Winter is a dreary time of year, isn’t it? (The winter that’s after all the Christmas and New Year excitement, that is.) There’s seemingly not much to do, the weather is quite awful – if it’s not freezing outside it’s blowing a gale – and no one seems to be up for any fun. And there’s surely nothing fun to do in Croatia in winter, given it’s such a glorious summer destination?! Wrong! Spin that bad winter attitude right around and take a look at what I think are some of the most fun things to do in Croatia in winter.
Croatia in Winter – Enjoying the view and winter activities on Sljeme, Zagreb
Zagreb would be my top choice as a winter destination in Croatia anyway, as there’s so much to enjoy in this fantastic city – sights, restaurants, shopping, events, kids activities…the list goes on! But for a special wintery treat, head up to Sljeme above Zagreb to enjoy excellent views of the city and the surrounding area and lots of fun winter activities. I’d highly recommend that you take the cable car up to the top of Mount Sljeme as it’s a super fun experience and one of the nicest (and quickest) ways of zipping up the mountain.
So what winter activities are up here? The main one – skiing! Yes, that’s right, it is indeed possible to ski in Croatia, and Sljeme is probably the best place in Croatia to go skiing. Whilst you wouldn’t come here for a week-long skiing holiday, you can certainly enjoy a few runs on a weekend or an afternoon. (Or even at night as night-time skiing is possible on some days.)
In fact, the ski season on Sljeme officially opens tomorrow, 23rd January 2024 (normally running until mid-March) so now’s the perfect time to try a bit of ski fun here. Organisers do use an artificial snowmaking system if the real stuff is a bit patchy.
If skiing isn’t your thing, you can still come up to Sljeme to enjoy a bit of sledging and playing around in the snow, before retiring to a local restaurant or cafe for some filling stew and a hot drink.
If skiing really is your thing, then you might be quite excited about the Snowpark Sljeme to show off your tricks.
Of course, don’t forget that Sljeme is the peak of Mount Medvednica, part of which is home to Medvednica Nature Park. You could shun the skiing/sledging entirely and explore this beautiful forested wonderland instead.
- More info: There’s plenty of useful information on the Sljeme.hr website and on the Ski Sljeme Facebook page
Winter in Croatia – Enjoy the tranquillity of the Plitvice Lakes
If you’ve been to the Plitvice Lakes National Park during the peak summer months, you’ll have had the good fortune to share the experience of the stunning lakes and waterfalls with about a million other people at the same time. (I joke, of course, but boy does it get crowded at that time of year.)
The Plitvice Lakes are a pure joy any time of year as the nature of the park undergoes its seasonal changes. In wintertime, the park is a lot less green (the trees and shrubs, that is) but may be a lot more white if there’s been recent snowfall which gives the whole place a really magical feel. Some of the water in the lakes – possibly even the waterfalls – may also freeze if the temperatures have been low enough and consistently so.
Plitvice in winter also means that you’ll be joined by far fewer fellow visitors – nowhere near the crowds of summer. I would still suggest getting to the Park as early as possible in the day (the shorter days of course mean shorter opening hours – only until 3pm until the end of March) and do also note that the upper lakes are closed at this time of year too. But you’ll be delighted by the fact that the entry price is only a quarter of what it is in summer! (€10 in winter compared to €40 during peak summer.)
- More info: The official Plitvice Lakes National Park website of course has all the most relevant info for visiting the park
Winter in Croatia – Celebrations in February
February is carnival month all across the world, and many locations in Croatia also celebrate with carnival processions. The largest carnival in Croatia is the Rijeka Carnival which, in peak years, attracts as many as 100,000 spectators and has a number of connected events. The carnival party in fact in fact already started this past weekend with the first event – the Rijeka Carnival Queen Pageant (where a Carnival Queen is selected!) and the Handover of the Key to the City.
More fun and games take place from 1pm Saturday, 27th January 2024, with Carnival Children’s Parade. Around 6,000 young participants will parade in their colourful costumes.
There are many associated carnival events over the next few weeks (a fun run and the Carnival Snowboard Session as examples) but the main Rijeka Carnival occasion is the parade that takes place on 11th February 2024. It’s an excellent time to be in Rijeka!
Or, as an alternative event in February, head to Dubrovnik in early February when the city celebrates its patron saint, Saint Blaise (Sveti Vlaho in Croatian). The patron saint’s day is on 2nd February which is also marked as the day of the City of Dubrovnik. Celebrations, however, stretch out from late January and beyond. Again, it’s a great time of year to visit this city too to really get a feel for a long-established festivity that is marked by local residents.
- More info: The full calendar of events for the Festivity of St Blaise (PDF file from Dubrovnik Tourist Board)
Winter in Croatia – Get your cultural fix
Croatia has a few annual events that take place all over the country on the same date and January enjoys one such event. This week, in fact! Night of the Museums (Noc muzeja) is taking place this Friday, 26th January 2024 with participating museums all over the country offering free entry from 6pm (usually until 1am). Museums also offer special talks and other events on this same night.
- Take a look at participating venues on the Night of the Museums website
Winter in Croatia – Head to the coast
Sure, it’s winter, but why not head to the coast anyway? You won’t be able to do any sea swimming or sunbathing is very unlikely, but nothing beats being by the coast whatever season it is.
Split would be a top choice, seeing as it’s Croatia’s second-largest city and has plenty to keep you occupied even in the colder months. What could be better than taking a stroll down the Riva and enjoying the sea air.
Some of Croatia’s cities offer special deals for visitors in winter, and Split does too. The Split Card can be obtained for free from the tourist office if you stay for two nights in any kind of accommodation in the city. You can then use it to gain free entry to some of the museums here (the Ethnographic Museum, the Natural History Museum), plus discounted entry to other museums and attractions. You can also use the card to obtain discounts at certain shops and restaurants.
Getting to Croatia in winter
Currently, the only direct flights from the UK and Ireland to Croatia are those to Zagreb which are operated by British Airways, Croatia Airlines and Ryanair with all three offering flights to Zagreb. From there, you can use Croatia Airlines‘ internal flights to other destinations in the country – see our Flights in Croatia page for more details.