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Travel Croatia: A Massive List Of Top Things To Do In Croatia In 2019
I’m often asked what should we do while on holidays in Croatia? There are so many ways to experience the magic of Croatia, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do in Croatia.
Meander the warrens of centuries-old cobbled streets, discovering UNESCO sites as you go. Spend a day or even weeks mesmerized by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea as you sail the many islands of Croatia (we love Korcula Island). Alternatively, perhaps you’d like to go for an adventure and hike, cycle or raft in one of the eight stunning national parks?
And, that’s just for starters. Creating a list of must-see places in Croatia is a virtually never-ending task.
Before making the trip, however, make sure you have all the essential travel necessities to make your Croatia vacation that much more comfortable and memorable.
As someone who lives in Croatia, here are my tips for things to do in Croatia. Consider working some into your itinerary!
Sail The High Seas
When a country has over 1,000 islands and one of the richest archipelagos in the world, don’t miss your chance to sail along the coast. Island exploration is one of the best – and arguably the single greatest – things to do in Croatia.
Spending time at sea is one of those must-do things in Croatia. I’d dare to say that a Croatian vacation without any sea action would be sacrilege. Even if you can only spare a day, it’s blissfully worth it. Recommended islands to visit include Korcula, Hvar, Brac, Cres, Krk and Mljet, as well as the family-friendly islands of the Zadar Archipelago.
You can combine the best of Croatia, both sea, and land, by spending your time sailing the Adriatic Coast, making stops along your the way to explore the mainland. For help choosing a sailing route, we compiled this Guide to Sailing Croatia.
While sailing, we recommend you try Konoba Opat, a restaurant where they only serve you fresh fish caught by local fishermen.
Once you anchor your vessel and take a seat, your eyes will be drawn out to the blue bay that seems to go forever. Mr. Chasing the Donkey claims it to be one of his best food experiences in Croatia.
Join The Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally
The car race of the future. That’s a proper way to describe the Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally in Croatia, which has taken place for five consecutive years.
The LA Times back in 2014 dubbed the race the “quietest and most beautiful race in the world”, a statement with a lot of truth to it. Bringing together electric Tesla cars and the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, one of the world’s greatest inventors, the Nikola Tesla EV Rally is the only electric car race in the world of this kind.
Explore Croatia’s National Parks
Of all of the must-visit places in Croatia, the national parks are certain to satisfy the whole family. Many agree that the most stunning out of these is Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site only two hours by bus from Zagreb. Others might consider Krka National Park more fun to visit. (The Plitvice Lakes vs Krka discussion is an ongoing debate.) Getting from Dubrovnik to Plitvice National Park is a piece of cake as well. Traveling from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes is pretty straight-forward, too.
Meander along the wooden plank trails and admire the glistening waterfalls crashing into the ever-changing colors of the sixteen interconnected lakes below. Just be sure to bring your camera, it’s a truly spectacular park.
You can make many day trips, including from Dubrovnik to one of these parks. Four parks are best reached from a base in Zadar, and private transfer companies can arrange transport for much less than you think.
Not far from the Dalmatian port city of Split, you can take a day trip to Krka National Park. Krka is complete with medieval fortresses, waterfalls and boat excursions.
The other six national parks also make great additions to your what to do in Croatia checklist.
Especially Paklenica National Park, just 40 kilometers from the low-cost carrier airport, Zadar. Paklenica National Park is home to Croatia’s largest mountain, the Velebit, which rises sharply from the edge of the sea and is a mountain climbers’ paradise.
Tick Off UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Still not sure what to do in Croatia? Well, for a small country of just over 56,000 square kilometers, you may be surprised to know that there are seven (yes, that’s right, seven!), Croatian UNESCO World Heritage sites you can experience and explore.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
- Historic city of Trogir
- Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
- Old City of Dubrovnik
- Stari Grad Plain, Hvar
- The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik
If you’d rather not brave the masses in peak season, you could also visit some of the lesser-known Croatian sites that have been submitted to the tentative UNESCO list. These include:
- The fortified walls and salt pans in the towns of Ston and Mali Ston, which are less than an hour from Dubrovnik by car.
- The Istrian hilltop town of Motovun.
