Glittering waves lapping against sunbathed beaches, cobbled piazzas leading into quaint roadside cafes, and serene lakes and thundering waterfalls fringed by verdant vegetation - Croatia is a heady mix of them all. Whether it’s constellation-spotting along Dalmatia’s coast and visiting Dubrovnik’s magnificent medieval walls that made for a perfect setting for the American TV show Game of Thrones (GoT) or checking out Split’s majestic Diocletian’s Palace and Pula’s magnificent amphitheatre, Croatia won’t run out of experiences to offer. Start planning your itinerary by picking out the top things Croatia is famous for, so at least your basics are covered.
1. Hvar Town
Offering the best of the Dalmatian islands’ experience is Hvar, home to the country’s most glamorous hospitality industry. While you can easily spend your time luxuriating at the beach or trying out various eating joints, Hvar’s Old Town is an experience you cannot miss. The area, which overlooks a 16th-century cathedral and a fishing harbour, is the city’s main square and a hotspot of activities. It is a car-free section of the city, so you can easily stroll around. Hvar’s buzzing nightlife is another one of the city’s highlights, so venture out a night or two and soak in the best of this party town’s vibe.
While destinations are great, Croatia has some pretty great sweet offerings too. Bajadera is a traditional Croatian nougat and praline dessert layered with chocolate, hazelnuts, and almonds. Certain variants even include walnuts and other flavours too. It was first produced and commercialised by Zagreb’s Kraš confectionery and has a typically luscious bite to it. Pick up a box of these for yourself and you’re likely to give yourself a sugar rush, but will still be left craving for more. While boxed packages are now available across the country, picking them up from Kraš if you’re in Zagreb is an experience in itself. Don’t just devour all of it by yourself, take some back home as souvenirs too!
3. Nikola Tesla
Croatia is among the world’s prettiest destinations, yes, but did you know it is also the world-famous engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla’s birthplace? He was born in a small village called Smiljan, which falls in modern-day Croatia, but was of Serbian ethnicity. Given the dual lineage, it is a hot topic of debate whether Croatians can call him their own or whether it should be the Serbians. Memorial Center “Nikola Tesla” in Smiljan, dedicated to Tesla, is a great spot to learn about the genius. More than 900 of his inventions are up for display at the memorial, along with his personal belongings, and there’s even a science-themed park nearby.
Memorial Center "Nikola Tesla"
Address: Smiljan 87/1, 53211, Smiljan, Croatia
Website: Nikola Tesla Memorial Centre
Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 9am - 7pm (closed on Sun & Mon)
Price: 2 USD (50,000 HRK)
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Although military fortifications lost their practical purpose centuries ago, they provide Croatia an added old-world charm. Aside from Dubrovnik’s massive fortifications, those in Ston, Korčula, Motovun, Grožnjan, and Krk are quite impressive. Today, they amplify the country’s aesthetic charm and make for tourism magnets. Add these destinations to your itineraries and you’ll not regret it one bit. Several guided tours of these walled towns are also available, so you may get in touch with your tour operators and book one for your trip.
Duration: 2.0 hour
While there’s absolutely no dearth of beaches in Croatia, not all are equally beautiful. One of the best ones in the country is Zlatni Rat Beach located on Brac Island, a sprawling sandbar with a golden pebble tip that extends into the Adriatic Sea’s crystal clear waters. Apart from this, beaches at Hvar, Zadar, and Rovinj are also pretty great. Lots of beach activities, ranging from windsurfing to scuba diving, are offered at these beaches, so you can consider indulging in a bit of thrilling fun too.
Dalmatians got their fair share of popularity by starring in the hit American movie 101 Dalmatians, but did you know that this spotted canine species actually hail from Croatia’s Dalmatia region? They once served as guard dogs in the area and even presented themselves as exceptional diplomatic gifts that were exchanged between empires as a sign of peace and cooperation. Given the breed’s friendly and docile nature, they are today one of the world’s most beloved pets. It is a running joke among the people of the Dalmatian Coast where you’d hear them proclaim, “I’m a Dalmatian”, which is quickly quipped by the response, “Show us your spots then!”
7. Croatian tie
The Croatian tie is, through and through, a Croatian invention and is today popular as the quintessential cravat that men wear. The legend goes that it was a piece of clothing Croatian wives designed in unique styles and tied around their soldier husbands’ necks to be able to easily identify them from a distance during battle. While Croatians wore it proudly, it gained worldwide fame when it caught France’s King Louis XII’s eye. In fact, the king even made it a mandatory accessory to be worn to Royal gatherings! Today, it is one of the most fashionable accessories around. You can pick one up for yourself from any store in Croatia.
8. Euphrasian Basilica
Right in the middle of Poreč’s Old Town is the small yet impressive Euphrasian Basilica, a 6th-century reconstruction of a 4th-century church. Not only is this place one of the earliest examples of Christianity across the world, but it is also the earliest example of a triple-apse church in Western Europe. All in all, an impressive canvas of architecture dating back several thousand years. While the basilica is the main part of the complex, there’s also an atrium, a baptistery, a bell tower, Bishop’s Palace, and even an archaeological site that you can explore. Parts of the entire complex are decorated with exquisite mosaics, ancient sculptures, and religious paintings, and they exhibit some of the finest architectural styles, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a site you don’t want to miss!
Address: Eufrazijeva ul. 22, 52440, Poreč, Croatia
Website: Euphrasian Basilica
Easily the country’s most famous destination, Dubrovnik retains the best of its medieval charm. While here, you can tour through the city’s Old Town or stroll through the many cafes, restaurants, and plush boutiques at Stradun. Fort Lovrijenac and Square of the Loggia are also interesting spots worth checking out. Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize several parts of the city as King’s Landing and can hitch a GoT tour too. Several third-party websites, such as Get Your Guide, offer interesting tour packages that you can book for yourselves.
Duration: 3 hour
Olives have been cultivated in the Istrian Peninsula for centuries, and while it may not hold Italy’s title of producing the finest olive oil or Spain’s for being the world’s largest producer, the peninsula holds its own. Most Istrian olive oil producers are small-time, family-run businesses that are manufactured with the utmost care and quality. Istarska buža, bjelica, žižolera, rošinjola, and karbonaca are some of Istria’s most famous olive oil variants that you ought to invest in. Take some back home and you’ll want to return, craving for more. Olive oil tourism is also gaining its might around the peninsula as well as the country, with several third-party websites like Get Your Guide offering some great tour packages. Look into these and book yourself on one.
Duration: 4 hour
Croatia: a fascinating destination
Croatia offers the perfect amalgamation of the best of the Mediterranean, central Europe, and the Balkans - tons of history, gobs of culture, and immense natural beauty. While the north oozes a typical Viennese charm, the western Adriatic coast is a hotspot of stunning architecture. Croatia is, with good reason, a hugely popular tourist destination, so don’t wait any longer and get your planning started right away. Include these top things Croatia is famous for as a starting point.
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