Things to do in Croatia: the ultimate list

updated 9/16/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

From its awe-inspiring coastline, mountains and lakes, to all those atmospheric Old Towns, Croatia is a hugely rewarding destination for every kind of traveller. There are plenty of reasons you voted it one of your most beautiful countries in the world , while our experts hailed Dubrovnik one of the best places on earth for 2022 .

Given the richness of its offerings, deciding where to go in Croatia is no easy task. The same is true when it comes to deciding what to do, which is why we've compiled this list of things not to miss in Croatia.

For a snapshot, check out this video before diving into our ultimate list of things to do in Croatia. Ourcustomisable Croatian trip itineraries also offer tonnes of inspiration.

1. Hike Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia's top natural attraction — an emerald expanse of lakes and forests with 12 hiking trails and more fairy tale enchantment that you can shake a walking stick at.

One of the reasons Croatia earned a spot in our round-up of the world's best adventure holidays for 2022 , Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that rewards solo ramblers, families, and travellers looking to take guided hiking tours. And, while you can’t cycle within the park, a fantastic network of bike trails is marked on its northern edge. 

Top tip: looking to experience a range of exhilarating outdoor activities in Croatia? Consider booking a fully-customisable Ultimate Croatian Adventure trip .

Plitvice National Park is a top natural attraction in Croatia © Denis Kichatof/Shutterstock

2. Enjoy a concert at Pula Amphitheatre

The incredible amphitheatre in Pula is Ancient Rome’s greatest gift to the eastern Adriatic. Built towards the end of the first century BC, it’s the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheatre in the world, with space for 22,000 spectators.

While it's unclear why such a massive theatre was built in a small Roman town of only five thousand inhabitants, today its size serves locals and visitors well. With stadium-style concerts typically sold-out through the summer months, and a major film festival held in the last weeks of July, you'd do well to check the schedule and book tickets ahead of your visit.

But the amphitheatre isn't the only thing this gem has to offer visitors — find out why Pula should be your next Croatian city break .

Top tip: book a guided walking tour of Pula's historic sites.

Exploring Pula Amphitheatre is one of our top things not to miss in Croatia © Shutterstock

3. Experience Zadar sunsets

Alfred Hitchcock raved about Zadar sunsets and you'll be bowled over by them too — not least because the natural beauty of the setting sun now comes with sound and light effects created by the Greeting to the Sun and Sea Organ art installations.

Sunsets aside, Dalmatia's ancient capital blends its medieval heritage with bustling café culture, fab bars, and a stylish seafront — find out why you need to visit Zadar .

Zadar also hosts several celebrated summer arts festivals, among them the St Donat’s Musical Evenings, and the Zadar Theatrical Summer.

Top tip: discover the beauty of the Zadar archipelago on a boat trip.

Put Zadar sunsets on your things to do in Croatia list © xbrchx/Shutterstock

4. Explore Adriatic islands

Boasting over 200km of azure waters and more than 1000 islands, Croatia's Adriatic coast is a beautiful destination beloved by couples, families and sailors alike.

if you've never sailed before, read our in-depth guide to sailing Croatia as a first-timer . Alternatively, if you'd prefer to keep your feet on dry land, discover the top ten Croatian island getaways .

From handsome, hedonistic Hvar (more on that below), to lovely Lošinj on Croatia's Kvarner Gulf , to Mljet's unspoiled nature reserve, your main problem will be deciding where to go first.

Top tip: fancy taking to the sea, but don't know where to start? Take a look at our customisable Sailing across Dalmatia trip

Mljet island, Croatia — a jewel of the Adriatic © Simun Ascic/Shutterstock

continued below

5. Visit Zagreb's Museum of Broken Relationships

Featured in our round-up of unusual things to do in Croatia — unexpected highlights that might just get you off the beaten track — the mould-breaking Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb explores human emotions from a very personal perspective.

At once moving, witty and philosophical, the exhibition began life as a travelling art installation and became a permanent museum in 2010. Comprising donated mementoes, exhibits range from garden gnomes to prosthetic limbs, with each item accompanied by explanatory text that explains its significance to the donor.

