Having recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (Dubrovačke ljetne igre) is one of Europe's most established celebrations of the classical arts. For 47 days and nights, from July 10 to August 25, the streets, churches, squares and famous buildings of Dubrovnik's Old Town host the big names in classical music, theatre, opera and dance.
Shows bring Dubrovnik's historic jewels to life. Shakespeare is performed open-air at the Lovrijenac fortress, orchestras play at the Sponza Palace, piano soloists at the Cathedral, ballet takes place after dark outside St Blaise's Church and all kinds of events have the moonlit City Walls as a backdrop. Some 70 venues are used - even Lokrum island. In recent years audiences can count on 2,000 artists from some two dozen countries to perform plays, concerts, folk shows and perhaps even some ballet.
The festival has taken place every year since 1950. In the war of 1992, in place of an opening ceremony, locals lit candles in the windows while Ivan Gundulić's Anthem to Freedom played on the radio to a deserted main street of Stradun.
In peacetime, the festival has expanded its schedule and its scope, inviting big names; Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day Lewis have appeared as Hamlet, a festival mainstay. The core programme remains the classical arts but modernity has widened the remit. Experimental works, puppet theatre, and contemporary writers now share the stage with local heavyweight playwright Marin Držić, Goethe, Molière and the Greek tragedies.
Book ahead (www.dubrovnik-festival.hr) for the biggest events - for others you can pay on the door. There will also be book launches, art exhibitions and other dos that have sprung up to take advantage of the increased number of visitors in town. Hotels and restaurants fill - book early in all cases. For the most prestigious events, smart dress, although not obligatory, is expected. Also remember that there will be a number of free performances around the streets of the Old Town throughout festival time - you needn't have to pay through the nose, or pay at all, to get swept up in the whole event.