The weather might have been intimating the fact for a while now, but there’s no denying that midsummer has officially arrived and in Slovakia, this means a season of spectacular festivals. We don’t say this lightly: for a country of just five million people Slovakia’s cultural events pack a whopping great punch. Bratislava and, these days, Košice, are already making their festive clout felt well beyond the borders of Slovakia, but here at Englishman in Slovakia we feel that there are a fair few other celebrations between now and the end of summer you have to know about – and know about in English!
In case you’re new to Slovakia, its unique reach where annual celebrations are concerned is its melding of the best in modern and ancient. Take music for example. I’ve said many times on here that Slovakia’s music scene is formidable – it gets the best of all the big bands performing on tour and for far cheaper prices than almost anywhere else in Europe – but it has also preserved a rich folk culture many other countries have long since dismissed.
Below, then, find the only guide that rounds up Slovakia’s summer extravaganzas from now until autumn (21st September) by region (yes, Bratislava, Western Slovakia, Central/Southern Slovakia, Malá Fatra/Vel’ka Fatra/Orava Valley, High Tatras, Low Tatras, Slovak Paradise and Košice/Eastern Slovakia). Where possible, we’ll also point you in the right direction for getting tickets too…
KONVERGENCIE, JUNE 24TH-SEPTEMBER 24TH
Classical and chamber music performed at various venues around the city – but with a youthful, innovative vibe.
You may also want to read: Our section on entertainment venues in Bratislava.
MALÁ FATRA/VEL’KA FATRA…
FEST ANČA, ŽILINA, JUNE 29TH-JULY 2ND
Europe’s leading animated film fest, held in the cool arts venue of Stanica in hip Žilina.
Get Tickets: Go to the festival website to get tickets or contact them about buying them on the day.
You may also want to read: Žilina: Artsy Gateway to Malá Fatra
VYCHODNÁ FOLK FESTIVAL, VYCHODNÁ, JUNE 29TH-JULY 2ND
The little village of Vychodná hosts Slovakia’s most famous folk festival – a great introduction to the fabulous folk music that has been produced in this mountainous region for centuries.
You may also want to read: Seeing as one of Slovakia’s best long-distance hikes begins or ends in nearby Pribylina, try Hiking the Tatranská Magistrala, Stage 4: Horský Hotel Popradské Pleso to Pribylina (includes links also to all other stages)
SUMMER SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, JULY 5th-AUGUST 1ST
Now here is a claim to fame: the oldest, largest outdoor festival in the world to focus on performances of the works of William Shakespeare! It offers a good opportunity to get outside in Bratislava in some of the city’s gorgeous alfresco settings. Performances, held in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of Bratislava Castle, are in Slovak and English.
Get Tickets: Very necessary – this is a popular series of events. The problem is that the website is in Slovak only. However, Shakespeare’s play titles are quite easily recognisable. Hamlet, for example, is ‘Hamlet’ in Slovak too.
You may also want to read: Where to Get High in Bratislava
BEEFREE FESTIVAL, JULY 28TH-JULY 29TH
Edition number 19 of the classic dance music festival across two stages: the city’s ‘beach’ alongside the Danube and at exhibition centre Incheba. House, drum & bass – take your pick.
Get Tickets: It’s free – just turn up. There is an FB page.
POHODA, TRENČIN, JULY 6TH-JULY 8TH
It’s testament to Pohoda’s success that there’s almost no need to introduce what is firmly established as one of Eastern Europe’s main summer music festivals. Everyone who’s anyone in the music world, from Slovakia and elsewhere, and perhaps more importantly, a lot of acts who aren’t so famous yet, have performed here over the years. This time round, acts include Solange (2016’s album of the year) and Jesus and Mary Chain.
Get Tickets: From the festival website.
You may also want to read: Last year was the 20th edition of Pohoda: read Thoughts and Pictures from the 20th Edition of the Festival.
BECKOV CASTLE EVENTS, BECKOV, JULY & AUGUST
A fair few castles act as dramatic backdrops to festivals in Slovakia but our favourite this summer is the castle of Beckov near Trenčin. For medieval-themed frolics there is no better venue – weaponry demonstrations, games and even film screenings.
Get Tickets: Find out all about the events on the castle website, although this year’s events are in Slovak only. July 7th/8th hosts a weekend of medieval fun and demonstrations of 12th-century weaponry. Then there is the Cinema on the Wall event at weekends during July ad August, where films are projected on to the castle – contact the castle for more.
You may also want to read: Our article on Beckov Castle
CENTRAL & SOUTHERN SLOVAKIA…
DETVA FOLK FESTIVAL, DETVA, JULY 6TH-JULY 8TH
A folk fest with themed around the fujara (that is Slovakia’s incredibly distinctive national musical instrument, by the way), as befits the region which gave birth to the fujara. The festival is held in the Detva Ampitheatre, Detva being a little town near Banská Bystrica – right at the very heart of the nation, things DO NOT come much more traditional. Lots of events celebrating Slovakia’s shepherding heritage are also part of proceedings: shepherd demonstrations etc.
