Explore These Places, Towns & Cities In Croatia

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Explore These Towns & Cities In Croatia

You have to base yourself someplace in Croatia, but where? In this guide of towns and cities in Croatia, I could write for days on all of the best Croatia travel destinations, but then this page would be a million words. Instead, I am listing below some thought-starters for you—some of my favorites, as well as the top cities, to see in Croatia.

Poreč

Things To Do In Porec Istria Croatia

If you’re looking for a small and charming coastal town, which still has plenty to see and do, while also enough to entertain you for an evening, then Poreč is the ideal choice.

Situated on the pretty Istrian coastline, ideally placed to explore further afield, too, Poreč is picturesque while also packed with sightseeing options. It’s a strange combination, but it’s one that works fantastically! It might have lots of modern holiday resorts, but it also has a place for culture lovers. Poreč is not short on historical attractions, and one that will amaze you is the UNESCO Listed Euphrasian Basilica, which dates back to Byzantine times.

Varaždin

Best Castles In Croatia - Croatia, Varazdin castle in the old town

Varaždin is located on the right bank of River Drava in the northwestern part of Croatia and 79 kilometers northeast of Zagreb. This city is a significant tourist center in northern Croatia, and it attracts thousands of visitors every year. Varazdin became prominent in Croatia’s history when it became Croatia’s capital in 1756. It remained Croatia’s capital for only 20 years until the city was destroyed. The city was rebuilt, and today that baroque architecture still stands, making it unique in Croatia.

While there, be sure to attend Spancirfest, the festival that celebrates street theater and performing arts. Of course, wander the old town and admire the historic and well-preserved public buildings and numerous palaces.

The diverse cultural and historical activities offered in the city, its surroundings, and its beautiful countryside are sure to please. Moreover, the urban heart of this great city is well preserved and is often compared to the likes of Vienna.

Zadar

Travel Tips First Time to Croatia - Zadar Croatia Travel Blog

One of the best things to do in Croatia is to visit the historic old towns. One such place that I always recommend is the seaside town of Zadar.

By day, you can drink coffee in the 2,000-year-old Roman forum or wander the narrow streets enjoying locally made ice cream from the parlor Donat Sladoled. Once night falls, you can enjoy the sounds of the Musical Nights Festival, A classical music festival that runs from July to August each year, bringing the 9th-century Saint Donatus Church and Roman Forum to life.

Croatia sightseeing gets no better than the music and lights found along Zadar’s fantastic waterfront promenade. This is all thanks to architect Nikola Basic, who added a fresh dimension to Zadar with his Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun design. Relax by the Sea Organ, day or night, and enjoy the sound of the waves creating music as they push air through 35 underwater pipes.

After enjoying all that Zadar has to offer, stay a few extra nights and make use of the city’s convenient location to take day trips to the national parks. Especially Krka National Park is exceptionally accessible from Zadar. Another awesome thing to do is sailing along the Adriatic Coast. One of our favorite day trips in Zadar is cruising around Kornati Island National Park. And for foodies, we love this Zadar food and wine tour + cooking class. Add it to your list.

Dugi Otok

Sali, Dugi Otok Croatia

Dugi Otok (Long Island) is located west of Zadar in Northern Dalmatia. While the island is easily accessible from Zadar, it doesn’t get hordes of tourists through the summer. So, if you’re looking for more peaceful and quieter things to do in Croatia in August, for example, this island is worth looking into.

Dugi Otok is 45 kilometers long and around 5 kilometers wide and has many ancient sites, beautiful beaches, and bays.

