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Enjoy Mouthwatering Cuisine in Croatia

Feast Through Croatia

While the country as a whole boasts food that will leave you wanting to lick your plate, each region has its own unique tastes and traditions. Despite what region you decide to visit, the Croatian food will not leave you disappointed, the only thing to decide is where to begin.

Try a Taste of Italy in Istria

In northern Croatia lies the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria. The region runs down the northwestern coast of Croatia but also includes parts of Italy and Slovenia. Istria has become a booming culinary hotspot recently, leaving many to proclaim Istria to be similar to Venice but at half the price. This region is best known for its wine and olive oil, the latter prized as the best in the world. The rolling hilltops and the endless sun provide the perfect environment to create intense flavor profiles. Because of its proximity to Venice, you will find many Italian influences. Manestra is a popular bean soup, similar to Italian Minestrone. Pasta and gnocchi are also prominent on many menus as well as a plentiful selection of fresh vegetables.
Like most of Croatia, Istria has a rich selection of flavorful seafood. Octopus salad is a favorite among visitors and locals and a delicious showcase of what the area has to offer. The dish is traditionally prepared with fresh octopus, onions, and herbs and will often include potatoes. A dressing of fresh lemon juice or vinegar adds acidity and perfectly balances the flavors of the salad.
It’s hard to visit Istria without discovering truffles. These pungent mushrooms are in appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Harvested only a few months of the year, you can’t leave without tasting this delicacy. Try this treat shaved over fresh Adriatic fish or frozen in a bowl of black truffle ice cream.
If you are visiting in the fall, be sure to catch the Zigante Truffle Days International Gourmet Expo and don’t forget to visit Zigante Tartufi. The expo’s host offers a variety of dishes throughout the year with the rare white truffle featured in the fall.

Enjoy the Bounties of the Sea in Dalmatia

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Squid Ink Risotto

When it comes to great Croatian food, traveling south is the place to go. In the south you will find the Dalmatian region. Dubrovnik is a seaport village located in the Dalmatian region in Southern Croatia. It is one of Croatia’s top tourist stops and once again a great place to find amazing seafood. While you really can’t go wrong with any seafood offering, the Crni Rizot is the dish you can’t leave Croatia without trying. The first thing you will notice about the dish is its bold, black color. Crni Rizot, also known as squid ink risotto is a creamy rice dish consisting of Arborio rice, squid ink, and typically squid or cuttlefish. The squid ink is what gives this tasty entrée its unique appearance.
The strong flavors of the risotto are best balanced with a nice red wine. The Dingac wine offers an excellent pairing and has deep roots in the region. Just be warned, because of the growing conditions, this wine can have a considerably high alcohol content.
At the north end of Dalmatia sits the island of Pag. This island is known for its salty sheep’s head cheese. The sheep of this island graze on rosemary and other herbs showered with salt deposits from the sea, hence the distinct salty flavor. There is such a salty influence on the island, that you will find a taste of it in many of the local foods. Just south of Pag lies the city of Zadar. Visit Lungo Mare for dinner on the Maestral Bay and enjoy what Alfred Hitchcock revered as the most beautiful sunset in the world.

Other coastal Croatian food specialties include:

Pršut i sir: Simply ham and cheese. The pork leg is salt-dried, seasoned, and air-cured for 12-18 months.
Mali Ston oysters: The town of Mali Ston is about an hour north of Dubrovnik, and their oysters are to die for.
Ispod Peke: Translated to “under the bell,” Ispod peke is a method of cooking in which meats and potatoes are slow-cooked under a terracotta lid, typically over coals.

