A Country Infused With Culture: UNESCO Intangible Heritage of

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, started assembling the Intangible heritage list in 2008. Since then 314 elements have been inscribed on the Representative list and the list keeps developing. In 1979, UNESCO first recognized the abundance of world heritage sites in Croatia, preserving and protecting Diocletian’s Palace in Split and Old city of Dubrovnik. Croatia is proud of its intangible heritage as well, entering the Representative list of jaw dropping 14 times. Croatians are a cheerful nation that likes to sing and dance, so it is no surprise that most of these intangible heritages include traditional Croatian type of singing.

1   Lacemaking in Croatia

UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Croatia | Total Croatia

Lacemaking in Croatia is a tradition dating back to the Renaissance when lacemaking began spreading throughout the Mediterranean and continental Europe. Croatian lace has become eminent for its unique patterns and designs. There are three lacemaking centers in Croatia but the most prominent is island of Pag where the school has been opened to keep the traditional lacemaking alive.

2   Two part singing and playing in Istrian scale

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Istrian scale refers both to a distinct musical scale and the Istrian and Kvarnerian folk music genres, which use the scale. It was named after the Istrian peninsula. Genres include kanat and tarankanje; techniques include nasal tone, variation and improvisation, and resolution to the unison or octave.

3   Becarac, singing and playing from Eastern Croatia

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Becarac is a humorous form of folk singing, originally from rural Slavonia. The root of the word comes from becar, meaning “bachelor”, “reveler” or “carouser”. Becarci are always teasing, mocking and/or lascivious, and are usually sung by a male company at village parties. The lyrics are often made up at the spot or improvised and the best ones are spread and reused on later occasions.

4   Procession Za krizen on the island of Hvar

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The Procession is a unique ceremony of a special piety and an expression of a religious and cultural identity of the inhabitants of the middle part of the island of Hvar. It is held in an uninterrupted sequence for five centuries. Every Procession is led by a Cross bearer, carrying a Cross. The Role of the Cross bearer means an immensely big honor on the Island, so that role is determined as much as 20 years in advance.

5   Zvoncari, annual carnival bell ringers’ pageant from the Kastav area

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The characteristic folk custom maintained in the region of Rijeka. The custom dates to pagan antiquity, and remains typical for this region. The primary task of Zvoncari is to scare away evil spirits of winterand to stir up new spring time cycle. During the Rijeka Carnival time Zvoncari march from village to village throughout the region, following the same centuries-old route, making an extraordinary amount of noise, fueled in part by the wine provided by the locals en route.

6   Spring procession of Ljelje/Kraljice (queens) from Gorjani

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The Procession of Queens is a yearly spring ritual performed in the village of Gorjani located in the Slavonia region of Croatia.

7   The festivity of Saint Blaise, the patron of Dubrovnik

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Saint Blaise is the patron saint of the city of Dubrovnik and formerly the protector of the independent Republic of Ragusa. Chroniclers of Dubrovnik attribute his veneration to a vision from 971 AC when he warn the inhabitants of an impending attack by the Venetians, whose galleys had dropped anchor in Gruž and near the island of Lokrum.

8   Nijemo kolo, silent circle dance of the Dalmatian hinterland

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Nijemo Kolo is a silent dance originating from the Dalmatian hinterland in southern Croatia. Nijemo Kolo is performed by a group forming a closed circle, with the men leading their female partners in quick, fortuitous steps which are often vigorous and daunting. The most noticeable aspect of the dance is that it performed entirely without music.

9   Traditional manufacturing of children’s wooden toys in Hrvatsko zagorje, continental Croatia

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The whistles, horses, cars, tiny furniture, spinning dancers, jumping horses and flapping birds produced today are almost identical to those made more than a century ago – though no two toys are precisely the same, thanks to the handcrafted production process. Popular among both locals and tourists, these toys are sold in parish fairs, markets and specialty shops around the world.

10   The Mediterranean diet

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The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat and non-fish meat products. In 2010 Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco were the first to be recognized, but on December 4, 2013, Portugal, Cyprus and Croatia were added to the list.

11   Gingerbread craft from northern Croatia (Licitar)

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These colorfully decorated heart shaped biscuits made of sweet honey dough are part of Croatia’s cultural heritage and a traditional symbol of Zagreb. They are used as an ornamental gift, often given at celebrations of love such as weddings and St. Valentine’s Day. At Christmas time, the city of Zagreb and the Christmas tree in the main square in particular are festooned with thousands of licitar hearts.

12   Ojkanje singing

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Ojkanje is a tradition of polyphonic folk singing in the Dinaric area including the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit, Lika, Kordun, and Karlovac in Croatia. As described in The Harvard Dictionary of Music (2003): “The ojkanje is a peculiar style of singing melisma with a sharp and prolonged shaking of the voice on the syllables oj or hoj. The singing style is marked by a distinctive voice-shaking technique where the singer utilizes an archaic form of singing from the throat.

13   The Sinjska alka, a knights’ tournament in Sinj

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Equestrian competition in which various horsemen attempt to aim their lances at a hanging metal ring (alka) at full gallop is an annual celebration commemorating the victory over Ottoman Turks. Only men born in the city of Sinj and surrounding villages can take part in the Alka and it is considered a great privilege to participate in the tournament. The duke of Alka is a ceremonial title representing the commander of the alkars. It is a great honor to become the alkar duke, and only the most notable men from the area become one.

14   Klapa multipart singing of Dalmatia, southern Croatia

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Klapa is traditional a cappella singing with motifs that celebrate love, wine (grapes), country (homeland) and sea. Main elements of the music are harmony and melody, with rhythm very rarely being important. Many young people from Dalmatia treasure klapa and sing it regularly when going out eating or drinking. It is not unusual to hear amateur klapa singing on the streets in the evenings over some food and wine.


Croatia will most certainly continue to impress UNESCO and the world with its yet undiscovered rich historic heritage and noteworthy customs and monuments. When visiting Croatia we dare you to cross at least one entry from this list as seen.


Photo Credit: Croatia Tourist Board