According to an ancient Croatian legend, if a ladybug lands on you on Valentine’s Day, you should watch where it flies away, because that’s the direction your future spouse will come from. Along with old folktales, Croatia is also rife with romantic festivities for the day of lovers; from an Istrian chocolate and wine festival to an intimate concert by Croatian heartbreaker Massimo in Rijeka. Get ready to welcome a ladybug onto your arm – or swat one from your lover’s – as you plan your Croatian Valentine’s getaway with our expert guide.
From Croatia with love: 14 things to do this February 14
Head to Pazin this Valentine’s and taste the crème de la crème of central Istrian cuisine. Participating restaurants have curated regional specialties made traditionally with bee products. For 120 kn, choose between a selection of three-course menus starring delicacies like sage, honey and bacon ravioli and duck breast confit with honey and almonds. On through February 29, Days of Honey Delicacies will be held at 11 spots across the medieval town of Pazin. While you’re in town, steal a kiss behind the ancient walls of its 983 AD castle, Istria’s largest fortress.
Valentine’s Day is back in vogue at Three Monkeys, one of Rijeka’s funkiest bars featuring exposed lighting and mod wooden décor. This February 14 from 9pm to 2am, Three Monkeys is serving up Rubis, a luxury chocolate wine made from Spanish tempranillo grapes and cacao beans. Three Monkeys’ specialty cocktails, such as Dyyewnago (a mix of bourbon, lemon, amaretto and cucumber), are also on the menu, along with deep house beats by DJ Bruns Lay. Go solo, with friends, or with a lover.
Zagreb’s 1033-metre-high Mount Medvednica is a verdant oasis dotted with oak and beech trees and home to various species, from deer to nesting songbirds. Create your own love nest on Sljeme this Valentine’s Day at Tomislavov Dom, a historic hotel and restaurant built in 1877. The hotel is offering one-night (between 332 and 420 kn per person) and two-night (348 to 425 kn per person per night) romantic stay packages from February 14 through 16. Included are a candlelit dinner with city views and a live acoustic performance by Zagreb musical duo Bruno & Ana.
Touted as one of music’s greatest romantics and one of the region’s best musicians, Sergej Ćetković will grace Arena Zagreb with a repertoire full of love ballads on February 14. Originally from Montenegro, the singer represented his country at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest and has been delighting audiences across the region since. His Valentine’s Day concert begins at 8pm on February 14, with ticket prices starting at 120 kn.
Another Croatian legend says that if you see a robin on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a sailor. Try your luck in beautiful Biograd’s Marina Kornati with a February 14 regatta special. From 9.30am, sail down the Pašman Canal (past the famously heart-shaped Island of Love), sample local food and try your hand at tying traditional votive knots around an olive tree. The evening programme begins at 6.30pm and includes dinner with palenta (locally considered an aphrodisiac), folk dancing and klapa music. Regatta costs are 96 kn per crew member + 30 kn per boat (doubled if purchased the day of), or 79 kn per person for just the evening programme.
The dreamiest Valentine’s Day awaits lovers of classical music at Rijeka’s 1885 Ivan pl. Zajc Croatian National Theatre, designed by renowned architects Austrian-born Ferdinand Fellner and German-born Hermann Helmer. Performing is the award-winning Venice Baroque Orchestra, founded in 1997 by Baroque music savant Andrea Marcon, which will be joined by Giuliano Carmignola, the world’s leading Baroque violinist specialising in Vivaldi. The show begins at 7.30pm and ticket prices range from 50-140 kn per person.
At the Istrian National Theatre in Pula, Tamara Obrovac and the TransAdriatic Quartet will have the whole crowd swooning this February 14. Tamara Obrovac is renowned for her masterful fusion of ethnic Istrian music, Mediterranean melodies and jazz. Along with Obrovac, Croatian drummer Krunoslav Levačić, Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia and double bassist Salvatore Maiore make up the TransAdriatic Quartet. The programme begins at 8pm and tickets go for 80 kn a pop.
Whether you’re looking to forget your love-related sorrows or party in the name of passion, Zagreb’s club scene has you covered for Valentine’s. At Jazz Cabaret Club Kontesa, Caribbean music band Caiman Verde (formed on February 14 in 2003) will perform, with tickets starting at 40 kn. For hip-hop and R&B lovers, event group RNB Confusion is hosting a Drunk in Love Valentine’s Special at Opera Club for 40 kn per person. House fans can head to Boogaloo, where world-famous Grammy award-winning DJ David Morales will be performing: entrance starts at 120 kn a pop, with 350 kn VIP packages for two that come with a bottle of champagne or wine available.
If you’re in need of a good laugh on Valentine’s Day, Croatian comedian Željko Pervan (host of the famous 90s comedy TV show Večernja škola) is putting on a Valentine’s Day special called Coming Out of the Closet. Bring your best belly laugh – plus 70 kn – to Split’s Dom Hrvatske Vojske venue in the Lora Hall, where one of Croatia’s most charismatic comedians will be on from 6pm to 7.30pm.
Honour your beloved furry friends this Valentine’s Day and head to Love Cats at Café Tunel. On through February 15, Luisa Ritoša’s offbeat art exhibition features illustrations dedicated to (you guessed it) cats and the love they have for their humans – and vice versa. Ritoša, a Rijeka native and member of the Croatian Society of Fine Arts Rijeka, created the exhibition using watercolours, coupled with her sense of humour. Her works are on sale in the café and proceeds go towards charities for stray cats.
Exquisite enogastronomy coupled with sigh-inducing cobbled streets: Rovinj is arguably the most romantic town in Croatia – and beyond. The town’s designer Hotel Lone is offering a Valentine’s Couple’s Escape package for lovers seeking an upscale amour abode. Starting at 2610 kn per person, the package includes breakfast, a three-course traditional Croatian dinner in the hotel’s ResoLution restaurant and marvellous massages (we’re talking olive oil body scrubs).
Serving up some of the finest contemporary Croatian cuisine is Zagreb’s Michelin Guide-listed Pod Zidom restaurant – and it’s offering two four-course Valentine’s Day special menus this February 14 with ingredients hand-chosen from the Dolac marketplace. The meat menu, for 285 kn, includes beef tartare, duck ravioli, veal fillet and a raspberry-beetroot dessert. The fish menu features trout, shrimp ravioli, tuna steak and a raspberry-beetroot dessert for 315 kn. Jazz up either menu even more with a wine pairing for 145 kn. For bonus points: wow your significant other before dinner with a rose from Zagreb’s Flower Square, seven minutes away by foot.
Rijeka will have its very own Romeo this Valentine’s Day: Massimo Savić is holding a concert at the small-scale Zamet Centre, with an intimate capacity for 2350 people. The award-winning musician goes on at 8pm and tickets start at 100 kn. Regarding his upcoming concert, Massimo has announced “Love should be shown every day. Everyone knows that I never leave home without kissing my wife. These small signs of attention are extremely important. It’s also important to give love a special space, a special meaning. We will do this together at the Zamet Centre. We'll make that day, that evening – unforgettable.”