Want the beauty of the Mediterranean without the hordes of tourists? You’re in the right place. Unlike the commonly-crowded coastal towns of Italy, the seaside ports of the South of France, the buzzing Greek islands or the streets of Barcelona; Croatia’s historic towns, 1,000 striking islands and azure Adriatic waters are relatively uncrowded and waiting to be explored.
Words by Shylie Rimmer
So, where should you go? What should you do? Where should you eat? The fantastic minds at Luxury Escapes have put together the ultimate Croatia guide so you don’t have to lift a finger.
This quaint seaside town is nestled along the striking Gulf of Kvarner and holds all the charm you’d expect from a traditional Croatian town. Filled with rich history, picturesque surroundings and gorgeous beaches, Opatija was once a gathering spot for the Austro-Hungarian nobility and now boasts an incredible amount of relevant architecture and delicious seafood restaurants.
Stroll along the waterfront Lungomare promenade and enjoy beautiful views of the Gulf against a mountainous backdrop. This scenic, 8km coastal-hugging walk is frequented by locals all year-round and takes you along the Adriatic Sea, passing seafood shacks, buzzing beaches and stunning marinas along the way.
A trip to Opatija wouldn’t be complete without some fresh seafood and there’s no better place to enjoy a steaming bowl of mussels than Ruzmarin Restaurant, located in the town centre. Ruzmarin’s cosy ambience, floor-to-ceiling wine racks and stone walls adorned with inspirational quotes house locals and travellers alike who have one interest in common – to indulge in a delicious glass of local white and snack on some of the freshest seafood around.
Croatia’s second largest city boasts emerald waters, pebbled beaches and an Old Town with Roman buildings that date back to the 4th century. The UNESCO protected city is a great base for exploring the rest of the country, with daily ferries connecting you with popular islands like Hvar and Brač.
Split’s Old Town welcomes visitors into the buzzing cobbled streets of the still-inhabited Diocletian’s Palace. Forming approximately half of the Old Town, this spectacular palace is the largest and best preserved Roman palace in the world, built for the Emperor Diocletian, representing a precious example of Roman architecture. Its soaring pillars, gorgeous white stone walls and abundance of locals spilling out of the on-street cafes creates an atmosphere that is unique to Split and, in our opinion, mustn’t be missed.
See the silhouettes of Brač in the distance as you feast waterfront on a tasting menu of sea bass pate, mushroom risotto and pork belly confit at Dvor. Enjoy a sophisticated lunch, a romantic dinner or a special occasion overlooking the azure waters of the Dalmatian Coast as you smell the salty sea breeze in the air.
A coastal town in Croatia known for its rich, cultural heritage and stunning seafront, Zadar is highlighted by ruins, medieval churches and cosmopolitan cafes. Situated on the Dalmatian coast that’s famous for its many islands and secluded beaches – Zadar is the perfect place for the traveller who wants to mix culture with some much-needed sunshine.
About an hour and a half from Zadar is the inland beauty of Plitvice Lakes – the oldest and largest national park in Croatia. Discover a 295sqm playground of waterfalls—some as high as 78 metres—vast limestone canyons and winding hiking trails. But the most famous feature of the park, and by far the most photographed, is a chain of 16 emerald-green terraced lakes joined by multiple waterfalls that create a Garden of Eden-like setting and will leave you feeling like you’re a character in Avatar.
If you’re a lover of local eateries with traditional food, Konoba Stomorica should be your first stop in Zadar. Classically Croatian in character, from the service to the cream seashell soup, this no-frills traditional fisherman’s restaurant is nestled among the cobbled laneways of the Old Town. Don’t miss the juicy tuna steak or the popular local pasticada – a dish of stewed beef cooked in a rich sweet and sour sauce.
Croatia’s capital has its inland location to thank for allowing the city to remain virtually untouched by the torments of tourism – culture, nightlife and history all meet here in the country’s political and economic hub.
A less-traditional attraction but one that should not be missed are the gorgeous grounds of Mirogoj – an 1800’s cemetery that is one of the most notable sights in Zagreb. The fortress-like cemetery is adorned with ornate sculptures, artistic tombs and lush greenery that covers surrounding pillars and walls. Wander through the charming grounds and witness the grand dome-topped buildings that make this site so unique.
Feel like market-fresh food without the effort of buying it and making it yourself? We’ve got you covered. Located just 30 seconds from the Dolac Market, Pod Zidom is an intimate bistro and wine bar that creates a daily menu based on the produce they purchased at the markets that day. It’s fresh, it’s delicious and it as stunning views over Zagreb Cathedral from its charming terrace.
Coastal Dubrovnik is an intriguing walled labyrinth that may rival for the number one spot of the most beautiful cities in Croatia. Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, the city is perched on the sea and is adorned with gorgeous limestone pavements and a never-ending number of restaurants and cafes.
Enclosed by enormous, 800-year-old stone walls, Dubrovnik’s Old Town that juts out into the Adriatic should be the number one stop on your itinerary. Its quaint narrow streets and 16th century historical sites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site after an earthquake in 1667 and are now known as one of the world’s best-preserved medieval cities.
Good food. A cosy ambiance. Great company. This is what Pepper’s Eatery is all about. Sitting waterfront on the outskirts of the Old Town, Pepper’s is the perfect place to catch up with old friends over a few small plates of creative Mediterranean meals. Snack on a selection of bread & dips, share a shredded duck salad or feast on a whole line-caught sea bream with zucchini and chunky fries.
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