• Lauren H

One Week Road Tripping in Croatia.

Updated: Jan 27

Explore Croatia's cities, forts, walls, coastline, waterfalls, seafood and wine, all in one week. This post outlines how to prioritize the best of Croatia in a short trip.



Jump Ahead to a Section Below!


Build an Itinerary

Lodging

Bookings

What to Wear and Pack

What to Eat

Where to Eat

Shopping

Getting Around

When to Go

Other Tips


Day Zero Dubrovnik

Day One Dubrovnik

Day Two Marušići

Day Three Island Hopping

Day Four Split and Omiš

Day Five Marušići or Wine Tasting

Day Six Plitvice Lakes National Park

Additional Days


Day Zero Dubrovnik

My friends and I flew into Dubrovnik and arrived late in the afternoon. We made advanced reservations for a popular upscale restaurant on the water, Nautika. (See Where to Eat for more details). By planning a dinner in advance it helped force us to stay awake through the jet lag and start the trip off right. After dinner it's easy to walk around Old Town. The restaurant is located right by one of the entrances to Old Town and there are often street musicians and performers right in that area.


Dinner Views at Nautika
Dinner Views at Nautika

Day One

Dubrovnik

Our itinerary only allotted one full day in Dubrovnik, so we packed it in. I’ve outlined the most efficient, best of everything, one-day itinerary for Dubrovnik below.


For a breakfast with historical views, start the day at Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant in Old Town. This puts you right by the Old City Port. The service is relatively quick, so we were able to have a sit down meal without taking up too much time. See Where to Eat for more details. After breakfast, we walked towards the Pile Gate, but took in all of the sites as we walked.


If you do one paid activity in Old Town Dubrovnik, I recommend walking along the Walls of Dubrovnik. The Walls were a defensive structure originating in the Middle Ages (that have been added to altered over time). Tickets to walk the Walls cost about $30 USD and it took us a little over an hour to walk it all. The Walls showcase stunning views of Old Town and the coast, as well as views of many of the historical sites in Dubrovnik. The entrance ticket includes a pamphlet that outlines all of the points of interest along the walk. There are also spots to stop for a drink or snack, and a couple of shops along the way too. Walk the Walls as early in the day as possible. There is no shade so it is hot, even in spring and fall. Wear a hat and bring water as well.


Walking Along The City Wall of Dubrovnik
Walking Along The Walls of Dubrovnik

After walking the wall, spend an hour or two walking through the rest of Old Town. (Between Breakfast and the walk to the Pile Gate, you will have already seen a significant portion of it). Our Airbnb host provided us with a map of numbered highlights to see within Old Town, but it is easy to wonder without a map and see it all. Within Old Town there are endless historic sites to visit, like the City Bell Tower, The Jesuit Stairs, the Dubrovnik Cathedral, and numerous monasteries and palaces. We chose to visit these sites from the outside only, and not pay for tickets to enter them. There are also many options for walking guides and Game of Thrones Tours in this area. We were able to spot many Game of Thrones filming spots on our own and also saw the tours pointing out sites throughout the day.


The Dubrovnik Bell Tower
The Dubrovnik Bell Tower

Old Town has lots of shopping as well. The stores range from high end worldwide brands, to local street artisans. If you wander into side alleys there are many local artist shops with paintings and crafts. Dubrovnik had significantly more options for shopping for paintings than in Split, so if you are looking for artwork in particular, spend time shopping Dubrovnik. For other souvenirs we found Split to be significantly cheaper, so save your time in Dubrovnik and shop in Split later on in the trip. See the Shopping section below for more details.


An Art Store in Dubrovnik
An Art Store in Dubrovnik

There are numerous opportunities to stop for gelato, pastries, pizza, fruit and candy. I particularly loved the fruit stands at the outdoor Gunduliceva Poljana Market. To maximize your time sightseeing, enjoy a walking lunch of pastries, fruit and gelato. There are also numerous leisurely outdoor cafes for people-watching if you prefer to sit down and eat.


A Fruit Vendor at The Gunduliceva Poljana Market Dubrovnik
A Fruit Vendor at The Gunduliceva Poljana Market

Croatia's Old Town is unique in that there are many spots for swimming and sunbathing. This is a popular local activity. One well-known bar, Buza Bar, offers a spot for cliff jumping. If you don’t want to cliff jump it’s fun to stop here for a drink and watch other jumpers.


