I’m often asked what should we do while on holidays in Croatia?. There are so many ways to experience the magic of Croatia. Meander the warrens of centuries-old cobbled streets, discovering UNESCO sites as you go. Spend a day or maybe weeks mesmerised by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea as you sail the many Islands of Croatia (we love like Korcula Island) or, perhaps you’d like to hike, cycle or raft along one of the eight stunning national parks? And, that’s just for starters. Creating a list of must see places in Croatia has almost no end. Before making the trip make sure you have all the essential travel necessities to make your Croatia vacation that much more comfortable.
As someone who lives in Croatia, here are my tips for things to do in Croatia – consider working some into your itinerary!
1. 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. Spending time at sea is must see in Croatia. I’d dare to say that a Croatian vacation without any sea action would be sacrilege – even you can only spare a day.
You can combine the best of Croatia – both sea & land, by spending your time sailing the Adriatic Coast, making stops along your tour 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.
2. Explore Croatia’s National Parks
Croatia has a total of eight national parks, and you should make sure you see at least one of these while on holidays in Croatia. Of all of the best things to see 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 two hours by bus from Zagreb. Here, you can meander along the wooden plank trails and admire the glistening waterfalls crashing into the ever changing colours of the 16 interconnected lakes below.
Mljet National Park – Photo Credit SailDubrovnik
Not far from the Dalmatian port city of Split, you can take a day trip to the 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 kilometres 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.
Plitvice in Fall – Photo Credit Leonardo Uzeda
3. Tick Off UNESCO Sites
Still not sure what to do in Croatia? Well, for a small country of just over 56,000 square kilometres, you may be surprised to know that there are seven (yes that’s right seven!), Croatian UNESCO World Heritage sites you can experience.
- 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 Episcopal complex in Zadar, which is just a two-hour bus ride north of Split.
- 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 travelling Croatia and learn about Croatian Culture as you travel.
4. 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 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.
Other must-try foods are octopus salad, krafne and burek.. ..just don’t blame me for your expanding waistline.
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.
5. Discover Zadar
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 parlour 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.
What to see in Croatia gets no better than the music and lights that are found along Zadar’s promenade. Thanks to architect Nikola Basic, who added a modern 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 convenient location to take day trips to the national parks and to sail along the Adriatic Coast. One of our favourite day trips in Zadar is cruising around the Kornati Island National Park, add it to your list.
We’ve shortlisted accommodation options for you in Zadar
6. Explore Istria
When you think of Croatia, you’ll be forgiven if you only think of beaches along the 1,000 out-of-this-world Islands of Croatia. There is a part of Croatia to the north-west that you should visit while you’re in the land of the red & white checkers. It’s known as Istria.
In Istria, you’ll find medieval hilltop towns, 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. Many visit Istria and wonder if they haven’t just stumbled into small-town life in Italy.
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. Amateurs through to professionals will each 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.
We’ve found some excellent accommodation choices for you in Istria
Motovun Istria – Photo Credit Sobrecroacia
7. Don’t Skip Zagreb
I often hear from travellers 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 people keep that remind them of broken relationships. At the Museum of Broken Relationships. Along with museums and galleries, Zagreb also has a wonderful boutique fashion scene that you won’t find anywhere else in Croatia. Best of all, you can zig-zag across Zagreb without fuss, as the city is a walker’s paradise and has a great tram network.
Esplanade Zagreb Hotel – Photo Credit Zagreb Tourism
If you are adding Zagreb to your things to see in Croatia wish-list, then 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 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 favourite spot here is number 18 Tkalčićeva street, where you can drink with the locals and try many flavours of the Croatian liquor known as rajika.
Allow time to wander about 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 drink mulled wine, eat street food and buy trinkets at the open air markets.
Here are some affordable accommodation options in Zagreb
8. 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 kilometres 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.
Unusual Things to do in Croatia – Zlatni Rat Beach
9. 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!
Top Things to do in Croatia – Photo Credit Zip Line Croatia
10. Hike to Fabulous Heights
Not just beaches and extreme sports opportunities, Croatia also boasts marvellous 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 colours boasting unforgettable panoramic views. Hiking in Croatia offers the possibility to enjoy the freedom of its wildlife; a flying falcon, the howling of wolves, rock climbing chamois (a type of goat). And is a 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.
One of the keys places for wine in Pelješac. Photo Credit Korta Katarina
11. Love Wine? Head to The Pelješac Peninsula
Though it is only home to about 8 thousand 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.
12. 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 with so many magical hilltop towns in Istria and rustic villages across the country only accessible by car that you hit the road. Hiring a car in Croatia is so much easier than you think, and with panoramic view 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 great customer service
13. Get Spiritual
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.
Stay in the towns only four-star hotel in Marija Bistrica, just like we did.
Best things to do in Croatia – Photo credit: Davor
14. Eat 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 – here are just two ideas.
15. 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! We have not been to enough festivals in Croatia but plan to go to many this year – and so we’ve combined a list of just a few of the many festivals in Croatia.
16. Have a Full Family Adventure
You can find family activity holidays that take care of food, accommodation and activities on the Dalmatian Coast – these package holidays are especially great when traveling with teenagers!
17. Korcula Island
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 km 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. Here is our guide to Korcula Island – what to do on the island, what eat and how to get there.
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: Family travel in Croatia is easy!
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 the guide to Croatia for families and also top things for kids to do in Croatia.
Travelling to Croatia with children is a no-brainer if you ask me. You’ll just fall in love with Croatia’s old cities & 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 this guide to find a great deal.
Currency in Croatia?
The official currency in Croatia is the Kuna. 1 Kuna is equal to 100 lipa’s. You can find foreign currency exchange centres throughout all cities and towns. Currency exchange is also provided in banks, 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.
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
We want you to know: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you if you make a booking, I receive a small commission that helps to keep this blog free and us writing new stories to help you plan your trip to Croatia. Top photo credit Leonardo Uzeda. Photo credit from homepage Davor Strenja Photography. Zlatni Rat Beach photo. Jeroen Komen.
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