Croatia really heats up in July - and we're not just talking about the weather. This midsummer month sees its famous festival scene erupt into action, as well as open-air events in the heart of Croatia's ancient cities and film festivals set under starry skies. Whether you’re seeking festival mania or your island idyll, here's our pick of the best things to do this July.
RECOMMENDED: more great things to do in Croatia.
One of the most respected artists in Spain, this artist was influenced by both abstract art and hyperrealism. The exhibition ‘Joan Miró – Forms of Freedom’ features a clutch of excellent paintings and ceramic works set in the charming Zavičajni (The Heritage Museum of Rovinj) gallery.
Istra Inspirit offers genuine insight into the history, gastronomy, architecture, culture and literature of the fascinating region of Istria with a series of events from June to September. Here you can learn something new and really get under the skin of Istria, whether it’s learning about the dining habits of peasants in Rovinj, witch-hunts in Svetvincent, or the legend of pirate captain Henry Morgan and what bought him to Dvigrad.
A more grown-up affair than the get-rinsed-and-repeat dance festivals, Obonjan (pronounced oh-bon-yan) takes a holistic approach to the art of partying. A self-styled Adriatic Shangri-La, its ten-week programme is curated by artists, labels and cultural institutions – and music isn’t necessarily centre-stage. Fully embracing its ‘boutique’ label, the wellbeing workshops and gastronomy are talked up as much as the music is. Events aren’t ticketed, instead punters book from a range of fancy accommodation packages, sleeping under the stars in a bell-tent or plush forest-lodge. Electric Elephant relocated here after many a happy year at the Garden site. One of the more chilled-out Croatian festivals, DJs throw around house, tech, balearic, disco and funk beats over five sun-kissed days in July. The legendary compilation series Late Night Tales takes over for a session in August, and Gilles Peterson curates three days of globe-spinning beats at the end of the season. If you can’t afford the pricy accommodation packages, much of the festival’s music programme is live-streamed on the net. But if you’ve got the cash, Obonjan is an island idyll, and the perfect place to turn up, tune in and bliss out.
From Spring until early Autumn, history consumes Zagreb. Zagreb Time Machine sees the city celebrate its heritage, with droves of enthusiasts donning fancy dress and performing in the street. Walking through the Upper Town, you might encounter Marija Juric Zagorka – the first female journalist in Croatia – or the poet Antun Gustav Matos. A newsboy will update you on local events, while the city guard will oversee your security. In the Zrinjevac park pavilion, in the centre of town, you’ll hear the strains of waltzes and tangos. A brilliantly, quirky way of bringing history to life.
The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is an institution and is now in its 67th year. Once again, stunning performances will take place at venues around the city, including but not limited to classical concerts by prominent orchestras, plays by domestic and foreign directors and award-winning films screened under the open sky.
Split’s Old Town is the stage for a month of drama, opera, ballet and music performances at one of the oldest performing arts festivals in Croatia. There are usually several premieres in all genres, plus visiting productions, both national and international. What this festival makes really attractive are the open-air events. One of the most popular are the operas at Peristil, the central square of the Diocletian's Palace, especially Aida. After all, where else is it possible to see Verdi’s famous opera with a real ancient Egyptian sphinx as part of the set? In earlier years, there were much more stages around the city, but these days so many squares are occupied with bars and restaurants as tourism booms. Still, concerts and drama in Ivan Mestrovic's Kaštelet or ballet at Sustipan are always a special experience. Tickets are available online, and moving from one festival spot to another is a sinch.
Kerri Chandler, David Rodigan, Dennis Ferrer, Louie Vega and David Morales and many more. Suncebeat ‘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. Celebrating its eighth edition, this year’s bill reads like a fraternity of hip-hop, house and techno legends: Kerri Chandler, David Rodigan, Dennis Ferrer, Louie Vega and David Morales.
The ecologically orientated, trance-heavy Momento Demento is held in the blissfully verdant Primišlje – a hop away from Plitvice Lakes National Park. True to its hippyish nature, it’s all set in a forest – so festival goers can lose touch with reality amidst the trees and natural pools of water.
An international movie event and five-day party all in one, the Motovun Film Festival is held in a beautiful Venetian town, 270m above sea level in Istria. International and ex-Yu films are screened at a number of pop-up cinemas both indoors and out; screenings take place from early morning until around 2am. Directors from around the world compete for the prestigious Propeler Award, and interactive events involving film experts and staff take place around Motovun for those wishing for a little in-depth insight. Recent developments have seen the town council mark certain areas of this historic town as off-limits to partygoers at night, owing to enthusiastic drinking post-film. Parts of the festival will also take place at the nearby town of Buzet.
Laura Mvula, The Pharcyde, Roy Ayers, Gilles Peterson, GoGo Penguin, Roni Size and many more Taking place once again at the legendary Garden site in Tisno, Soundwave is a boutique festival celebrating its 9th season 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, hip-hop, reggae, soul, jazz and drum and bass and house are given equal attention here. This year’s line-up has some huge names, including Laura Mvulva, Roy Ayers, The Pharcyde, Roni Size and Gilles Peterson, interspersed with leftfield DJs and live acts. It's an easy hop by boat to the nearby Kornati islands, a short walk to the pretty fishing village of Tisno and the beach itself is clean, the water cool and clear.