Great things to do in Karlovac this summer

Visit Karlovac in the year of its 440th birthday and don't miss out on these great things to do while you're there

Written by
Marc Rowlands
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Located just 50 kilometres to the south-west of Zagreb, the town of Karlovac is near enough half way from the capital to the country's most famous national park, Plitvice Lakes. A wondrous place of wooden walkways and tumbling waterfalls, there are many reasons you should go there and even more why you should stop off in Karlovac on the way. The town celebrates its 440 birthday this year and has a summer full of events on offer for the party. From boat rides and river swimming to free concerts and the award-winning Aquatika (Croatia's only aquarium dedicated to freshwater fish), here are some of the best reasons to visit Karlovac this summer.

Great reasons to visit Karlovac this summer

  • Things to do

Karlovac's oldest event, Saint John's Eve begins at sunset and is an evening celebration prior to the following day's Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. The event here can be traced back at least 240 years and coincides with the traditional pagan celebration of the summer solstice. It is held on both banks of the River Kupa where food, drinks and activities will take place. A fireworks display is one of the best-loved parts of the evening and this year musical entertainment on the night is provided by top Croatian rock band Zabranjeno Pušenje. The event is also the official opening of the Karlovac Summer Stage.

  • Attractions
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Karlovac
Croatia's only aquarium dedicated wholly to freshwater fish, Aquatika is one of Karlovac's very best attractions and a must-see for anyone passing through the city. Croatia has more indigenous freshwater fish species than any other country in the continent of Europe, with over 150 species living in its many freshwater rivers. Aquatika tells you the story of them all, the exhibitions, huge tanks and (sometimes) huge fish layered over three floors. The upper floors correspond to the cold waters of river sources and the fish that dwell there. As you descend, you follow the paths of the rivers until eventually, you arrive at the species who live at the river mouths, where the freshwater meets the sea. Tours, texts and info is presented in various languages, welcoming all and the aquarium has won awards for its disabled access and for its architecture, which sees the ultra-modern building lie beneath a grass-covered roof. There is a gift shop with lots of cute, locally-sourced souvenirs, a cafe, a central square which holds events and a beautifully constructed trail through the nearby nature, including a riverside beach which is one of the city's best spots for swimming.
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Karlovac Hot Air Ballon Festival
  • Things to do

The second largest hot air balloon event in Croatia sees the skies above the city prettily decorated with colourful blimps. For three days they will appear above Karlovac, offering rides to those who book in advance. One of the most spectacular aspects of the event are the evening shows, in which the balloons take to the skies after dark, the flames from inside impressively lighting up not only the balloons themselves but also the night sky for miles around. Aside from nighttimes, most of the flight action takes place from very early in the morning. Part of the Karlovac Summer Stage festival of events.

Carmen
  • Music
  • Classical and opera

The stars of the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek make a special visit to perform Bizet’s classic opera the Dom OS RH Zrinski. One of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the classical canon, this controversial and unflinching tale tells of the downfall of proletariat soldier Don José, whose life falls apart after he falls in love with the passionate gipsy Carmen.

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Karlovac Summer Stage
  • Things to do

Karlovac's traditional summer of outdoor events goes all out this year in response to the city's special 440 anniversary. This three weeks of festivities incorporate events of all kinds, for people of all ages and interests. There are outdoor picnics, face-painting for children, folklore events with costumed dancers, art events, theatre performances and it will also incorporate the spectacular theatrics of the Hot Air Balloon Festival. There's a ton of incredible musical performances to look forward too as well, from classical concerts and opera to acoustic groups, an appreciation of African and African-American music, some of Croatia's top pop and rock stars (from established icons to some of the most exciting new names on the scene), traditional sounds like Tamburica and choral performances. Events take place across the city in venues like Šanac, the Music Pavillion, Aquatika, the Katzler Pavillion, outside and inside venues like the City Museum and GK Zorin Dom, the city centre square Trg bana Josipa Jelačića and nearby Radićeva street.

