Of all the exciting things to happen to Croatian tourism over the last decade, the boom in boutique music festivals has come as the biggest surprise. A surge in party-loving punters flocking to the Adriatic has generated a cool buzz around the country, inspiring promoters near and far to set up temporary camp along its famously sun drenched coastline. And when it comes to Croatian festivals, you really do have the best of both worlds: incredible line-ups are matched by equally impressive locations. The choice here is massive – from sizzling hot boat parties and raves in abandoned forts to live music in the heart of Croatia’s historical cities. With over twenty festivals taking place this summer; it’s harder than ever to pick the right one. To help you decide, we’ve shortlisted ten of the best.
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The only guitar-driven festival to make the list, Zagreb’s seminal city fest INmusic promises two days of big indie fun. One of the most popular rock festivals in the region, INmusic has put Zagreb definitively on the music map: each year organisers coax the best modern rock bands, cult heros and world musicians to Lake Jarun, a beautiful venue on the outskirts of the capital. This year’s indie-leaning line-up includes legendary singersongwriter PJ Harvey, the mighty Florence and the Machine, British rockers The Kooks and Ghanaian afrobeat icon Pat Thomas and his all-star Kwashibu Area Band. There’s a great modern campsite open for six days during the festival with plenty of afterparties and activities happening in and around the city.
Still a young-ish gun in the ever-expanding Croatian dance festival scene, and certainly one of the most popular, Hideout has put together a thumping line-up with some of Europe's best DJs and electronic acts. This years outing features heavyweights Jamie XX, Skepta, Andy C, Stormzy and Julio Bashmore, with tons more big-name DJs as well as plenty of underground aces on hand, and as you'd expect, most of the arenas are open-air and beachside, making for plenty of sunrise DJ sets. Expect the party-loving crowd to be whooping and grooving until, well, until they sleep in a huddle on the beach.
Nick Colgan organised the first Garden Festival in 2006, steadily transforming a drowsy Dalmatian fishing village into the festival capital of Central Eastern Europe. The decade-long Garden Festival waved goodbye last summer, but you can expect more full-on fun from the inaugural Love International this year. The Garden's chief programmer Dave Harvey (of Future Boogie and Love Saves the Day fame) has taken over in a symbolic passing of the disco torch, showcasing the world’s finest purveyors of beats and baselines. This year’s esteemed cast includes Ben UFO, Joy Orbison and Eats Everything, ensuring the spirit of The Garden remains safe in the hands of Dave and Team Love.
Sharing the same coastal location as Love International – the white-washed village of Tisno – Electric Elephant is known as one of the more chilled-out Croatian affairs, with DJs throwing around house, tech, balearic, disco and funk beats over five sun-kissed days. New Jersey house pioneer Kerri Chandler is the biggest draw, alongside beatmasters like Andy Weatherall, Psychemagik and electronica duo Maribou State. A great lineup and a great atmosphere, even if the promise of a glowing, neon elephant suggested in the title has yet to be seen at the festival except by a select few who partied too hard and didn't sleep for the whole five days.
‘Soul has no musical, geographical, or racial boundaries,’ Roy Ayers, one of the most-sampled artists in music and the ‘Godfather of Neo-soul’, once said. This spirit is also perfectly in tune with Tisno’s soulful house utopia: SuncéBeat. With promoters Alex Lowes and Dave Gardner calling time on their UK festival, the long-running house stalwart Southport Weekender, their focus has turned towards the Adriatic. This year’s bill reads like a fraternity of hip-hop, house and techno legends: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Black Coffee, Louie Vega, Derrick Carter and Detroit Swindle.
If raving on the Dalmatian coast sounds like an appealing prospect, and we’re thinking it does, then get yourself to this relative newcomer to the Croatian festival circuit. Movement Festival was born in Detroit back in 2000, before spreading to Turin, Italy and hopping shores to the legendary Garden site in Tisno. Following the flux of contemporary techno, there will be plenty of high quality 4/4 business belted out all weekend, with a huge techno-facing line-up including DJ legends Ben Klock, Nina Kraviz, and DJ Dave Clarke..
Taking place once again at the legendary Garden site in Tisno, Soundwave is a boutique festival celebrating its 8th year in Croatia. Set in a beautiful fishing village where the Dalmatian Coast meets the Adriatic and the punters meet the Soundwaves, it’s the perfect place to relax and sightsee as well as party until the sun comes up. Musically, Soundwave is something of an all-rounder: funk, world music, drum and bass and house are given equal attention here. This year’s line-up has some huge names, including dapper reggae-rock band Gentleman’s Dub Club, politically conscious rapper Akala and boundary-pushing electronica hero Mala, interspersed with world music DJs and underground spinmasters.
Set around the beautiful but touristy Zrce beach on the isle of Pag, just off the west coast of Croatia, Sonus is a techno beat festival with a flaming line-up. One of the newest kids on the block as far as Croatia’s festival scene is concerned, Sonus has quickly earned its place on the calendar of any self-respecting bass-music buff, and this edition sees some of the world’s top tastemakers taking to it’s open-air stages, including Dixon, Seth Troxler, Jackmaster and Ricardo Villalobos. Sonus has also been something of a blessing for local DJs, as the festival is one of the few to showcase Croatian DJs and homegrown talent.
Dimensions has established itself as a major player in the international dance music scene, boasting a line-up of the biggest DJs and live dance acts on the planet. This year’s edition features trip-hop demigods Massive Attack, Moodymann, Larry Heard and Hiatus Kaiyote, ensuring an excellently curated four-dayer with stages hidden among the ancient ruins of Pula and on various boats and swathes of the beach. The sound systems are great, as is the lighting in these atmospheric settings; there'll also be an opening concert, launch parties, boat parties and much more alongside the regular performances.
Now in its ninth year, Outlook is a firm favourite on the underground dance, garage, dub step, hip hop and reggae scene. Fort Punta Christo is brought alive with resounding bass, lasers, bars and live acts and the party spreads all the way to nearby camps. Set to astound again this year with a powerful line-up including Andy C, David Rodigan and MJ Cole, it’s a delightful celebration of soundsystem culture, with live acts and DJs spread over five sunkissed days. The nearby city of Pula is home also to an ancient Roman amphitheatre as well as numerous clubs, pubs, restaurants and attractions, so take some time off during the day to explore and you won't be disappointed.