Interested in urban culture? Find out why Zagreb is Croatia's capital of cool .

Top tip: stay in elegant art deco style at the Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb.

Intriguing sights and delights await in Zagreb, Croatia's capital of cool © Globe Guide Media Inc/Shutterstock

6. Kayak the Dalmatian coast

It's said that Croatia's Dalmatian coast is best enjoyed from the water, and sea kayaking is the perfect outdoor activity in Croatia to put that theory to the test.

It’s also extremely easy to organize, with several Dubrovnik and Hvar-based travel agents arranging half- or full-day tours. Kayakers are led in a small flotilla by the tour leader. Apart from the few short minutes required to learn how to use a paddle, no training or previous experience is required.

Top tip: mix exploring Dubrovnik's historic sites with water-based fun and island idyll on a kayaking trip to Lokrum island.

Try sea kayaking on the impressive Dalmatian coast © lazyllama/Shutterstock

7. Spot nesting storks in Cigoc

Located in the centre of Croatia, within Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, Cigoc is home to just over 100 people and 200 storks that nest in the village's charming wooden houses. Known as Cigoc Stork Village, this unique place is one of a clutch of specially-designated European stork villages.

While the area is beautiful year-round, you'll want to visit from mid-March to see the arrival of the storks. On the last Saturday in June, Stork Day is celebrated with a host of cultural and culinary events. The storks leave in mid-August.

Discover more about what to expect at different times of the year in our guide to when to go to Croatia .

Cigoc also affords visitors opportunities to step back in time through exhibitions of traditional tools and village households, with a handful of restaurants serving traditional Croatian food.

Top tip: to be close to the stork action, book a room in family-run Tradicije Cigoc. Located in Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, it's a peaceful paradise for wildlife-lovers.

Spot nesting storks in Cigoc from early spring each year © Stephan Morris/Shutterstock

8. Mix it up in Sibenik

A common Croatian conundrum is whether to visit Split or Dubrovnik first for a weekend break. Somewhat complicating things further, there are plenty of reasons Sibenik should be added to your wish-list.

Boasting magnificent Mediterranean architecture, island beaches and festivals cities like Split  and Dubrovnik  are famed for, Sibenik is far less-visited, which means all the more space to enjoy its maze-like medieval centre.

Love beautiful buildings? Sibenik's cathedral is one of the finest architectural monuments in southeastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the islands of Zlarin and Prvić can be visited on easy day-trips, and the waterfalls of the Krka National Park lie just inland.

Top tip: explore the idyllic islands and beaches of Kornati National Park on a private boat tour from Šibenik.

Don't tell anyone, but Sibenik is one of the top places to visit in Croatia © Hrvoje Bakovic/Shutterstock

9. Walk Dubrovnik's city walls

The briefest of strolls around Dubrovnik's mighty city walls serves as a reminder as to why the ancient city played a starring role in Game of Thrones. If that's grabbed your attention, read our guide to going on a real Game of Thrones adventure in Dubrovnik .

It really is the ideal city to explore on foot, with the Explore Guide to Dubrovnik  on hand to help you plan your romantic rambles. Talking of which, Dubrovnik also bagged a spot in our overview of Croatia's best honeymoon destinations.

Beyond those walls, the city offers easy access to stunning islands, among them the nature reserve of Mljet, and historic, wooded Lokrum. In the unlikely event you need more convincing to visit, discover lots of things to do in Dubrovnik

Top tip: if you're into Game of Thrones in a big way, check-out our tailor-made Game of Thrones-themed trip .

It's no secret that Dubrovnik is one of the best places to visit in Croatia © SchnepfDesign/Shutterstock

10. Discover the untamed Kornati Islands

If you're seeking off-the-beaten track isolation and unspoiled beauty, the Kornati islands could be your dream Croatian destination. Presenting the Adriatic at its most untouched, this group of largely uninhabited islands is one of Croatia's national parks.