What to do on Dugi Otok:

Omiš

Things to do in Omis Travel Blog | Chasing the Donkey Travel Blog | Scenic

Omiš is a town located 25 kilometers south of Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Positioned at the mouth of the crystal-clear Cetina River, Omiš was once a famous pirate town. Omiš town’s economic prosperity was born from piracy. Omiš had excellent seamen who navigated the Adriatic sea, keeping the city wealthy. The pirates of Omiš were fierce and were known to have fast ships, protecting the city for over 400 years. Now that the pirates are long gone, there are loads of things to do in Omiš. Here are a few:

What to do in Omiš:

  • Adventure sports like canyoning, rock climbing, trekking up Biokovo Mountain or any of the mountains in the area, paragliding.
  • Experience Zip Lining Croatia as we did across the Omiš gorges. Eight wires. 65 km/h set over 150 meters off the ground. That’s what you call heart-racing fun! You’ll love it.
  • Of all the things to do in Omiš, enjoying the foam of the rapids on the Cetina River has to be one of the best ways for a family to spend an active day together. Starting at Penšići and finishing at Radmanove Mlinice, rafting the Cetina 9 km route is a day to remember.
  • Visit Mirabella Fortress and get panoramic views of Omiš.

Zagorje Region

Best Place to Visit in Croatia - Krapina - Chasing the Donkey

The region known as Hrvatsko Zagorje is dotted with castles, thermal springs, vineyards, and not to mention some stunning scenery. The area stretches north of Zagreb all the way to the Slovenian border. Taking a drive through the rolling green hills of Zagorje is an enjoyable experience in itself and be sure to try some traditional Zagorje cuisine.

What to do in Zagorje:

Mljet National Park

THINGS TO DO IN CROATIA - mljet national park

The National Park of Mljet is for those who like a little bit of adventure and stunning scenery. Situated on Mljet Island, the park takes up the entire northwest of the island. Mljet National Park is bordered by two saltwater lakes that are fantastic to swim in as they are a couple of degrees warmer than the sea temperature.

You can also go kayaking, hiking and of course just relax and sunbathe. There is a small island in the middle of the larger Lake (Veliko Jezero), with a former 12th-century Benedictine monastery that is now a café. We rented kayaks and paddled over for a coffee a couple of years back, and that was an excellent experience. If the national park isn’t enough, go and explore the rest of Mljet.

Vis Island

Things to do in Croatia - VIS ISLAND_CROATIA

A couple of years ago, my friends and I sailed to Vis from Hvar and spent a couple of days on the island. Vis Island is a little further out into the Adriatic sea and previously served as a military post, isolating the island from tourism development. Vis Island has two main towns, Vis town in the northeast and Komiza Bay on the island’s western side. If you’re looking for an Adriatic escape without being swamped by tourists, Vis Island is the place for you.

What to do on Vis Island:

  • Explore the labyrinth of old military tunnels. As you travel around the island, you will see caves and concrete entrances in hillsides dotted all over the place. These are the military tunnels. We recommend you get a local guide and take a tour.
  • Go to one of the many beaches on Vis, try Grandovac, Stonćica, or the magnificent Stiniva beach.
  • Visit the Blue Cave on the nearby island of Biševo. While on Biševo, you should stop in at Porat beach for a swim
  • Try some of the local vino. We love Vugava, a local grape variety that has been cultivated for a couple of thousand years.

Pelješac Peninsula

Balkans Travel Itinerary: Peljesac
Balkans Travel Itinerary: Peljesac

Peljesac is a peninsula in southern Croatia, in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, about an hour and a half drive from Dubrovnik. It is around 70 kilometers long and connected to the Croatian Mainland at Ston. If you are staying in Dubrovnik, Peljesac makes a great day trip – this one has been so popular with our readers.

Peljesac is most famous for the excellent Croatian wines that come from the peninsula, particularly Dingač and Postup. Peljesac has an awe-inspiring landscape, all while being almost surrounded by the azure Adriatic. This is arguably one of the most underrated Croatia tourist spots.

What to do in Peljesac

  • Try some oysters, shellfish, and the delicious Croatian cuisine in Ston.
  • Check out the great wall of Ston.
  • Go wine tasting in Dingač and Postup. Most of the vineyards are open for visitors.
  • Go swimming at one of the sandy beaches. Try Trstenica or Prapratno.
  • Visit the town of Orebic.

Brijuni Islands National Park

Aerial view of Brijuni Islands

The Brijuni Archipelago National Park is made up of 14 islands, including Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun. The Brijuni Islands were made famous by Tito, the Yugoslavian leader who made them into his own personal summer retreat. Tito would entertain heads of state and movie stars alike at Bijle Villa (white house) on Veliki Brijun. These days, however, anyone can visit Veliki Brijun and explore the island.