Get Tickets: Just turn up. There is a list of events scheduled on the municipality website but booking might be tough as English is not spoken much this far out in the sticks. Pass through here on the days in question, however, and you’ll get to experience one of the most authentic of Slovak folk festivals – even the folk extravaganza at Vychodná will seem mainstream by comparison!
You may also want to read: 39km northwest of Detva is Banská Bystrica, with some fabulous quirky Communist sights.
LIVE CHESS FESTIVAL, BANSKÁ ŠTIAVNICA, JULY 8TH-JULY 16TH
Chess was never more fun! The highlight of this festival is a live chess tournament on a giant board with costumed characters making the moves. And there was never a better setting for it than ancient Banská Štiavnica, where traditional food, drink and dance accompany the chess side of things, in typical old-fashioned venues around town.
Get Tickets: Best to contact the town’s tourist information office for more information – they are helpful and speak alright English.
You may also want to read: Where to begin? We’ve got tons of content on the lovely old town of Banská Štiavnica
EL’RO (EUROPEAN FOLK CRAFT FESTIVAL), KEŽMAROK, JULY 7TH-JULY 9TH
This is Slovakia’s (and one of Europe’s) most important folk craft festivals. Held under the lofty High Tatras mountains in beautiful Kežmarok, just a short drive from Poprad, this extravaganza features everything from demonstrations of Slovakia’s Unesco-listed musical instrument the fujara to artisans making the quintessential national craft, the cornhusk figures known as Šúpolienky. Oh, and there is huge quantities of traditional food and booze… and music… and general revelry…
Get Tickets: There is more about the festival on the website – for tickets follow the instructions given on this page too (they’re available at the town’s Tourist Information Centre at Hlavné námestie 64.)
You may also want to read: More on typical Slovak crafts (including Šúpolienky of course).
The highlight of August in the city of festivals that is Bratislava is surely this open-to-all paddle adventure from Karloveske Rameno on the western side of Bratislava down to the Danubiana Art Museum to the south-east of the city.
Join In: It’s best to contact the guys at Divoká Voda if you want to participate: watching it is free, almost as much fun… (and drier)
You may also want to read: Our piece on canoeing down the Danube!
TRNAVA JAZZ FEST, TRNAVA, AUGUST 4TH-AUGUST 5TH
Bratislava’s jazz festival is possibly better known, but Trnava sports a great Slovak jazz festival too – and this one’s in summer. It’s held in the singular venue of the town ampitheatre. Funk, soul and ethno music are represented as well as jazz.
Get Tickets: The festival website does not have much information; it’s best to purchase tickets from Trnava Tourist Information Office at Trojičné Námestie 1 .
You may also want to read: A Touch of 1920’s Paris at Cafe Thalmeiner
MALÁ FATRA/VEL’KA FATRA…
JÁNOŠIKOVE DNI (JÁNOŠIK’S DAYS), TERCHOVA, AUGUST 3RD-AUGUST 6TH
One of Slovakia’s better-known festivals, this – although still not really that well-known. Terchová is the main town actually within the Malá Fatra National Park and Juraj Jánošik, who hails from the area, is Slovakia’s folk hero (the country’s very own Robin Hood, and one that actually did exist). This festival is in the outlaw’s name and is a celebration of folklore, theatre and folk and world music.
You may also want to read: Two Short Walks in the Vrátna Valley by Terchova
BARDEJOVSKÝ JARMOK (BARDEJOV FAIR), AUGUST 24TH-AUGUST 27TH
A ‘Jarmok’ roughly translated is a fair – and there are few better chances this summer to experience a classic Eastern Slovak-style fair than this one which sets Bardejov ablaze come the end of August with traditional food stalls and performances. It’s got a drop-dead gorgeous setting (the old town square).
Get Tickets: None needed; just show up in Barejov during these dates!
You may also want to read: Bardejov: Walking the Walls
CRAFTSMEN DAYS, SEPTEMBER 1ST-SEPTEMBER 3RD
Over 100 different craftsmen showcasing traditional handicrafts from Slovakia, run by the wonderful folk craft centre of Úl’uv.
Get Tickets: When you’re in Bratislava, it’s probably best to pop into the centre itself for information (at least one member of staff speaks English and they’re very friendly, see link right below). The website is notoriously unreliable. You can also just turn up! A good one for families, or for those who can’t make it out to the bigger El’ro (in July in the High Tatras, above) with many free ‘interactive’ events.
You may also want to read: About Bratislava’s centre of folk craft production, Úl’uv
INDIAN SUMMER FESTIVAL, LEVOČA, 8TH SEPTEMBER-12TH SEPTEMBER
Wo! The summer is not over yet, as this high-quality festival of classical music in venues around ornate Levoča show.
Get Tickets: The festival has a good in-English website with contact details for further information on getting tickets for performances
You may also want to read: Our feature on the Indian Summer Festival