Karlovac Grain Boat
  • Things to do
10 years in the making, this exact replica of a 25-metre long wooden cargo ship retraces some of the route on the river Kupa once used to carry grains, spices, wood and salt from as far away as Romania, through Serbia and Bosnia and into Croatia during the 18th and 19th century. Karlovac was an inland port since Roman times and in the times when boats like this were a common sight on the river, pulled by horses or convicts, goods would arrive in the city to then be taken to coastal areas by horse and cart. Today, this boat offers a guided tour of the river Kupa and is led by engaging staff who can tell you the history of the grain route, the boat itself and the points of architectural and historical importance you pass along the way, such as World War II bunkers, ancient fortifications and Roman remnants. Mostly, though, it's a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature in an area sometimes known as the Valley of butterflies (there are over 400 different kinds here). Also visible are many water birds, such as swans and storks, kingfishers and even the odd white-tailed eagle. The boat sets sail every day at 11 am during its annual season (April – mid November) for a 90-minute journey. Advance booking is essential. Private bookings for groups are also available at alternate times, including a 3-hour journey option which takes in waterfalls, a sunken Roman boat and the option to swim and dive in the river. All tours come with complimentary food including dry, cured meats, chee
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  • Music

Bosnian musician Edin Karamazov is best known internationally as one of the finest lutenists in the world and has collaborated with the likes of the Hesperion XX, L'Arpeggiata, Hilliard Ensemble, Mala Punica, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra ensembles as well as singers like Andreas Scholl, Maria Cristina Kiehr, Arianna Savall and Sting, with whom he recorded a full album of lute-led folk music from the 16th century called 'Songs from the Labyrinth'. At this free outdoor performance, Karamazov will perform songs by the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach, Steve Reich and giant of contemporary Cuban music, Leo Brouwer, on acoustic and electric guitars.

  • Attractions
Known as the old town of Dubovac, this 13th century fortress was the first major settlement building in the Karlovac area, existing at the time as one of a series of defensive fortresses defending this area of strategic importance. Located just outside the city, 185 metres above sea level, the castle now looks down on its neighbouring sibling and the river Kupa it one defended. This fortress, though not huge, is one of the best-preserved examples of feudal architecture in Croatia. It has a permanent museum, located within the main tower, which tells its history, details of its importance and its ownership. One of its best features is a fascinating map of the ancient terrain detailing all of the other castles and fortresses that once existing in the region along the same defensive line. At the top of the tower, there are incredible views to be had. The castle is now also occupied by a quite brilliant restaurant and also hosts concerts, functions, parties and other cultural, social and music events.
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  • Things to do

This colourful and enlightening event sees folklore societies of Croatia joined by international counterparts for a week of processions, dance, music and other theatrics. This year, visiting international groups will come from Mexico, South Korea, Ukraine, Guam Island, Ivory Coast and China, each attending the programme's official happenings in traditional costumes. By day, the event looks at traditional folk music instruments of the world and there are plenty of examples of world cuisine to try too, with each of these aspects including interactive workshops and masterclasses. Part of the festival sees screenings of contemporary world cinema including, this year, the south Korean psychological drama 'Burning' (2018) and 'Sin nombre (Nameless)', a 2009 Mexican-American thriller written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Ischariotzcky
  • Music

Formed in Brela, on the Dalmatian coast, Ischariotzcky are without doubt one of Croatia's best and most exciting new pop rock bands. Recent concerts in Zagreb have only added to the rumour that this group are the next big hope for the Croatian music scene and the fact that they sing in English only adds to their viability as an international export. Their widescreen, intelligent and ambitious sound is showcased on debut album 'Recovery', released in 2018. Their extensive line-up includes Joško Klarić (vocals and keyboards), Petra Klarić (vocals), Jure Brekalo (drums), Petra Šošić (vocals and keyboards), Jakov Puharić (guitar), Stipan Popović (acoustic guitar), Ivan Srzić (bass guitar), Borna Augustinović (percussion), Danijel Curić (trumpet), Tea Bašković (trombone) and Valentino Juras. This event occurs as part of the Living Room Festival.