What to do on the Brijuni Islands

  • Go to the Safari Park and see some animals that are exotic to Croatia.
  • Visit the archaeological sites of Kastrum, the Roman villa in Verige Bay, and the 5th century St. Mary’s Church, which is said to have been used by the Knights Templar in the 13th century.
  • Visit Tito’s Museum

 

Croatia Travel Blog_Explore These Places, Cities and Towns In Croatia

 

Senj

The town of Senj is located at the foothills of the Velebit and Kapela Mountains on the Adriatic coast. It lies between Zadar and Rijeka. It is a great place to stay if you want to spend some time in North Velebit National Park while still being by the sea.

What to do in Senj

  • Visit the Nehaj fortress that was erected in 1558.
  • Learn about Senj’s history in the town museum that is housed in the Vukasović palace.
  • Go hiking in the North Velebit National Park, which is only 50km from Senj, and explore one of the world’s longest caves, Lukina.
  • If an active holiday is more your thing, then you can go hiking through the Senj bypass, try cycling on one of the many trails, fishing, sailing, and my favorite personal swimming in the Adriatic.

Rijeka

City of Rijeka view from Trsat

Rijeka is the third-largest city in Croatia and is located in the Kvarner region. Rijeka means river in Croatian, and as Rijeka’s name suggests, it is situated along the Rječina River and its tributaries. This city is very different from the other coastal cities of Croatia and has somewhat of its own culture. There is a great vibe in the city, particularly on the lively Korzo.

What to do in Rijeka:

  • Trsat Castle is perched on top of the hill above Rijeka and historically served as a lookout. These days Trsat is used to serve the city by hosting different events and performances. Head up the stairs and take a look for yourself.
  • Korzo is the main promenade in the city of Rijeka. It’s safe to say it’s the cultural heart of Rijeka and is always alive. Have a coffee or a meal on Korzo and see what Rijeka is all about.
  • Go biking. Bike Rijeka Mobile App enables you to search for more than 40 cycling trails shown on Google Maps and provide detailed directions on reaching them. All trails include descriptions of attractions, locations of nearby food and drink venues, service centers, accommodation options, and everything else you need to explore new trails during your stay in Rijeka. The app recently won this award.
  • Get dressed up and go to the Rijeka Carnival. This carnival is huge and loads of fun. It’s listed as one of the most important events in Europe. Get your masks ready and book your flights to Rijeka.
  • Why not consider staying in Rijeka’s Botel a unique accommodation experience.

Zagreb

Zagreb in Two Days - Croatia Travel Blog

I often hear from travelers to Croatia that they land in Zagreb, collect their bags and race off to the Dalmatian Coast. They hardly give Zagreb a second thought on their Croatia itinerary. Of course, I cannot blame them for doing so, but my advice is not to rush off so quickly.

There are many things to do in Zagreb, including a unique exhibit of trinkets that people keep reminding them of failed relationships at the Museum of Broken Relationships. Along with museums and galleries, Zagreb also has a fantastic boutique fashion scene in Croatia that you won’t find anywhere else. Best of all, you can zigzag across Zagreb without fuss, as the city is a walker’s paradise and has a great tram network. Many of the most fantastic places of interest in Croatia are actually in Zagreb. Please don’t do not skip it!

If you add Zagreb to your things to see and do in Croatia’s wish list, we recommend Hotel Esplanade. It is worth every penny. If you want to take our lead and rest your head in this 5-star hotel, our tip to you is to be sure to ask for a park-facing view! Or you can also stay at the Zagreb Hilton and eat at Oxbo Bar and Grill. We rate both of those highly, too.

Zagreb has a thriving food scene, with a mix of upscale restaurants, including fusion, international fare, and those serving genuinely authentic meals. Tkalčićeva Street is the place to eat and drink. Wander up the 800-meter paved street and take your pick at where to enjoy a coffee or a cocktail.  My favorite spot here is number 18 Tkalčićeva street, where you can drink with the locals and try many flavors of the Croatian liquor known as rajika.

Allow time to wander around the city, admiring the architecture, which dates back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some of the buildings have a raw beauty while others are very well maintained, as in the main square of Ban Jelacic.

