Croatia is a diverse country of 100 islands, gorgeous beaches, romantic historical cities, and breathtaking national parks. And deciding where to go on your first trip to Croatia is easy at all. We picked some of the best places you shouldn’t miss.
Zagreb is an inspiring historic site, but at the same time, a dynamic cosmopolitan city with affection for fashion and design. Exuberant and hospitable, Zagreb attracts people from Croatia and Europe to its famous street events. Great music, tasteful street food, artistic decorations, and a good mood made Zagreb events a popular destination for a nice city break.
Upper Town is a historic heart of Zagreb, with medieval monuments, narrow cobblestone streets, and a remains from the glorious Austrian empire era. Some of the most prominent Upper Town sights are Lotršćak tower, St. Catherine’s baroque church, relaxing Strossmayer promenade overlooking the rooftops of Lower town and a Saint Mark’s Church, famous for its roof representing the coat of arms of the Tripartite Kingdom (Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia).
On the Kaptol hill are a Zagreb Cathedral, an impressive gothic building, and an important part of Zagreb’s cultural heritage.
Tkalčićeva Street, in the very heart of the city, is home to many amazing restaurants, pleasant coffee bars and is a fantastic place for a relaxing stroll.
During summers, a good spot to hang out in is the Jarun Lake, which is host to a lot of activities during peak tourist season. You can go rowing, kayaking, cycling, and skateboarding, or running. And when you’ve had enough of sports, take some time to sit in one of the numerous bars around the lake. Join Croatians in coffee drinking ritual and relaxed mingling to experience the authentic Zagreb lifestyle.
Walk Plitvice Lakes National Park
Halfway between Split and Zagreb is the most exciting place of Croatian hinterland – National Park Plitvice Lake, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many visitors think that its 16 lakes interconnected with about 90 spectacular waterfalls and framed by lush greenery might be the most beautiful place in the world. And we couldn’t agree more.
Plitvice offers a delightful walk along 18 km of beautiful wooden footbridges and pathways. The lakes are known for their unique colors that range from green to azure blue.
The National Park goes beyond beautiful cascading lakes. It occupies an area of 30,000 hectares, covered by beech, fir, and spruce forest. Deers, bears, wolves, boars, and numerous rare bird species live in this well-preserved piece of biodiversity heaven. An average tour lasts between 2 to 8 hours.
Swim under the waterfall in Krka National Park
If you liked the waterfalls in Plitvice National Park, then you will fall head over heels for the Krka National Park – its lush greenery, tranquil lakes, stunning canyon, powerful waterfalls, and cultural sites.
The most appealing waterfall in the park, Skradinski Buk. It consists of nearly 20 different waterfalls and is almost a half-mile long. Swimming beneath Skradinski Buk, in the clear crystalline pool, is a beautiful experience. Apart from the waterfalls, Krka National Park enchants with 14th-century fortress located on the Krka River, and the dreamlike island monastery of Visovac. The National Park is home to 850 types of plants and over 200 species of birds.
Krka attracts nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, and offers an exciting day for a trip from Dalmatian cities.
The small town of Skradin on Krka is famous for Skradinski Risotto, a creamy, delightful dish, traditionally made by men in a huge pot over an open fire for 12 hours. Konoba Cantinetta offers one of the best Skradin risottos, according to a famous Anthony Bourdain.
Go Fancy in Hvar Island
Hvar is considered one of the top 10 beautiful islands in the world, and it has more Intangible UNESCO Heritage than any other island in the world. Add to that the title of the sunniest place in Europe, stunning beaches, lavender fields and charming ancient towns – and you will understand why so many people choose Hvar as their favorite summer destination.
Hvar is a fantastic beach destination, but also a calming place of sophisticated hedonism, shaped by the cultural influence of Venice, the Austrian Empire, and the authentic Dalmatia. Architecture buffs will be delighted by the town’s castle Fortress, Croatian theater and Arsenal, Franciscan monastery, Benedictine monastery, UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage of Stari Grad Plain and the picturesque white-stone houses and streets of Hvar’s villages and towns.