After exploring Old Town, if you still have time, try to squeeze in a visit to Fort Lovrijenac. Built in 1038, it is located right outside of Old Town on a 128 foot cliff. It’s free to explore the grounds around the outside for more amazing views looking back at Old Town. This is a stop worth paying for the ticketed entrance inside as well. The interior features white limestone archways and more views of the sea. It is another well known Game of Thrones filming location.


The View from Fort Lovrijenac
The View from Fort Lovrijenac

In the evening we planned to have a final meal in Dubrovnik before starting our road trip. Panorama is a popular restaurant located at the top of the Dubrovnik Cable Car. The Cable Car takes you to the top of Srđ Hill for the supposed best views of the city. Make advanced reservations for Panorama to secure a table with the best views.


If you are trying to keep your trip budget-friendly, a friend advised me to skip the cable car. She said to instead pick any uphill street right outside of Old Town and walk uphill as far as possible to find similar views. If you have a rental car there is also a road to the top of Srđ Hill.


After dinner we drove two and a half hours to Marušići. Do not blindly follow Google Maps for this drive. The main route will take you through Bosnia and requires going through immigration. There is a bridge route that avoids Bosnia and stays in Croatia the whole way. It will be the quickest option because it skips the border crossings.


If you want to add an extra day or two on to this itinerary it is easy to find more to do in the Dubrovnik area. Dubrovnik is also known for its kayak tours around Old Town, its local beaches, day trips to Lokrum island (the closest island to Dubrovnik that can be explored in a ½ day), day trips to the Bowa Restaurant, and day trips to Montenegro. This one day itinerary could also be split into 2-days with a more leisurely pace.


Day Two

Marušići

Marušići is a quaint coastal town along the Dalmatia Coast. We rented a vacation home on the water here. Our goal was to stay in a location more local and off the beaten path. Although these areas are known as tourist towns, they attract more local beach tourists, not like the crowds of Dubrovnik and Split. Marušići is so small (population 203), that it could be difficult to find lodging options. It also only has a small market and only one or two restaurants. Pisak is the nearby town that will have more lodging options as well as a few restaurants and a proper grocery store. Omiš is another option even closer to Split that will still offer small town vibes (population 14,936) but will have more lodging, restaurants, shopping and a few attractions. By choosing to stay in one of these smaller towns, it will likely mean more driving to and from Split. It is easier logistically to stay in Split, but we preferred having a couple relaxing beach days and not switching our lodging location as often.


We spent the day at the Borka Beach near our rental home. The towns mentioned above are all along the Dinara Mountain Range, so there are numerous hiking trails in this area. The sunsets along the coast in this area are worth planning your evening around too!

Borka Beach, Croatia
Borka Beach

For dinner, we walked to the market in Pisak to pick up groceries and then cooked our own dinner. Most Croatian homes have a traditional outdoor kitchen area/wood-fire oven called a vrtni kamin. Our host gave us a lesson in how to use it and we cooked pizzas one night and local caught fish another night. It was a fun experience to cook traditionally with local olive oil, tomatoes and meats plus rosemary and basil picked from the yard. The salamis and pepperonis from the market in Pisak were fantastic.


Cooking in the Outdoor Kitchen of our Home Rental Croatia
Cooking in the Outdoor Kitchen of our Home Rental

Day Three

Island Hopping in the Dalmatia Coast

The Dalmatia coast is full of charming, picturesque islands. If we planned a longer trip we would’ve spent a couple nights on one of the islands. For our shorter trip we decided to book a one day speed boat tour to visit multiple of the islands. There are options for both private and group boat tours and within those tours there is variation in what stops they make throughout the day. Note that to see many of these places in one day you have to take a speed boat, no other type of boat could cover the distances fast enough. Most of these tours depart from Split, so we drove an hour from Marušići to meet our boat and skipper in Split.


Sunset Views on Our Ride Home from Island Hopping
Sunset Views on Our Ride Home from Island Hopping

The boat day will be weather dependent. Croatian winds can affect how fast the skipper is able to boat between islands and how many stops they will be able to make. If possible try to leave flexibility in your itinerary to pick the best day for the boat tour based on the wind forecast that week. The tour company can help guide you on which day(s) look best. No matter the weather, plan for a long day. We were out for about 10 hours, not including our driving time.


