Croatia’s bucket list includes Plitvice Lakes, Dubrovnik and at least one summer music festival. But what about more unusual things to do in Croatia. Plan a few detours into your trip for these offbeat Croatian attractions. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Croatia, your essential guide for visiting Croatia.
Zagreb Museum of Broken Relationships
Explore recesses of the human psyche at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.
This travelling art installation became a permanent museum in 2010. And the collection is built on donated mementoes. It’s a unique gathering of memory and raw emotion. Exhibits range from garden gnomes to prosthetic limbs. And each has a text explaining its significance to the donor. Some are touching, some kinky, and some belong in a David Lynch film.
Celebrate Croatian Modernism at Hotel Lone
The 1960s and 70s saw a boom in modern Adriatic architecture. Now it seems Croatian Modernism is back. Discover Hotel Lone as proof. You’ll find it looming above Lone Bay, outside chic Rovinj in Istria.
The amoeba shaped design is by Zagreb architects 3LHD. The interior’s furnished by Croatia’s leading creatives. And it’s a rare example of an hotel which is also an artwork.
Don't want to stay over? Then just peek inside to see Ivana Franke’s Room for Running Ghosts. Don’t miss textile wall-hangings by Zagreb fashion designers I-GLE. And spare a glance at the circular lobby.
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Meet the ancestors at Krapina Neanderthal Museum
The discovery of Neanderthal bones in 1899 put Krapina on the map. However, it took until 2010 for the town to get the museum it deserved.
An ambitious, ultra-modern building houses the museum. And visitors ascend a spiral pathway round the earth’s development. It’s a tour de force in Evolutionary Theory. But the most entertaining aspects are devoted to Neanderthals themselves. A film shows actors re-creating a day in the life of a Neanderthal tribe. And the display ends with a diorama featuring Neanderthal figures.
Meet more ancestors at Varaždin Cemetery
Few European cemeteries are as meditative as Varaždin. It’s a minor horticultural masterpiece. And was very much the lifework of park keeper Hermann Haller (1875-1953).
Haller believed cemeteries should be life-enhancing public parks. To this end he planted rows of conifers. He then sculpted them into stately green pillars. Ultimately they towered over the graves. To create, in Haller’s words, “quiet and harmonious hiding places” for the dead.
The cemetery is also something of an exterior art gallery. Look out for fine funerary sculpture in the greenery.
Medieval art meets modern Croatian design at Novigrad Lapidarium
In a league table of outstanding small museums Novigrad Lapidarium would be in the top ten. Designed by Rijeka-based architects Randić and Turato, it consists of two black-box exhibition spaces within a glass pavilion.
The collection features stone carvings taken from Novigrad’s medieval churches. And gryphons, peacocks and cypresses show the lust for beauty in early Croatian art. For more early Novigrad stonework, consider a stay at San Canzian Village in Buje.
The Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun in Zadar
Set on Zadar’s seafront promenade The Sea Organ consists of a stone stairway descending to the sea. Wave action then pushes air up through a series of underwater pipes. The air enters niches cut into the steps. And finally the organ produces a range of mellow musical notes.
Its architect, Nikola Bašić, also designed the nearby Greeting to the Sun. A huge disk paved with light-sensitive tiles, it stores solar power during the day. Then at night it radiates a seemingly random sequence of coloured lights. The effect is hypnotic. And it’s enormously popular with tourists.
Orson Welles makes an unusual Split icon
Head to Joker shopping centre in Split to meet a bronze sculpture of Orson Welles. The statue was designed by Croatia-born actor and sculptor Oja Kodar. She was Welles’ long time companion. And the pair met in 1961while filming The Trial in Zagreb. Croatia then became a second home to the director. He acted in local films. He even had a holiday villa at Primošten. And, according to lore, he was also a fan of Hajduk Split football team.
Orson Welles in Amsterdam © Harry Pot/Anefo/WIkimedia Commons
The Rijeka Torpedo is a world first in Split
Seeing world’s first torpedo tops the list of unusual things to do in Croatia. Designed by Croatian engineer Ivan Blaž Lupis and his English colleague Robert Whitehead, it was built at the 19th century naval yards in Rijeka.
But to view the surviving example, you have to go to Split. There in an anonymous corner of the Maritime Museum it sits. One of Croatia's greatest feats of engineering, looking like something out of a Jules Verne novel
An Adriatic rock garden in Dubrovnik’s Orsula Park
For open-air concerts with a difference, head to Orsula Park just outside Dubrovnik. This sloping landscape of shrubs and pathways commands great views of the city.
Each summer the park’s amphitheatre-style bank of seating is used during the Mali Glazbeni Festival. A season of concerts which attracts big local names in rock, rap and world music.
For more inspiring ideas for your holiday in Dubrovnik, read our guide to the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
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