Very nice thing to see here is a subtle agave lace made by Hvar’s Benedictine nuns, UNESCO Intangible Heritage.
And finally, you must experience – klapa singing, listed as UNESCO Intangible Heritage. Listening to the beautiful klapa songs, surrounded by the renaissance architecture of Hvar, will touch your soul to its deepest parts.
Go beach hunting to Vis Island and Stiniva Beach
The farthest inhabited island from the Croatian mainland, where Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again movie was filmed, has one of the best beaches in Europe, the Stiniva beach. In 2016. Stiniva was named the top beach in Europe for 2016 by the Brussels-based tourism organization European Best Destinations.
Narrow streets of the town of Vis are lined with small red-roofed houses; the boats gently sway on a shimmering sea, fishers drink wine and play cards on quaint squares – more relaxing and romantic place is barely even imaginable.
Yet, although Vis might be stuck in the past with its architecture and slow-paced life – its gastronomy scene is up-to-date, vibrant, and incredibly rich. Here you can enjoy the most delicious seafood imaginable. Lobsters, squids, cuttlefish, octopus, and scamp, seashells prepared in Vis restaurants are top-notch gastronomy delights.
Walk the Old City of Dubrovnik
Renaissance harmony, a medieval mystic and fantasy-like Game of Thrones vibe – the city of Dubrovnik is bursting with good energy and unbelievably lots of things to see and do. The Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is considered the most beautiful Croatian town and is among the most famous tourist sites in Europe.
Best sights in Dubrovnik are city walls, The Pile Gate, a stone gate entrance to the Old Town, and a 17th-century Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, with beautiful altars and Titian’s paintings. Rector’s Palace is a fascinating mix of gothic and renaissance architecture, built in the 15th century. Main street, Stradun, lined with historic buildings, is one of the most beautiful sights in Dubrovnik.
Elafiti archipelago one day cruise is a great way to experience the authentic life of old Dubrovnik aristocrats who used to enjoy their free time on idyllic islands.
One of Dubrovnik’s most popular summer activities is a sea kayaking tour around the Dubrovnik City Walls. The city’s impressive and invincible fortress looks impressive from a kayak softly gliding through the calm and sleepy sea at sunset.
Meet Diocletian in Split
Split is the second biggest city in Croatia and often referred to as “The most beautiful city in the world” and “Mediterranean flower.” It doesn’t take too much time to find out the origin of Split’s nicknames.
The heart of Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian palace. Although it was built in Roman times, it is still a place where people live, do business and hang around. Narrow streets of the castle are filled with unsurpassable charm and beauty.
Diocletian Palace is an ancient yet vivacious and pulsating heart of the city, which is very uncommon.
Below the Palace is Riva, palm-lined seafront promenade, world-famous for its beauty, lovely historic buildings, and zen-inducing overlook at the Adriatic sea.
Split is an ideal place to enjoy a day at leisure. Sipping a drink on Riva, enjoying the palms shade and mesmerising sun reflection on a perfectly blue sea has a flair of Dalmatian fjaka – the art of enjoying the moments of relaxation and calmness.
Visit Marco Polo Island – Korčula Island
The beautiful island of Korčula is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic Sea. Still a bit wild and untouched by globalization, Korčula provides a lot of opportunities to enjoy ravishing nature and rich cultural heritage. Mesmerizing vineyards and olive groves around small villages radiate with a slow-paced rhythm of old-times Mediterranean.
Korčula town, medieval walled Dalmatia city, shares the part of the history and architectural style. It resembles a miniature Dubrovnik. Marble streets, defensive walls, red-roofed stone houses, and their fishbone street structure are packed with heroic history and inspiring century of culture.
Korčula town is surrounded by crystal clear sea and pleasant beaches, inviting for a pleasant swim.
After you’ve visited Croatia for the first time, you will get the idea what a trove of treasure it is. Even after a week or two packed with stunning places, fantastic heritage, and delicious food – there is so much left to be explored and enjoyed. Croatia is a destination to be visited over and over again.