That Croatia is much more than just a beautiful postcard, everybody knows. From experienced passengers to the ones that have a wish to come. Croatia as a top tourist destination provokes hit interest in all aspects of its tourist offer. That is why it is much more than the sea, sun, and beaches for a long time now. History, sport, natural beauties, and gastronomy are some of the reasons. But, what is surprising is the rich cultural heritage of Croatia.
Identity, culture, and a specific way of life in this area are older than a thousand years and influenced specific social, political, economic, and cultural events and interests that created a specific culture and a way of constructive expression. Own letter (glagoljica), songs, folklore, historical artifacts, all the way to the national parks, monuments, to different tourist attractions, and famous Croatians that have changed the paths of history, Croatia has a lot to offer. That is seen in the cultural events that Croatia is full.
Every place in Croatia has its own story, legends and myths, cultural heritage, and something unique, something they called their own. These areas represent a mixture of East and West, have been an area of interest of great political forces, a center of wars and battles of confronted civilizations seen in today's legacy. That is why, no matter where you go, you will have something to see, experience, and photograph.
But, some cultural events are especially noticed. They are a part of the resident's genetic code and have a great national value. They are also internationally recognized. That is why Croatia is a land of rich material and non-material heritage concerning its population size. Some of the events are top tourist events and a great example of the language and social culture, history, and life mentality in these areas. And in our two-part article, you will get to meet some of them!
1. DAYS OF DIOCLETIAN - SPLIT
Split is a city of rich history and the emperor's residency 1700 years old. It is the home of the Diocletian's palace, one of the most preserved Roman monuments in the world. Besides that, Split is proud of its "heart " park-forest "Marjan", and has always been an epicenter of art, music, and different urban and sub-urban movements.
That is why it was a movie set for blockbusters like Game of Thrones and artistic inspiration. Today, it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. For keeping the memory alive, "Diocletian days" are held every year.
This manifestation is real "bate" for a different audience coming over to witness the event. At first, organized as a three-day happening, it grew into a whole summer manifestation that offers a music-play-drama spectacle for its large audience.
Diocletian's days start by guard change that repeats every day at noon. Then the emperor and the empresses greet the locals heavily guarded by the pretorians. That is usually one of the main attractions in the organization of the Splits Croatian National Theatre.
The main events are the Nights of Diocletian and the Roman Walk. The second-mentioned is held once a month with special theme nights like the gladiator's battle or specialized dance events. Besides that, visit the Living Museum that tries to relive the Antic times and the way of life of the Old Romans. Various music nights are a part of the program to find the right genre type and a rich performers list.
Diocletian nights are the central part of the manifestation that lasts for three days at the end of August. Then, Split transforms back to Roman Times. Throughout the city, you can see legions lining up, the emperor passes through in his coach, on every corner, you can hear antic music and street performers. In those three nights, everything is in Roman style, even the gastronomy offer. That is why you should not miss out on the main summer event of the "Mediterranean Pearl."
2. DUBROVNIK SUMMER FESTIVAL
Dubrovnik is a top tourist destination that does not need any special introduction. And a hit cultural and social event in the Croatian tourist pearl is the perfect invitation to come. Dubrovnik summer games organize once a year and last for a month and a half, from 10 July until August 25. They are performed for 73 years.
This event connects Ancient tradition and Dubrovnik's rich intellectual heritage in the world of science and art. So in these 45 days, you will have an opportunity to witness the works of Marin Držić, Ivan Gundulić, Ivo Vojnović, but also the world-known classics such as Goldoni, Moliere, and Shakespeare. That is when most famous literate work connects with parks, streets, and squares lighting up the city showing his international character of Dubrovnik.
Although primarily considered a national event, it soon became world-known and famous. That owns most to the Duke's palace and its specific acoustics. That is an enjoyable challenge for both the artists and the audience. The games combine the old and new and are a place where modern trends build on Antic remaining.
The central point of the Summer games is the Festival Palace. It is an obligatory "sightseeing" monument of Dubrovnik.
The core part is the "Orlando" award given to all the artists for their work and achievements for last year. The program is for all ages and different art lovers, including special children workshops.