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Octopus Peke

Meats and Traditional Flavors Provide a Hearty Feast Inland

Travel inland, and you will see a shift in Croatian food with recipes including more tastes from Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. The taste of punjene paprike will transport you to Hungary with the bold flavors of this dish. Fresh bell peppers are stuffed with mincemeat and rice and topped with a savory paprika-infused sauce. Sarma is another staple in Croatia. Though resembling traditional cabbage rolls, your nose (and your mouth) will detect a distinct difference — the cabbage is pickled.
Where coastal Croatia is known for its pršut, continental Croatia brings Kulen, a full-flavored sausage packed with intense spices and given a bold red appearance thanks to the generous infusion of paprika.
Visit the capital city of Zagreb, and you will be greeted by numerous outdoor marketplaces, with the most visited being the Dolac. Here you will find an endless selection of fresh local produce, dairy, meats, and bread. Visit with the locals and discover some of the freshest ingredients.
Zagreb is also the best place to try zagrebački odrezak, a veal schnitzel filled with melted cheese and ham. Try it at Pri Zvoncu.

Finish with Dessert

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Croatian Fritule

No visit to a new country is complete without sampling the desserts of the region, and Croatia has plenty to offer. Whether you are on the pebble beaches of Istria or dining in Krapina, your sweet tooth will have a cornucopia of options. The fritule is the Croatian version of a doughnut. This doughy treat, found on almost every table in Croatia during Christmas, is not often served at restaurants but can be found at local street stalls.
If you are looking for a decadent dessert, Rožata will delight. A Croatian custard, the dessert is infused with a Dubrovnik rose liqueur, giving it a sweet scent. Although it gets its name from the Dubrovnik region, Rožata is common in many restaurants throughout Croatia.
There is certainly no lack of diversity or flavor in Croatia’s food. Whether you are a seafood lover or enjoy a hearty meal of meat and potatoes, the options are limitless in this beauty by the sea.

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Don’t Leave Croatia Without Seeing These Spectacular Places

Croatia provides travelers with some of the best values in Europe. If you’re longing to visit sunny Mediterranean beaches, Croatia is a less crowded and cheaper alternative to Southern France, Italy, and other famous European beach destinations. Croatia, of course, has a lot more than just beaches. It also offers a rich culture with unique architecture, museums, food, and history. If you do plan a trip to Croatia, make sure you don’t leave before visiting the following places.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik encapsulates many of the most impressive features of Croatia. Set on the scenic Dalmatian Coast, it offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean, a beautiful Old Town, and well-preserved churches, buildings, and city walls.

City Gate and Walls

The old city gate and walls are among the highlights of any trip to Croatia. The Pile Gate is the main entrance to the Old City. To reach the gate, you walk over a stone bridge (that was once a drawbridge). Today, the Pile Gate is famous as one of the filming locations for the popular TV series Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the show, you can look for many filming locations in Dubrovnik.
Once you enter the gate, you have a good view of the city walls. Dating back to the 10th century, these defensive walls successfully kept invaders out of the city. The walls were strengthened and extended until the 17th century, and many are still in good condition today. The walls, as well as several intact towers, provide some amazing views of the city as well as the Adriatic.

Stradun

Stradun, officially called Placa, is a long (about 1,000 feet) and busy street in Dubrovnik where you’ll find lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Many of the street’s limestones date back to the 15th century. Stradun is a strictly pedestrian street, so you don’t have to worry about traffic. Aside from shopping and dining, you can take in some of the city’s historic sights such as the bell tower (actually reconstructed after a devastating earthquake in 1667) and the famous Loggia Square, where you’ll also find one of Dubrovnik’s best-known monuments, Orlando’s Column.
Fort Lovrijenac
Another reoccurring Game of Thrones filming location, Fort Lovrijenac is sometimes called the Gibraltar of Dubrovnik. Once an important point for defending the city, the fortress had multiple cannons surrounding it. Today, it’s frequently used as a venue for performances during Dubrovnik’s annual Summer Festival.

Assumption Cathedral

One of Croatia’s most beautiful churches, The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a baroque style building full of precious artwork. The church is also known for its relics, including part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The church dates back to the 6th century, but much of it was rebuilt after earthquakes destroyed much of the original structure.

