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.
Winter might seem like an odd time to visit Croatia’s liveliest beach resorts, but with dramatic reductions on flights and accommodation and milder temperatures than the rest of Europe, a surprising number of out-of-season travelers are venturing to the coastal city of Split. Many of the resorts and attractions of the summer months close down throughout the low season, but there are still regular ferries and discovering Split’s islands in winter offers a rare chance to enjoy their beauty unmarred by the tourist hoards.
One look at the designer-label-clad locals and you’ll be in no doubt that Zagreb is a city that loves its fashion and with everything from homegrown designer boutiques to international high street chains, the capital is Croatia’s top shopping destination.
There are few European cities as undeniably picturesque as Dubrovnik, with its remarkably preserved medieval city walls soaring above the coastal cliffs, a crumbling fortress looking over endless swathes of glittering blue ocean and an expanse of orange-tiled roofs laced together by marble-paved boulevards. Not only is this one of Croatia’s most beautiful walled towns, but it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and, most recently, a top filming location for HBO drama Game of Thrones.
It might be one of few Croatian holiday destinations without a beach, but what Zagreb lacks in sand and surf, it makes up for with timeless charm and an effortless sense of style, and it’s hard not to be won over by the lively capital. The city is split into two main areas – Donji Grad, the ‘Lower Town’, and Gornji Grad, the upper town – so with just one day in Zagreb, you’ll need to plan your itinerary carefully to maximize time and make sure you don’t miss anything.