Is there such a thing as a cheap sleep in Croatia? It’s certainly something that’s hard to find in summer, when the coast fills up with visitors and prices rise proportionately. There’s probably no other country in Europe where the cost of accommodation is subject to such seasonal distortions. However there are still plenty of places that offer a fair deal, especially when it comes to family-run pensions, backpacker hostels, and a new breed of B&Bs. We've found ten places that try to offer something out of the ordinary, but aren’t out to empty your bank account at the same time. This is where to stay in Croatia when you're on a budget:
The Croatian capital was something of a B&B wasteland until the excellent little Studio Kairos opened up a couple of years back. Latest to pick up the B&B baton is 4CityWindows, a beautifully converted downtown flat with a bright, mood-enhancing kitchen-common room packed with contemporary Croatian pop-art. The rooms are small, cute, and imaginatively themed – one of the hosts is an animated-film specialist, which helps to explain the cartoon characters adorning some of the walls.
Is it a hostel? Is it a hotel? Do we care? Despite the naff name, Art Hostel Like has carved something of a unique niche for itself since opening in 2013, offering sparsely-furnished but neat white-cube double rooms, each with a contemporary-art mural covering the wall above the beds. Some have a mezzanine floor perfect for sleeping a third adult or a couple of kids. Breakfast is served in the common room-cum-café for a few extra kunas, although with this part of Zagreb so full of bakeries, this is one place where it wouldn’t hurt to go out and buy your own.
Urban B&Bs don’t come much cuter than Vienna Apartments, a friendly little place in a courtyard just off Osijek’s main café-strip. The rooms are small but thoughtfully designed, with an electric kettle for tea and coffee as well as flat-screen TVs and pristine modern bathrooms. They didn’t provide breakfast when they first started out, but this has since been added to save you the effort of popping out in search of pastries.
The Istrian peninsula was somewhat lagging behind in the hostel stakes until the opening of Pipištrelo, an imaginatively designed hostel right on the seafront, decked out in bold colours and pop art motifs. There’s a small kitchen on the ground floor, a social area next to the reception, and several shelves of books that are available for exchange.
Home to inspiring social sculptures like the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, Zadar has carved out something of a reputation for twenty-first-century Adriatic chic. Fitting into this picture perfectly is Boutique Hostel Forum, a bold piece of interior design decked out by the same team responsible for Croatia’s first boutique backpacker haven, Goli & Bosi in Split. Forum offers a mixture of dorm rooms and hotel-standard private doubles (with breakfast included), plus free Wi-Fi and a fully equipped communal kitchen.
The islands of Northern Dalmatia still offer a degree of wild-beach solitude that you might not find elsewhere, along with the kind of characterful accommodation that hasn’t been solidly booked months in advance. It’s idyllic Silba that’s the site of one of Dalmatia’s best family-run pensions, the Fregadon. Offering pleasant rooms and a soothing garden setting, this is almost in the boutique category. Breakfast and a sumptuous evening meal are offered in the downstairs garden restaurant.
Split’s popularity with travellers has gone through the roof in recent years and the number of hostels and apartments has mushroomed to meet the demand. One place that has been around for a while is Villa Varoš, a charming and cosy guesthouse on the fringes of the Kasbah-like Varoš quarter. Set in a lovingly restored stone house, rooms are kitted out with homely, semi-rustic furnishings together with a/c and TV. Breakfast can be arranged in a tavern just round the corner.
Prices in Dubrovnik are rising so sharply that sooner or later you’ll have to be an oligarch in order to even enter the old town, never mind sleep in it. Thankfully there are still places like Karmen offering apartments in an old stone house within the shadow of the city walls. Rooms have a homely mix of furnishings and crockery and the whole place is full of books and prints – the main stairway is decked out with enough sepia photographs and historic maps to make a history museum proud. Owned by an English-born Dubrovčanin who is very much a pillar of the local community, it is both welcoming and unique.
Two-person apartments from 600Kn
There’s a budget Fresh Sheets, and a not-so-budget Fresh Sheets, both of which enjoy superb locations in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Tucked up against the sea walls, the hostel has been going for several years already and offers dorm accommodation in a tall, thin house – there are some great roofline views from the top-floor lavatory. The B&B is a relatively new venture (opened in summer 2013) and offers swanky, contemporary-styled doubles and apartments on the second floor of an eighteenth-century building, complete with freshly-cooked breakfast in a homely communal kitchen. Overlooking the cathedral, the Rector’s Palace and the Gundulić Square market, the B&B boasts unique views; which probably explains why the prices are a bit outside the budget envelope – travel out of season and you might get a bargain.
Located in a restored village schoolhouse right in the centre of Mljet National Park, Boutique Accommodation Mljet is one of the most romantic places to stay in the southern Dalmatian islands. Features include wooden floors, exposed stonework, and well-chosen furnishings that mix farmhouse chic with modern comforts. Two doubles come with kitchenettes and TVs, a simply decorated third one can be used as a kid’s room if you are travelling as a family.