Zadar

While not as large or well known as Dubrovnik, Zadar has unique charms of its own and should definitely be on your must-see list for Croatia. On the northern Dalmatian coast, this city has beaches, Roman ruins, old churches, and many pedestrian-friendly streets.

Waterfront Promenade

Zadar’s waterfront attracts crowds that gather nightly to watch the incredible sunsets. The central attraction is a solar-powered disc and art installation called Monument to the Sun, created by an artist named Nikola Basic in 2008. This is the perfect place to spend a romantic evening as people often dance on the disc as they watch the sunset. Plans are in the works to make this popular piece interactive so it responds to people’s movements. Close by is another innovative art project, the Sea Organ, which makes sounds that are set off by sea waves.

Zadar Archaeological Museum

This museum, which opened in 1832, is an excellent place to learn about the rich history of Zadar, Dalmatia, and Croatia in general. You can see jewelry, weapons, and pottery dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. As you browse collections from the Roman, Byzantine and Medieval periods, you can appreciate the various influences that molded this fascinating region.

Kornati National Park

Nature lovers will want to visit Kornati National Park, which is actually an archipelago off the coast of Zadar. Composed of 147 islands, this protected area is ideal for observing wildlife and exploring ancient Roman settlements. It’s also a prime spot for scuba diving.

Churches in Zadar

This city has several remarkable churches. The Church of St. Donatus, a Byzantine church built in the 12th century, was built on top of a Roman forum. The Church of St. Simeon stores the remains of one of the city’s patron saints in a sarcophagus. The Church of St. Chrysogonus is a Benedictine church known for its well-preserved frescoes from the 13th century.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

While Dubrovnik gives you a glimpse at some of Croatia’s fascinating history, Plitvice Lakes National Park reveals some of the exotic natural beauty of the country’s inland. This beautiful park has forests, waterfalls, lakes, and abundant wildlife. It’s called Plitvice Lakes National Park because of its 16 lakes, renowned for their clear, turquoise waters. The park is also known for its hiking trails, dozens of waterfalls, and spots for white water rafting. One thing you can’t do is swim in the lakes. As tempting as it may be, people aren’t allowed in the water for health and sanitary reasons.

Take a Tour

If you want to see as much as possible, take a guided tour which includes ferry rides and a railroad that operates within the park. Animal lovers will appreciate the park, whose inhabitants include bears, deer, wolves, and many rare species of birds. You could easily spend weeks exploring this region but you should at least resolve to spend a day here. Numerous tours can take you through the park. You can arrange day trips by bus from Zadar. If you prefer to explore it on your own, make sure you make a plan and give yourself enough time. To take a hike around the lakes takes at least four hours.
There are numerous places to stay in and around the park. There’s also a campsite in a town about 10 miles away called Korana. To get to Plitvice Lakes National Park, you’ll have to rent a car or take a bus as trains don’t travel here. The closest stations are Zadar and Zagreb, which are several hours away.
Croatia is an incredibly diverse and beautiful nation. Its cultural influences include the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Byzantine and Austro-Hungarian empires, and even the Mongols. With views of both the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, and its many old cities and picturesque islands, Croatia is the perfect destination for anyone who appreciates nature, beaches, history, and lots of sun.
 
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Enjoy Croatia’s Old-World Romance with These 10 Romantic Getaway Spots

Romantic Croatia Getaways

Croatia is the perfect place to walk hand-in-hand along cobblestone streets and pristine beaches without actually leaving the convenience and amenities of modern Europe behind.
But before you just dive into the breathtaking allure of a romantic Croatian vacation, we’d love to give you the highlights and best places to sneak away to with your partner for more than a few memorable experiences.

