Romantic enough as it is, Croatia goes overboard for Valentine’s. Hotels offer couples special packages, romantic concerts are staged and cinemas celebrate love on the silver screen. Here we pick out the best things to do, from Istria to Dalmatia, not forgetting Zagreb, the city with a million hearts.
Dubrovnik: In the Footsteps of Love
To celebrate Valentine’s in one of the world’s most romantic cities, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board is organising free walking tours of the city titled ‘In the Footsteps of Love’. Your guide, Lidija Begić, will point out landmarks connected to the amorous history of Dubrovnik, either from local Renaissance literature or associated with romantic legend. Each is given in English and begins at 9.30am, on February 10, 11, 14 and 17. Reserve your place by email at email@example.com or by phone +385 20 312 011.
Rovinj: Can’t Help Falling in Love
Like many high-end hotels around Istria, the recently opened Grand Park overlooking the Adriatic and Sveta Katarina island beyond is offering a special Valentine’s package involving rosé, dinner at the Laurel&Berry restaurant and extended hours in spa. In addition, popular singer Antonela Doko will be giving a free performance in the lobby from 7pm on February 14, accompanied by Borna Benko, so even those not paying top dollar for a luxury stay can enjoy a few romantic numbers by the award-winning singer made famous by her duet with Dino Antonić, Voli me: 'Love me'.
Zagreb: Valentine’s with Vlada Divljan
Yes, it would be impossible to celebrate February 14 with Yugo indie hero Vlada Divljan, as sadly the frontman of revered rock band Idoli passed away in 2015 – but his songs live on. At key music venue Tvornica Kulture, (ne)normalni will be playing revered tunes such as I Only Have One Love and Heavenly Theme to an audience of romantics and Yugo nostalgniks. The new-wave troubadour from Belgrade always had a special connection with Zagreb, the city of a million hearts – also a city of kicking clubs and live music. Tickets are €15 or €17 on the door. More details.
Dubrovnik: Gastro Valentine’s
The Pearl of the Adriatic prepares for February 14 the with four days of culinary bliss at 14 restaurants around the city, each with a special menu tailor-made for romantics. Starting from Sunday, February 11, dining destinations such as Sunset Beach Dubrovnik, the Restaurant Turquoise and the Taverna Loggia offer wonderful locations as well as Dalmatian specialities, sweet desserts and fine wines. A full list of venues and menus can be found on the event page.
Opatija: Sky Full of Hearts
Many hotels around Croatia offer Valentine’s packages but the upscale Amadria Park Grand is taking things a little higher. Overlooking Opatija’s elegant seafront, this spa-blessed five-star is staging a romantic lift-off on February 10. Among the welcome gifts greeting visitors when they stay over Valentine’s – chocolate, unlimited use of the spa – will be eco-friendly balloons upon which couples can write their secret wishes. On Saturday afternoon, these will be released as one, to fill the sky with love hearts. Guests taking advantage of this month’s Valentine’s package at other nearby Amadria hotels can take part, too. More details.
Supetar: Sunset dining
While many sea-facing restaurants around Dalmatia’s idyllic islands usually hibernate until April, the ever dependable Restoran Palute on Brač operates year-round, enough custom from local regulars and the sailing fraternity justifying the winter opening. And why not? For here, as the sun sinks at eye level over the Adriatic, fish and meat are grilled over an open flame and served at affordable prices by a friendly staff, yet to be brow-beaten by the summer hordes. The house wine is eminently drinkable and equally wallet-friendly. And it’s all a short stroll from the regular ferry from, and to, Split. More details.
Pula: Lost in Translation
Valentine’s wouldn’t be Valentine’s without cuddling up in the cinema as a romantic film unfolds. And a multiplex just won’t do it – you need somewhere like the intimate, 200-seater Kino Valli in Pula. Opened as L'Alhambra in the early 1900s, this classic picturehouse was renovated and reopened in 2008 as the Kino Valli, after Alida Valli. The Pula-born actress starred with Sinatra and Gregory Peck, and was the love interest in the all-time classic, The Third Man. On Valentine’s Day, at 7pm, Kino Valli will be screening Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, a will-they-won’t-they entanglement and a love letter to Tokyo. The movie plays in English with Croatian subtitles. More details.
Zadar: Sunset serenade
When Murter artist Nikola Bašić sited his uniquely original installation, the Sea Organ, on Zadar’s sunset-facing seafront, he knew what he was doing. For this is not just any sunset, but one that famously brought Alfred Hitchcock here to film it back in the 1960s. In the end, he didn’t end up making his movie but when the esplanade was relandscaped in the early 2000s, Bašić was brought in to create something so bizarre yet attractive, people would flock here. And flock here they do, as the Sea Organ, seemingly consisting of a series of series of holes in the smooth concrete, is actually a complex of musical pipes played by the waves of the sea. Sit here, and it’s like the Adriatic is crooning a mournful tune. Sit here as a couple, as that sunset melds gold, saffron and blood orange, and there’s no better place to be.
Zagreb: Valentine’s at the Esplanade
To splash out this Valentine’s, splurge in style at the city’s luxury hotel, the Esplanade, soon to celebrate its centenary. Treat your loved one to a magical dinner at the hotel’s Zinfandel’s restaurant, where Executive Chef Ana Grgić Tomić will spoil you with scallop tartar and yuzu gel, poached sole fillet and seductive frozen desserts. Your meal begins with a signature cocktail of Love Poison and might segue into more themed mixed drinks at the Esplanade 1925 Lounge & Cocktail Bar. The gala Valentine’s dinner (€125/person) starts at 7pm, table reservations (+385 1 45 666 44) mandatory. To book a table in the cocktail bar, call (+385 1 45 666 33. More details.