Here’s a whirlwind guide to the top sights in Croatia – from Dubrovnik‘s famous Old Town to the stunning Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, in Pula to the Blue Cave on Bisevo island (near Vis)…and much more besides! Indulge in this whistle-stop tour of the top sights in Croatia online, pick up some inspiration, or reminisce about your very own visits to these wonderful places!
Top Sights in Croatia – Dubrovnik Old Town
We might as well start with the ‘big one’! Dubrovnik’s glorious Old Town is stunning to view from wherever you may be – within the Old Town walls itself (either walking the walls or at ground level), viewing it from high up on Mount Srd or from the sea. With its two main entrances, Pile and Ploce Gates; the gleaming, cobblestoned main thoroughfare Stradun; stunning buildings such as the Franciscan Monastery, the Rector’s Palace, Sponza Palace and St Blaise’s Church, Dubrovnik’s Old Town really is one of those unique destinations around the world that have to be explored.
Top Sights in Croatia – The Arena in Pula
You may see images of Pula’s Roman amphitheatre, the Arena, and think it impressive; in real life, it’s even more impressive than you can imagine! One of the six largest Roman amphitheatres in the world, the Arena is one of the best-preserved ones too. Although it looms large from wherever you look in this part of Pula, it is well worth the entrance fee to explore the interior too; you also have the opportunity to explore the underground passages. You can absolutely believe that the Arena housed gladiatorial fights back in Roman times; these days, it hosts far more enjoyable events such as concerts and screenings for the Pula Film Festival.
Top Sights in Croatia – Diocletian’s Palace, Split
As you roam through the pedestrianised ‘streets’ of the Diocletian’s Palace area in Split, you may not even realise that you’re walking through what was once built as this Roman Emperor’s retirement home in the 4th century AD. (The complex that was built was really more of a fortress than what you may actually consider a palace.) What makes this part of Croatia’s second-largest city so remarkable is that modern life sits side-by-side to historic sights; restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels (even private apartments) are now all sited in here in historic buildings, next to such sights such as the Peristyle. This part of Split became one of Croatia’s first three UNESCO World Heritage sites (along with Dubrovnik Old Town, and the Plitvice Lakes National Park) in 1979.
Top Sights in Croatia – Zagreb’s Cathedral
The cathedral in Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, is the largest building in the whole of Croatia and is also one of the most famous symbols of the country. Originally built in the 13th century, the cathedral was severely damaged by the 1880 Zagreb earthquake. Quickly rebuilt and restored soon, it was during this time that the two 108m-tall spires were constructed. (If you’ve visited Zagreb in the last few decades, you may have seen at least one spire covered by scaffolding.) Unfortunately, the tip of one of the spires broke off in the March 2020 Zagreb earthquake, and the tip of the remaining spire was removed due to damage. If you’ve not seen the cathedral for yourself but have visited Croatia and are a big spender (!), you have have noticed the cathedral on the reverse of the 1000 Kuna banknote.
Top Sights in Croatia – St Mark’s Church, Zagreb
Zagreb gets two entries on this list, but we couldn’t leave off either the cathedral of St Mark’s Church, could we? Located in St Mark’s Square in Zagreb’s Upper Town (very close to the Croatian government and parliament buildings), the beautiful tiled roof of St Mark’s Church is another true symbol of Croatia. The two coat of arms depicted on the roof are of the City of Zagreb (on the right) and the Kingdom of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia (on the left). (This was an autonomous province within the Austro-Hungary.) A changing of the guard ceremony takes place in front of the church at midday on weekends during the summer months.
Top Sights in Croatia – View from Spanjola Fortress above Hvar Town, island of Hvar
There are many glorious views all over Croatia, something we can say with absolute certainty. One of the best is this amazing sight from Spanjola Fortress (also known as Fortica) which is located ‘above’ Hvar Town. (It’s an easy walk from the town along a reasonably well maintained path that’s not especially steep.) You’ll see spectacular views practically every step of the way but once you actually enter the fortress (a small admission fee is charged) you will find yourself face to face with the ultimate gorgeous view overlooking Hvar Town and its harbour, as well as the nearby Pakleni islands. Just stunning!
Top Sights in Croatia – Zlatni Rat Beach, island of Brac
Even if you’ve never visited Zlatni Rat Beach in Bol on the island of Brac, you will have likely ‘seen’ it – as it’s often featured on marketing materials or articles promoting Croatia, and on ‘best beaches’ lists! This unusually shaped beach stretches out into the Adriatic for around 600m (pointing towards the island of Hvar, in fact); what’s of particular intrigue is that the beach actually changes shape depending on the current of the sea and winds. Zlatni Rat Beach (the name translates to ‘Golden Horn’ in English) is made up of white pebbles (not sand!) and the central pine forest provides some shade. The surrounding waters are wonderfully clear; altogether, Zlatni Rat’s appearance is impressive!
Top Sights in Croatia – Plitvice Lakes National Park
The most popular of all of Croatia’s national parks, the Plitvice Lakes National Park really does have to be seen to be believed. A mesmerising collection of sixteen interconnected lakes and a series of waterfalls, the whole park covers an area of 300 square km. There’s also wildlife here – deer, wild boar, bear and rare bird species all live in the area, although realistically you’ll most likely only come across fish! The largest waterfall at Plitvice is Veliki Slap (which literally means Big Waterfall) at 70m tall, although there’s honestly so much to explore here amongst the lower and upper lakes. Many travellers visit for just a day, but we’d suggest spending a little longer (there are many places to stay in the local area) and visiting the Park over two or even three days.
Top Sights in Croatia – Krka National Park
In an ideal trip to Croatia, you would likely combine a visit to the above top sight with Krka National Park as well! An amazing opportunity to compare and contrast these two exceptional national parks, similar as they are (with their lake and waterfalls) but also rather different. Located around the Krka River, this Park’s main attractions are the breathtaking Sradinski Buk waterfall (the surrounding lake of which you can swim in – what an experience!), Roski Slap waterfall and Visovac island. Take one of the boat tours to explore Krka fully.
Top Sights in Croatia – The Blue Cave, island of Bisevo
A remarkable natural phenomenon, the Blue Cave on the island of Bisevo is so-called because of the shimmering and glowing blue hue that it takes on at a certain time of day (around midday). The 24m long cave has a tiny entrance – just 2.5m wide and 1.5m high – which means few boats can enter the cave at any one time. It is perhaps no surprise to learn that visiting this cave can often be very busy, with queues of boats waiting to go inside during the peak summer months.
What’s your favourite sight in Croatia?
Is your favourite sight in Croatia on this list? Drop us a line and let us know if you think we’ve missed somewhere!