Travel Back In Time Walking the Streets of Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik

The number one city in Croatia for romantics to visit is Dubrovnik, a practically unchanged medieval fortress-city surrounded by an incredible wall that you can walk along hand-in-hand with your partner to get a complete view of the city. Inside, all the streets are cobblestone and the shops are built directly into the city wall itself. Walking the streets of Dubrovnik enjoying sights and smells that have been there for hundreds of years will feel just like you have been somehow transported into a fairy tale, locked away from the rest of the world behind their legendary wall.
There are spectacular Turkish spas where you can frolic easily between the spa and a private slice of ocean. While you’re there, don’t forget to check Proto, one of the many classic outdoor cafes or take a glass-bottom boat tour through crystal-clear seas to the Island of Lokrum. There, peacocks roam freely and you can sunbathe on the rocks and cliffs that hang over an impossibly blue ocean.

Wine and Dine in Boskinac on the Isle of Pag

For wine lovers, there’s no better option than a visit to the family-run Boskinac winery and restaurant on the beautiful and rugged little island of Pag. This island features a wonderful mix of classic Mediterranean fare, well known for its salty sheep’s cheese, plump olives, and tender lamb dishes.
Boskinac is a working winery that serves a delectable selection of their own wines and provides an innovative twist on the local cuisine. Enjoy a romantic terrace dinner overlooking the island by candlelight or in the orange glow of the setting sun.

Forest hiking on the breathtaking Mljet Island

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Couple hiking in Croatia

For nature-lovers out there who want to split your romantic getaway between medieval city vistas and untouched European forests, you cannot pass over the opportunity to visit Mljet Island. This beautiful island has been lauded as one of the last perfect Mediterranean forests and a paradise on earth. The north part of the island is a pristine national park full of fragrant pines that flow all the way to the sea.
If you choose your vacation dates carefully, it will feel like you have almost the entire island to yourself as you and your beloved walk through an ancient forest like the only two people in the world. Take the rocky paths up the island to breathtaking overlook views or walk the beaches and dip your toes in the sea somewhere that no one else will find you until you’re ready to be found. Pick up maps from the park office in Pristaniste and then walk back to civilization for a lovely lunch before taking the Ferry back to Dubrovnik.

Walk Hand-in-Hand Down the Makarska Beach

Makarska is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and that’s saying something for a country with over 6,000 kilometers of amazing beaches. Though it is a tourist hotspot, the beach is almost never too crowded and the quaint seaside is dotted with amazing little bars, shops, and family-owned restaurants that will delight the senses in every way.

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Beach in Croatia

While you can dine in dozens of little places your friends have never heard of and would envy if they could see, don’t forget to make a stop at the More Restaurant, the best place on the beach for king prawns, muscles, and traditional Croatian cuttlefish risotto. From there, you can stroll down the beach with your special someone to grab drinks at the Mojito Bar.

Old-World Vehicle Free Charm on the Isle of Kolocep

Another easy ferry ride from the medieval city of Dubrovnik is the tiny island of Kolocep. This island has a permanent population of only about 100 people and not a single vehicle on the entire landmass. You won’t run into droves of tourists, here, just beautiful privacy and a freshly made lavender products in the open-air market.
But what is truly amazing is the nightlife. A short walk away is the Culinarium restaurant which features a different theme every night. For the most romantic experience, time your visit with the night they fill the entire restaurant with candles and pair your dinner with the perfect wine for every dish.

Take a Private Tour Through the Diocletian Palace

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Diocletian Palace

If you have ever wanted to pair an incredible historical museum with the classic romantic shopping experience, there is no substitute for Croatia’s Diocletian Palace. Explore with your beloved on a self-guided tour through the lower section of the palace to see what it looked like for hundreds of years before the modern world touched this beautiful country. You can spend hours pouring over the ornate furniture and imagining the lives that must have been led in this enormous glamorous place.
And when you’re ready to return to the modern world, visit the upper section of the palace that has been rebuilt with restaurants, cafes, and adorable boutiques that are a part of the walls themselves.

