia’s heavyweights of the cultural scene – Dubrovnik or Zagreb – there are a handful of cultural events that I hear about time and again. The following festivals come highly recommended by my clients – I have put them into a list so that you can pencil them into your Croatian holiday itinerary too.
The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ has much to offer the culture-seeker on holiday. Just walking through Dubrovnik’s Old Town will make you feel as if you have stepped into the pages of a story book. However, the city’s past has not always been so romantic – if you are interested in modern military history, I have been told that War Photo Limited is an intense viewing experience in the heart of the Old Town. Its exhibitions on the wars in Yugoslavia provide a thought-provoking snapshot of modern warfare.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival
Every summer the city plays host to the oldest cultural festival in the country. This outstanding programme of classical music, opera, ballet and theatre is recognised as one of the five ‘most distinguished cultural events’ in Europe. Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a magical backdrop to the world’s most illustrious musicians, dancers and composers, who flock to the city to take part in this special annual event.
- Where? 29 venues around Dubrovnik
- When? July and August
- My clients say: Watch the opening night celebrations from the Ploče Gate; you’ll get an amazing view of the fireworks over the Old Town.
Dubrovnik Christmas Fair
Where better to experience the magic of Christmas than at Dubrovnik’s famous festive markets? It’s an excellent place to browse the wares of traditional craftsmen, whose ornaments, embroidery, ceramics and glassware are beautiful to behold – you will be sure to leave with a sackful of exquisitely-crafted gifts for all of your loved ones!
- Where? Sponza Palace, Dubrovnik
- When? December
- My clients say: If you’re visiting Dubrovnik in December, take advantage of the lack of crowds and walk along the ancient city walls, taking in a wealth of historical sites as you go. You can do the whole circuit in around 2 hours.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for accommodation that provides authenticity as well as luxury, we have the perfect property on our website. The Hotel Kazbek is an intimate 5-star hotel located in the former sixteenth-century home of a noble Dubrovnik family. It is characterised by stone walls, handmade furniture and a beautiful terrace, perfect for enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day. It’s an ideal base for exploring the cultural delights of the city, whether in summer or in winter.
Known as the home of Croatia’s high-brow culture, the capital city of Zagreb is a vibrant yet often overlooked holiday destination. Whatever time of the year you choose to visit, you can be sure that you will get your fill of history, art and music at the many museums and galleries on offer in the city – one art experience I would particularly recommend is the Mestrovic Atelier, where you can admire the serene sculptures created by Ivan Mestrovic as you walk around his former home.
If you’re an opera fan, it’s also worth knowing that opera tickets sell for a fraction of the price that you can buy them for in London. An evening at the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) in Zagreb ends up being an unexpected highlight of many of my clients’ holidays.
Fantastic Zagreb Film Festival
Zagreb’s newest film festival is a celebration of all things freaky and fantastical! Screenings in the open air bring together cinephiles who can watch an eclectic mix of established and cutting-edge films in atmospheric locations. You will feel a world away from the nearby city centre watching a science fiction sensation at tree-cloaked Tuskanac, or a hard-hitting horror within the walls of a historic fort.
- Where? Tuskanac and Medvedgrad, Zagreb
- When? June-July
- My clients say: Tickets are available a week in advance of the festival and they are likely to sell out quickly, so make sure that you sort out the logistics in advance to avoid disappointment!
International Folklore Festival
The International Folklore Festival, which has been held in Zagreb since 1966, is all about preserving the ‘intangible cultural heritage’ of Croatia. This results in a diverse programme of music, dance, stage performances and exhibitions of traditional handicrafts.
- Where? Main Square and Gradec, Zagreb
- When? July
- My clients say: What an educational experience! Croatia can be split into three cultural zones, with many other ethnic and cultural groups as well – seeing so many folk groups who proudly display their heritage and traditions is a real treat.
Where to Stay
We love seeing people’s faces when we first show them the details of the Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb. This landmark hotel – with its grand facade, art deco lobby and three restaurants – has played host to politicians, movie stars and many clients of Prestige Holidays. Previously a resting place for travellers on the Orient Express to Istanbul, you can revel in the splendid history and culture of Croatia both inside and outside your hotel if you stay in the Hotel Esplanade.