Your ultimate guide to Croatia

Croatia travel guides, things to do, restaurants and bars, museums and galleries, clubs, music and more…

Things to do

20 great things to do in Croatia in August

In August, Croatia is abuzz with summmer happenings. Dubrovnik and Split wax elegant with classical open-air concerts, and Rovinj harbours midsummer magic for one romantic night, and the mania of music festivals continues. August calls on Soundwave, Dimensions and many others to raise their vociferous cries, and the party-going crowds come running, with big events taking place every weekend. Here's our critic's pick of the best things to do in August. RECOMMENDED: More great things to do in Croatia.

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Travel

10 reasons to visit Northern Dalmatia

South Dalmatia may have party island Hvar and the walled city of Dubrovnik, but North Dalmatia is just as alluring. The difference is that Croatia's tourist influx hasn't hit it yet - and it's all the better for that.  This quietly stunning part of Croatia boasts quaint Italianate cities and epic national parks, authentic culture and glorious cuisine. Sandy beaches fringe its coastline, and unspoilt islands are dotted off its shore. And amid all the tranquilitiy is the annual buzz of its festival quarter sparking up for summer. Here are ten reasons why you should discover the magic of North Dalmatia:

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Travel

Game of Thrones guide to Croatia

There can’t be many visitors to Croatia who are still not aware that the Dalmatian city of Dubrovnik is a key location in HBO’s obscenely popular fantasy series ‘Game Of Thrones’. What might be less apparent to those other than committed Throne-heads however is the extent to which the series seems to be taking over the rest of Dalmatia too. Locations around Split lent several new dimensions to season four; by season five the filming had extended as far as the central Dalmatian town of Šibenik. And there’s no shortage of potential locations around the history-scarred Adriatic. Where the cast will end up next is anybody’s guess. The remorseless season-by-season growth of ‘Game Of Thrones’ from geeky cult to global obsession has already had a huge impact on visitor numbers in Dubrovnik. The Throne-tour phenomenon looks set to go Adriatic-wide in 2016. What follows is a guide to the most iconic Croatian locations used in the series so far – many of which are hugely rewarding destinations in their own right. Dubrovnik has served as the location for the fantasy city of King’s Landing ever since the shooting of series two, when it replaced Malta as the preferred backdrop for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. The look of the walled city has clearly imprinted itself on the fictional King’s Landing, however many cosmetic changes the set builders may have made. It is now difficult to think of ‘Game Of Thrones’ at all without visions of Dubrovnik springing immediately to mind.   D

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Shopping

From socialism to Vogue: the Croatian shoe company stepping forward

If you’ve walked along a Croatian city street today, you’ve probably seen a Startas. Small and lightweight – and often sporting a quirky pattern – the plimsoll is taking over the streets one comfortable step at a time. They might be nearing ubiquity now, but a few decades ago, Borovo – the company behind Startas – were on the brink of collapse.  Their remarkable story is the recent history of Croatia in miniature: founded in 1931 in Vukovar by a Czech entrepreneur, the company was nationalised in 1945 when the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia emerged from the ruins of WWII. The Borovo factory was an industrial beehive – 20,000 employees produced everything from laces to shoeboxes, churning out the footwear that they would themselves wear to work. In 1976, the factory started making Startas. Originally, the sneaker was designed for professional table tennis players – lightweight and flexible with the springiest of soles, it was a perfect athletic shoe. Robert Grgurev, the president of Startas, explains how the shoes came to be popular: “Over time, similarly to how Converse started as an athletic shoe and became a cultural icon in the US, Startas was latched onto by the younger generation, school kids and college students. Getting hold of those international brands in former Yugoslavia was impossible, so the Startas became the shoe that any kid wore.” Business boomed and employees multiplied: a whole town, Borovo Naselje, was born nearby, solely to house and school

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Music

Croatia music festival guide

To get you ready for the festival summer, we’ve put together your ultimate music festival guide for 2016. Swap your wellies for sunblock, and the summer-long scene of sunbathing, swimming and hedonism, all framed by the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic sea.  Check out the best Croatia music festivals using our festival calendar. You can win festival tickets on our competitions page and discover artist line-ups and interviews with bands and DJ's.

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The best of Croatia

Things to do

40 great things to do in Croatia

When it comes to things to do in Croatia, the varied landscapes of the country host an impressive range of activities; from horse-riding in Istria, to sipping wine Kutjevo, and diving into dramatic caves in Biševo, Croatia really does have it all. Time Out's local experts sort through the best things to do in Croatia.

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Things to do

20 great things to do in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a one-town tourist industry on its own, with endless things to do all year round. As stunning as the clear blue sea around it, the former centre of the independent Republic of Ragusa invites superlatives and attracts the lion's share of Croatia's visitors. Read on for our insider's guide to the best things to do in Dubrovnik.