Below are options for private boat tour companies and group boat companies. The biggest advantage of a private tour is being able to adjust the itinerary to your preferences, and even make changes throughout the day.


1. Private Boat Tours

  1. Absolut Charters-We booked our private tour with this company.

  2. Waterworld- They offer private and group trips.


2. Group Boat Tours

  1. Seayou- This is one of the bigger operators for tours in the area, we saw multiple of their boats out the day of our tour.

  2. Waterworld- They offer private and group trips.


For both private and group tours, they all offer a mix of visiting the below stops. Be forewarned that whatever they advertise as their stops for the day, it still may change once you are out. Depending on the winds, and how long each stop takes, they may have to eliminate stops. It is a packed day and you are only allowed limited time at each destination. If you are planning a private trip, try to strategize a game plan for your day with your skipper before you depart.


  1. The Blue Cave (Biševo Island)- If you have a private tour be sure that this is your first stop of the day to beat the crowd. Leave as early as they will allow, the boat ride to the cave will take about an hour. The Blue Cave is one of the most popular attractions in all of Croatia and draws big crowds. It has natural light entering from underground creating the magical blue effect.


The Blue Cave Croatia
The Blue Cave

When you arrive, get in line right away to buy your numbered ticket. Once you have your ticket, waits can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 3+ hours. A longer wait will eat away at time for other stops throughout the day. There are restrooms in the waiting area as well as a cafe with coffee and snacks. Once they call your group number, there is a short 5 minute boat ride to the cave. The guide boats you through the cave for a couple minutes then heads back. The whole process feels a bit like Disneyland, but the cave itself is worth it. Entrance tickets are about $11 USD.


2. The Green Cave- Located on Ravnik Island, this is a cave with brilliant green water inside. Note that you have to swim into the cave to access it, so it's only worth visiting if you plan to swim or if it's warm enough to swim.


3. Komiža- We enjoyed 45 minutes exploring this town. It is a small coastal fishing town on Vis island and is where Mama Mia 2 was filmed. It has winding stone streets with accents of Croatian green doors and windows. We stopped for a smoothie break here as well.


Wandering the Streets of Komiza
Wandering the Streets of Komiža

4. Stiniva Beach- This is a famous swimming beach on Vis island. It has become even more popular in recent years because of an instagram shot tourists like to take looking out from the beach.


5. Hvar Island- Hvar is one of the more built up islands in the area and has many shops and restaurants. If we were going to spend a couple days on one island we would have picked Hvar. It is known for its nightlife as well. While stopping at this island, climb up to the top of the Spanjola Fortress for views looking down into the Harbor. There were many options for pastries, healthy juices and other snacks on Hvar too.


The view from the top of the Spanjola Fortress on Hvar
The view from the Top of the Spanjola Fortress on Hvar

6. Pakleni Islands- These islands are located off of the Southwest coast of Hvar. They are known for their crystal-clear waters and secluded beaches. Each island also has its own attractions and restaurants. Island Gališnik has a restaurant (named Gališnik) that offers wine tastings, located in a former military building.


7. Brač Island- We spent our time on Brač having a relaxing sit down meal at a restaurant that served traditional Dalmatian cuisine, (see Where to Eat). Brač is also known for its vineyards and many visitors enjoy wine or olive oil tasting on the island.


Boating onto Brac Island
Boating onto Brac Island

Day Four

Split and Omiš

In the morning, we drove one hour to the town of Split to spend the day exploring. We found a paid parking lot near Old Town and then started the day where the central attractions of Diocletian’s Palace are located.


The Central Square of Diocletian's Palace
The Central Square of Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian’s Palace is known as one of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world and was built around the turn of the 4th century AD. The palace feels more like a small town with its own church, bell tower, central square, mausoleum, etc. The remnants of the palace now make up the entire Old Town area of Split. We bought tickets onsite ($8 USD) to visit the whole Cathedral Complex. The ticket included entrance to the Cathedral of St. Domnius, The Bell Tower, The Crypt, The Treasury and the Baptistery, Climbing the bell tower was the highlight of the Cathedral Complex, as it offers panoramic views of Split and the harbor.


Views from the Bell Tower in Diocletian's Palace, Split
Views from the Bell Tower

Views from the Bell Tower Diocletian's Palace Split
More Bell Tower Views

We then went down into the basement area and paid for the ticketed entrance into the cellars of the palace. Tickets were around $11 USD per person. The cellars were my favorite part of the palace. They are well-preserved and unlike any other ancient sites I have seen before. The cellars were the private residence of Emperor Diocletian. This whole area was also used in the filming of Game of Thrones. The area leading into the cellars had the best souvenir shopping in Split. See the Shopping section for more information.


