Monday 18 July 2016

Not-to-be-missed summer festivals in Istria

One of the best things about summer in Istria is all the festivals happening during the summer throughout the peninsula. Not only is there a variety of different cultural events on offer, but many of these festivals offer the opportunity to experience them in truly unique settings. So far this summer I had the chance to watch a film under the stars in Pula's Roman amphitheatre at the 63rd Pula Film Festival, and attend an open-air concert in a park during the TradInEtno festival of world music in Pazin. Both festivals wrapped up last weekend, but there are plenty more cultural events happening in the weeks to come. Here are a few not-to-be-missed events:

Labin Art Republika

When: July 2 to August 31, 2016

Where: Labin

Photo credit: Labin Art Republika

This two-month long festival is hosted by the city of Labin, one of Istria's many charming hilltop towns. This is probably the longest and the most eclectic festival, running all summer long, and featuring a variety of events, most of which happen in the open air. This includes live music, a jazz festival, documentary films, theatre, dance, plays for children, stand-up comedy, art exhibitions, and night walking tours of the old town. The full programme of events is available on the Labin Art Republika website.  

Jazz is back! 

When: July 12 to 30, 2016

Where: Grožnjan

Photo credit: Colours of Istria

Even if you you're not a fan of jazz, you should definitely go to Grožnjan during this annual summer festival. Grožnjan is high on my list of favourite Istrian hilltop destinations, and this delightful village of cobbled lanes and stone houses has a magical atmosphere during this festival. Come early so you can enjoy a drink while watching the sunset over the hills at Kaya, and wander through the maze of narrow streets to the sounds of jazz, while having a peek inside the many art galleries on the way. You can see the full programme here.  

Ulysses Theatre

When: July 18 to 28 August, 2016

Where: Brijuni Islands

This unique open-air theatre runs its season for six weeks on the islands of Brijuni, which are easily reached by ferry from the port town of Fažana. The ferry ride is included in the performance ticket price, and is a novel way to start the evening. This summer, the highlight of the 2016 season is the commemoration of 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, with the staging of King Lear and Richard III. Richard III is produced by Almeida Theatre and directed by Rupert Goold, with Ralph Fiennes starring as Richard III and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret. Tickets will sell out fast for this one, so be sure to book here!

Festival of dance and non-verbal theatre

When: July 22 to 25, 2016

Where: Svetvinčenat

Photo credit: Festival of dance and non-verbal theatre

Svetvinčenat (also known as Savičenta) is not located on a hilltop, but this town in central Istria has a special atmosphere. It has an impressive 16th century church on a picturesque square with an old public well, and the town is dominated by the 13th century Grimani castle. The performances take place on the square itself, in the loggia, and in the unique setting of the castle. There are also plenty of little cafes, and a couple of pizzerias, for a pre- or post-performance drink or bite. You can check out what's happening at this festival of dance and non-verbal theatre on its website.  

Motovun Film Festival

When: July 26 to 30, 2016

Where: Motovun

Photo credit: Motovun Film Festival

Motovun is, yes – located on a hilltop, and is one of Istria's best-known, and most photographed towns. It also gets many tourists during the summer, but this doesn't mean it is not worth a visit. The best time to visit is in the early morning – or during this festival, one of Croatia's best-known film festivals. Some of the screenings take place in the open air on the town's scenic squares. To find out which films will be featured this year, visit the Motovun Film Festival website. 

Last Minute Open Jazz Festival

When: August 1 to 4, 2016

Where: Bale 

This festival is in its 10th year and is an initiative of Kamene Priče, a local tavern/bar in the pretty medieval town of Bale. This is another place where you'd want to come early to have time to explore its narrow lanes and old stone houses. The concerts take place outdoors on a charming square in front of the town's castle. The programme is available at this link.  

Enjoy the summer!


  1. Legendfest, festival of myths, legends and tales, turns eleven this year!


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