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Things to do

20 great things to do in Split

There are plenty of things to do in Split now that – thankfully – its days as a departure point to the nearby islands are gone. Brimming with recently opened high-quality bistros, antiquities aplenty and the best bar scene on the Adriatic coast, Croatia’s main ferry port is also the country’s most promising all-round city-break destination. Our local experts pick the best things to do in Split.

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Things to do

20 great things to do in Zagreb

There are countless cultural things to do in Zagreb, and its compact size makes it easy for first time visitors to navigate. Attractions range from historic sights and fascinating galleries, complemented by destination restaurants, clusters of busy bars and numerous live music venues. Discover the very best things to do in Zagreb with our list of unmissable activities.

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Things to do

Essential Zagreb attractions

Zagreb attractions number plenty of stately icons among their ranks, owing to the city's status as a former Habsburg hub and capital of a new nation. Towering cathedrals, a venerable zoo and a stately cemetery all provide plenty of things to do in Zagreb. Our experts pick out the best.

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Popular destinations in Croatia

Travel

Vis travel guide

Vis island has a special place in the hearts of many Croatians, who consider this a truly unspoiled example of the best of the Dalmatian coast. Its designation as a military base under Tito froze development for more than 40 years, allowing farming and fishing to remain the dominant activities.  Now tourism is taking over this remote spot, one of the farthest islands from the mainland. Vis has become a hot destination among those in the know who want a quiet getaway amid a gorgeous patch of clear sea, which provides great fish, swimming and diving. While the party scene here may not be as raucous as on Hvar, Vis island’s gastronomy can compare with any Dalmatian destination. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Pag travel guide

Pag is thin and 64 kilometres (40 miles) long, made up of two parallel mountain ranges. Settlements are mainly sleepy fishing villages, with two towns of any size, Novalja and Pag town. Novalja is a resort town that’s become party central. Zrće beach, a short bus ride away, is the biggest club hub in Croatia. By contrast, the administrative and commercial centre of Pag town exudes cultural heritage. Narrow, fortified medieval streets weave beneath a 15th-century Gothic cathedral and the sun beats hard off the white stone pavement as local ladies painstakingly stitch Pag lace in doorways. The flavours on the Pag dinner table are influenced by its arid, saline environment. Inhabited by more sheep than humans, Pag has lamb that is flavoured with the aromatic herbs that browsing sheep consume – as is the trademark Pag cheese. Fish tastes different too, a result of the particularly salty waters. What with the local žutica dry white wine and the stiff digestif of travarica herb brandy, the Pag culinary experience is especially attractive to foodies. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Rab travel guide

Verdant in the south-west, rocky in the north and east and rocking in the middle, Rab has a lot to offer. It’s known as both the greenest and busiest island in the Kvarner string. Families like the safely shallow, sandy beach in the northern peninsula of Lopar, while nature lovers and naturists hike to the wilder beaches there. Rab town, near the centre of the island, is a bustling tourist destination, with an interesting mix of busy bars and a historic Old Town. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Hvar travel guide

Outside of Dubrovnik, Hvar is the epicentre of the Dalmatian travel industry. Holidaymakers come to be around the yachts lining the harbour of the island’s namesake capital and among the revellers forking out more than top dollar (in Croatian terms) to party into the night. A massive overhaul of key hotels here, in the Sunčani Hvar chain, has been followed by a slower stage of development as the town comes to terms with its stardom. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Rovinj travel guide

Rovinj is Istria’s showpiece, its answer to Dalmatia’s Dubrovnik, with far fewer crowds and a more realistic view of itself. It maintains a meticulously cared-for old quarter and extensive tourist amenities without feeling fake or overdone. The natural setting is stunning: a harbour nicknamed ‘the cradle of the sea’ by ancient mariners because the archipelago of islands, stretching from here to Vrsar, ensured calm, untroubled waters. The man-made structures in the Old Town are also attractive: tightly clustered houses, painted in cheery Venetian reds and Habsburg pastels, connected by cobbled streets barely wider than a footpath. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Rijeka travel guide

Croatia’s third-largest city with a population of 150,000, Rijeka has a busy port that handles ten million tonnes of cargo and a quarter of a million passengers, many heading to nearby resorts. It’s a nice place for a week’s city break, during which you can enjoy Rijeka’s fascinating history, great restaurants and kicking year-round nightlife. This is not a tourist-oriented city, which is part of its charm: in Rijeka you will be dining, drinking and dancing with locals. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Rijeka travel guide

