16 BEST Places to Visit in Croatia this Summer

Croatia is a summer love story waiting to happen. The backdrop? The sparkling Adriatic Sea and its thousand islands, the iconic limestone cities of the Dalmatian coast, and the stunning waterfalls and verdant national parks behind the famous coastline.

With sun-soaked beaches, ancient walled cities, and postcard-perfect landscapes, Croatia has no shortage of world-famous ‘bucket list’ destinations as well as many lesser-known hidden gems waiting to be discovered. But what are the best places to visit in Croatia? 

Croatia is a country that caters to just about every type of traveler. Whether you’re a backpacking beach bum, a history (or fantasy) buff wishing to stand above the walled cities, or just a family looking for your own slice of unspoiled Mediterranean paradise, Croatia has you well and truly covered.

In this guide, we’ll dive into some of Croatia’s most deservedly famous spots to the lesser-known nooks that are Croatia’s best-kept secrets.

This travel guide details the 16 best places to visit in Croatia – from the cities, to the islands, and tiny unknown towns.

Best places to visit in Croatia

If you’re planning a trip to this incredible Balkan country, you’ll surely want to include many of these incredible destinations in Croatia on your itinerary.

Dubrovnik: The Historic Walled City

looking at the part of the city of Dubrovnik that extends into the city from above
Dubrovnik is the most popular of all the Croatian destinations. | Photo by Diego F Parra from Pexels

If you’re prepared to battle the throngs of crowds descending on Dubrovnik each summer, you’ll be treated to one of Croatia’s most iconic and arguably most beautiful cities.

Entering the walled city of this UNESCO World Heritage site is like stepping into a history book but with better cafés. Wander along the Stradun, where every cobblestone tells tales of the past, and don’t forget to climb the city walls.

Take a cable car ride for panoramic views of the Adriatic, returning in the cool of the evening to sip a gemišt in a tucked-away square and let the city’s magic work its charm. As the sun dips, the old town shimmers under the moonlight, transforming into a scene straight out of a romantic novella.

FIND THE BEST TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN DUBROVNIK

Split: Gateway to the Islands

the city of  Split, one of the best places to visit in Croatia.
The city of Split is another one of the best places to visit in Croatia. | Photo by Bruno from Pixabay

Split is another marquee name on Croatia’s roster of world-class destinations. It is incredibly popular, not just for its blend of historical charm and modern sophistication but for its strategic position as a jumping-off point to explore some of Croatia’s best islands.

The heart of the city is Diocletian’s Palace, the palace of the ancient Roman emperor, which makes up half the city’s old town. Wander inside, and you’ll find a maze of streets brimming with bars, shops, and a few thousand years of history.

Don’t miss the Riva Promenade, perfect for people-watching and sea-gazing. Grab a gelato and join the locals in their favorite pastime: strolling and chatting, often at the same time.

Split is also your gateway to island-hopping adventures. Fancy a day trip to Hvar or Brač? Ferries are ready to whisk you away to these sun-soaked islands.

FIND THE BEST TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN SPLIT

Plitvice Lakes National Park: Iconic Scenes

cascades at Plitvice Lake with people walking along a boardwalk
Plitvice Lake National Park is one of the most recognizable Croatian landmarks. | Photo by WaldWeitWeb from Pixabay

The iconic scenes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park are instantly recognizable as one of the most impressive sets of terraced waterfalls anywhere in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a variety of trails, and each one is a walking postcard.

The lower lakes are all about dramatic waterfalls, while the upper lakes offer serene views. Boardwalks meander through the park, sometimes right over the water, in an immersive and spellbinding experience.

A paradise for photography enthusiasts, set your alarm to get the best photos in the morning light. And if you’re lucky, you might spot some local wildlife, including deer, owls, and maybe even a bear.

Plitvice is also a lesson in patience and preservation. With its popularity comes responsibility, so stick to the paths. This place is all about enjoying nature’s wonders without leaving a mark.

FIND THE BEST DAY TOURS TO PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Hvar: The Sun-Soaked Island

a narrow walkway between buildings in Hvar one of the best places in Croatia to visit
Stari Grad is Hvar’s picturesque Old Town. |Photo by Shana Van Roosebroek from Unsplash

Hvar – an island so sunny, with an average of 2,724 hours of sunshine a year definitely deserves a ranking among the best places to visit in Croatia. But it’s after the sun goes down that Hvar shines, with a glamourous reputation for beach bars and all night clubs.