Build Your Own Croatian Romantic Getawaycroatia_couple_beach_worldvia

Of course, while there are hundreds of historical and breathtaking places to visit in Croatia, the best romantic escape is to build a unique experience with your special someone. Walk the streets, visit shops and cafes that are never written about in travel guides, and create a one-of-a-kind experience that the two of you will still be dreaming about decades from now. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to come back to Croatia every year to rekindle the passion and remember what it was once like to be in love in a Mediterranean paradise long ago.

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How to Live Like the Locals in Croatia

Croatian Town

Complete with enough breathtaking scenery to lure HBO film crews for Game of Thrones, the gem in Southeastern Europe also has a unique culture with a rich history and traditions known to captivate visitors every bit as much as the country’s apparent beauty. The closer to capturing the life of a local in Croatia, the closer you’ll be to unraveling the mysteries of both ancient and modern culture in a country that is the rival of many of the top destinations in Europe for visitors looking for an unforgettable experience.

Experiencing modern Croatia in Zagreb.

Croatia’s capital and largest city has more than enough charm to make up for the lack of beaches and water views, which tend to be driving factors for visitors to Split and Dubrovnik. With terrific architecture, unique attractions (like the Museum of Broken Relationships), and plenty of opportunities to see both the old and new Croatia, Zagreb is a terrific place to get a feel for what everyday life is like for Croatians.
One place that is never too light on the foot traffic is Tkalciceva Street, a pedestrian-only pathway loaded with colorful buildings, outdoor restaurants/cafes, and boutique shops that draw in both locals and tourists alike. Formerly a red-light district (until WWII), Tkalciceva was once a creek before it was filled in with gravel and eventually paved, making it a city center that routinely boasts talented street musicians and families spending an afternoon on the town. It’s also a great spot for sipping coffee or locally made (and relatively inexpensive) Croatian craft beers, which have become extremely popular around the country over the last decade.
In the offseason, you’ll find plenty of locals gathering at hubs like the Zagreb 360-degree observation deck in the famous Ban Jelačić Square, where you can experience astounding, panoramic views of the red-roof dominated cityscape. The same goes for sites like Maksimir Park, where you can find a very tranquil scene of forest trails and ponds that are particularly great to explore in the early spring or late fall—when the weather is still mild, but it’s away from the peak of tourist season. For a genuine Croatian experience, slip through town in the electric tram and work on your Croatian linguistic basics, like hvala vam (thank you) and oprosti (excuse me).
Also consider: Zagreb is a very happening place for music, particularly within the indie-rock world. The midsummer INmusic Festival at Lake Juran tends to be a clear highlight of a city that has become very well-known for major concerts and festivals, and it regularly boasts famous bands/musicians like Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Alt-J, and more.

The international flavor of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Travelers aren’t the only ones who turn up for the internationally famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival, one of the most eclectic collections of artistic expression you’ll ever find in one place. From mid-July to late-August in the gorgeous southern city on the Adriatic, Croatians relish in the opportunity to see their city transformed into a stunning collaboration of different art forms at the peak of the summer. Not every summer festival can boast legendary actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench starring in a rendition of Hamlet, but such is the prestige of one of the most popular events in the country. More than just plays, there are world-class opera and ballet productions along with a wide range of musical concerts, which seamlessly merge with a host of other events to make it one of the most distinguished summer festivals in Europe.
But even though it’s a definite international draw that brings in artists from all over the world, the festival’s producers ensure an authentic Croatian experience that promotes longstanding ideals and traditions. Once a dominant maritime power, Dubrovnik has brought together a variety of different cultures since medieval days, and the festival continues to promote the diversity as a fundamental part of the Dubrovnik experience. Founded in the 50s, the festival has continuously grown and has become a fantastic way for visitors to mingle with Croatians from all over the country, creating a unique and lively atmosphere that is often seen as one of the fundamental experiences of visiting Croatia.

Spend a winter in Split.

