So much of Croatia is proposal venue material. Those seeking to pop the question can choose between an idyllic island, panoramic countryside, aboard a sailing ship and atop the highest offshore point in the Adriatic. And, usually, there’ll be some kind of bar nearby to order a suitable drink and two glasses.
Hvar is a kind of ex-Socialist Monte Carlo, where oligarchs park their superyachts and Prince William gets down in nightclubs. The word is out – and it’s crowded. Palmižana, a taxi boat from Hvar town, is not. Home of the botanical garden-cum-bohemian lodging Villa Meneghello, Palmižana is where Croatians go to relax, sail, dive, sunbathe, strip off down to the bare essentials and swim. The contrast with busy Hvar is palpable, the secluded, idyllic spots manifold. Afterwards, a meal at sea-facing Toto’s by the Meneghello, amid exotic plants, should seal the deal.
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Most resorts, towns and villages dotted along Croatia’s near 6,000 kilometres (3,730 miles) of coastline, can offer some kind of boat charter. Deals range from a modest bareboat to a luxury yacht, with or without a captain. Apart from sailing the craft, a captain can advise on restaurants only accessible by sea and other hidden gems, and is usually the height of discretion when any travelling couple requires privacy. Modern marinas line the coast should a night ashore be required. To book rather than arrange on spec, a resource such as Sail Croatia offers numerous options.
Botanical Garden, Zagreb
A green getaway just a ten minutes’ walk from Zagreb’s main train station, the Botanical Garden is both extensive and private, some 10,000 types of plants provide tranquillity amid ponds, paths and glasshouses. There are also benches aplenty for quiet moments, preferably spent à deux.
Konoba Mlin, Bol
Near the bobbing boats of Bol harbour on Brač, the Konoba Mlin exudes romance. The location helps, those going the whole nine yards with proposal preparations perhaps picking out the prime table high above the waterfront before they reserve. Atmosphere is also important, a delightful old mill (‘Mlin’), working until fairly recently, spiffed up and ready for business. And, of course, the food, your partner’s favourite fish, grilled to perfection, a bottle of Plavac mali and attentive service that doesn’t intrude either.
Mljet is the stuff of legend and odyssey. And if marriage is a journey, then you couldn’t wish for a better place to start it than here. Thought to be the place where Odysseus of Greek legend fell under a seven-year enchantment – thus giving rise to the concept of the seven-year itch, but let’s skip that part – Mljet personifies the term ‘idyllic’. One third is national park, of expansive greenery, two pretty lakes and an abandoned Benedictine monastery. The rest of the island is… all yours. More greenery, hidden coves and the occasional mongoose feature amid stunning scenery, though perhaps the perfect proposal spot would be Saplunara, a beach of beautiful white sand backdropped by pines.
Ruled by Venice until the late 1700s, Rovinj has the feel of a romantic Italianate city, backdropped by the Adriatic and bathed in sunshine. A promontory of bright red roofs extends from the coast of Istria, with sea-facing cafés and restaurants at its tip. At the end of its own little walkway, perched on a rocky outcrop, the one cocktail bar, Valentino, is where couples converge to clink mixed drinks and share the sunset. Champagne, though, can also be ordered, though booking a table can be dispensed with – just arrange the cushions to suit your seating arrangements.
Gverović-Orsan, Zaton Mali
A short drive from Dubrovnik, outside the tranquil fishing village of Zaton Mali, an old boathouse has been operating as a family-run restaurant for over 50 years. Along with its seafood risotto, the special feature of this legendary restaurant is the waterfront setting, surrounded by bobbing boats. After ordering, guests may shed outer clothing down to their swimwear, dive in, glide among the waves, clamber out, use the shower handily provided, towel down and be back at their terrace table for dinner. Proposing, over a bottle of Plavac mali, should then be a sinch.
The right formula for any successful proposal? An unforgettable sunset. And unforgettable sunsets are what Zadar does best. This fact did not escape the attention of Oscar-winning film director Alfred Hitchcock, who famously strolled along this location in 1964 to observe the orangey-red sunburst slowly sinking into the Adriatic. Today’s visitors will see a series of billboards celebrating his visit, beside the Obala kralja Petra Krešimira IV embankment. Here two can canoodle as the sky flames amber, and the distant sounds of the Sea Organ, an installation of music-playing holes in the concrete, hang in the wind.
To propose in style amid Habsburg opulence, Opatija fits the bill perfectly. This coastal resort down the littoral from Rijeka is where writers, composers and the well-to-do romanced from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Created as a health retreat, Opatija features an extensive, tree-lined pathway, the Lungomare, which follows the waterfront, dotted with beaches and secluded hideaways. An alternate proposal spot might be your hotel, the Miramar, Savoy and Milenij imbued with fin-de-siècle elegance and featuring pools or spas.
Vidova Gora, Brač
Overlooking Zlatni rat, the most iconic beach in Croatia, Vidova gora is not only the highest point on Brač but among all the Adriatic islands. Signposted from outside Bol on the southern coast, this panoramic vantage point 778 metres (2,552 feet) up is a three-hour hike up a steady but stony incline, allowing ardent romancers plenty of time to work on their spiel – there’s even a handy picnic table at the top for a more relaxed tête-à-tête.
Dubrovnik Buža bars
If any destination has the word ‘proposal’ written all over it, it’s Dubrovnik. But where exactly to pop the question? The answer is the Buža bars. Meaning ‘Hole in the Wall’, Buža is the name given to two al-fresco bars carved into the cliff-face supporting Dubrovnik’s City Walls. A horizon of sheer blue is offset by the green of Lokrum island to one side. Opposite the Azur restaurant on Pobijana, Buža I also allows a moonlit dip via a staircase below the bar. Nearby Buža II, signposted ‘Cold Drinks With The Most Beautiful View’, basks in a panorama of equal beauty.
The Romans knew what they were doing when they built a settlement on a hilltop gazing over the glorious countryside of Istria. Their Montona is today’s Motovun, this view facilitated by the medieval walls installed by the Venetians and embellished by café terraces. A terrace table for two at the aptly named Montona Gallery is prime proposal material, surrounded by forests of truffles and all four corners of rural, bucolic Istria. The bar could probably stretch to champagne but perhaps two little glasses of honey-flavoured rakija brandy, medica, would warm and fuel the mood.
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