Located in the Balkans, Croatia has become one of Europa’s top tourist destination again since its War of Independence in the late 1990s. Like much of Europe, Croatia boasts its share of medieval cities and historic ruins, but what makes this country exceptional is its wealth of stunning natural attractions such as the Plitvice Lakes, the spectacular Adriatic coastlines and gorgeous islands.
Dubrovnik, is the darling of Croatia’s tourism scene, thanks to a scenic, medieval-era old town jutting out into the water itself. Further north along the coast is Split, famous as the spot where Roman emperor Diocletian built himself a nice little palace almost 1,700 years ago. Further inland, you’ll find the capital Zagreb, with its neoclassical buildings and hiking opportunities at the beautiful Krka National Park. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Croatia:
Located in Central Dalmatia of Croatia, the Krka National Park is a protected area of spectacular natural scenery, wildlife and historic sites. Situated along the Krka River within Sibinik-Knin County, the national park is best known for its numerous gushing waterfalls and natural pools of clear, blue-green waters.
Easily reached by car and bus from Split to Sibinik, the national park offers well-maintained walkways and boat excursions for getting around. The most popular attraction of the park is the network of cascading waterfalls. The most admired of these are Skradinski buk and Roški Slap. Many trails lead right around the waterfalls, presenting fabulous photo opportunities. Some of the falls plunge into natural pools, which are available for swimming. In addition to the waterfalls, the surrounding scenery of lush vegetation, flowers and glimpses of wildlife such as birds and dragonflies enhance the beauty of the park.
Also within the park are other places of interest such as historic monasteries and archaeological sites of Roman settlements and medieval fortresses. What’s more, there are plenty of tourist facilities such as museums, picnic areas and restaurants.
9. Zagreb Find Hotels
The capital and largest city of Croatia, Zagreb is a vibrant metropolis packed with both historic and modern attractions. Located in northwestern Croatia, the city dates back to the 2nd century AD when a diocese was first established by Hungarian King Ladislaus. Today, Zargreb is a sprawling cosmopolitan city and the heart of Croatian culture, academics and government.
The city is divided into an Upper and Lower Town, with Upper Town being the historic core where tourists can walk down cobblestone streets and visit old, medieval churches, towers and palaces.
Some of the city’s most important sites include the Stone Gate with a painting of the Virgin Mary, which survived a major fire in 1731. Ban Jelacic Square is the city’s main square and is the setting of historic architecture and restaurants. The traditional open-air market, Dolac Market, features many stalls selling fresh produce, clothing and local handicrafts. Along the Strossmayer’s Walkway, tourists can see artists, musicians and other street performers.
Read more: Top Zagreb Attractions
8. Korcula Find Hotels
Best known as the alleged birthplace of the famous merchant traveler, Marco Polo, Korcula is a 30-mile (50 km) island located off Croatia’s Adriatic Coast. Easily reached by ferries from major Croatian cities, Split and Dubrovnik, Korucla is steeped in picturesque landscapes, quaint towns, rich history and enchanting traditions.
Korcula is comprised of lush green forests, vineyards, olive groves and charming villages such as Blato, known for its baroque churches and long boulevard of lime trees, shops, restaurants and hotels. Popular for its sandy white beaches, Lambarda also features several archaeological remains of Greek and Roman settlements. The island’s main town, Korucla Town, is a historic, walled town with Venetian Renaissance architecture, colorful markets and plenty of tourist facilities.
Unique to Korcula are its lively cultural traditions and festivals that have been practiced for centuries. Most famous of these is the Kumpanija ritual involving chivalry dances and mock medieval battles with real swords. Another of the island’s popular events is the Marco Polo Fest, a pop music celebration held in honor of the historic explorer.
Korcula’s cuisine is among its top attractions. While there is a variety of international restaurants located throughout the island, the local staples of lamb, cured ham and fresh seafood grilled with olive oil and parsley should be experienced. Also not to be missed are the island’s indigenous wines, Posip and Rukatac.
7. Pula Where to Stay in Pula
Located at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, Pula is a popular destination that has been attracting tourists as far back as ancient Roman times when fans flocked the city’s amphitheater to watch gladiator fights. Having been ruled by various government powers over the centuries, Pula today belongs to Croatia, and is best known for its wealth of Roman ruins and mix of cultures.
Pula is a vibrant city offering plenty to see and do. The city’s star attraction is the 1st century Roman amphitheater. Known as the Arena, the amphitheater is one of the largest and best-preserved of its kind in the world. Every July, the Arena is host to the Pula Film Festival. Other significant historic structures include the old city gates, arches, monasteries, a Byzantine chapel, a Venetian fortress and the Forum, the city’s main square, which is surrounded by Roman architecture and temples.
Pula’s natural beauty of rolling countryside and sun-kissed beaches offer outdoor fun and adventure. The nearby Brijuni National Park and farming villages are teeming in the ruins of Roman settlements, while the turquoise coastal waters and sandy beaches offer fishing, sailing, swimming, snorkeling and diving among ancient vessels and World War I warships.
6. Zadar Where to Stay in Zadar
A three thousand-year old city situated on a beautiful coastline rich in history is sure to draw tourists. Such a city is Zadar, located on Croatia’s northern Dalmatian Coast. Zadar could be called the ideal tourist getaway because it offers plenty to see and do without all the crowds of other popular destinations.
At the heart of the city is its Old Town, which can be explored by foot. The historic district offers fantastic sightseeing attractions including Roman ruins, medieval architecture and numerous old churches. Some of the city’s most popular sites are the Roman Forum, the circular St. Donat’s Church, 12th century St. Anastasia Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum and the University of Zadar, which is one of the oldest in Europe.