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Ethno Jazz Festival
  • Music
  • Jazz

The International Ethno Jazz Festival presents the best Croatian artists and prominent jazz artists from the world jazz scene. The festival is held in the castle Dubovac, the ancient fortress overlooking the city of Karlovac. The castle provides an excellent ambience and acoustics for the event. This year, headlining artists include Irish singer Mary Coughlan and her trio, who will be drawing on her substantial works of 13 albums and a career of almost 35 years in their performance. They appear on Friday's opening night. On Saturday night, experienced Rijeka-based jazz drummer Branimir Gazdik appears with his quartet. A known name on Croatia's jazz scene, in 2017 Gazdik produced his first solo album, drawing on the help of many musicians he has encountered in his career so far and drawing on the sounds of Latin music, jazz and pop for its fusions. On Sunday, it's the turn of legendary, 79-year-old American multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and bandleader Ralph Towner. Though he started his career as a classically-trained pianist, Towner picked up the guitar in his final years of education and it is for this instrument he is perhaps best known. Throughout his career he has infused world folk musics and all manner of jazz into his compositions and performances. Of particular note is the fact that Towner dislikes using amplification in his performances, preferring instead to rely on the natural acoustics of his instrument and surroundings. There really could be few bette

  • Music
  • Dance and electronic

Located one and a half hours drive (or one hour 45 minutes by train - the best and easiest option for tourists) to the south-west of Zagreb, River Festival is easily within reach of Croatia's capital and is certainly worth the trip. For the last few years it has been one of the best annual events at which to experience Croatia's homegrown underground electronic music talent. Sadly this will be the final edition, occurring over a 12 hour period from 5pm on Saturday until 5pm on Sunday. The event is held in a secluded and beautiful location at the side of the river Mrežnica. Deep house and underground techno come from what is genuinely the best of Croatia's homegrown DJ talent. Take a tent or, like many, just rest beneath the shade of the trees, choosing between swimming in the river or playing games by day, and raving at night. River Festival is noted for being welcoming and friendly. Almost everyone will speak English and by the time you leave you'll know half of the couple hundred strong crowd, including some of Zagreb's best party people.

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  • Music

Eight days of free musical performances taking place outdoors on trg bana Josipa Jelačića between the hours of 5pm and midnight. There are at least two shows each and every night with highlights including Koprivnica ethno-punk band Ogenj (July 7), Techno Vikings, a group featuring four saxophonists and a drummer playing rearranged versions of electronic music classics (July 9), the Croatian Pink Floyd Show (July 11), plus popular Croatian bands Buđenje and Parni Valjak (July 12).

33rd Karlovac Days of Beer
  • Things to do
  • Festivals

One of Croatia's oldest beer festivals, Karlovac Days Of Beer is an extended weekend that incorporates much more than just an appreciation of the amber nectar. Although there will be a large range of beers for you to try, with many Croatian and international beer companies represented, there's also a lot of gastronomic delights to sample, plenty of activities and free performances by some of Croatia's biggest musical stars from the worlds of rock, pop and hip hop. This year, performances will take place at venues like Dr. Franje Tuđman promenade, basketball court Šanac, the Edison cinema, Foginovo beach and ŠKR Korana with highlights including Rijeka rock band Jonathan, vintage rock performer Jura Stublić and his band Film, alternative rock bands Kawasaki 3p, Mašinko, Kojoti, Pips, Chips & Videoclips, Rijeka's master of rock n' roll revival Neno Belan & Fiumens, Yugoslavia-era legends Prljavo Kazalište and Psihomodo Pop and a full day of hip hop and trap music with some of the biggest names on the Croatian scene including Buntai, Edo Maajka, High5, Tram 11 and Vojko V.

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