Croatia, a country full of wonders and with an abundance of beautiful cities and towns to explore. Croatia is one of the countries with the best developed tourism and tourist practices.
Croatia has been under the influence of the Roman Empire throughout medieval times. Later it was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before becoming a part of Yugoslavia.
It took them a long time to gain their independence and that fact led to an interesting cultural and architectural mix.
The Croatian coast has numerous national parks, small towns, and big cities that all offer something unique and interesting to see.
The most popular Croatian cities are (mainly) located on the coast, so most tourists visit them during the summer.
For those interested in history and architecture, there is also plenty to see and experience.
Here are the ten top destinations that you should make sure to see while visiting Croatia.
Sit back and relax, and let’s spend some time together going through the list of most interesting cities and towns. If you would like to have a good time while visiting Croatia, then these are the places to go.
Dubrovnik is a medieval city (located on the Adriatic coast), shielded by city walls made of stone.
It has always been a tourist cradle, well liked amongst many different cultures. Dubrovnik literally started having a deficit of beds (for visitors), after the show Game of Thrones was shot there.
Nicknamed “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik has been a hub for arts and sciences for many years (since the Middle Ages, to be precise), and it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 .
Inside the stone walls, there are stone buildings, tightly knitted and separated by narrow cobbled alleys where one can find alluring shops selling clothes, jewelry, food, books, and anything else that you can think of (except babies, don’t be a psycho!).
Also, there are numerous bars and restaurants that offer traditional Dalmatian cuisine.
Just outside the Dubrovnik Old Town, there are some popular beaches (like Banje and Lapad).
There you can swim, sunbathe and do whatever you’d like for as much time as you’d like (you can even sleep on the beach, if you don’t mind not getting a good night’s sleep).
Make sure to check out Dubrovnik, as it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Hvar is the second most popular city in Croatia known for its spectacular beaches, vineyards, and lavender fields.
The most popular beaches are Dubovica, Hula-Hula beach (it has a bar and a restaurant); Soline beach, Pokonji Dol, as well as the beaches at the Pakleni islands (which you should surely visit!).
Besides the beautiful beach landscapes and fabulous bars and restaurants (where you can get delicious food), there is also an inland part of the city, where you can explore the wineries (the best place to be if you are an alcoholic) and much more.
In between is the historic part of the city, where you can visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Square; the Franciscan Monastery; the Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower, and the Spanjola Fortress.
Located between the Adriatic coast and the mountains lies another medieval city. Split is the second largest city in Croatia.
It’s a very elegant and charming city, and it is the economical and cultural center of the Dalmatian coast.
Split is mostly famous for the palace that the Roman Emperor Diocletian built for his retirement, but there are also many other places around to explore such as the Old Town, the Riva harbor, the Marjan hill, and the Klis fortress.
There are also wineries nearby Split that offer tours and wine tasting.
A lot of beautiful beaches and historic places are there for you to explore and enjoy (in and nearby Split).
For those who like art, they must go and see the Mestrovic Gallery where 192 sculptures by the most famous Croatian sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic are displayed .
Art and wine tastings will keep you occupied for years to come!
The town of Trogir is located just 30 kilometers from Split. The history of Trogir dates back to 380 BC (that’s kind of old, right?).
In 1997 Trogir became one of the towns on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
This small, coastal town offers a deep dive into the Croatian culture and history.
Town square (of the old part of town) is the site of the most famous medieval palace in Croatia, called Cipiko Palace.
If that’s not enough, you can also take a look at the impressive Kamerlengo Castle, St. Mark’s Tower, the Clock Tower, the City Loggia, the City Gates, and so on (you get the gist, there is a lot to see).
Trogir is full of surprises and is one of the most magical places in Croatia. You can also take a short trip to Blue Cave while you are in Trogir.
This is an archipelago made of 20 islands with its Old Town set on a small peninsula. Rovinj is a fishing village with beautiful landscapes and historic sites.
There is so much to explore in the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town.
Bars and restaurants are always full of people talking, laughing, and enjoying the delicious food that this fishing village has to offer.
The Church of St. Euphemia is the most popular place to visit. There you can climb to the top of the bell tower. This church is the largest Baroque building on the Istrian peninsula.
There are also the Balbi Arch, the Town Museum, and the Rovinj Aquarium (the oldest aquarium in Europe).
Yes, Croatia has its own fjord. It is strange and beautiful, and you can visit it by boat, car, or by a “not so short” bike ride from Rovinj.
This so-called fjord is a 10 kilometer-long river canyon with steep forests on its sides, that soar up to 100 meters.
At the mouth of the fjord, there is a restaurant that offers oysters and mussels farmed in these waters. A great place to get the freshest food and enjoy the most beautiful views.
Pula is yet another beautiful Croatian coastal city and the largest one in the Istrian peninsula.
A list of places to explore in this city would require a whole new article, so I am going to focus on the most well-known sites.
First of all there is the Arena, a Roman Amphitheatre with three-story-high arched walls and four towers around the perimeter. This beautiful monument dates back to the first century.
Every July, the Pula Film Festival takes place in the Arena (some really good films were shown there).
Then, there is the 2000-year-old Temple of Augustus with the Archaeology Museum inside of it; the Arch of Sergii, a Roman monument, built-in 29 B.C.
Nearby Pula is the Brijuni National Park, which consists of a group of fourteen small islands.