Zagreb is a place for all seasons, especially December. Here you can escape the crowds that flock to the bigger European Christmas Markets and plan your stay around the Advent in Zagreb festival, where you can enjoy mulled wine, eat street food and buy trinkets at the open-air markets.

Split

How to Get from Split to Zadar Croatia

Croatia’s second-largest city, Split, is arguably also the country’s most historic destination. The city originated as a Greek colony in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. But became a major settlement when Roman Emperor Diocletian chose it as his retirement home in 305 AD. The enormous fortified Palace of Diocletian became and still is the beating heart of the city. The rest of Split, including the adjacent Roman quarter, developed outside of the palace.

What makes Split so phenomenal and one of the top Croatia tourist destinations today is that Diocletian’s Palace is still there. You can wander its ancient streets, grab a bite to eat in restaurants housed in ancient Roman buildings, and see a wealth of ruins. Without question, one of the top 10 places to visit in Croatia, the palace is so well-preserved, UNESCO declared it World Heritage.

In addition to outstanding architecture, culture, and history, Split is also a very modern city. Its nightlife is legendary; its waterfront promenades the most beautiful in Croatia. The food scene in this coastal city is nothing short of sensational as well. On top of it, it makes for a great base to explore other iconic places in Dalmatia. There’s certainly no lack of things to do in Split, as you now know. And things to do near Split are abundant as well, as this overview of Split day trips clearly shows.

One of Split’s best day trips is Trogir, a gorgeous walled medieval town a short distance from the city. This town, too, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, when you’re staying in Split, it is a must-visit place. You only need one day to explore and get a feel for this beauty of a town.

Another popular day trip destination is the Klis Fortress. Perched atop a cliff just north of the city, it is most famous for being the setting of Meereen in Game of Thrones. The fortress has a long history as one of the numerous strongholds that line the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.

If Split is on your itinerary and you’re arriving in Zagreb, this blog post tells you how to get from Zagreb to Split — traveling from Zadar? Find out how to get from Zadar to Split here.

Dubrovnik

Fort St. John_Dubrovnik__shutterstock_253784749
Fort St. John

Quickly becoming one of the most popular places in Croatia and Southern Europe, Dubrovnik is the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” And for a good reason, it’s a gorgeous old city. Its long and rich history includes a time of independence when it was the Republic of Ragusa, a worthy rival of Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. This period of prosperity has resulted in abundant historical attractions in Dubrovnik, from the mighty City Walls to the labyrinth of alleys in the Old Town and its iconic red-roofed houses.

Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, indicating its historical and cultural importance. In addition to beautiful architecture and a wealth of history, there are also excellent beaches, wonderful nature, and a fab foodie scene.

Game of Thrones fans will recognize the city like King’s Landing. Game of Thrones tours is one of the most popular things to do in Dubrovnik. You’re encouraged to spend at least two full days in this beautiful old city.

This all makes Dubrovnik one of the greatest and most popular cities in the Mediterranean. And it gets more famous every week. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to credit this magnificent old city for the massive boost that Croatia tourism experienced recently.

Dubrovnik is the southernmost city in Dalmatia and Croatia. It’s best reached from Split. You can check how to get from Split to Dubrovnik in this blog post.

Spend a night in Dubrovnik at one of these epic campgrounds or check out our favorite hotels 

Šibenik

Sibenik, Croatia Travel Blog

Šibenik may just be the most underrated and overlooked Dalmatian coastal city. Yet, it is home to one of the top sites in Croatia. The city lies about halfway between Zadar and Split on the central coast of Dalmatia. Almost a millennium old, Šibenik has had a somewhat turbulent past. Over many centuries, it has endured and survived a few wars, hot temperatures, wave beatings, and wind. The fact that the entire city is built with stone has added to its resilience.

There are cobbled streets, stone stairways, stone buildings, rock walls, and stone arches. Its unique combination of stone, sea, and sunsets it apart from any other city in Croatia. So, when you’re road tripping along the Dalmatian coast, make sure to stop here for a night.