Besides the Old Town, tourists will find a string of beautiful beaches all along Zadar’s coastline where they can sunbathe, swim and enjoy a variety of water sports. Two unique attractions that are not to be missed in Zadar are the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation, man-made marvels that use nature to create impressive light and sound experiences. Situated on Zadar’s beautiful seaside promenade, the Sea Organ allows the sea to make its own music as waves push air through 35 underground pipes. After absorbing energy from the sun all day, the Sun Salutation produces a colorful light show at night.
Read more: Top Zadar Attractions
5. Rovinj Where to Stay in Rovinj
It may appear to be a quiet fishing village on the surface, but Rovinj’s old world charm and surrounding natural beauty make it a leading tourist destination. Located on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, Rovinj is an archipelago of 20 islands with its Old Town set on a small peninsula. Historic sites, beautiful landscapes, fabulous dining and modern tourist facilities are just some of Rovinj’s many treasures.
Narrow streets of cobblestone, stairways, arches and other interesting architecture make the Old Town a sightseeing adventure. Some of the Old Town’s historic gems include seven medieval city gates, the 12th century town clock, the Balbi Arch and St. Euphemia’s Basilica, an imposing baroque church packed with many stunning art works. Also worth seeing are the Valdibora Farmer’s Market, the scenic harbor, Carrera Street with its many shops and art galleries, and Grisia Street, which is lined with artists and souvenir vendors.
Outside the Old Town, Rovinj is surrounded by spectacular landscapes that provide plenty of outdoor recreation. Rovinj’s beaches are regarded as some of Croatia’s most beautiful. The calm coves present excellent opportunities for swimming and scuba diving, while the outlying islands offer scenic wonders like pristine forests, the Lim Fjord and the Zlatni Rt Forest Park where visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, rock climbing and more.
4. Split Find Hotels
Nicknamed the “Mediterranean Flower,” Croatia’s second-largest city, Split, is located on a peninsula off the Dalmatian Coast. Its old Roman architecture and orange-roofed houses create a striking contrast with the turquoise sea and dramatic coastal mountains. Abundant sunshine, impressive sights, dining and nightlife all make Split a popular tourist destination. What’s more, the buzzing city serves as a transportation hub to many of the Adriatic islands.
The city’s main attraction is its historic core of beautiful Gothic and Renaissance architecture of which the Diocletian’s Palace is the crown jewel. Built between 298 and 305 AD, this Roman Emperor palace complex is more like a small city itself with a maze of marble walkways and buildings containing shops, cafes and bars. Inside the palace are many other striking structures like St. Duje’s Cathedral, Jupiter’s Temple, Peristil Square and two original Egyptian sphinx monuments.
Outside the historic center, tourists will find plenty to see and do including strolling along the seaside promenade, shopping at the lively Green Market, swimming at Bacvice beach, hiking and cycling on the scenic Marjan hill and watching football at the Poljud Stadium.
Read more: Top Split Attractions
3. Plitvice National Park Find Hotels
One of the most beautiful natural wonders in Croatia and all of Europe, the Plitvice National Park consists of several breathtaking lakes, waterfalls and lush forest. The park’s most notable features are the 16 interconnecting lakes that are divided into upper and lower clusters. Formed by natural travertine dams, the lakes range in distinct colors from turquoise to blue, green and gray. Visitors can explore the lakes and surrounding area by walking along the assortment of wooden walkways as well as by boat.
2. Hvar Where to Stay in Hvar
One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar is a beautiful Croatian island off the Dalmatian Coast, favored for its landscapes of spectacular beaches, lavender fields and lush vineyards.
Hvar’s main city, Hvar Town, is an attractive city, featuring 13th century walls, marble stone streets, Gothic palaces, stunning churches and an imposing old fortress. The town square is one of Croatia’s largest and most beautiful, surrounded by many historic structures like the 17th century Arsenal and the Cathedral of St. Stephen.
The natural beauty of the island offers outdoor recreation and adventure, from hiking in the cliffs to swimming in the secluded coves and beaches. Boat rentals and tours are available for those wishing to explore the nearby Pakleni Islands. Archaeological sites on the island offer views of ancient artifacts and insight into Hvar’s Neolithic history. Grapceva Cave is well worth visiting to see its interesting formations. The charming villages dotting the lush countryside are great for experiencing the local culture.
Tourists to Hvar will find a large variety of restaurants ranging from Croatian to Mediterranean and European. At night, Hvar Town bursts into activity with parties, bars and night clubs with live music and dancing.
1. Dubrovnik Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the old city of Dubrovnik is one of the prominent tourist destinations of the Mediterranean. Located at the southern tip of Croatia off the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik was established in the 7th century on maritime trade. In spite of constant territorial threats from Venice and the Ottoman Empire, Dubrovnik flourished in the Middle Ages as a center of literature, art, science and education.
With orange rooftop houses sitting in contrast to the blue sky, Dubrovnik presents many sightseeing treasures. The historic district, the Old Town, is stuffed with many historic features such as the old, defensive walls, cobblestone streets, magnificent palaces and stunning churches. A must-see is the 15th century engineering marvel, Onofrio’s Fountain. At night, the Old Town is illuminated, giving it a romantic ambiance.
Just outside the Old Town are popular beaches like Banje and Lapad, which offers sunbathing, swimming and water sports. A ferry ride away is the island, Lokrum, with beaches, a monastery and botanic gardens.
Read more: Top Dubrovnik Attractions
Map of Croatia
Click to enlarge