The 15 Most Beautiful Towns in Croatia

| Goran Ivos / Unsplash
Joseph Richard Francis

From the hilltop town of Motovun with its ancient Roman relics to the sunny reaches of elegant Dubrovnik on the cusp of the Dalmatian coast, this list of Croatia’s top towns is full to the brim with unadulterated Balkan beauty.

1. Korčula

Natural Feature

View from the water of the old city of Korcula and fortress in Croatia
Hilthart Pedersen / Unsplash
Set in the shadow of the rising limestone and dolomite ridges of the Dinaric Alps, Korcula is a true gem of Dalmatia. It can be found clinging elegantly to a curved spit of land on the northern cusp of Korcula Island, encircled by the Adriatic Sea on three sides, and verdant pine groves on the other. Within its streets, marble-clad homes with red roofs conceal earthy eateries touting fish stew and super-dry Croatian wines. Meanwhile, boats bob between the stone walls of the age-old port.

2. Zadar

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of Zadar, Croatia
Sidharth Bhatia / Unsplash

Behind a wall of modern high-rises and cluster of brilliant white yachts, Zadar’s old town hums with life. It’s a smorgasbord of styles and tastes, with layers of history coalescing between its marble-clad alleyways and open squares. On one corner, the much-rebuilt facade of the Church of St Simeon fuses the gothic and the provincial baroque; nearby, the Byzantine rises of the Church of St Donatus stand stoic and strong, side-by-side with the crumbling remnants of a Roman forum. Where the town meets the crystal-clear shore waters, the rumbling tones of the Sea Organ issue forth from beneath the marble steps.

3. Pula

Historical Landmark

Pula, Croatia
Derek Sutton / Unsplash

Crowned by the mighty colonnades and archways of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres outside of Italy, ancient Pula is much more than just a historical pit-stop (although this is a good reason to visit). Explore the marble forums of the historic town centre, 2000-year-old temples and orthodox churches which glimmer white in the sun. Escape the heat by joining the locals to sip frothy beers in the open-air bars that line the narrow side streets. Pula is also the gateway to the shimmering beaches of the Verudela Peninsula and the windswept coves of Kamenjak.

4. Hvar

Natural Feature

Hvar, Croatia, at sunset
Aleksandra Krasinska / Unsplash

Farmers and jetsetters rub shoulders in the harbour town of Hvar, a yacht-dotted inlet on the western edge of Hvar Island. Glossy marble squares, shady stone alleyways and quaint seafood restaurants line the waterfront. Beyond, rugged hillsides vanish into the blurring heat haze. It’s known as a party town for the visiting yachties in the peak season, but during the off-peak months, it’s a tranquil place to soak up the sun and admire the centuries-old architecture.

5. Dubrovnik

Memorial

Golden hour drone shot of Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Geio Tischler / Unsplash
No round-up of the most beautiful towns in Croatia would be complete without mentioning Dubrovnik. Visitors flock to this coastal city to explore the setting for the King’s Landing in TV drama, Game of Thrones.Cut through the crowds on the bustling Stradun thoroughfare, and you’ll find vaulted baroque ceilings mixing with Ottoman influences; the soaring keeps of the old Ragusa Republic still crown the hilltops and the legends of Balkan knights persist between the aged city gates, palaces and bell towers.

6. Split

Historical Landmark, Shopping Mall

Split, Croatia
Tom Wheatley / Unsplash

In spite of its status as the de facto capital of Dalmatia, sunny Split has done well to cling to its rich historical veneer. The architectural pride of the city is Diocletian’s Palace – a medley of marble arches, tight-knit alleyways, glimmering piazzas and peristyle constructions that bears a well-deserved Unesco tag. As if that wasn’t enough, Split’s idyllic harbourside – the Riva – flaunts swaying palm trees and chic cafes right down on the shore.

7. Zagreb

Architectural Landmark

St marks church in Zagreb, Croatia
martin bennie / Unsplash

Forget the Stalinist sprawl of Zagreb’s outer districts. Focus instead on its Austro-Hungarian core where you can lose yourself between the cobblestone streets and rattling trams, subterranean beer bars and opulent baroque palaces. In the city’s more historic Upper Town, a web of crisscrossing roads sits between the rises of the Kaptol and Gradec hills, rich with 13th-century church spires and hipster cafes. On the horizon, Mount Medvednica dominates – a treasure trove of ski runs, hiking trails, lichen-clad forests and mysterious medieval fortresses.