Exploring the Cellars of Diocletian's Palace
The Cellars of Diocletian's Palace

We stopped for pastry and acai bowl snacks (see Where to Eat) and then continued exploring the rest of Split’s Old Town. There is an outdoor market to the East of Diocletian’s palace worth exploring, as well as vendors lining the waterfront. There are beautiful historic buildings everywhere you turn.


Exploring More of Split Old Town
Exploring More of Split Old Town

On our way back to Marušići we stopped in the smaller town Omiš to walk around and explore. Omiš is known for being a pirate town. There’s an inlet in the mountains that made it easy for pirates to capture ships. There are a few main attractions in the town, including St. Michael’s Church from the 17th century, and Starigrad Fortress. Visitors can hike up to Starigrad for 360-degree views of the coastline and the sea coming into the mountains.


Walking Around Omiš Croatia
Walking Around Omiš

After a full day in Split, we were too tired to sightsee in Omiš, and chose to wander around, stop for a coffee and then have a local dining experience. (See Where to Eat).


Day Five

Marušići or Wine Tasting

We spent another day relaxing at the beach and at our rental home in Marušići. As another option, plan a full day on Brac or Hvar island visiting vineyards. We loved the wine we drank throughout our Croatian trip and wished we had the time to experience proper tastings at Dalmatian vineyards.


Day Six

Plitvice Lakes National Park

This National Park feels like a magical land out of a movie or novel. It has endless waterfalls (more than 90 to be exact) and brilliant shades of turquoise lakes. It is a must see. The park is located 3 hours North of Marušići and only 2.5 hours from Split. The drive was easy to navigate and we enjoyed the new mountain and farmland views.


It is easy to cover most of the park in one day, it took us 6 hours to complete the route I’ve outlined below, including time for food breaks. The trails are well maintained, and are often man-made boardwalks, so there isn’t much strenuous hiking. There are also shuttles and boat ferries that take visitors to each section of the park. All of the shuttle stops have coffee and snacks for sale, so you don’t have to bring food. It’s not a National Park where you have to rough it!


Boardwalks in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Boardwalks in Plitvice Lakes National Park

The park will be crowded, especially on weekends and during Croatia’s high season. Traveling in late September we hadn’t dealt with large crowds during any part of the trip in Dubrovnik, Split or on the islands. Unfortunately, parts of the National Park was as crowded as a theme park and we were often in line behind people on the boardwalks. Start your day in the park as early as possible to beat crowds. We also learned that the colors of the lakes change throughout the day and later in the day they weren’t as brilliantly blue, which is another reason to visit early.


The park offers multiple marked, lettered trail routes to follow throughout the day (A, B, C, D, E, F, etc). The park is split into the upper and lower lakes sections, and I recommend seeing both. There are also two entrances to the park, Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. The route that we took combines the upper and lower lakes, the upper cliff viewpoints, a shuttle ride, and a boat ride. It is a mix of a couple of the park’s lettered trails. To see the highlights of the park in one day, I think it is the best route.


Park by Entrance 1 and start your day there. Follow the trail down to the lakes. You’ll be walking downhill and almost immediately will arrive at a bird’s eye view of the lower lakes.


The First Viewpoint of the Park From Entrance One Plitvice National Park
The First Viewpoint of the Park From Entrance One

Right after the first viewpoint there is a fork in the road. Take the path on the right and continue heading downhill to the lakes. Follow the signage to P3, A, B, C, K. Once downhill, the boardwalks will begin. After walking on a couple boardwalks, you have the option to take the short detour to Veliki Slap, The Big Waterfall. You will also have the opportunity to see it at the end of the day when you are coming back. We didn’t mind seeing it twice! It is the largest waterfall in the park. After Veliki Slap, walk back to the main trail and follow signs to A, B, C, K.


Walking Down Towards Veliki Slap at the End of the Day Plitvice Lakes National Park
Walking Down Towards Veliki Slap at the End of the Day

There is another optional detour off of the main route that is worth taking. It involves more strenuous ‘hiking’ uphill, but it is short, and is the toughest climb of the day. The path climbs up carved out steps through Šupljara Cave (which is a unique part of the park itself) and then leads out of the cave to an upper view of the park from the Eastern side. The view showcases one of the boardwalks cutting across the lakes with multiple waterfalls in the background.