That Dubrovnik hides a true cultural richness proves that the city enlists from 1979. in the UNESCO list of world heritage. Dubrovnik is a city of poets and a city-poet that has always been a center of intellectual life, high culture, critical thinking, progressivity, and enlightenment. And that is what the Dubrovnik summer games are celebrating and keeping the heritage alive.
The whole of Dubrovnik is a city museum, so just visiting it will leave you breathless. From important cultural events, we recommend visiting the Saint Blaise festivity. It holds between the second and the seventh of January. And before the event, a seven-day mini-gathering organizes in the city. It includes concerts, wine tours, and great fun! Because who says that the top destinations are the best only during summer times?
3. SINJSKA ALKA
306 years ago, the city of Sinj found itself in the hardest moments of its history. The city was occupied by the Ottomans that came with severally larger numbers and were on their knees. But, then a miracle happened and the occupation ended exactly at the moment when everything seemed like the city is going to be taken. The locals believe it was a greater force that helped them in this miracle turnaround. In that honor, from 1715. the Sinjska Alka has been organized. It is the main event of the Sinj county and a part of the UNESCO non-material cultural heritage.
Alka is a medieval knight and cavalry competition where the riders on a field long 160 meters try to target the center of a metal circle in the field center called "srida" with their spear. They have only 13 seconds to do it, and "srida" or the center is divided into three parts.
If they hit "srida" the knights receive 3 points, above it are two points, and a hit into one of the two circles below is worth one point. Three rounds are being run, and the one who collects the most points is the winner. In case of a tie, then Alkari go to "pripetavanje" or the fourth, eliminating round. In the end, the winner comes out in front of the duke with a special company and receives a traditional Croatian medal. Everything is being followed by the shots of mačkule, a medieval gun.
Participants of Alka can only be the ones born in Sinj or the Cetina region or have parents from these areas. Before Alka, Bara and Čoja are held to determine the competitors. There has to be at least 11, and at most 17 Alka competitors.
The whole event starts with a parade of all participants. First, are the "momci", the Alkar deputies, then harambaša and his deputies, the brass orchestra, flag carrier, shield carrier, mace holder, adjutant, and duke followed by alkari and alajčauš as the main character of the event. They are represented to the audience, and the most festive of them is the horse called Edek. He symbolizes a stolen horse of a Turkish Pasha and is not ridden.
The richness of tradition, culture, history, and custom - that is Alka!
Alka is held the first Sunday of August when Sinj becomes a big stage and a world metropolis. Besides the competition, special attention is given to the uniforms and the decore of the participants.
Alkari are dressed at home with the help of their family. They are dressed in blue uniforms with a saber on the hip. Alajčauš has a black, and the duke a golden uniform. The most solemn ones are the "momci" dressed in traditional clothing with a hat, bandana, vest, pants, and shoes called oputaši. They have a kabura and jatagan by the hip, and besides them walk the only woman participants dressed in 19-century clothing.
The spear is wooden with an iron point and has a specific way of construction. The horses are also specially breaded and there is a unique sort of alkar horses dressed and learned to the Alka challenges. Every alkar, as much as their co-knight, the "momak", has to behave decently and with respect.
For more details, visit the Alkar court and the Alkar Museum where you can get to meet the history of the area, and even become an alkar for a moment. Besides the Alka, there are the children Alkas being held where the youngest citizens of the Cetina region are prepared for big future competitions!
Although being held from the 18 century, the first documents date back only to the end of the century. There were many throughout throught history, but in the middle of the 19 century, Alka was shaped into modern form. Occasionally, Alka is being held from time to time as a part of a reception for politicians to show the tradition of the Cetina region. Alka gained international attention a long time ago and has had its exhibition in New York, Bruxelles, and alkari are a part of all the official events, commemorations, political happenings, and parades.
The point and the main goal of Alka is a mixture of old customs and traditions, keeping the memory alive by creating new history on medieval remains. It is not just a competition, it is a journey to history, evocation of victory, sacral importance, and the identity of the whole region. Alka is a commemoration of the only jousting competition being kept and held for more than 300 years!
4. BAROQUE NIGHTS IN VARAŽDIN
One of the best-preserved historic towns and the most unique ones in these areas is Varaždin. It is a baroque city where just a visit brings you back a couple of centuries behind. Besides that, it is a center of two important events: the Baroque nights and Špancirfest.