There are many things to do in Šibenik, from visiting its four fortresses to sipping wine on a cozy square to admiring the striking Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Korcula Island

Things To Do In Korcula

We’ve already said we loved Korcula Island (pronounced KOR-chu-la). It is also known as the Emerald Isle and is one of Croatia’s many islands. This island is a Croatia tourism champion.

Located in Southern Dalmatia, this small, 279-square-kilometer island is a favorite among travelers. A place of culture, history, beauty, and charm, the island of Korcula offers various activities and unique traditions, all surrounded by the stunning Adriatic sea and excellent Korcula weather.

Skradin

Skradin - Things to do in Croatia Travel Blog

Skradin is a picturesque little town with a long history – being first settled by the Liburnians followed by the Romans. The town has cobbled-stoned streets and has that small Mediterranean town vibe. You will see men tending to their fishing nets as the scent of Croatian cooking fills the air. And, hey, if it’s good enough for Bill Gates, it should be good for you too, huh?

What to do in Skradin:

Trogir

Things to do in Trogir Croatia Travel Blog - Cathedral

Located just 25 km from the heart of Split, it feels strange to call Trogir hidden. However, it’s often the case in the offseason that you’ll find only a handful of tourists in this charming 2300-year-old city.

With a fantastic boardwalk and narrow winding alleyways, Trogir is the perfect place to escape the hectic mayhem of Split. Be sure not to miss the impressive Venetian Cathedral of St. Lovro or the intricate City Hall. Trogir is one of my top 10 things to see in Croatia, so don’t miss it.

Pag Island

Pag Island - Sail Croatia

Pag Island is in the very north of Dalmatia and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Once you cross the Pag island bridge, there is a noticeable difference in terrain. Rock and stone dominate the landscape. However, to dismiss this location based on the tree-less landscape would be a mistake. During the summer months of July and August, Novalja, one of the island’s two major towns, transforms into a giant beach party. Pag town itself is quite charming, and let us not forget what Pag is most famous for, Paški sir (Pag Cheese), the production of salt and lace making.

What to do on Pag Island:

Istria

Pula, Istria. Driving Zagreb to Dubrovnik

When you think of Croatia, you’ll be forgiven if you only think of beaches on the 1,000 out-of-this-world islands of Croatia. There is a part of Croatia to the northwest that you should visit while you’re in the land of the red and white checkers.

It’s known as Istria, and it’s one of the most beautiful areas on the well-filled Croatia tourist map.

In Istria, you’ll find medieval hilltop towns, such as Motovun, and gems like the town of Novigrad, which some describe as being the ‘new Tuscany,’ an array of food festivals and some of the region’s best olive oil, wine, and the famous white truffle. Other gorgeous coastal towns are Rovinj and Pula, with their huge Roman amphitheater. (Check out this blog post highlighting ten things to see in Pula.) Many visit Istria and wonder if they haven’t just stumbled into small-town life in Italy. In fact, the region was once part of Italy, and you will still see a road sign in both Croatian and Italian.

Something else you might want to consider while on holiday in Croatia is cycling. Istria has some of the most scenic routes geared for cyclists. Both amateurs and professionals will find a trail lined with breathtaking views and plenty of places to stop and enjoy a coffee.

Plus, in Istria, there now is now an Aquapark, which is one of the fun things for kids to do in Croatia that we recommend. If waterparks are not your thing, what about one of these killer Istrian beaches?

Istria is well-known for Rovinj and Motovun, but we suggest you also look east and check our Labin & Rabac too! After exploring Istria, the next logical destination to go to is Zadar. In this post, find out how to get from Pula to Zadar (or the other way around).

Slavonia

Kutjevo Castle Slavonia Travel

Along with Dalmatia, Istria, and Inland Croatia, Slavonia is a region in Croatia. Situated in the far northeast of the country, this is Croatia’s least-visited area – and this needs to change.

While Dalmatia and Istria get flooded with (summer) tourists, Slavonia remains virtually untouched by mass tourism. Yet, Slavonia is undoubtedly a region that’s very much worth visiting, especially if you like off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Slavonia is another foodie heaven waiting to be enjoyed!

So, tell us, which of these places, towns or cities in Croatia will you visit first?

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