8 Dreamy Destinations For A Croatian Getaway

With zero travel restrictions in place there this summer, Croatia has rocketed to the top of our holiday wish list. From historic cities to bohemian islands, here are the must-visit places to explore in the Adriatic paradise…

DUBROVNIK  

The walled city of Dubrovnik is famous for its historical old town and picturesque harbour, as well as being a popular filming spot for numerous television shows and films. Perched on the edge of the Adriatic sea, it’s home to plenty of pebbled beaches where tourists can swim, scuba dive or kayak. Make sure to embark on the mile-long walk along the city wall during your stay, followed by a visit to Fort Lovrijenac, a 13th century fortress that offers up stunning panoramic views. Beach lovers should then pitch up at the popular Copacabana beach, where a day of relaxing in the Mediterranean sunshine awaits. For something more low-key, catch a water taxi to Lokrum, which is home to a rocky shore surrounded by pine trees and eucalyptus. The ideal day trip away from the city, arrive at the right time and you’ll feel like you’re on your very own private island. 
 
Where to eat… Proto, in the city’s old town, is widely regarded as the best seafood restaurant in the area, with a menu that changes daily depending on what the local fishermen have caught. For a treat, head to Gianni’s, which sells gorgeous artisan ice cream.

Where to drink… Buza is a beach bar with a twist. Only open during high season, it sits high on the cliffs above the sea. Head there post-dinner to enjoy a sundowner with a stunning sunset view. 

Where to stay… Hotel Bellevue is one of the only hotels in this part of the city, so you’re almost guaranteed a private sunbathing spot on the beach below it. Rooms are simple, yet stylish, and all feature floor to ceiling windows for a five-star view.  Want somewhere self-catered? Opt for the luxurious Villa Agave, which has a vast outdoor pool and terrace. 

HVAR 

Hvar is the perfect starting point for an island hopping adventure along the Dalmatian coast. Best for adults only, the island is renowned for its nightlife, with thousands flocking there every summer to make full use of the clubs and bars, as well as the guaranteed weather. Most of the glamorous crowd can be found sprawled out around the harbour, while others set up camp in the pretty piazza. But, Hvar does have its quiet spots, too, such as the Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the historical Fortica in the town centre. When it comes to beaches, there are plenty of secluded coves dotted around, with the most popular being Amfora Beach – home to a raised bathing platform known as Bonj Les Bains. Hire a boat and sail around the secret spots, before returning back to the town for dinner and dancing. 
 
Where to eat... For lunch, head to Robinson. It may be a bit of a trek – 45 minutes out of the town centre to be exact – but it's worth it. Place your order before going for a swim and then dry off at your table in the olive grove. If you call in advance, the owner will organise a boat to pick you up and drop you off. 

Where to drink… Expect to find the party in full swing at Carpe Diem, a beach bar that overlooks the water on the neighbouring island of Stipanska. DJs spin the decks from noon to night, while trendy jetsetters sip on cocktails. Hula Hula Beach Bar is also popular for some après-sun partying. 

Where to stay… Little Green Bay is a true slice of paradise. This year, it's running on a private booking basis, ensuring you get full run of the property for the entirety of your stay. Elegant, chic and utterly luxurious. 

ZAGREB

For an alternative city break, head to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Cool, contemporary and with an ultra-buzzy atmosphere, there’s plenty to see and do. For your culture fix, stroll down the Medieval alleys and admire the architectural delights of the city, stopping off to take in the National Theatre building – a vast, sunflower yellow spectacle which rises high up in the sky. A visit to the colourful Dolac Market is a must for tracking down local produce to enjoy as part of a picnic lunch in Zrinjevac Park. The market also sits right opposite Zagreb’s cathedral, a beautiful, grand building well worth a tour. After a day of exploring, bike down to the Sava riverbank, which teeters on the edge of the city, and enjoy a drink by the water. 
 
Where to eat… RougeMarin is a hip bistro in the Eastern corner of the city with a well-stocked menu featuring everything from risottos to gourmet burgers. 

Where to drink… Pod Gričkim Topom is a leafy terrace with outstanding views. A cool spot to enjoy one of the local craft beers, or a cocktail – it’s always busy between June and October. 

Where to stay…This central apartment makes for the ideal nesting hole for those wanting to explore Zagreb. Exposed brick walls and rustic decor match contemporary furniture to give it a cool, yet cosy feel. Sleeps five. 
 
Visit Airbnb.co.uk

VIS  

Think of this low-key bohemian island as a more easy-going version of Italy’s glamorous Capri. Loved by the locals for its olive groves, ancient ruins and practically deserted beaches, it remains pretty much untouched by tourists. If you’re looking to sunbathe, there are plenty of pebbled beaches around Vis town, or journey to the north side of the island to secure a spot on Stonica beach – a pretty bay with shallow turquoise waters and golden sand. The clear, shallow water makes the whole island great for swimming, diving and snorkelling, too. Hire a boat and take a tour, stopping off at the Blue Grotto on the islet of Bisevo, before journeying to the magical Stiniva which is home to some impressive sea caves. Truly off the beaten path, Vis guarantees a magical getaway for families and couples, alike. 
 
Where to eat… Restaurant Val is the island’s best kept secret. Take a seat on the shaded terrace that overlooks the bay and enjoy some of the freshest seafood with an Italian twist.
 