8. Trogir

Natural Feature

Trogir, Croatia
Archana Reddy / Unsplash
Straddling the mainland and a rocky island over a small naval channel, Trogir is steeped in the histories of ancient Greece, imperial Rome, republican Venice and modern day Croatia alike. The centre of town is cut by narrow lanes where swaying laundry lines drift in the maritime winds and overhanging timber balconies play host to Italian pizzerias and open-air wine bars. Nearby, the formidable walls of the mighty Kamerlengo fortress and the romanesque rises of the city’s cathedral stand tall, watching over the beach shacks and pebble coves that pepper the inlets of Okrug Gornji island across the bay.

9. Rovinj

Building, Cathedral

Quaint red house in Rovinj, Croatia
Erik-Jan Leusink / Unsplash

A sea of terracotta-tiled roofs and stuccoed Italian-style homes cascade down to the edge of a rocky shoreline in medieval Rovinj. The heart of town is a labyrinth of winding cobblestone alleyways and tight-knit piazzas concealing rustic seafood konobas (taverns) – the very picture of coastal Croatia. Above the swaying washing lines and shady streets, the soaring tower of St Euphemia’s Basilica loom, whilst aromas of freshly cooked truffles twist between its Roman relics and haunting gothic carvings.

10. Motovun

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Motovun, Croatia
Lothar Boris Piltz / Unsplash

Draped elegantly over the hilltops of central Istria, the historic heart of medieval Motovun glimmers like a jewel amidst a sea of rolling olive fields and truffle-rich forests. Often hailed as the most handsome town in all Croatia, this mountaintop centre has kept watch over the winding valleys of the Mirna river since it was first raised on the ruins of ancient Kastelijer after the 10th century. Today, it buzzes with an indelible Italian-Slavic charm, the aromas of frying white truffles and pizza pies alike moving between its crenulated fortifications.

11. Crikvenica

Architectural Landmark

Crikvenica, Croatia
Meszárcsek Gergely / Unsplash

The holiday resort town of Crikvenica may not be as busy as nearby Krk, but what this place lacks in year-round excitement, it more than makes up for in June. The town’s annual Blue Fish Week has caught so much attention that its celebration of local maritime tradition now lasts an entire month. If eating your way through seafood dishes and Croatian delicacies is on your itinerary, set sail for Crikvenica. Recommended by Nick Dauk.

12. Skradin

Architectural Landmark

Nationalpark Krka, Skradin, Croatia
Fabian Kühne / Unsplash

Those who keep a detailed journal at sea won’t want to miss the opportunity to sail into Skradin. Set your compass west of Split, and don’t stop when you hit Sibenik. Instead, follow the waterway inland until you reach this village. By hiking trail, bus or boat, you can venture into the lush terrain of Krka National Park, and fall in love with the fairytale backdrops of the enchanting Skradinski Buk waterfall, among other stunning natural sights. Recommended by Nick Dauk.

13. Omiš

Architectural Landmark

Starigrad Fortress, Omiš, Croatia
Noah Josue / Unsplash

If the romance of piracy is what birthed your interest in sailing, then you’ll be in good company at Omiš. The town may not be as piratical as in previous centuries, but it can still set you on an adventurous path. An adrenaline rush awaits inland, where you can trade seasickness for the queasy feeling you’ll get when paragliding, rafting, free climbing, ziplining or extreme canyoning in the interior. Recommended by Nick Dauk.

14. Cavtat

Architectural Landmark

Boats of Cavtat, Cavtat, Croatia
Conor Rees / Unsplash

Yachts and trees line the harbour at Cavtat, a town on the Adriatic coast just south of Dubrovnik. You can scoot over to the Pearl of the Adriatic at any time, but Cavtat gives you plenty of reasons to stay anchored. The twin peninsulas jutting out from the city make stand-up paddleboarding an easy yet exciting experience. Strap on a snorkel and you might see artefacts from early Roman and Greek settlers below the surface. Recommended by Nick Dauk.

15. Biograd na Moru

Architectural Landmark

Sunset in Biograd Na Moru - Dalmatia, Croatia
Marino Bobetic / Unsplash

Not to be confused with the inland town merely called Biograd, the seaside Biograd na Moru eases you into port with mild tides and calm currents. You’ll see many fresh-faced sailors and their skippers around the docks, as this seaside city is very family-friendly. Reward your mini first mates for their diligence with excitement at Adventure Park or Fun Park. You may even let them take the wheel and sail you back to sea in these safe waters. Recommended by Nick Dauk.

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