Croatia’s summer music festivals and all-night beach parties are legendary, but there’s still plenty going off in Split throughout spring, kicking off with the city’s colorful carnival celebrations. Held in the days leading up to lent, carnival in Split includes an array of masked balls, costumed parades and waterfront firework displays, alongside plenty of free entertainment and all-night street parties hosting live music, dancing and historic reenactments.
Exploring the islands along the Dalmatian Coast is an undeniable highlight of visiting Croatia, especially during the summer months, and for those based in Dubrovnik, the Elafiti islands offer welcome respite from the city, blanketed with lush forests and vast, sandy beaches. Just an hour by boat from the city, cruising the Elafiti Islands from Dubrovnik makes a good choice for a day trip, either as part of a guided cruise or by catching one of the regular passenger ferries, and despite their small size, there are still plenty of opportunities to get off-the-beaten-track.
Whether you’re looking to pick up some traditional souvenirs or sample regional delicacies at the local market, shopping in Dubrovnik is never boring and there are plenty of unique finds to seek out in the city.
The largest city along the Adriatic coast is a popular launch pad for Dalmatian island cruises and inter-island ferries, but you don’t have to take to the seas to get around in Split. Here are a few tips.
1. On foot
Much of Split’s walled center is pedestrianized, making walking and cycling tours the perfect way to explore. Stroll the pedestrian promenade along the harbor to Split’s famous Diocletian Palace, then follow the remains of the 13th century medieval city walls to attractions like the St Domnius Cathedral and the Gregorius of Nin Statue. Alternatively, renting a bike is a popular way to get around with great views available from the cycling trails up nearby Marjan Hill and on the islands.
Celebrating carnival in Dubrovnik is a tradition dating back to as early as the 14th century and the vibrant parades, street parties and masked balls make it one of the liveliest events of the year. Croatia’s biggest carnival events are held in Rijeka, but the Dubrovnik Carnival Fest is a close second, with festivities kicking off after the Feast of St. Blaise and running until Ash Wednesday.
Winter in Croatia can be a great choice for sightseeing away from the crowds and avoiding the high season prices, and as the weather gets cooler, many off-season travelers opt to swap a beach vacation for a spa retreat. Whether you’re looking to escape the cold in Zagreb, take a dip in a traditional ‘toplice’ (thermal bath) or indulge in a luxurious spa break at a top hotel, warming up at one of Croatia’s thermal spas is a must.
With its striking baroque architecture, medieval castle and winding cobblestone lanes, Varaždin is a town begging to be photographed and the historic city makes a scenic destination for a day trip from Zagreb. Varaždin’s laid-back small-town vibe belies its importance – the riverfront town served as the capital of Croatia from 1756 to 1776 and it remains an important arts and cultural center, located at the heart of the Međimurje region just a short distance from the Slovenian and Hungarian borders.
A natural playground of wild pine forests, soaring coastal cliffs and historic villages stretching west of the city, the Marjan Peninsula is one of Split’s most enchanting regions and offers a welcome change of pace from the busy port. Exploring the Marjan Peninsula from Split is often done on a tour, but it’s also easy to get there on foot, by bus or by bike, following the Senjska road from the Old Town up to the charming Veli Varoš district.
Croatia’s hard-partying reputation makes it one of the best places in Eastern Europe to see in the New Year and visiting Croatia in winter is a great time to save on flights and accommodation. Among the most popular places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Croatia is Dubrovnik, where many of the city’s clubs and hotels host special parties, and locals gather along the central Stradun, where they’ll be live music from traditional Croatian klapa bands and rock and pop acts, family-friendly entertainment and plenty of street food to keep you busy until the countdown to midnight.
Just 18km south of Dubrovnik, the tranquil coastal town of Cavtat makes a popular choice for a day trip and as Croatia’s southernmost town, it’s the starting point for ferries to islands like Kolocep, Lopud, Sipan, Lokrum, Supetar and Mljet. With regular buses and boats running down the coast, visiting Cavtat from Dubrovnik is easy, and you’ll have plenty of time to take the sights in a day.