Where to drink… Fort George is the place to go for relaxed partying, thanks to its glamorous, bohemian crowd. Beneath a canopy of pine trees sits the sunset lounge bar, where DJs spin soulful tunes as guests sip on sundowners. 

Where to stay… Book a stay at Villa Lucica if you want the freedom of your own place. A cool, chic beach house with a private sunbathing deck and jetty, the stairs lead right into the ocean. 

ISTRIA  

The Istria peninsula can be found to the northwest, and close to the Italian border. Renowned for its gastronomy, there are plenty of rustic restaurants across the multiple hilltop villages. One of the most popular spots in this region is Pula, the largest city in Istria. Surrounded by lush greenery, it’s easy to feel the Italian influence on daily life here. For history buffs, a visit to the Roman amphitheatre is a must. Built before 68AD, it's the only Roman amphitheatre in the world with a complete circular wall still standing. When it comes to swimming and sunbathing, you’ll be spoilt for choice: secret, unspoilt spots like Veli Brijun and Cape Kamenjak are some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia. The water is also known for being calmer here, which is great news for families with young children. 
 
Where to eat… Book a table at Kantina, a traditional restaurant with an Italian infused menu. For lunch, it serves exceptional coffee alongside tasty sandwiches, while the cake selection is also fantastic. 

Where to drink…This region is renowned for its wine, so be sure to stop off at Bacchus Vinoteka. There are plenty of local wines to try here, as well as some delicious Istrian antipasti. 

Where to stay… Villa Nika guarantees a relaxing and private break.Accommodating up to eight people, it's ideally located in the centre of Istria, just a short drive from the beach. As a bonus, it also has a private pool and pretty rooftop terrace. 
 

ZADAR 

Beat the summer crowds and head to Zadar, a lesser-known seaside city in the north of the country. Home to plenty of Roman and Venetian ruins, as well as three national parks, it has plenty to explore. For those spending the summer island hopping, it’s perfectly positioned to reach some of the smaller, secret islands nearby, such as Dugi Otok, which is home to the beautiful Sakarun beach. A rustic and unspoilt bay, expect to find nothing there but some sun loungers, shallow emerald water and rustic beach bars hidden in the pine trees. Back on Zadar’s seafront, make sure to catch the sunset at the Sea Organ, a contemporary piece of architecture that leads straight into the water. 
 
Where to eat… Restaurant Fosa offers contemporary Dalmatian cuisine against a backdrop of Roman ruins. There are six set menus to choose from, all offering plates made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. 

Where to drink… Sip on a cocktail at the Garden Lounge as you listen to the waves lap the shore below. Choose from a spot on the day beads, sofas or bar stools. 

Where to stay… The Almayer is a chic, adults only hotel found in the historic heart of Zadar. Choose from nine stylish rooms, and take full advantage of the leafy walled garden and courtyard. 

BRAC 

Head to the island of Brac for its stunning white-pebble beach, Zlatni Rat. Found in the harbour town of Bol, this idyllic spit of land feeds into the sea and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Head there for sunbathing, as well as windsurfing and paddle boarding. For adventurers, the island is home to plenty of marked out hiking and cycling paths, as well as Vidova Gora – the highest peak on the country’s islands. For a culture fix, there’s a plethora of ancient monasteries and churches to explore. Alternatively, island hoppers should spend a day drinking in the sunshine watching the yachts come and go, before heading onto their next idyllic destination. 
 
Where to eat… Ribarska Kucica can be found in a secluded bay just outside of Bol town. Serving up tasty, traditional Croatian food, it specialises in local wines and seafood. The lobster is an absolute must. 

Where to drink… Take a seat on one of the comfy wicker chairs that sit under a canopy of pine trees at Cocktail Bar Bolero. Serving up everything from beers to soft drinks, processo to mojitos, it’s a great spot to enjoy a drink in a buzzy atmosphere. 

Where to stay… Villa Giardino is a stylish and tranquil boutique hotel in the centre of Bol. Just a short walk from the harbour, it’s ideally located for guests who want to explore the area. 
 

David Boca
Istria
Spencer Davis
Split

SPLIT 

Split is the second largest city in Croatia. Known for its beaches and rocky coves, this Dalmatian hotspot is ideal for history buffs and beach lovers, alike. Spend a day exploring cultural sites like Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of St Dominus and the archaeological museum. Then, before the midday heat sets in, climb the Marjan Hill and take in the stunning view from the top. Split is also a great jumping off point for day trips or island hopping, with nearby spots including Rogac, Brac, Vis and Hvar. You can also take a day trip to Trogir, a medieval town with beautiful beaches. Finally, the blue lagoon is one of the most popular swimming spots in the region, thanks to its warm waters, so consider lowering your anchor for the afternoon. Don’t fancy renting your own boat? An UberBOAT can ferry you around from island to island. 
 
Where to eat… Reserve a spot at Uje Oil Bar for a rustic meal in a stylish setting. Locally sourced olive oils are paired with seasonal ingredients to create tasty, modern dishes. 

Where to drink… Paradox is one of Split’s more low-key drinking spots. A cosy wine and cheese bar, it serves up local bottles as well as some of the best from around the world. Just remember to ask for a table on the rooftop terrace. 

Where to stay… Want a bit of peace and quiet? Stay at Brown Beach House in Trogir and ferry over to Split for day trips and dinners out. The beach bar is one of the best in the area. 

INSPIRATION CREDITS: Bellevue Dubrovnik; Little Green Bay; Villa Agave
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