Hvar has a lot more to offer than just its glitzy surface. Start your adventure in Hvar Town, where historical architecture meets a buzzing nightlife. Stroll through the quaint streets, and you’ll find Gothic palaces cozied up next to trendy bars.

A hike up to Fortress Fortica rewards you with views that will make your heart skip a beat – but maybe that’s just the climb.

For a taste of the quieter side of Hvar, head to Stari Grad. This old town is more laid-back, with its winding streets and sleepy squares. It’s the perfect backdrop for enjoying a coffee while pondering life’s big questions, like “Should I have gelato now or later?”

Don’t forget the Pakleni Islands, a stone’s throw away and a haven for beach lovers. These little slices of paradise offer crystal-clear waters and hidden coves – ideal for a day of swimming, sunbathing, and pretending you’re on a deserted island.

Hvar’s vineyards are another must-visit. The local grape varieties produce some of Croatia’s most unique wines. After a day of exploring, nothing beats watching the sunset with a glass of local wine in hand.

Rovinj: A Charming Coastal Town

Rovinj island with the St Euphemia Church towering over the other buildings in the background
Rovinj is known for it’s Venetian-style architecture. | Photo by Moritz Bechert from Pixabay

Rovinj, a slice of Italian charm on Croatia’s coast, boasts Venetian-style buildings and winding cobblestone streets. The picturesque St. Euphemia Church reigns from a hilltop, offering incredible views.

A short boat ride away, the Rovinj Archipelago beckons with hidden beaches and unspoiled nature. Explore art galleries and perhaps catch a local artist at work.

Evenings in Rovinj are for marina strolls and unforgettable sunset boat rides, followed by seafood feasts at waterside restaurants.

Zagreb: The Cultural Hub

the colorful roof at St March's Church in Zagreb
The colorful roof of Saint Mark’s Church in Zagreb. | Photo by Melvin Silva from Pexels

While many will miss it as they make a beeline straight for the Adriatic Coast, the capital city of Zagreb is a worthy stop on any Croatian itinerary.

Begin your journey at Ban Jelačić Square, the city’s bustling heart, then wander through the historic Upper Town, where cobblestone streets and the majestic Zagreb Cathedral await. Don’t miss the colorful Saint Mark’s Church, as well, known for its colorful tiled roof.

A standout attraction is the unique Museum of Broken Relationships, a poignant collection of items that share tales of lost love – it’s moving and therapeutic.

Zagreb’s cafe culture is a way of life; join the locals in sipping espresso or enjoying people-watching at the countless cafes.

The capital city also makes for a great place to base yourself if you want to journey across the border into Slovenia to spend a day in Ljubljana. Located just 2 hours away by car, Ljubljana is an easy drive or guided tour from Zagreb.

FIND THE BEST TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN ZAGREB

Zadar: A City of Sunsets and Sound

the city of Zadar as seen from overhead
The Greeting to the Sun or Sun Salutation, the blue circular monument at the tip of the peninsula in Zadar, creates a colorful light show at night. | Photo by DeLuca G from Pexels

Zadar, a city that marries the ancient and the innovative, is all about sensory experiences. Start your journey at the Roman Forum, where history whispers through ancient ruins. Nearby, the St. Donatus Church stands as a testament to early Christian architecture.

The Sea Organ is another popular attraction on the town’s promenade, playing the melodies created by the sea itself. Next door, the Sun Salutation, also known as the Monument to the Sun, is a solar-powered installation that offers a mesmerizing light show at dusk.

Zadar’s evenings are best spent by the waterfront. As the sun dips below the horizon, find a cozy spot to witness the famous Zadar sunset – a daily masterpiece.

Boat tours are a popular choice here, offering a unique perspective of the city, and, if you’re lucky, the sight of dolphins surfing on the gentle Adriatic waves.

Korčula: The Emerald Isle

looking at the island of Korcula from the water
Korcula is an easy day trip or ferry ride from Dubrovnik. | Photo by Alfonso from Pexels

Korčula, often called the “Emerald Isle,” an island shrouded in dense forests and dotted with medieval towns, feels like a journey back in time.

There are so many fun things to do in Korcula. Start exploring Korčula Old Town, where narrow streets wind past ancient stone buildings. The alleged birthplace of Marco Polo proudly shows off its medieval charm.

For a taste of local culture, experience a traditional Moreska sword dance performance. It’s a thrilling spectacle that tells a story of love and battle.

