In the city of Varaždin, located in northern Croatia, residents and authorities are preparing for the biggest annual social and cultural event of the year, Špancirfest. Now 20 years old, Špancirfest sees the streets, squares, palaces, parks, gardens and courtyards of historic Varaždin turned into temporary stages, theatres, restaurants, bars, clubs and workshop spaces in order to accommodate one of the largest and most diverse public celebrations in the country. The event calendar is so full that the duration of Špancirfest is a full ten days.
For the duration of the event, the life of the city is brought out onto the streets with kućice (small wooden houses) offering a varied menu of gastronomic delights alongside craftsmen who display their wares and traditional working methods to the public. Street performers, dancers, clowns, acrobats and other entertainers walk the streets capturing the attention of the many children who visit.
Workshops at this year's event will include masterclasses for several different musical instruments including drums, keys, vocals and guitars plus workshops on yoga technique, acrobatic dance and capoeira plus a graffiti art masterclass.
In addition to the percussionists and brass bands which will perform regularly in the streets and public squares, the event's rich music programme contains concerts almost every night by stars of the regional music scene. On the line-up, pop acts like Tony Cetinski, Božo Vrećo and Detour rub shoulders with alternative rockers Jonathan, Goran Bare and Majke, hip hop acts High 5 and Vojko V, youth favourites Kandžija and Krankšvester plus international guests like Gipsy Kings, who bring a flavour of world music to the 2019 proceedings. The music programme concludes this year with a special performance which will see four classically-trained Croatian tenors perform accompanied by a grand orchestra of tambura (a specific type of string-led folk music) musicians.
Aside from a very small number of theatre-based concerts and drama performances, almost all of the events are free to attend and if you find any free time during your fun-packed visit to the festival, consider our other recommendations for great things to do in Varaždin. Špancirfest takes place between Friday 23 August and Sunday 1 September.