The largest island, Veliki Brijun contains 200 dinosaur footprints from the Cretaceous Period, which is great, but are you really going to spend your vacation looking at giant footprints? Well, a lot of people did just that (Why? I have no idea).
The people of Pula are particularly proud of the Istrian rakija, a local brandy made of pears, which is the best souvenir to take home (just be careful not to end up in rehab?).
Zadar is one of the most interesting and unique cities to explore in Croatia. On the southwestern quay you can find the popular Sea Organ and Sun Salutation.
They are considered to be architectural and technological marvels that use the waves of the sea to create sounds and solar energy to create light-shows at sunset.
Make sure that you watch at least one sunset in Zadar!
After his visit to the city in 1964, Alfred Hitchcock described the Zadar sunset as “the most beautiful sunset in the world” (but then again, he made the movie “Psycho” the following year.. I am kidding, the movie is from 1960.)
And that’s not all folks! There is also the Old Town where you can visit the Church of St. Donatus, a famous Byzantine architectural wonder; Zadar’s cathedral; the Roman Forum; the city walls and gates, and other historical monuments.
There are also the beautiful islands of the Zadar Archipelago that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, wandering around, and scuba diving.
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city in Croatia, and as such has many historic and modern tourist attractions.
The city is divided into an Upper and Lower town, with the Upper being the old historic center where most of the tourist attractions are located.
The most popular Zagreb spots are the Stone Gate with a painting of the Virgin Mary; Ban Jelacic Square; the Dolac Market; Jelačić Square.
The Tkalčićeva street is full of shops and street performers throughout the day. In the evening all the cafes, bars, and restaurants are open for a visit.
An unusual place to visit in Zagreb is the Museum of Broken Relationships where people’s mementos are displayed along with their personal heartbreaking stories about past lovers.
One of the most beautiful cities in Croatia, Zagreb holds a special place in the hearts of everyone who’ve visited it (the author of this article is also emotionally attached to this magical place)
Plitvice National Park
Besides all the coastal cities in Croatia, there is an inland national park, located roughly between Zagreb and Zadar, in central Croatia.
It has 16 terraced lakes connected by waterfalls. The highest lake is at an altitude of 1,280m, while the lowest is at 380m.
The peak season to visit the lakes is of course, the summer.
According to the local people as well as tourists, the park is on the top of the list of must-see sites in Croatia.
Sibenik is a city that dates back to medieval times. Located on the coast of Croatia which is kind of, less touristy but equally charming.
So, if you like to enjoy some peace and quiet among the local community, Sibenik is the right place to visit.
There are the beauties of the Old Town, where you can visit the Cathedral of St. James (Katedrala Sv Jakova), one of the Dalmatian Coast’s architectural highlights and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Across the square from the cathedral is the wonderful two-story Sibenik Town Hall and the Church of St. Barbara (just behind the cathedral). A few minutes away is the Count’s Palace where you will find the city’s Civic Museum.
The St. Michael’s Fortress and the St. John’s Fortress (the highest one of the five fortresses in Sibenik), are the places from which you can enjoy the beautiful views this city has to offer.
Another perfect place to discover and enjoy is the St. Nicholas Fortress. It was built in the 16th century, on a small island off the mainland, to protect the port from the Turks.
Krka National Park
The park is located only ten kilometers away from the city of Sibenik. It is a nature reserve on the River Krka where you can see a plethora of waterfalls and Croatian castles.
The Krka waterfalls are one of Croatia’s most beautiful natural wonders. A boat trip is included once you enter the park and it is a great way to see different parts of the park.
Once you’ve entered the park, a boat trip (included in the admission price) will take you on a ride of your life (not a thrill ride, but more of a “let’s slowly check this beautiful thing out” kinda thing).
And the best part of it all is that there are locations where you are allowed to swim during the summer (don’t forget to bring your swimming suits).
This one is quite different from the other Croatian cities. It is situated close to the borders with Serbia and Hungary.
It has three centers – Tvrda, the Old Town of the city with best-preserved Baroque buildings in Croatia, and the most picturesque part of the city; the Downtown which is the marketplace and social hub of the city; and the university town with great nightlife.
Osijek is the perfect place to get introduced to the culture and cuisine of Slavonija, (one of the four historical regions of Croatia). It is also the place to try some of the best Croatian wines.
Osijek is one of those cities where people and food make the whole atmosphere feel unique.
And yet, there is a lot of sightseeing to do!
Check out the pedestrian bridge on the river Dava, have a walk down the river of the river, go and see the neo-gothic Cathedral or visit the catacombs.
Ready for a Trip to Croatia?
Croatia is one of the best places to visit in the Balkans, and in Europe (and even the world). Once people discover it, they just keep returning there, forgetting about the rest of the world.
It is breathtakingly beautiful, it offers a little bit of everything, it has highly developed tourist professionalism, and the local people are extremely warm and welcoming.
Among so many pros, there are a few cons that I would be remiss not to mention.
You can only fully experience Croatia in the summer. However, there are too many tourists during this period, therefore the best tourist deals are rather expensive.
Of course, you can always find a way to travel the country on a budget, but some things such as visiting an island on a boat, sailing, or eating in restaurants would still cost a lot.
Tourism in Croatia blossomed in the last two decades, and the locals sought all opportunities to develop this economic branch the best way they could (and they kind of did a great job!)
But even if it is expensive (for some), it is not impossible to see the most beautiful cities in Croatia on a budget.