Wine enthusiasts, take note – Korčula’s vineyards produce some exceptional wines. Visit local wineries for tastings and get a glimpse of the island’s winemaking traditions.

When it’s time to relax in the sun, Korčula’s beaches won’t disappoint. Whether you prefer sandy shores or hidden coves, the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic are waiting for you.

Pula: A Glimpse into Roman History

the Roman amphitheater known as the Pula Arena
The Pula Arena is one of the most fascinating reasons to visit Pula. | Photo by Peter Toth from Pixabay

Pula, a coastal city on the Istrian Peninsula, is like an open-air museum of Roman history. At its heart stands the Pula Arena, a remarkably preserved Roman amphitheater that could give the Colosseum a run for its money. Walking through its ancient corridors feels like stepping into a gladiator movie.

But Pula’s Roman legacy doesn’t end there. Take a walking tour of the city to discover well-preserved arches, gates, and temples, remnants of its rich past. The Roman Forum and the Triumphal Arch of Sergius are testaments to the city’s historical significance.

Pula isn’t stuck in the past, though. It’s a city with a vibrant present, hosting film festivals and concerts within the amphitheater’s historic walls, making it one of the best places to visit in Croatia.

If you’re up for an adventure, take a boat to Brijuni National Park, an archipelago of lush islands that was once Tito’s summer playground. Explore the safari park, ancient ruins, and beautiful landscapes.

Primošten: Croatia’s Prettiest Town?

birds eye view of Primosten one of the best holiday places in croatia
Primosten is one of the most picturesque towns in Croatia. | Photo by Eddie from the Vanabond Tales

Perched on an isthmus with the Adriatic lapping at its edges, Primošten is definitely in the conversation when it comes to Croatia’s most picturesque towns.

There are plenty of things to do in Primošten, but the first is to explore the quaint and historic village.

The old town, a delightful maze of cobblestone streets, sits upon the isthmus like a child’s sandcastle waiting to be explored. It’s here, among the tightly knit stone houses, that you’ll stumble upon the majestic Church of St. George. The church sits at the highest point like it climbed up there to get a better view of the Adriatic. And what a view it is.

But Primosten isn’t just about stunning vistas and quaint streets. It’s also home to Babić vineyards that cling to the rocky terrain with a stubbornness that’s mirrored in the robust local wines they produce. A sip of these, and you’ll understand why the town takes its winemaking as seriously as its beach lounging.

For adventurers, Primosten is more than a pretty face. The beaches surrounding Primosten are some of Croatia’s most spectacular. Primosten is also a launchpad to the Kornati Islands and Krka National Park, offering a smorgasbord of outdoor activities.

Bale: A Step Back in Time

a quiet walkway in Bale with cobbled streets and plants lining the street
Bale is a stunning medieval town with a thriving art scene. | Photo by Jurgen from Pixabay

Bale, a charming town in Istria, is a hidden treasure waiting to be uncovered. As you wander through its cobblestone streets and alleyways, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time.

The town’s medieval architecture, with its stone buildings and quaint squares, creates an atmosphere of timeless beauty. Stroll through Bale’s Old Town and you’ll encounter historical gems like the Soardo-Bembo Palace.

One of the unique aspects of Bale is its vibrant arts scene. The town is home to numerous art galleries and studios, where you can witness local artists at work. It’s a place where creativity thrives, and you might just stumble upon a masterpiece in the making.

Bale also hosts cultural and music events throughout the year, making it a hub for artistic expression. Check the local calendar for concerts and festivals that showcase the town’s lively spirit.

In Bale, time seems to slow down, allowing you to savor the beauty of history, art, and culture in a tranquil setting.

Rijeka: A Port City with a Rich History

small boats docked in Rijeka
One of the northernmost port cities in Croatia, Rijeka is a great place to learn about Croatia’s maritime history. | Photo by Paulina from Pixabay

Rijeka is Croatia’s largest port city. As you explore its streets, be sure to observe the blend of different cultural influences, from its Austro-Hungarian architecture to its Mediterranean charm.

Rijeka’s Trsat Castle, perched on a hill, offers panoramic views of the city and the Kvarner Bay. It’s a historical gem that’s worth the climb, and the picturesque Korzo promenade below is perfect for leisurely strolls.

The city’s maritime heritage comes alive at the Maritime and History Museum, where you can delve into Rijeka’s seafaring past.

Nearby, the Ivan Zajc Croatian National Theatre hosts opera and ballet performances, showcasing the city’s cultural diversity.