The first Baroque nights were held in 1968. in honor of commemorating 140 years of the Varaždin Music school. Throughout the years, it outgrew the linings of a music program and became a festival of architecture, theatre, acting, and horticulture. The first three-day festival was held in 1971. when it left the town and its medieval fortresses and baroque palaces.
Today, it is a ten-day festival that attracts 10 000 people to the "Baroque city". Every year around 30 concerts are being held making this manifestation one of the biggest festivals of early and traditional music. On the other hand, members of Baroque Nights are involved in the European gatherings of baroque nights representing it to the rest of the world.
Festival tends authenticity: the authenticity of the Varaždin city as a baroque city, the authenticity of genuine instruments, and the authenticity of the program focused exclusively on baroque. The nights start with a concert of a baroque orchestra and end up with a mass in the cathedral. Tickets are bought separately for every concert.
It is being held throughout Varaždin and its surroundings. So, it covers the area of Nedelišće, Križevci, Ludbreg, Prelog, Krapina, Varaždinske Toplice, and other eminent halls and castles such as Trakošćan, HNK Varaždin, the Francis school and the Varaždin cathedrale. As a part of the festival, there is a science fair being held on the topic of the baroque legacy, its importance, and new programs. There is a side program Total Baroque oriented only on baroque music performed on baroque instruments in baroque monuments.
Baroque nights in Varaždin are the most significant music and artistic happening in this Croatian region and one of the bigger festivals of early music in the world. That is why it has its own Maecenas club and a different country as a partner every year like Japan, Russia, Italy, Spain, or France.
The festival has great importance since it encourages the preservance of baroque art and helps in the development and research of this period in human history.
5. ŠPANCIRFEST VARAŽDIN
Varaždin is not just a home of high culture and art. It is the center of one of the most fun and most original festivals in the world. It is the Špancirfest, a "walking" festival that celebrates street art and street performances. On it, you will see roaming musicians, troubadours, illusionists, jugglers, magicians, stull walkers, and pantomimes- every form of street performance is present!
The festival is held in the second part of August for the last 23 years and lasts for 10 days. Then, in a short time, Varaždin becomes the center of street art. Squares, palaces, parks become stages, clubs, classrooms, and souvenir shops. This festival connects the street and music, hedonism, fun, and contemporary art. Do you want a dynamic festival or enjoy the show in peace - you choose because Špancirfest has something for everyone! Although it has an event calendar, the best part of the festival is the spontaneous walk through the streets where you will get to know other festival attendants.
Špancirfest offers one of the most diverse programs, educations, workshops, exhibitions combines with a luxurious gastronomy offer and all-generation performances. So, it is a cultural and tourist event that wrote Varaždin on the world maps of urban cities.
The thing that makes this festival so popular, fun, visited, and respected between audience and the art world is it withheld its originality. It started and remained a street festival that celebrates street art and is a unique event. It is a festival fragmented into several small independent festivals connected by the Špancirfest organization.
Those days in the city are presented one of the best summer musical and children programs that last during the entire 10 days. Then, there is the Kreativnica for all ages and street exhibitions where you can find something for yourself. For a more intimate atmosphere, there is the Wine city in the historical core of the city that will offer you peace in the cosmopolite spirit of the dynamic Špancir!
Špancirfest offers performers and visitors the city as a stage for demonstrating their work, connects them with clients, and through active participation ensures new experiences and knowledge.
6. FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS IN ZAGREB
One of the festivals that inspire innovation and imagination is the Festival of Lights in Zagreb. It is held every year throughout March and is a festival that connects urban culture, art, design, and architecture. The main goal, of course, is good fun and company. Zagreb'sFestival of Lights uses modern lightning instruments on historical monuments to create a visual spectacle. In this way, all the famous localities and monuments of the city get a new light, in every sense of the word.
This festival is a part of a franchise that holds light shows all across the world making it visible for all, outside the museum walls. With it, light is represented as a new artistic orientation. Festival of Lights is an international organization that gathers artists who use light as a way of expressing their creativity and their conceptions. The moto is to "create a better tomorrow" in which they propagate modern values. The first one was organized in Berlin 17 years ago. The first one was held in Zagreb in 2017.