- The historical nucleus of Varazdin, north of Zagreb, which the New York Times named as one of the top places to visit in Croatia
While visiting Croatia, don’t forget to check out the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list while you are traveling Croatia and learn about Croatian culture as you travel.
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 being 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 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 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 and 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 and its surroundings as well as 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.
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.
Sightseeing in Croatia gets no better than the music and lights that are found along Zadar’s amazing waterfront promenade. This is all thanks to architect Nikola Basic, who added a fresh dimension to Zadar with his design of the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun. 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.
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.
In Istria, you’ll find medieval hilltop towns, such 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 its 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. The region was, in fact, once part of Italy and you will still see road sign in both Croatian and Italian.
Something else you might want to consider while on holidays 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. Find out how to get from Pula to Zadar (or the other way around) in this post.
Don’t Skip Zagreb
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. I cannot blame them for doing so, of course, but my advice is not to rush off so quickly.
There are so many things to do in Zagreb, including a unique exhibit of trinkets that people keep to remind them of failed relationships at the Museum of Broken Relationships. Along with museums and galleries, Zagreb also has a fantastic boutique fashion scene that you won’t find anywhere else in Croatia. Best of all, you can zigzag across Zagreb without fuss, as the city is a walker’s paradise and has a great tram network.
If you are adding Zagreb to your things to see and do in Croatia 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 those highly, too.
Zagreb has a thriving food scene, with a mix of upscale restaurants including fusion, international fare, and those serving truly 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 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.
Visit Croatia’s Best Beach
That would have to be without a doubt Zlatni Rat Beach, which has a long golden pebble tip that stretches out to the Adriatic Sea like a hand reaching out for more wine (or beer, you choose).
The shape of the half-kilometre beach continually changes (albeit ever so slightly), forming the most unusual shape. Zlatni Rat is sometimes referred to as the Golden Horn or Golden Cape beach and is regularly named as one of the most beautiful (and strangest) beaches in the world. Zlatni Rat beach is on Brač Island just four kilometers from the attractive town of Bol, Croatia.
Sleep in the best accommodation on Brač, just like we did or view a list of accommodation prices on Brač Island.
Travel Back To Roman Times In Split
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 things not to miss in Croatia 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. Because 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 promenade the most beautiful in Croatia. The food scene in this coastal city is nothing short of sensational as well. On top 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 the best day trips from Split 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 stunner of a town.
Another popular day trip destinations 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.
Wondering where to spend the night in Split? We have collected the best accommodations in Split here.
Get Outdoors (& We Don’t Mean The Beach)
Croatia has some magnificent beaches and makes for an ideal place to kick back and relax. But why not mix it up with some fun outdoor adventure sports too? Two things to add to your list are zip lining and Rafting on the Cetina River. We can suggest an excellent adventure holiday itinerary to get you started.
The zip line in Omiš is the fastest one in Croatia and goes a whopping 65kms an hour – now that will get your vacation started.
Wander The Old Town Of Dubrovnik
Quickly becoming one of the most popular places in Croatia and in Southern Europe, Dubrovnik is known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. And for good reason, it’s an absolutely 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 historic and cultural importance. In addition to beautiful architecture and a wealth of history, there are also amazing beaches, wonderful nature and a fab foodie scene as well.
Game of Thrones fans will recognize the city as King’s Landing. Game of Thrones tours are one of the most popular things to do in Dubrovnik. You’re encourage to spend at least two full days in this wonderful old city.
Dubrovnik is the southernmost city in Dalmatia and in Croatia. It’s best reached from Split. You can check how to get from Split to Dubrovnik in this blog post.
Hike To Fabulous Heights
Not just only about beaches and extreme sports opportunities, Croatia also boasts marvelous options for hiking. Particularly inland Dalmatia, with its beautiful karst landscape.
Part of the Dinaric Alps, it boasts a priceless wealth of flora and fauna. It is one of the last sanctuaries of wildlife in Europe. These unspoiled natural beauties and all its secrets are yet to be discovered.
Climb magnificent mountains and enjoy its scents, sounds, and colors, and unforgettable panoramic views. Hiking in Croatia gives you the possibility to enjoy the freedom of its wildlife: a flying falcon, the howling of wolves, rock climbing chamois (a type of goat). The blend of sea, islands, shores, and wildlife of inland Dalmatia make it a unique, small region of great opportunity and diversity.