Rijeka’s multicultural spirit is also reflected in its cuisine. Try local dishes influenced by Italian and Hungarian flavors at waterfront restaurants.

Rijeka also makes for a great place to base yourself if you want to take a day trip to some of the most beautiful places in Slovenia, as well – like Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle.

Brijuni Islands: Croatia’s Presidential Paradise

zebras at the Brijuni safari park
The Brijuni Safari Park is one of the main reasons to visit the Brijuni Islands. | Photo by Igor Bumba from Unsplash

The Brijuni Islands, a collection of 14 islands in the Adriatic Sea, are like a slice of paradise reserved for presidents. Once the summer retreat for the former president of the now defunct Yugoslavia, these islands boast both natural beauty and historical significance.

The star attraction on Veli Brijun island is the Brijuni Safari Park. Here, you can encounter zebras, elephants, and other exotic animals, all living on this Mediterranean island. It’s a surreal experience that feels like a journey to another continent.

But the Brijuni Islands aren’t just about wildlife. They also hold a treasure trove of historical sites, including Roman ruins, Byzantine forts, and the Yugoslavian president’s former residence, now a museum.

Exploring the islands is a breeze with guided tours that take you through their highlights. You can also enjoy swimming in the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush greenery and scenic views.

Krka National Park: Nature’s Masterpiece

a waterfall at krka national park
Krka National Park is one of the most naturally beautiful places to visit in Croatia. | Photo by Ramon Perucho from Pixabay

Krka National Park is a natural wonderland in Croatia. Here, the Krka River weaves its way through a series of cascading waterfalls, creating a landscape that’s nothing short of magical.

The park offers a network of wooden boardwalks and hiking trails that allow you to explore its beauty up close. Be prepared to be wowed by Skradinski Buk, the park’s most famous waterfall, where you can even take a refreshing swim.

For a different perspective, take a boat tour along the river, passing through lush greenery and ancient monasteries.

The sight of waterfalls cascading into crystal-clear pools is a photographer’s dream.

Krka isn’t just about waterfalls; it’s also a haven for wildlife. Keep an eye out for the diverse bird species that call this park home, as well as the occasional fox or otter.

FIND THE BEST TOURS AND DAY TRIPS TO KRKA NATIONAL PARK

Kornati Islands: A Sailor’s Paradise

the bow of a sail boat at sunset in Kornati National Park
A sunset sail through Kornati National Park is a serene and relaxing experience. | Photo by Oliver Reischl from Unsplash

The Kornati Islands, often referred to as a “nautical paradise,” are an archipelago of 89 islands and islets that beckon sailors and nature enthusiasts.

Sailing through the Kornati National Park is like navigating through a postcard-worthy seascape. The barren cliffs, hidden coves, and azure waters create a surreal backdrop.

Drop anchor in one of the secluded bays, and you’ll feel like you’ve discovered your private piece of heaven.

Snorkeling and diving in these waters are unparalleled experiences. The underwater world is teeming with marine life and colorful reefs, making it a paradise for underwater explorers.

While the islands are primarily uninhabited, you can find a few charming fishing villages where you can enjoy fresh seafood and local hospitality. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor the catch of the day at a waterfront restaurant.

Šibenik: A Coastal Gem with Medieval Flair

birds eye view of Sibenik
The Cathedral of St. James sits prominently near the shore in Sibenik. | Photo by Asendrani Official from Pexels

Šibenik, a coastal gem on the Adriatic, is a city where history and beauty converge. Its medieval old town, a labyrinth of narrow alleys and stone buildings, is a treasure trove of historical wonders.

The crown jewel of Šibenik is the Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its intricate stone lacework and stunning architecture make it a masterpiece of Gothic and Renaissance art.

Climb the cathedral’s bell tower for panoramic views of the city and the sea or join an evening walking tour to explore the town as the sun sets.

Šibenik is also known for its fortresses, with St. Michael’s Fortress and St. Nicholas’ Fortress offering glimpses into the city’s defensive past. Each fortress comes with its own captivating history and breathtaking vistas. 

The city’s waterfront promenade, Riva, is the perfect place to unwind and watch boats go by. Šibenik’s lively atmosphere comes alive during summer festivals and events, making it an ideal time to immerse yourself in local culture.

And when it comes to dining, Šibenik’s restaurants offer a mix of Mediterranean and Croatian cuisine. Savor seafood dishes and local wines while overlooking the picturesque bay.

Cultural Festivals and Events: Where Croatia Comes to Life

Croatia isn’t just about stunning landscapes; it’s a country that knows how to celebrate life. Throughout the year, you’ll find a calendar filled with cultural festivals and events that bring communities together and showcase the country’s spirit.

One of the most famous events is the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, a grand celebration of the arts. Held in the stunning backdrop of Dubrovnik’s old town, it features theater, music, and dance performances that transport you to another world.

If you’re a music enthusiast, don’t miss the INmusic Festival in Zagreb. This open-air festival hosts international and local bands, making it a must-visit for music lovers.

For a taste of local traditions, attend the Sinjska Alka in Sinj, a knightly competition that dates back to the 18th century. Watch as knights on horseback aim their lances at a hanging metal ring – it’s a thrilling spectacle.

And if you’re a film buff, the Pula Film Festival in Pula is your ticket to cinematic delights. It’s one of the oldest film festivals in Europe and showcases a diverse range of films.

What to Eat and Drink in Croatia

people eating out at an outdoor restaurant in Dubrovnik
Dining out in Croatia is a delightful part of the experience. | Photo by June Liu from Unsplash

From the coast to the interior, you’ll find Croatian cuisine reflects the flavors of its different regional influences.

Start with seafood along the coast. Fresh Adriatic fish, calamari, and mussels take center stage in dishes like “brudet” and “black risotto.” Don’t forget to try “Dalmatinska pašticada,” a slow-cooked beef stew that’s a Dalmatian specialty.

In Istria, the truffle reigns supreme. Indulge in truffle-infused dishes, from pasta to cheese, and savor the earthy aroma of this exquisite delicacy.

Venture inland to Zagreb, where “štrukli,” a cheese pastry, is a local favorite. Pair it with “kulen,” a spicy sausage, and you’ve got yourself a traditional Croatian meal.

And of course, Croatia is known for its wine. Explore the vineyards of Istria and enjoy crisp white wines and robust reds. In Dalmatia, try the local “plavac mali” or indulge in the sweet dessert wine, “prošek.”

End your meal with “kava,” Croatian coffee, or a glass of “rakija,” a fruit brandy that’s popular across the country.

Tips for Travelers: Navigating Croatia with Ease

While it is good to have an idea of the best places to visit in Croatia, as you start planning your trip, these travel tips will come in handy. Navigating Croatia will be a breeze with these tips that are sure to enhance your travel experience.

  1. Currency: The official currency is now the Euro. While many places accept credit cards, it’s wise to have some cash on hand, especially in rural areas.
  2. Language: Croatian is the official language, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. Although Croatian isn’t one of the primary languages to learn for travel, learning a few basic Croatian phrases can be a fun way to connect with locals.
  3. Transportation: It’s easy to get around in Croatia, and most major cities such as Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik which are well served by public transport, taxis, and rideshare. For longer distances, Croatia offers an efficient network of buses, ferries, and domestic flights. Renting a car is a great way to explore the countryside, but be prepared for narrow roads and occasional tolls.
  4. Island Hopping: Exploring Croatia’s archipelago of islands is a must-do here. Check out popular routes and pre-purchase tickets with Ferryhopper.
  5. Seasonal Timing: Summer (June to August) is ideal for experiencing Croatia however, be prepared for warm weather and crowds in tourist hotspots.
  6. Local Cuisine: Don’t miss trying local specialties. Each region has its own culinary delights, so explore the menus and savor the flavors.
  7. Respect Local Customs: Croatians are friendly and hospitable, so reciprocate with respect. Dress modestly when visiting churches and religious sites.
  8. Safety: Croatia is generally safe for travelers. Exercise the usual precautions, like safeguarding your belongings, and you’ll have a worry-free trip.
  9. National Parks: If you plan to visit national parks like Plitvice Lakes or Krka, arrive early to beat the crowds and make the most of your visit.
  10. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip cancellations. It’s a wise precaution for peace of mind.

Final Thoughts on Croatia’s Summertime Splendor

With its stunning coastlines, historic towns, and cultural heritage, Croatia is an ideal summer vacation. From the sun-soaked beaches of Hvar to the medieval charm of Dubrovnik, each of these best places to visit in Croatia offers a unique experience.

As you journey through this picturesque country, don’t forget to savor the local cuisine, attend cultural festivals, and immerse yourself in the warmth of Croatian hospitality.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation on the Adriatic shores, adventure in the national parks, or cultural immersion in the historic capital, Croatia promises to be an unforgettable trip.

Do you have a question or comment about any of the best places to visit in Croatia? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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