By Anna Timbrook
It’s not easy to choose the best cities in Croatia to visit.
That’s because Croatia, just south of Slovenia and Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia, is a stunning country with a vast coastline peppered with beautiful cities and towns. So when planning a visit Croatia you must decide whether to stick to the coastline and ignore those hidden gems inland. Or should you include a little island hopping, taking in some of the smaller cities that are less visited but still worthwhile.
As you can see, choosing the best cities for your itinerary can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.
First, take a look at seven of the best cities in the country and what they have to offer. Then, once you have shortlisted your must-sees, you can figure out if they work in terms of what other places you are visiting. Because in the end, there are also stunning beaches and islands as well as National Parks, so be sure to do your research well.
So, without further ado, here are the seven most beautiful cities in Croatia that I recommend you visit.
The city of Trogir is quite close to Split and is often overshadowed by it. Nevertheless, make sure you put this gorgeous city on your bucket list since it is one of the best cities in Croatia!
The entire city is pretty large, since it spreads across mainland Croatia, as well as two islands. Trogir’s Old Town is located on a tiny island that is connected with bridges to the rest of the city, and it is the most beautiful part of the town. There’s a vast seaside promenade lined with cafes and restaurants, where you can just sit forever and enjoy the views.
Better yet, venture into one of the narrow alleys and try to navigate your way through the maze of the old town. Perhaps the most iconic sights in this city are the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, which is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Interestingly, the Cathedral is enormous while the square that surrounds it is pretty small, so it’s almost impossible to fit the entire thing in one photo.
Another iconic location in this town is Kamerlengo castle. The 15th-century tower offers some amazing scenic views of the city, and it’s definitely worth your time. It will also allow you to see the bridges that connect Trogir old town to mainland Croatia and the island of Čiovo.
Korčula, another of the best cities in Croatia, is a town included in every single list of top Croatian cities and island hopping trips, and for very good reason. For one thing, it is rumoured to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, and the town has really capitalized on that fact. There are Marco Polo souvenir shops throughout the entire town, as well as a museum.
But that’s not what makes this town popular. People love Korčula’s old town because it’s encircled by city walls, which creates a very unique effect. There are various turrets throughout the old town, and you can actually climb one of them – to the cocktail bar at the top.
One of the most iconic sights in this city is the Korcula Town Gate. It marks the entrance into Korčula old town, so it’s best to start exploring from there. But beware – there are lots of stone steps, the cobblestone alleys are very narrow, and you can smell delicious (and overpriced) food from restaurants wherever you go.
I would definitely recommend that you make your way to the western walls – from there you have an amazing view of the marina below. And there are usually some very luxurious boats and yachts there, which are also a beautiful sight.
Šibenik is a truly charming city, which you’ll fall in love with when you visit. With 2,851 stone steps in Civitas Sacra (the old town), you will get a really good workout while you’re exploring this city.
You have to go for a walk in Šibenik’s old town – the narrow cobblestone alleyways are really beautiful, and there is so much to see. In the lower part of the old town you’ll find the Cathedral of Saint James – a huge church that is majestic both inside and out. And if you climb some steps, you’ll make your way to a charming little garden full of plants, bushes and flowers, all part of the St. Lawrence Monastery.
There are several fortresses in Šibenik, and you have to visit at least one of them. I would recommend going to the Barone Fortress – there’s a cafe at the top so you can sit down and enjoy a drink while admiring the surreal views. This fortress is on a hill overlooking the old town and other areas of the city, and is incredibly beautiful.
St. Nicholas Fortress is another stunning sight, but it is far outside the city center. It is actually located on a tiny island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge, but you can’t really walk here from Šibenik’s city center since it’s so far away.
Another beautiful city that needs to be on your bucket list is Zadar. The old town of this city is located on a small peninsula, which is rather unique, and one of the reasons it’s one of the best cities in Croatia for travelers.
But the old town isn’t the only thing to see in Zadar. Sure, you have to see the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun, two landmarks designed by Nikola Basic in 2005, and which have become the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Both landmarks represent an attempt to communicate with nature; the Organ is an attempt to communicate with sound, while the Sun monument attempts to communicate with light.
And of course, you can’t miss the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, probably the most iconic sight in the city. Its notoriety stems not only from its beauty but also from its size. The church is massive.
And there’s also a Sphynx in Zadar so you don’t have to make a trip to Egypt, The sculpture is part of a grassy sculpture garden.
Not all beautiful Croatian cities are found on the seaside. Some of the best cities in Croatia, such as Varaždin, a stunning town known for its medieval castles and baroque architecture, are in the northern part of the country.
There is a fortress with an estate in the middle of Varaždin’s Old town, and it is one of the first things you should go and see. The fortress is home to the local History Museum, and you should definitely visit it if you’re interested to learn more about this beautiful city.
In addition to massive fortresses, Varaždin is also full of smaller palaces. The Draskovic Palace is perhaps the best known, since it is in the city’s most popular square. There is also the Herzer palace, the Erdody palace, the Keglevic palace and many, many others that you will see if you just walk around the old town.
Another popular castle is Trakoscan, but it is not actually in Varaždin. It is very close by, and I would recommend that you go there if you have the time. The castle sits on a hilltop overlooking a small lake, and the entire scene is postcard perfect.
Pula is a large city on Istria, the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, and is another of our best cities in Croatia for visitors. It is best known for the huge Roman amphitheatre, the Pula Arena. Today this ancient landmark is the hottest spot in the town for various concerts, and it also houses an underground museum worth visiting.
The Temple of Augustus, another very popular landmark in the city, is actually the name of a public square with the Roman temple as the star feature. And, of course, there’s also a fortress here – the Venetian Fortress. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city from the top, as well as an opportunity to see even more Roman ruins as you explore the grounds inside the fortress.
But, perhaps, the best area in the city to explore Roman ruins is the Brijuni National Park. It’s not exactly in the city but located on a small island you reach by boat. It is very popular for various archaeological sites, a boat museum and its beautiful scenery. There are also several beaches on the island, but you can just jump in the azure water anywhere.
Dubrovnik is probably the most famous city in the country, and it is on everyone’s bucket list as one of the one of the best cities in Croatia. If it’s not on yours, I’ll give you a few good reasons to put it there.
For one thing, Dubrovnik became famous worldwide after some episodes of the Game of Thrones was filmed there. Places that were featured in the series include St. Dominic Street, St. Lawrence Fortress, the Pile Gate, the city walls and a few others.
Dubrovnik also has one of the most beautiful old towns you’ll see anywhere. The main pedestrian promenade Stradun, deep inside the city walls, is lined with various landmarks and the occasional fancy restaurant.
Another really good reason to visit Dubrovnik is celebrity sightings. Even if you don’t care too much for the rich and famous, it would still be really exciting to spot Queen B in person. Or to witness Roman Abramovič refueling his monstrous yacht.
The list of A-listers that have vacationed in this beautiful Croatian town just goes on and on. And if it’s good enough for the richest people in the world, then I think it has a place on everyone’s bucket list.