Croatia’s third-largest city with a population of 150,000, Rijeka has a busy port that handles ten million tonnes of cargo and a quarter of a million passengers, many heading to nearby resorts. It’s a nice place for a week’s city break, during which you can enjoy Rijeka’s fascinating history, great restaurants and kicking year-round nightlife. This is not a tourist-oriented city, which is part of its charm: in Rijeka you will be dining, drinking and dancing with locals. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Pula travel guide

Pula is as urban as Istria gets. It is indisputably the region’s commercial centre, and is home to almost half its population. The city’s growing status as a happening focus of the arts has been enhanced thanks to two recently opened exhibition spaces: the spectacularly renovated former church of Sveta Srca; and the ramshackle but promising Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria. The Pula Film Festival in July continues to be the biggest show in town, although the city has been catapulted into the music festival premier league with the recent appearance of two major four-day events: Outlook (big names in dubstep and reggae) and Dimensions (the same but with some more cutting-edge DJs). What the town lacks in terms of attractive waterfront it more than makes up for in terms of antiquities. The original Roman Forum remains the major meeting point with cafés offering outdoor tables. Pula’s impressive Roman amphitheatre, or Arena, hosts events all summer. The city’s sprawling waterfront includes a port handling close to one million tons of cargo every year, a marina for yachters, a forested stretch of beach with a promenade and, outside the centre, resorts, built in the 1960s and 1970s in Verudela and neighbouring Medulin.  RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Discover culture and art highlights

Film

Croatian film festival guide

Almost every major city and region in Croatia holds a film festival of some kind, Zadar recently getting into the act following the success of similar events in Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Pula. Many take place in summer, some at open-air locations. Our film experts put together their guide to the best film festivals in Croatia.

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Art

Zagreb gallery guide

Zagreb’s many galleries come in many guises – passionate independent venues rub shoulders with venerable institutions. Consider this your essential Zagreb gallery guide.

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Things to do

Essential Zagreb attractions

Zagreb attractions number plenty of stately icons among their ranks, owing to the city's status as a former Habsburg hub and capital of a new nation. Towering cathedrals, a venerable zoo and a stately cemetery all provide plenty of things to do in Zagreb. Our experts pick out the best.

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Things to do

Croatian culture today

Croatia may no longer be the new kid on the block as far as Mediterranean tourism is concerned, but it still offers the allure of fresh discoveries. Visitors who already know about Dubrovnik are beginning to grasp why they need to spend more time exploring Pelješac and Korčula; press stories about suave hedonism of Hvar have morphed gently into press stories about the reinvigorating authenticity of the same island. And people who visited Croatian capital Zagreb ten years ago are beginning to realise that the Zagreb of today is a different city entirely.  Croatia’s ongoing status as a perception-challenging destination might be one reason why the Croatian National Tourist Association chose 2015 as the right time to replace its 15-year-old slogan, ‘The Mediterranean As It Once Was’ with the new motto, ‘Croatia: Full of Life’. Local wags were quick to subject the new slogan to a ‘my-child-could-have-thought-that-up’ level of derision, although professionals were equally fast in defending the choice as the most versatile, open-ended and appropriate solution available. The old slogan was very successful in drawing attention to Croatian heritage and unspoiled nature, but probably meant little to a new generation of tourists more interested in music festivals, wine bars, sleek hotels and Adriatic cool. And when Croatia is concerned, cool is far from being an overused word. The Croatian music-festival boom shows no signs of letting up; the legendary, genre-defining Garden Festival

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Art

The best Split museums and galleries

A bustling hub in Roman times, Split – which is built around an old Roman palace – is full of unique historic and artistic treasures. Split attractions include a number of museums and galleries that make the city a fascinating destination for art aficionados, historians and sightseers alike. Here's where to head.

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Art

Dubrovnik art gallery guide

Dubrovnik is not all about luxury hotels and destination restaurants. Step inside our Dubrovnik art gallery guide to discover where to catch some of Croatia's best modern and contemporary art, and coolest exhibition programmes.

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Croatia's best bars and restaurants

Restaurants

The best Zagreb restaurants

This ultimate guide to Zagreb restaurants covers it all: from top-level, splash-out fine dining to street food, traditional wholesome to high-end international, European bistro to east-west fusion. Get stuck in.

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Restaurants

The best Split restaurants

The Split restaurant scene's culinary revolution is a recent phenomenon and one that's still booming. Decent and diverse eateries seem to be opening on an almost monthly basis, making Croatia's second city a gastronomic destination equal to almost any in the country. Split is not only a tourist playground – it's a living, breathing, dining-out city for locals too.

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Restaurants

The best Dubrovnik restaurants

Dubrovnik restaurants are beginning to offer the culinary quality and variety that should be expected of such a luxury destination. And dining in Dubrovnik needn't cost an arm and a leg: many places offers simple, wholesome dishes at wallet-friendly prices.