Climbing Up the Stairs in Šupljara Cave Plitvice Lakes National Park
Climbing Up the Stairs in Šupljara Cave

The View from the Top of Supljara Cave Pltivice National Park
The View from the Top of Šupljara Cave

After taking in the view, head back down the stairs, the way you came in, and back to the main trail. Follow signs to Lake Kozjak. At the beginning of the bridge to Lake Kozjak, take a left to head up to the ST1 shuttle stop. Do not cross over the bridge.


While waiting at the shuttle stop we grabbed a coffee and sampled a couple of the strudels, we loved the apple one.


Strudel and Coffee from a Shuttle Stop Plitvice National Park
Strudel and Coffee from a Shuttle Stop

There will be shuttles leaving for a couple stations here, take the one going to Station 3. When you depart the shuttle, start walking on the path following signs for H and Lake Kozjak. This trail will lead around the upper lakes. We found this part of the park to be significantly less crowded than the lower lakes. You walk for longer distances in between waterfalls which helps to spread visitors out. This section of the trail leads to Galovački Buk Falls, arguably the most famous/most photographed falls in the park.


Galovački Buk Falls Plitvice Lakes National Park
Galovački Buk Falls

When you arrive at Lake Kozjak, take the boat to P3. There will be boats leaving for two different destinations, so don’t board the first boat you see, make sure it goes to P3. The electric boat ride is a relaxing break, riding across the brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Kozjak.


At P3 there is a large picnic area with restaurant and snack options. The food offered is basic hamburgers, fries, etc. P3 also connects to the trails that offer high up views of the park from the Western cliffs.


The Western Cliff Trail did not seem to be one of the advertised marked trails promoted by the park. When we started walking up it there was a wrong way sign at one point. To find the trail, start walking towards Entrance 1. If Lake Kozjak is behind you, walk towards the right to start heading to Entrance 1. The trail was just beyond the ice cream vendor at the time. There was a small wooden sign for Planinarska Staza Hiking Trail, if you see that you are heading in the right direction. On the path, an unmarked road will branch off to the left, heading uphill. Take this road (and stop heading towards Entrance 1). The road passes through a parking lot and levels off. Keep following along the road. Eventually there will be a dirt path on the right that veers off of the road. Stop following the road and start following the dirt path. The dirt trail leads to a few viewpoints from the upper Western cliffs. I loved this part of the park. There were barely any other people around, and it was relaxing to walk in a wooded, unpaved area. The views were worth the effort, they gave us a sense of the park as a whole.


The First Viewpoint from the Upper Western Cliffs Trail Plitvice National Park
The First Viewpoint from the Upper Western Cliffs Trail

When you reach what seems like the last viewpoint, there is a path that leads down the staircase back to Veliki Slap. Don’t take the stairs down yet and continue on to one additional viewpoint. Walk to the left, out of the woods and back to the road. Walk North (continuing on, not going back the direction you came), and cross a wooden bridge. After the bridge there is another dirt path on the right leading into the woods. It’s near a sign for Restaurant Kozjak. Follow that trail for 5 minutes to reach the Postcard View of the park. We were bummed that The Postcard View was somewhat shaded by the time we arrived, but it is still a magical view worth visiting.


The Right Turn Towards The Postcard View Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Right Turn Towards The Postcard View

The Postcard View in Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Postcard View

After The Postcard Viewpoint, turn back and retrace your steps to go back to the viewpoint by the stairs leading down to Veliki Slap. Take the stairs down and then retrace your steps from the beginning of the day, following the boardwalks and signs to take you back up to Entrance 1.


That night we stayed in a house rental in Slunj, a 20 minute drive from the park. Stay as close as possible to the park. After a long day of hiking and walking you won’t want to drive far.


The next morning we flew out of Zagreb, a 90 minute drive from our lodging in Slunj.


Additional Days

If you have more time in Croatia, consider visiting Istria in Northwest Croatia. It’s Croatia’s other well known wine region (in addition to the Dalmatia Coast) and has numerous vineyards to visit. The area is also known for its truffles and has restaurants entirely devoted to them. If you visit in the fall there are excursions offered for white truffle hunting as well.