With a sparse covering of shrubs and sage exuding an unearthly palette of grey, green and purple shades, the islands tend to be visited by yachting folk, or on day-excursions from the mainland.

Into nature? Read up on Croatia's national parks .

Top tip: from Zadar, experience the double delights of Kornati and Telascica Nature Park on a sightseeing cruise with food.

Visit the Kornati islands to discover untouched Croatia © Ivan Pikunic/Shutterstock

11. Fall in love with Little Venice aka Varazdin

With its opulent squares, palaces, and Baroque charm, it's clear to see why Varazdin  is often called Croatia's Little Vienna.

Sitting pretty on the banks of the Drava River in northern Croatia, Varazdin's Stari Grad (Old Town) castle is a fairytale charmer, and home to a museum that glitters with art treasures. Then there's Sermage Palace, with its distinctive orange-and-white Rococo exterior.

Varazdin's architectural beauty greets visitors at every turn, with gorgeous gardens to stroll, and plenty of places to enjoy kremšnita cake. In Varazdin, this fluffy custard and vanilla slice is served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Top tip: for cosy opulence, consider staying in Arbia Dorka Heritage Palace.

Visit Varazdin for Baroque architecture and art © DragonPhotos/Shutterstock

12. Pig out on Pag cheese

From the mainland, Pag presents itself as a desolate island that looks as if it could barely support any form of life. In fact, around 8000 people live here, along with three times as many sheep that are responsbile for the island's tasty claim to fame — piquant Pag cheese.

Pag Town boasts an attractive historic centre, while Zrće beach near the modern settlement of Novalja is something of a centre for Adriatic clubbing.

As for that cheese, its distinctive taste — somewhere between mature cheddar and Parmesan — comes courtesy of the sheep's diet of wild herbs, and a unique production process. It's rubbed with olive oil and ash before being left to mature.

Top tip: book a sea kayaking trip to see Pag's non-cheese attractions — Gače Cave will take your breath away.

You won't want to miss tasting tangy Pag cheese © Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

13. Live the high life in Hvar

Unspoiled and blessed with beautiful bays and coves, the island of Hvar has something of a reputation as a glam celebrity haunt. Undoubtedly the swankiest resort town in the Adriatic, Hvar Town offers Renaissance architecture, chic bars, and glossy yachts. Appropriate enough for an island that's known as the Queen of the Dalmatian Islands.

Lively town experiences aside, Hvar also provides plenty of opportunities to find seclusion in calm coves and unspoiled countryside.

Fancy seeing a clutch of Croatia's Adriatic island gems? Read our practical guide to island-hopping in Croatia.

Top tip: enjoy an alluring blend of elegance and heritage at Palace Elisabeth, Hvar's oldest hotel.

Hvar Town, one of Croatia's glossiest island resorts © Kite_rin/Shutterstock

14. Soak up (and in) Skradinski buk falls

Located in Krka National Park , Skradinski buk presents itself as a series of seventeen mini-cascades over a 500m stretch. Backed by semi-submerged forests, it's another of Croatia's top nature attractions, with added enchantment, and opportunities for hikers and swimmers to satisfy their hunger for adventure.

The most impressive spot can be found up from the boat landing, where several tiers of falls tumble into a pool.

Elsewhere, Krka National Park is home to tiny Visovac island, which was settled by Franciscan monks in the 15th-century, Roski Slap falls, and over 200 species of bird.

Top tip: into nature and fine flavours? Take a tour of Krka with cheese and wine tastings.

Skradinski buk falls - an impressive alternative to Plitvice Lakes National Park © ZM_Photo/Shutterstock

15. Potter the Peljesac peninsula

Across the Pelješac channel from the island of Korčula , the Pelješac peninsula — a mountainous finger of land — stretches from Lovište in the west, to the mainland in the east.

Characterised by tiny villages, sheltered coves, and rugged mountains, development here remains low-key — for the time being at least. The area is also renowned for its robust red wines and seafood. The village of Mali Ston, for example, is especially known for its kamenice (European flat oysters) and dagnji (mussels).