Check out these five hiking trails – not all of them for serious hikers.
Love Wine? Head To The Pelješac Peninsula
Though it is only home to about 8,000 people, the Pelješac peninsula is now coming into its stride as a travel destination. This region has long been known for its delicious shellfish, dry red wines, and gorgeous beaches and is the key place to take a real adult holiday. Wine aficionados should stop at Korta Katarina Winery in Orebić as well as check out this list of things to do in Pelješac for more ideas. The peninsula lies conveniently between Split and Dubrovnik, making it a wonderful day trip from both coastal cities.
Rent A Car And Go On A Road Trip
If you are not sailing on the Adriatic, the best way to travel Croatia is by car. It makes sense that you want to hit the road with so many magical hilltop towns in Istria and rustic villages across the country only accessible by car.
Hiring a car in Croatia is so much easier than you think, and with panoramic views hugging roads along the coast, you’ll explore Croatia in ways you can’t by bus or train.
Our rental car company of choice is RentalCars.com. They have an easy to use search system (as seen below) and excellent customer service
If you don’t want to drive yourself, a private transfer is a superb option. It will cost you a little more than renting a car, but that little extra will allow you to have a stress-free journey. Your English-speaking professional driver will pick you up from your accommodation and take you anywhere you need to go. Intercity transfers are often a popular choice, for instance, Zadar to Split. For more information talk to our private transfer partners Octopus Transfers.
Spend A Day In Šibenik
Šibenik may just be the most underrated and overlooked Dalmatian coastal city. The city lies about halfway between Zadar and Split on the central coast of Dalmatia. Almost a millennium old, Šibenik has had a rather turbulent past. Over the courses of 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 definitely added to its resilience.
There are cobbled streets, stone stairways, stone buildings, rock walls and stone arches. Its unique combination of stone, sea and sun sets 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 of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Party At Carnival
Croatia Carnival or Maškare season hits each February. Visiting some astounding Carnival destinations in Croatia has to be one of the best things to do in the low-season.
Croatians are known to take their carnival very seriously, as every region, city, and village in Croatia, regardless of their age, participate in the spirit of Maškare. This is a centuries-old tradition that goes back to ancient times when ferocious masks kept away the forces of evil, according to ancient legends.
In each city, the organizers spend an entire year to put together an exciting program with various events and performances for visitors that come from all over Croatia and abroad.
I’ve never heard anyone outside of Croatia tell me that they plan to go to Marija Bistrica. Never has anyone asked me about how to get there or what to do there. This town holds a unique charm and sense of divine healing that I’ve not yet felt anywhere else across Croatia. Be sure to take a look for yourself.
What? I know sounds odd, but do you know how close you are to other parts of the Balkans that make for a excellent day trip?
Surrounded by Slovenia, Hungary Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia is a great base from which to explore the rest of the western Balkan peninsula. Day trips from Zagreb include such great destinations as Ljubljana and Lake Bled, both in Slovenia, while day trips from Dubrovnik take you to magnificent places like Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bay of of Kotor in Montenegro. The latter two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well and among the greatest places to visit in the Balkans.
Another recommended excursion is to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Medjugorje, a renowned Catholic pilgrimage site. Check How to Get to Medjugorje From Split for ways to get there.
Find A Konoba
While on holidays in Croatia, no matter where you are, you’ll find something to treat your taste buds.
When in Dalmatia, make sure you order any fresh fish that you see on offer. Trust us, a Dalmatian chef knows how to grill fish to perfection, so it’s something well worth sampling.
A unique Croatian dish you’ll definitely want to try is a black risotto made from cuttlefish called crni rižot. If you are not a fan of seafood, be sure to order pašticada, a traditional beef dish, which is marinated for 24 hours in garlic, wine, and herbs. Pašticada has a rich dark sauce and is served with homemade gnocchi, and best enjoyed with a glass of the Dalmatian Plavac Mali red wine.
Local tip: don’t let the abundance of pizza ovens seduce you. Although the pizza in Croatia is indeed fantastic, you also need to be on the lookout for small, often family-run local restaurants called konobas or go to one of Croatia’s best restaurants.