Build an Itinerary with Stops Near Croatia

It is easy to travel to other parts of Europe from Croatia. Bosnia, Monte Negro and Slovenia are all easily accessible by car. Depending on what part of Croatia you are in, they could all be visited in a day trip.


Lodging in Croatia

We stayed in home and apartment rentals for this whole trip to make our own breakfasts, do laundry, and afford better views and space to spread out within our budget. We especially loved being able to cook in traditional Croatian outdoor kitchens.


Our House Rental in Marušići
Our House Rental in Marušići

Advanced Bookings for a Croatia Trip

If you travel in summer/high season, book your rental car and lodging as far in advance as possible. I recommend booking island hopping boat trips in advance as well. There are even a few restaurants (noted below in Where to Eat) that require advanced reservations. Entrance tickets for sites can all be bought onsite when you arrive.


What to Wear and Pack for a Croatia Trip

What to Wear

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Trail shoes or tennis shoes for Plitvice Lakes National Park. Most of the trails are well groomed, so you don’t need hiking boots.


What to Eat in Croatia


Truffle Pasta- Truffles are grown locally in Croatia, in the Northwest part of the country, Istria. Most restaurants featured at least one truffle dish on their menu and we regularly ordered the truffle pastas. We always fought over who could scrape the bowl down after we finished the pasta.


One of the Many Truffle Pastas We Tried in Croatia
One of the Many Truffle Pastas We Tried

Tuna Tartare- This was on most menus in Dubrovnik, and we ordered it over and over again. Croatia’s high quality raw tuna is flavorful and much less expensive than in the States.


Tuna Tartare Croatia
Tuna Tartare

Burek- For an easy snack while walking around try a Burek. It is a pastry that consists of beef and onions wrapped in phyllo dough


Squid Ink Pasta- Squid ink pasta and risotto are known in both Venetian and Dalmatian cooking.


Squid Ink Risoto in Croatia
Squid Ink Risotto

Fish-The best fish varieties we had throughout the trip included: John Dory, Branzino and Red Snapper. Be sure to try fish cooked in the traditional Peka style, cooked over burning embers under an iron lid.


John Dory Cooked Peka Style
John Dory Cooked Peka Style

Wine- Drink local wines throughout your time in Croatia, we never had a bad glass! Our most memorable bottle was of the white wine, GRK. We also enjoyed another white wine from the Dalmatia Coast, Grabovac. Both were unlike any wine I’ve had before and had multiple layers of flavor.


Where to Eat in Croatia


Dubrovnik

Nautika- Our favorite meal of the trip was at Nautika. We made reservations a couple months in advance to secure an outdoor seat with views of the water and Fort Lovrijenac. Try to reserve a dinner time where you will be able to see the view during daylight, sunset and dusk. This restaurant is also the most expensive one we dined at while in Croatia, but it was worth the splurge. The food, service, ambiance, cocktails and wine were all superb. For fans of Old Fashioned cocktails, their Old Fashioned table-side creation is a must. The local GRK wine we ordered here was outstanding. The tuna tartare, fish entree and desserts were also all memorable.

Nautika's Old Fashioned Presentation
Nautika's Old Fashioned Presentation

Panorama-For the best views in Dubrovnik schedule an advance reservation at Panorama. It is located at the top of the Cable Car and offers views overlooking the old town. We ran out of time and weren’t able to eat here, but the food at their sister restaurant, Nautika, was perfect, so I assume the food would be great here as well.


Bowa-If you have multiple days in Dubrovnik, plan a luxurious lunch or dinner taking a boat out to Šipan island and dining at Bowa. This restaurant offers reservations with boat transfers to the island. A stop at the restaurant can also be added on to other island hopping boat trips. The fine dining restaurant is located on the beach and also allows its guests to sunbathe and enjoy the beach while visiting. Be sure to order their tuna tartare.


Waterfront Seating at Bowa
Waterfront Seating at Bowa

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant- The views and ambience at this restaurant are fantastic. It is located in what remains of a 7th century brick arsenal that protected the entrance to the town (parts of it have been rebuilt over time). It offers views looking out on the Old City Port. They also served a late breakfast, and had fast service that allowed us to return to sightseeing quickly.


View from The Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant
View from The Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant

Buza Bar-For an afternoon cocktail break, stop at Buza Bar. The bar offers both cocktails and a spot for cliff jumping into the ocean. It’s fun to watch the jumpers while taking a break from walking around.