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Bars and pubs

The best Zagreb bars

People in Croatia's capital city always give themselves time to linger and socialise over drinks. Whatever the time of year, new Zagreb bars are always raising and lowering their banners across the city centre and beyond, while traditional landmarks stay firm. Time Out's experts discover the best places to sip across town.

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Bars and pubs

The best Dubrovnik bars

By day, Dubrovnik and its overcrowded Old Town seem the perfect place for sandal-wearing coffee-sippers. But by night, Dubrovnik bars spring to life, with a number of atmospheric spots serving up anything from fine Dalmatian wines to fancy cocktails. Dip in to our essential drinking guide.

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Bars and pubs

Split bar guide

Local Splićani spend much of their lives in bars. By day, they frequent terrace cafés on the Riva seafront promenade and after dark, the alleyways of the Diocletian’s Palace behind it. Many a Split bar will have its entrance on a parallel street, another will have a doorway in a street with no name at all. On any given night, you’ll find at least one you love, but know you’ll never find again. All the more reason to keep hold of our list of the city's best drinking spots...

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More great travel destinations in Croatia

Travel

Poreč travel guide

Poreč is something of a cross between Pula and Rovinj, although neither as street-smart nor as bohemian. It can be hard at first to recognise its true value. Hoards of visitors fill the treasured sixth-century Euphrasian Basilica, the ancient square built by Romans and the scores of restaurants, cafés and package hotels. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Trogir travel guide

Trogir was first settled by Greeks from Vis in 300 BC. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town reflects the influence of subsequent periods of Roman, Hungarian, Venetian, French and Austrian rule. Its walled medieval centre is a warren of narrow cobbled streets, radiating from the cathedral square of Trg Ivana Pavla II, flanked by a wide seafront promenade, the Riva. In summer, the harbour wall is lined with luxury yachts and tripper boats, and the lively summer festival has entertainment on offer most evenings. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Brač travel guide

Travelling to Brač is easy, yet despite being one of the closest islands to the mainland, less than an hour by ferry – and a prime candidate for the most popular – Brač lets you carouse with the hordes or get lost in solitude. In many ways, it’s Croatia’s ‘everyisland’. And, because Brač is so close to Split, you can do it in a day trip. A ride in a bus or hire car from the northern entry port of Supetar – the other main tourist centre and family-friendly resort with sand-and-pebble beaches and package hotels – goes past pines, olive groves and marble quarries to the southern coast and Bol. When explored, Brač allows travellers to step off the tourist conveyor belt, take a break from the herd and gain a deeper sense of the island and its culture. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Korčula island travel guide

As you travel to Korčula from the mainland nearby, the crowded little houses on the edge of the island seem to be pushing each other out of the way to see if you are friend or foe. Holding them in, stern medieval walls centrepieced by the slim belltower of St Mark’s Cathedral stand guard over the narrow Pelješac Channel, protecting the riches contained on the sixth largest island in the Croatian Adriatic. So lush with dark pine forests, vineyards and olive groves the ancient Greek settlers called it Korkyra Melaina (‘Black Corfu’), Korčula has managed to avoid the tourist trap tendencies of its original Greek namesake to the south. No longer fought over by Turk or Venetian, by French or Austrian, by Partisan or German, Korčula is one of Dalmatia’s most relaxing getaways. The main town of the same name, set on the north-eastern tip of the island opposite the Pelješac peninsula, has one of the best-preserved medieval centres in the Adriatic. Historic Korčula is therefore the most popular south-Dalmatian destination after the more crowded Dubrovnik, with which it is often compared. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Cres travel guide

One of the largest but least developed of Croatia’s islands, the relatively untouched gem of Cres contains 400 square kilometres (155 square miles) of rugged wilderness, an estimated 80 breeding pairs of the rare griffon vultures and only 3,000 full-time human residents. There are a couple of resort settlements, but not much else in the way of luxury vacations. For more sophistication, take a room in ancient Cres town; for wilderness, get a campsite in the hills. Either way, you can expect a simpler and quieter time than at many of Kvarner’s other resorts.  RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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Travel

Šibenik travel guide

After a long period of playing second fiddle to more glamorous neighbours Split and Zadar, Šibenik is swiftly turning into Dalmatia’s surprise package. Like Zadar, Šibenik suffered a hammering in the 1991-95 war and is still recovering but change is evident. The industrial suburbs, a reminder of its past and significance as a port, camouflage a delightful Old Town. Alleyways and stone steps threaten to lead nowhere but are full of surprises; historic churches and atmospheric squares are tucked around almost every corner, and the golden globe atop the unmissable Cathedral of St James pops up in the distance when least expected. RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

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