It's also a top spot to windsurf, with a great range of shore-side campsites beloved by independent travellers. Discover the best places for beachside camping in Croatia . Naturally, the Peljesac penninsula features.

Top tip: if you're looking for luxury rather than a lower ley camping experience, try Villa Loviste Paradise.

Medieval Mali Ston on the Peljesac peninsula © OPIS Zagreb/Shutterstock

16. Discover Split's Diocletian’s Palace

For history buffs, visiting Diocletian's Palace in Split should pretty high on lists of things to do in Croatia. Built by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 295AD, this former imperial pied-à-terre now forms the chaotic core of an intoxicating modern city.

While the palace remains the city’s central ingredient, beyond the tangled Roman-medieval mash-up of houses, tenements, churches and chapels, Spilt is one of the Med's most compelling cities.

It's a place of seafront cafés and ancient alleyways, of stately socialist-era housing blocks that look like something from a modernist architectural stylebook. The shopping's not bad, either, especially for shoe-lovers.

Top tip: for the ultimate palatial experience, stay in Private Apartments in the historic heart of Diocletian's Palace.

Diocletian's Palace — a highlight of Split, Croatia © Kirk Fisher/Shutterstock

17. Visit Vukovar

One of eastern Croatia’s most compelling destinations, Vukovar combines contemporary museum attractions with sites commemorating the 1991, 87-day Siege of Vukovar that saw 2000 Croatian civilians defend the town for three months.

Located at the confluence of the Vuka and the Danube rivers, on the border between Croatia and Serbia, the town's history has a haunting, moving presence.

Prior to the 20th-century, Vukovar was best known for having Croatia's largest river port. It's also home to the magnificent Vukovar Municipal Museum, located in the Baroque Palace of Eltz.

Top tip: if you're interested in the region's history, explore our customisable Best of the Balkans trip .

Elegant Vukovar © Shutterstock

18. Uncover Croatia's peka culinary tradition

if you've ever had the pleasure of sampling a hearty Croatian stew, chances are it will have been slow-cooked beneath an ember-covered metal lid known as a peka — the traditional Croatian way to create deliciously succulent meals.

Strictly speaking, peka can mean one of two things. It's either a meal of roasted meat — perhaps lamb or veal — served with potatoes and a colourful array of vegetables. Or it refers to the magic bell-shaped lid.

Either way, anything involving peka is a very good thing indeed. Look out for ispod peke — meaning "under the lid” or "under the bell” — on menus.

Hungry? Feast on more info about Croatia's top foodie experiences.

Top tip: gourmands might want to take our customisable Feel and Taste Dalmatia trip to enjoy authentic food against spectacular backdrops of idyllic islands and historic cities.

Slow cooked succulence cooked using a traditional Croatian Peka © Shutterstock

19. Roam Italianate Rovinj

A beautiful medieval port and an upmarket tourist resort, Rovinj (Rovigno) sees Riviera town-chic rub stylish shoulders with old world allure.

Known for its Venetian-style houses and elegant piazza, Rovinj is the most Italian of Istria’s coastal resorts — even the street signs are bilingual.

It's also been a magnet for artists since the 1950s, with studios speckling the Old Town's atmospheric streets to this day. Art-lovers will want to visit on the second Sunday in August, when the main street, Grisia, is transformed into an open-air art exhibition.

Top tip: if you're into Old Town elegance, consider staying at Holiday Home Grisia IV.

Visiting ravishing Rovinj is one of our things not to miss in Croatia © Shutterstock

20. Taste truffles in Istria

The largest peninsula of the Adriatic Sea, Istria has long been popular with sun-seeking tourists, with a host of hotel developments to show for it.

That said, this stretch of coast, and the region's inland medieval hill settlements and stone villages, have retained a whole lot of charm.

For the past 80 years or so, Istria's place on the map has been further firmed-up by the truffles that were uncovered in the dense oak forests of the north. These so-called "black diamonds of Istria" draw gourmands from far and wide, with truffle-hunting season marked by festivities throughout September. 