Peppino’s Gelato- Dubrovnik has a gelato shop in what seems like every block of Old Town, but the multiple Peppino’s locations always had lines. It is known as the best gelato in the area. We were never disappointed by our stops there.


Raspberry Gelato at Peppino's Dubrovnik
Raspberry Gelato at Peppino's

Mlinar Bakery- If you want to try traditional Croatian pastries, Mlinar Bakeries are located throughout the country. We came across them in the Old Town of Dubrovnik and Split. My friend loved their burek meat pastries for a quick snack.


Pastries from Mlinar Bakery Croatia
Pastries from Mlinar Bakery

Gunduliceva Poljana Market- For a quick healthier snack while walking around Old Town, stop at this market. There were vendors selling souvenirs, gifts, nuts and dried fruit. In the summer and fall they also sell fresh berries and fruit. The berries were incredible, and we appreciated a healthier snack besides gelato and pastries.


A To-Go Fruit Cup from The Gunduliceva Poljana Market Dubrovnik
A To-Go Fruit Cup from The Gunduliceva Poljana Market

Split

Mlinar Bakery- See the description for this bakery above.


Kokolo Juice Bar- This street food stand offers picture-perfect acai bowls, fresh juices, and other healthy to-go snacks. On a hot day of sightseeing their acai bowl was perfect.


An Acai Bowl from Kokolo Juice Bar
An Acai Bowl from Kokolo Juice Bar

Omiš

I Gemelli Pastry Shop- For a coffee and pastry break this shop is a perfect spot. They serve instagram-worthy towers of sweets and have an adorable seating area in an old open-air building.


Pastries at I Gemelli Pastry Shop
Pastries at I Gemelli Pastry Shop

Pod Odrom- This authentic Dalmatian/Mediterranean restaurant has been family owned and run since 1967. Their pasta Istriana was our favorite truffle pasta of the trip (and we ordered one almost every dinner we had). It has a fun, lively atmosphere with friendly service.


Seafood Pasta at Pod Odrom Omis, Croatia
Seafood Pasta at Pod Odrom

Brač Island

Vinska Karta- For an authentic Dalmatian seafood dining experience, this restaurant can’t be beat. They offer local caught fish cooked and served in traditional Croatian styles. Guests can watch the chef cook over the fire.


The Chef Cooking our John Dory at Vinska Karta Croatia
The Chef Cooking our John Dory at Vinska Karta

Shopping in Croatia

To find the best local artisans and painters, wander down the side alleys in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Dubrovnik had the best selection of paintings and wall art, but Split had cheaper prices for any other souvenirs. In Split, in the basement of Diocletian’s palace, there is a souvenir market. At this market, we all bought numerous pieces made from the local limestone (vases, candle holders, bowls, mortar and pestle sets, etc). The limestone is the same stone used to build many parts of the palace. The limestone souvenirs are sold in Dubrovnik as well, but the same items are less expensive in Split.


Limestone Souvenirs for Sale at a Shop in Dubrovnik
Limestone Souvenirs for Sale at a Shop in Dubrovnik

Getting Around Croatia

To follow this itinerary you need to rent a car. The roads in Croatia are well-maintained and easy to navigate, even for a tourist. We used Google maps for navigation which worked well except for the route going from Dubrovnik to Marušići or Split. Be sure to take the bridge and avoid the immigration stop going through Bosnia, don’t follow Google’s route.


Driving Views in Croatia
Driving Views in Croatia

Split and Dubrovnik are walkable cities within each of their Old Town neighborhoods. If you want to explore outside of the Old Town areas there are Ubers available as well.


When to Go to Croatia

Croatia is most popular to visit in the summer, to take advantage of its beaches, islands and coastal life. Many restaurants and shops close down in the winter months. To avoid crowds, visit in one of the shoulder seasons, spring or fall. Our trip was in late September and most days it was still warm enough to swim, eat outside, boat etc. From talking to locals, it seems like the crowds die down by mid-September, so late September is a perfect time to visit.


Other Tips for a Croatia trip

  • English is widely spoken, we never had issues communicating with locals throughout the trip.

  • Credit cards are widely accepted except when buying art and souvenirs in markets.


Additional Reading: My Packing List, 5 Days Taking in the Best of Portugal, The Best of Seville, Spain


Trip Dates: September, 2021.