The second-largest city in Croatia, Split also enjoys a reputation for being a seaside beauty, making it a natural gathering point for expats from around the world. In the spring, summer and (early fall), you can expect a massive international population as visitors enjoy the Mediterranean climate and plethora of things to do, from stunning coastal boat cruises and winery visits to inspecting the standing palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Once ruled by the Romans and later by the Venetian maritime empire, Split is an eternal port city that pops to life with visitors when the weather heats up, which is a tradition that goes back more than a millennium.
Then the winter comes, and any visitors remaining get a real opportunity to see how the locals do it in Split. With average highs in the low-50s (F), the winters are indeed on the mild side, which means that the city remains exceptionally active, with sidewalk cafes and pubs typically bustling with locals whenever the sunshine is out. At places like Marjan Forest Park, which hovers high above the coastline, families tend to be out walking dogs and playing with their kids—all while enjoying the limited number of international visitors that tend to pile up during the peak parts of the year. The viewing platform also yields radiant views of the city, harbor, and Adriatic coast.
Although snow isn’t all that common, a light dusting does happen every now and again, coating the rows of palm trees along the harbor to provide a photographic gift that typically isn’t seen by many tourists. Even with the cooler temperatures, the harbor remains an energetic hot spot throughout the winter, making it a great area to spend an afternoon or three wandering the waterside restaurants and shops that sit beneath the palm trees. For those who do want to enjoy some of the more popular destinations (e.g., Diocletian’s Palace or the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius), winter visitors will also have more elbow room. Transportation and hotels in Split also tend to be considerably less expensive in the winter than the summer, which translates to more money for splurging on exceptional Croatian dining experiences and activities.

Digging into Croatian cuisine.

When you’re near the coast in places like Split or Dubrovnik, it’s not hard to see the Greek and Italian traditions that are often at the heart of the food scene – particularly when it comes to staples like seafood thanks to the prominent fishing culture. If you see any locals with (mildly) black teeth, it’s probably because they just had some crni rižot, a black risotto typically made with squid (or cuttlefish), red wine, and squid ink that is a bit of a classic in Croatia. There are plenty of other locally loved seafood favorites (e.g., buzara and brodetto), but you can also try unique pastries like a fritule, which is a version of Croatian donut that is typically served around the holidays.
Inland, you can expect flavors that more closely resemble the traditions of central European countries or other close neighbors like Hungary and Turkey, with plenty of hearty dishes featuring potatoes, cabbage, and root veggies. Cooked directly over burning embers in a terracotta, peka is a popular dish in places like Zagreb and around the rest of Croatia, with variations using lamb, octopus, chicken, or veal depending on the restaurant. For those with a sweet-tooth, the Zagorski Štrukli is a classic Croatian pastry that was even designated a dish of major cultural significance by the Ministry of Culture. A delicious combination of dough and a mostly cheese-based filling, the Zagorski Štrukli evolved from a similar Slovenian dish, but the Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions have made it uniquely Croatian.
Fitting for a nation that has long celebrated the act of creating their versions of traditions from around the world, the food scene in Croatia is diverse and loaded with opportunities for those with a wide variety of pallets.
Also consider: The Spancirfest music and street-food festival in Varazdin can easily be reached by train or bus from Zagreb and features food from some of the best restaurants in the country as well as favorite bands from around the world.

Final thoughts.

Traveling to Croatia during the peak summer season will undoubtedly yield a fantastic experience (especially if you go for events like the Dubrovnik Summer Festival), although those who prioritize living as the locals do might want to consider the rest of the calendar as well. For coastal towns and cities, the winter can be the perfect option to allow a closer look at Croatian culture, and it never hurts that accommodations will be considerably less expensive. As for inland cities like Zagreb, the dead of winter is still an excellent option for those who don’t mind a true winter atmosphere. The slightly warmer months of March and October are also good times that can help you miss the coldest weather and biggest crowds while providing a more significant opportunity to slip into the everyday lives of Croatians.