One month a year, Zagreb becomes a big atelier creating innovative art that awakens the greyness of big cities. In that way, it gives them a "new life" and arouses positive emotions, warmness, and cheerfulness. That is why March is ideal to visit the capital that becomes a canvas to alternative artists. It is the time of the year when a new life is announced, and all the best that period brings with it: socializing, company, and fun. So, celebrate coming out from "winter hibernation", come out and enjoy the game of colors, lights, and installations. It will leave you breathless, literally!
The whole story started 4 years ago on 9 locations in Gornji Grad from where it spread throughout the town. Probably the most impressive installations are in the Grič tunnel that is transformed into an interactive lightning forest, Lotršćak and Tomića street.
7. ADVENT IN ZAGREB
Besides spring, Zagreb is equally beautiful in all seasons. That is what hundreds of thousands of visitors discover in our capital every year. But, the most special atmosphere is during Advent time, which is a period before Christmas, and is considered the most beautiful time of the year by many. It is the Advent in Zagreb that carried the title of the most beautiful in Europe winning it three years in a row - 2016., 2017., and 2018.!
This is the biggest event in the countries capital and the central manifestation of the winter tourist season. From the 01 of December until the 06 of January the Christmas idyll is rounded up, as we say goodbye to the Old Year, and announce the coming of the New Year. Then, the most cheerful period in the year is over and new expectations promise and wishes for the coming calendar year start.
Advent has a great cultural importance thanks to its rich gastro and ethnographic offer that represents Zagreb, region, but the whole country as well. So, on the stands, you will experience a true richness of taste and smell, listen to good music, meet the street and urban artists besides the rich program.
In that, the pre-holiday time when everything quiets down, Zagreb lives with full lungs. Throughout December, it is the European capital where passengers all over the world try to feel the Christmas spirit and the environment of the Zagreb Advent. On the other hand, decorated homes, windows, and gardens carry the warmest messages of Christmas: positivity, family and friendship, and even melancholy. Because, unfortunately, we know this time lasts only shortly.
Advent that offers much more than sausage and mulled wine
Besides the food, drink, and music, Advent offers a couple of active projects that offer a different type of entertainment. So, you will get to meet the project Mystical Advent, a night thematic tour about old Christmas and New Year customs and traditions. In an informative, educative, and interactive way, you can learn what people have eaten, how did they dress, and what was the life of Old Zagreb like. The project is for all generations!
For all lovers of virtual technology, there is the project Virtual Christmas window. It is a content of augmentedreality where you can download the application and see all of the famous Zagreb localities in 3D reality. Sightseeing, exhibits, museums, galleries, and a map of the city with all happenings will be in the palm of your hand if needed.
If you just want to be spontaneous and enjoy the offer while you walk down the streets of Zagreb carelessly, we can tell you, you will have something to see. There is the Christmas fairytale on Zrinjevac, Ice fairytale on Tomislavac, and Fuliranje on Strossmayer square. Stop by on one of 14 food corners, explore the music-culture events in Gornji Grad and discover the unrevealed Zagreb "kućice".
To run away from the city crowds, visit the Klovićevi dvori, have a cup of coffee in the center of urban art. Take a stroll at the Meštrović atelier and the Museum of broken relationships. Then, sit and enjoy the ride on the shortest cable car in the world and, in the end, enjoy the snowy fairytale on Sljeme!
When you get tired, have a break to enjoy the autochthonous delicacies of the Zagreb region. Try out puricu with mlinci, paprenjake, sarme, pizzas, burgers, fritule, kobasice, štrukle, štrudle, knedle, or čvarke and warm yourself with mulled wine. Then, all is left then dance through the night following the best rhythms of the town.
If you are coming on Christmas Eve, try out Bakalar, visit the Cathedral of Zagreb and enjoy the medieval ambient of Austro-Hungarian and baroque style. Also, do not forget that Zagreb has the most museums in regards to its population, so fun is the only thing you won't miss out on while visiting the capital.
Stay with us because the best is yet to come!
Although we have named many events and given detailed and substantial descriptions, this is not the end! The best is yet to come! In the second part of our article, we continue to discover the most popular and undiscovered cultural events organized and held throughout the coast, the inner parts, and the rest of Croatia. This country has a truly natural and cultural wealth, and we have saved the best for last! So, stay with us, follow us on social media, read blog posts, and be in touch to always be in the center of information to find accommodation in top destinations for the lowest price!