Sample All Types Of Food & Wine In Croatia
Okay, that’s a given. But where? Food in Croatia is diverse and glorious. Foodies should head to Istria because that’s where it’s at! We have a list of the top places to eat in Croatia here. Croatian cuisine is remarkably good and varied, from fish and seafood in Dalmatia to lamb in Kvarner and Zagreb steaks.
Attend A Festival
Whenever we travel to new places (and we’ve been to 25 countries and have lost count of the cities now!), we love to find and plan our trips around local festivals. It’s at festivals that you experience what a place is really about, especially when it’s a food festival. Food is an essential part – some would even say the very core – of a particular culture. We’ve combined a list of just a few of the many festivals in Croatia.
Have A Full Family Adventure
- Make a Sandcastle & Then Play Beach Volleyball
- Swim Under a Waterfall
- Travel Scavenger Hunt
- Get Your Teenagers Off Their Smartphone
- Photo Jeep Safari
- Take a Ferry Ride or go Sailing in Croatia
- Skip the Beach, and Hit a Water Park
- Snorkeling in Croatia
- Water Activities on The River Zrmanja
- Dance in The Dark
- Let The Kids Roam Free
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.
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 a variety of activities and unique traditions all surrounded by the stunning Adriatic sea and excellent Korcula weather.
Medical Tourism Ideas
Most people visit Croatia to enjoy the stunning natural beauties and to relax, but medical tourism In Croatia is booming as well.
Discover Off-The-Beaten-Path Places
Traveling to Croatia guarantees you a unique and memorable holiday experience, and everyone has now heard of Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar and a stack of our beautiful islands, but how many of these have you heard about?
One of our new favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations is Slavonia, another foodie heaven waiting to be enjoyed!
2019 Absolute Must-Do Things In Croatia: Local Tips
Come In The Off-Season
Prices drop at least 30%, there are far fewer people, and you’ll get to meet the locals. Winter in Croatia is by far the least busy time of year and is always overlooked.
Granted, the Dalmatian Coast is all but a ghost town, and the Adriatic Sea is freezing cold, but you have skiing, spas and many festivals to keep you busy. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but Croatia in September is amazing.
Croatia With Kids
Now that you know where to visit in Croatia, you’ll need to decide if Croatia is the right choice for your family using our guide to Croatia for families and also top things for kids to do in Croatia.
Traveling to Croatia with children is a no-brainer, if you ask me. You’ll just fall in love with Croatia’s old cities and the raw coastline on your visit, and it’s my guess that you’ll need two more trips (at least!) to experience all that is on offer for your family. There are loads of Family Resorts & Hotels For Family Holidays in Croatia that’ll accommodate your family without any problems.
Bonus: We have a superb idea when flying with children. Take a peek – it’s FREE.
Accommodation In Croatia
There are numerous options for where to sleep while on your vacation in Croatia. There is an abundance of hotels, motels, camping grounds and apartments. We keep updating our guides with the best ones here. Once you’ve decided what to see in Croatia, use that guide to find a great deal.
We also try to stay up-to-date with great places to rest your head, like glamping in Croatia. So much fun!
Currency In Croatia?
The official currency in Croatia is the Kuna. 1 Kuna is equal to 100 lipas. You can find foreign currency exchange centers throughout all cities and towns. Currency exchange is also provided in banks and some post offices, as well as some tourist agencies.
Are there any other top things to do in Croatia that you loved that we missed off this list? Are there any places to see in Croatia that we need to add on? Let us know.
More Tips For Croatia
Are you traveling to Croatia? Great, we’ve got a stack of suggestions and helpful tips:
- Unique Things to do in Croatia
- Top Croatia Travel Guides & Books
- Best Croatia Travel Deals & How to Get Them
- Car Rental Tips and Deals
- See Which Tours in Croatia We Recommend
- Best Things to do with Kids in Croatia
Need Packing & Travel Gear Help?
We’ve written packing lists & guides about:
- What to Pack For Croatia: The Ultimate Croatia Packing List
- What to Pack For Sailing Croatia: The Ultimate Guide to Help You Pack Light
- Gift Guide For the Traveler in Your Life
- What to Pack For A Beach Trip With Kids
- What to Wear on Long Haul or Overnight Flight
- Best Travel Shoes For All Occasions
- How to Find the Best Travel Wallet
Main Photo Credit Leonardo Uzeda.