For the ultimate foodie experience, head to Buzet in mid-September for Buzet Saturday, when the world’s largest truffle omelette is scoffed by an army of celebrants. Discover how to join the truffle trail in Buzet .

Top tip: explore places to stay around Buzet — if you're heading here for truffle season, you'll want to book early.

Istria is the place to be for truffle season in Croatia © Alessandro Cristiano/Shutterstock

21. Amble Trsteno arboretum

13km northwest of Dubrovnik, the coastal village of Trsteno is a must-visit destination if you’re interested in horticulure. Even if you're not at all green-fingered, it's a beautiful place to wander.

Trsteno's gardening glory days began back in 1502 when Dubrovnik noble Ivan Gučetić built his summer villa here. Maintained by generations of the Gučetić family, the villa and its gardens were confiscated in 1948 by a communist regime eager to destroy any prestige enjoyed by the Dubrovnik nobility.

Soon afterwards the Yugoslav (now Croatian) Academy of Sciences reclaimed the villa and created the awe-inspiring arboretum you'll adore visiting today.

Top tip: for rooms with a view, plus a sea-facing sun terrace and close proximity to Trsteno Arboretum, stay in Holiday Home Trsteno.

Fountain Neptune in Trsteno Arboretum, Dubrovnik, Croatia © nadtochiy/Shutterstock

22. Explore the Elaphite Islands

An easy ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Gruž harbour, the lush Elaphite Islands present excellent opportunities to experience the Croatian Adriatic at its get-away-from-it-all best.

Meaning "the deer islands", and named by Pliny the Elder, only three of the islands are inhabited today — Koločep, Šipan and Lopud — the latter of which features in our overview of the best beaches in Croatia.

Despite all the day-trippers from Dubrovnik, tourism on the Elaphites remains low key, with an almost total absence of cars adding to that glorious stepped-back-in-time vibe.

Top tip: in Dubrovnik for a long weekend? Explore the Elaphite Islands on a full-day, three-island tour from Dubrovnik.

Lopud island is one of the best places in Croatia for relaxing © canvaspix/Shutterstock

23. Relish rakija grape brandy

There’s nothing like a shot of rakija to oil the wheels of an evening. While the term covers all indigenous fruit-derived firewaters, most rakijas are made from grapes.

For a truly heart-and-soul-warming experience, try herb-infused travarica or carob-flavoured rogačica. Common non-grape flavours include medica (honey brandy) and orahovača (walnut brandy). 

Find out more about eating and drinking in Croatia .

Top tip: Into Croatian spirits? 30km from Split, Holiday Home Rustic comes with a swimmimg pool, plus a wine and rakija cellar guests are free to sample.

Traditional Balkan plum brandy © t.sableaux/Shuterstock

24. Go the distance on the Premuzic Trail

While walking can be one of the easiest and most rewarding things to do in Croatia, the Premuzic Trail is a more serious hike.

Taking in mountain ridges and dense forests as it winds through Northern Velebit National Park, this is one of Croatia's most exhilarating long distance routes.

It offers a lesser-crowded experience than, for example, the trails around Plitvice Lakes — pretty essential for those seeking a true back-to-nature experience. What's more, walkers' efforts are handsomely rewarded by awesome views that recharge the soul while flexing the muscles.

Top tip: browse accommodation near Northern Velebit National Park.

Serious hikers won't want to miss walking the lesser-travelled Premuzic Trail — one of best things to do in Croatia © Shutterstock

Keen to discover more? Read the Rough Guide to Croatia , with a handy pocket guide  also available. Newbies would also do well to read our Croatia travel tips for first-timers .

Looking for practical guidance? Read up on getting to Croatia , and getting around .

Alternatively, if you like the sound of leaving the hassle of planning to someone else (namely, a local expert), explore our customisable tailor-made Croatia trips — from sailing trips, to food-focussed tours, to adventure breaks, and a whole lot more besides.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Travel advice for Croatia

author photo
updated 9/16/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Find even more inspiration for Croatia here

Ready to travel and discover Croatia?
Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels