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Things to do in Croatia

Here are a list of Things to do in Croatia

This is a pretty long read to learn exciting things to do in Croatia. For many European this country could very well be the next place to visit.

Istria

Try truffles
Istria is all about truffles: sourced by highly trained truffle hounds in the Motovun Forest at night, bought at outrageous prices (up to €3,000 per kilo for white truffles) and served in cunning combinations with pasta, rice, scrambled eggs and steak. You’ll also find truffles in more unexpected places, like liqueurs, biscuits, honey and even ice cream. Make sure to look out for restaurants with the ‘tartufo vero’ sign, which means they’ve met Istria’s high standards for handling and serving the delicacy. Yes, this is one among many things to do in Croatia.

Buy the best olive oil
The Istrian Tourist Board has set up the Olive Oil Routes on Istria map, to make it easier for visitors to sample the region’s superb oils for themselves. The map lists centres sited mainly around Buje and Oprtalj and there is a second, smaller cluster, further south, around Vodnjan. You’ll need a car – the map will lead you to tiny villages and hamlets, many set in spectacular landscapes. If you just want to buy a bottle, feel free to turn up but if you’d like to sample a few first, it’s best to phone ahead.

Wind and kite surfing
Surfing is among things to do in Croatia.Thanks to the winds, two particular spots down the coast lend themselves to the sports of windsurfing and kite surfing. The southern tip of Istria around Premantura; and Viganj on the Pelješac peninsula. In Istria, a cluster of ten windsurfing centres within 20km of each other around Premantura offer activity breaks. For beginners, the Bjeca bay has shallow water and a sandy bottom. Meanwhile Viganj is a serious windsurfing scene, within easy reach by boat from Korčula. Kite surfing is also popular here, with international championships taking place. To combine a regular holiday with some outdoor fun, Bol on Brač has a number of clubs to help with tuition and equipment. Yellow Cat (www.zutimacak.hr/kite) is a good option.

Istria’s finest fish
Open evenings only, the outstanding Batelina in Banjole, south of Pula, is considered the finest fish restaurant in Istria. It’s owned by fisherman David Skoko, whose father Danilo is also considered an expert with the net. Whatever they and their friends catch that morning you’ll find on the menu that evening. David’s mother helps out in the kitchen, and between them the family produce exquisite seafood drizzled with the finest olive oil, and sprinkled with lemon. Some of their most renowned creations are marinaded – their sardines, for good example. The best way to sample their fare is to order the mixed marinaded fish as a starter, small portions of half-a-dozen types, crab, sardines and tuna. Discover the best local food is among many things to do on holiday in Croatia. Always book ahead, even days ahead – this is a small venue, only 26 covers inside, with 40 seats outside in the summer.

Istria’s most famous konoba
The Kanoba Morgan outside Brtonigla provides the quintessential Istrian dining experience. It’s not well signposted – to reach it, take the main road out of Buje, then a track on the left-hand side about 1km before Brtonigla. Morgan produces excellent but simple dishes based on authentic Istrian recipes. The top-quality ingredients are all sourced locally and attention to detail predominates. Specialities include home made polenta with game, pasta stuffed with chestnut purée and red pasta filled with white cockerel meat (krestine).

Visit Tito’s festival
Festivals are among things to do in Croatia. In 1953, the Pula Film Festival was initiated by the then Yugoslav authorities as a way of showcasing the national movie industry. Sure enough, a decade later, celebrities would show up from the UK and the States to be wined and dined by famed Yugoslav leader Tito, giving Pula that touch of glamour it had always lacked. The Pula Film Festival still exists, in the wonderful summer setting of the city’s Roman amphitheatre, although its star has somewhat faded since the shrinking of state funding. The festival takes place in July.

Get rustic in Istria
For first-hand experience of Istria’s lifestyle and culture, Agro tourism is the way to go, with small-scale inexpensive restaurants and lodgings. To be denominated as an Agro tourist establishment, owners must sell solely homegrown food and wines. One excellent example is found in Karoca in the village of Sovinjak, between Buzet and Istarske Toplice. Everything on the menu, including the bread, is made on the premises. The garden surveys rolling hills, dotted with other vineyards and tiny villages. There’s another stunning view from the big table at Stefanić (www.agroturizam-stefanic.hr), at Kaldir, near Motovun – plus outstanding veal.

Split

Visit Lastovo
A trip out in the Adriatic halfway to Italy is among things to do in Croatia. Lastovo (www.lastovo-tz.net) is served by a single daily ferry from Split. It’s a holdover outpost of the Mediterranean as it used to be: sparse, barren and decidedly notoriety. Its unforgiving isolation, which protected it from pirates, offers the same respite from the mad march of tourist development sweeping Croatia’s coast. Declared a nature park in 2006, it welcomes tourists with open arms and a glass of travarica spirit – think Robinson Crusoe only with fine wine, seafood risotto and maybe a rented moped.

A day on the beach
No, it’s not in the least bit exclusive or elegant, but the point about Bačvice – not ten minutes’ walk from Split’s main bus station and ferry terminal – is that it’s a city beach, used by everyone. A modest half-moon of shingle lined with a couple of bars and few nightclubs just metres from the sea, Bačvice is all things to all men and even provides showers too. If you’re feeling really adventurous enough, try and join in with a game of picigin, a popular local pastime for which Bačvice is famous. It involves a group of lithe-looking lads arranged in a circle who use their acrobatic skills to hit a small rubber ball between themselves – the more outrageous the dive to save the ball from hitting the water, the more admiring the looks from everyone on the beach.

Eat off the beaten track
From Trogir you could almost swim to the Konoba Krknjaši on the island of Drvenik Veliki. Set in a lovely garden, the stone house provides a restaurant and rooms beside the clearest waters in Krknjaši Bay. The small pier is for shallow-bottom boats only. On the north side of Brač, Pipo in the Bay of Luke between Pučišča and Povlja, offers home-produced mussels, deserted beaches, a pier for yachts and jetties for smaller boats. To the north, the deserted wilderness of the Kornati Islands hides many a lunchtime treat, with some on Kornat island itself. Baked scorpionfish is the speciality in Opat in the bay of the same name; work off lunch with a panoramic hill stroll. Darko’s in Strižnja Bay and Ante’s in Vrulje Bay are two others. Mare on Katina hosted the first nautical tourists in the 1960s while Piccolo on Smokvica Vela serves fine Kornati fish soup.

Zadar

Explore Kornati
Not all things are easy to do in Croatia. Kornati is simply unique. An archipelago of 140 islands and islets in an area only 35km wide and 14km long, it has an otherworldly quality like no other place in Croatia. There are restaurants here only accessible by boat, and with no ferry or public transport, getting around is far from straightforward. There are dozens of safe bays to drop anchor within a stretch of water naturally protected from the open sea, or you can arrange to go on one of many tours from the nearby town of Murter.

Kvarner

Hiking in Učka
Učka, between Istria and Kvarner, is an ideal hiking destination. The eastern slopes, facing the Kvarner Bay, are covered with dense forest and many trails reach the summit, Vojak, from all sides. Vojak is 1,394 metres high, and has a panorama with all the islands in the bay spread out before you – on a clear day you can see the Alps and the Apennines. On Učka’s inner side, just below the summit are the villages of Učka and Mala Učka, while down on Boljunsko polje are few more abandoned settlements. Signposted routes run from sea level or just higher, from tourist spots in Kvarner – from Lovran you can reach Vojak in just over four hours via the Lovranski canyon, the Medveja and the Mošćenička canyon.

Vis

Discover Vis
This remote island, which has more sandy beaches than most islands in the country, was off-limits to foreigners for decades (it used to be an army base) before opening for business, meaning it has managed to sidestep tourism and retain its traditional charms. This is the place for simple, age-old pleasures, particularly gourmet ones. Try freshly caught grilled sardines with ice cold beers at Restoran Stončica, a pretty old house in a sandy bay; enjoy local wines the dry white Vugava and the full-flavoured red Plavac; and be entertained in the renowned Pojoda or Konoba Roki’s.

Rijeka

Join the Carnival
Known by locals as the fifth season after spring, summer, autumn and winter, Rijeka’s owns version of Mardi Gras is bigger than ever. Each year in January and February the town’s streets are inundated with hundreds of locals in weird costumes – and 100,000 visitors from all over Croatia and Europe. The Queen’s Pageant takes place on the third Friday in January, followed by the Zvončari Parade the next day, which sees bell-ringers clang and move in steps according to their village of origin. Around two weeks before Shrove Tuesday, on the Saturday lunchtime, a Children’s Parade runs through the streets of town. The big event is the International Carnival Parade, which starts at noon the following Sunday. It takes the afternoon for floats to pass down the main streets before the celebrations that go on well into the night at stalls and tents set up around the canal. See www.rijecki-karneval.hr/en.

Admire art
With its own substantial art collection and a strong commitment to innovative exhibition programming, the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art in Rijeka is a force to be reckoned with. It has at its disposal the energy of Rijeka’s lively art scene, with local art spaces such as OK Galerija enjoying a cult status for its semi-underground programme of shows and performances. Since 2005 the museum has also upped its international profile by organising a quirky regional biennial, the Quadrilateral, which involves curators and artists from Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy, and plays to the historical legacy of Rijeka as a maritime melting pot.

Slavonia

Wine tour of Kutjevo
The best way to get acquainted with the wine culture of Slavonia is by visiting the small town of Kutjevo. Beside the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a former Cistercian Monastery is the region’s largest wine producer, also called Kutjevo. Entry to the cellars includes a guided tour and a memento glass in which to taste their six varieties of wine, with a plateful of cheese thrown in for good measure.

Although the Kutjevo cellars can organise tours of up to three days, with degustation interspersed by nature trailing, bike rides and live tamburica music, continuing independently allows you to visit other wine growers in the vicinity. Vlado Krauthaker (www.krauthaker.hr) produces perhaps the best Graševina in town. Meanwhile, The Enjingi family (www.enjingi.hr) has a solid, century-old reputation, and all their grapes, Graševina, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, are grown organically. The friendliest winery belongs to the Mihalj family (www.vino-mihalj.hr).

Slavonia’s spiciest speciality
Slavonian fish soup, fiš paprikaš, is a mix of freshwater fish, onion, garlic, hot peppers, tomato paste and red paprika. To try it at its very best, head to eastern Slavonia, and the Danube Csarda on the sandy-beached fisherman’s paradise of Zeleni Otok in the river Danube near Batina. Another option is the Fišiarda festival in the village of Kopačevo in the Kopački Rit nature reserve, which is held every September and brings together several dozen amateur chefs in a fish soup cooking contest, with live folk music and stalls of traditional fishing equipment.

Go gothic
Up by the Slovenian border, and perched on a small hill fronted by a picture-perfect lake, Trakoščan Castle is a 19th-century neo-Gothic version of the medieval original, complete with turrets, a drawbridge and a landscaped park. The living quarters of its last owners, Count Drašković and his family, are open as a museum, with furniture from different periods (baroque, rococo and Biedemeier), a series of family portraits and antique weapons dating as far back as the 15th century.

Dubrovnik

Wine tour of Pelješac
Jutting out just to the north west of Dubrovnik, the Pelješac peninsula is slim – so you’re never far from a sea view – and studded with vineyards and winemakers. Some areas, like Dingač, are so steep that vines are planted on 60/degree slopes, and grape pickers have to harness themselves on to ropes and effectively abseil down to gather the crop. You can either drive around the peninsula yourself and stop in at wineries on spec, or organise a tailor-made wine-lovers’ tour through 1001 Delicija. It’s worth factoring in some time on the island of Korčula too, which lies off the tip of the peninsula, and is home to a beautiful, ancient main town and some great restaurants and wines.

Two wineries stand out as things to do in Croatia. The first is Frano Miloš, just outside Ston, one of the few Croatian winemakers to have gained an international reputation. As soon as Croatia gained its independence and private enterprise was allowed, he bought some land from the collectivised state wineries and started making his delicious ‘Stagnum’ range of wines, which you can sip over a laidback afternoon in his sunlit tasting room built into a rocky mountain side.
Meanwhile, Frano Milina Bire on the island of Korčula is a winery where you get to snack on crumbly ewe’s cheese with capers, toasted almonds and slivers of pršut ham washed down with balloon-sized glasses of punchy plavac mali red (like pošip, a grape variety native to Croatia). A typical main course is delicious goat risotto, first created a lifetime ago by the owner’s grandfather to celebrate Tito’s visit to the island.

The ideal beach
Yes, visit to a beach is among things to do in Croatia. Dubrovnik’s city beach, Banje, is a short walk from the Ploče Gate. It’s good for kids, with showers, deckchairs and sunloungers for hire, plus jet skis and inflatables. Yet it’s not for locals. They head for Sveti Jakov, down the coast past the Villa Dubrovnik, a 20-minute walk along quiet, tree-lined Vlaha Bukovca. Buses Nos.5 and 8 run most of the way from north of the Old Town. Although this is everyone’s favourite beach, it’s rarely crowded. The sun stays warm until late in the evening, bathing the Old Town in a golden light. It’s part shingle, part pebble, with showers, sunshades, and a bar and restaurant at beach level. It is accessed via a long stairway you’ll be reluctant to climb back up.

Walk the City Walls
The easiest and most popular itinerary for visitors to Dubrovnik is the stroll around its fortifications. It also should be the first, as it allows the newcomer to get their bearings and gain an appreciation of the scale of this intricate jewel, and the skill of those who designed and constructed it. You also get breathing space from the high-season masses below. This is an elevated promenade and history lesson in one.
As you arrive in the Old Town through the Pile Gate, the main entrance and ticket office to the  City Walls is right there. You can set your own pace, take an hour or an afternoon. Audio-guides in English are sold at the main entrance but most visitors are perfectly content with random vistas of red tiled roofs or, better still, the panoramic blue of the Adriatic, interspersed with pristine white stones jutting into it down below from varying angles. A couple of cafés provide pit stops at the harbour end, where there’s also an open terrace for that eye-popping backdrop, ideal for holiday snaps.

Meet a mongoose
If you’re looking for complete peace free of traffic and (mainly) tourists, Mljet is for you. A verdant island an easy boat hop from Dubrovnik, Mljet is one-third national park and two-thirds practically untouched nature, a 37-km long idyll decked in pine forest with one solitary road running down it. You can wander around for a morning and see few signs of life but the odd mongoose, creatures which roam free on Mljet after being brought in to rid it of snakes. In the western third, halfway between the modest hubs of Polace and Pomena, is Govedjari and the main ticket office for the National Park. Within it are two saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero, with the Church of St Mary and a 12th-century monastery on an islet in the middle.

Panoramic at Buža
Far from the downtown flock, five minutes along a back alley, the bar table of your dreams is set on one of two panoramic terraces atop a rocky sea-view promontory propping up the city walls: Buža I and Buža II. Find your niche, gawp at the awesome sunset and sip a beer. At No.I, you can even dive naked into a moonlit Adriatic. Buža, meaning ‘hole in the wall’, suits boozers, swimmers and sunbathers alike. Of the two, Buža I is the most basic but perhaps the most enjoyable – maybe because of easy access to and from the sea, via metal steps fixed to the rocks. Buža II has a straw roof, waiters in logoed T-shirts and dinky wooden trays. From the open square of Rudjera Boskovića, by the Jesuit church, follow a sign saying ‘Cold Drinks With The Most Beautiful View’. Buža II attracts an older crowd, who put their feet up on the railing separating shoe sole from sheer drop. Elvis or Gene Pitney is the music du choix and any visitor should enjoy – just one of many things to do in Croatia.

Zagreb

Eat a local lunch
Cheap and satisfying, gableci are cut-price lunches sold at outlets around town where à la carte dishes may be twice as dear. You’ll see boards up, usually during the working week, suggesting the three or four gableci for that day. You will find vendors of gableci around the Dolac market and Kvarternikov trg, for example, neighbourhood spots serving bean stew (grah), turkey with Zagorje pasta (purica s mlincima), and squared pasta with roasted cabbage (krautflekerli). One place to try them Gostinica Purger (Petrinjska 37), titled after the local name for someone from Zagreb. Testing local food is interesting things to do in Croatia.

Rembrandt at Mimara
Set in a neo-Renaissance former school on Rooseveltov, the Mimara Museum contains the most impressive art collection in town: 42 rooms house 1,700 paintings, statues and archaeological finds, set up chronologically and thematically. Highlights include a collection of carpets, medieval icons, Chinese porcelain, and paintings by Raphael, Velázquez, Rubens, Rembrandt and Manet.

Wonder at the Cathedral
If Zagreb has an iconic feature, it’s the twin towers of its Cathedral, created by Hermann Bollé after an earthquake struck the city in 1880. Right in the centre of town, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary, to give it its full title, is Zagreb’s most visible tourist attraction.  The Neo-Gothic twin towers are visible over the city and are as close as Zagreb gets to a visual identity worthy of calling-card status. They were added by architect Hermann Bollé in the post-1880 rebuild, while the interior received neo-gothic altars, 19th-century stained glass, and a relief by Ivan Meštrović that marks the resting place of controversial Croatian Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac.

Local modern art
The Moderna Galerija holds one of the most precious collections of modern Croatian art, the heart of which is the paintings of the generation of cosmopolitan young artists active around 1900. Impressionist Vlaho Bukovac was one such; one of his best known works is La Grande Iza, a nude portrait of the coquettish heroine of a popular French novel, an instant hit at the 1882 Salon de Paris. The gallery is unique in attempting to bridge the artistic eras of the modern and the contemporary, including conceptual and video works beside painterly classics. Several contemporary artists are also featured here– sufficient to whet your appetite before hopping over the river to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see some more.

The daily market
The daily market, or Dolac on a raised square a set of stairs up from the main square, has been the city’s major trading place since 1926. Farmers come to sell their homemade foodstuffs and fruit and vegetables. In the covered market downstairs are butchers, fishmongers and old ladies selling the local speciality sir i vrhnje (cheese and cream). Flowers and lace are also widely available. Alongside, the renovated fish market, ribarnica, sells fresh produce every day but Monday. A number of cheap bars and eateries surround the market square, providing sustenance from early doors, while several discerning restaurants, such as Kerempuh, base their menus around what is fresh and available on the stalls that day. A visit to this market is absolutely among important things to do in Croatia.

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Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Always traveling the world. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I don´t collect countries or require gorilla-stalking in Africa. I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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