The boom in Croatian tourism has not been limited to five-star accommodation. Quality, contemporary hostels abound, particularly in the key destinations of Hvar, Split, and Zagreb. Several have busy bars, others funky decor, some even have swimming pools. Here’s a roundup of the best budget hotels in Croatia.
Goli&Bosi Design Hostel
A living example of how to turn your everyday historic building into a bright, imaginative hostel where design (and space-saving) comes first, Goli&Bosi is at the crest of this new wave of budget accommodation along Croatia’s coast. Alongside Diocletian’s Palace, a short walk from the promenade and 10 minutes from the bus station and harbour, G&B couldn’t be better located if it tried. Dorm beds – in fours, sixes and eights – have been created with a little privacy in mind. There’s a panoramic suite with a balcony and a pizzeria is right downstairs. Excursions include walking tours of Split and catamaran hops to Brač and Šolta.
Frequently cited as the best hostel in Hvar, the award-winning Villa Marija offers all the things you’d expect from communal budget lodging – and several pleasant surprises. Once you’ve scaled the slope that’s a 15-minute walk from the upscale bustle around Hvar town harbour, the first things you’ll set your eyes on are a sea-view terrace, a cocktail bar, and a swimming pool. Next comes an outdoor chill-out zone with comfy bean bags and hot showers. To escape the afternoon sun, there’s a music and reading lounge. A fast food restaurant caters to most needs and a quality pebble beach lies 400 metres away.
Amid the steep streets lined with typical stone buildings tucked in from the main seafront of Hvar town, the Helvetia Hostel is slightly cramped by its dimensions. But it more than makes up for it with a gorgeous rooftop terrace and Adriatic views to die for. Lodgings are a mix of smallish dorms and private rooms, but there’s little wrong with them. Even in high season you’re paying relatively small amounts considering that you’re within the same sat-nav coordinates as the superyachts of film stars and oligarchs.
Run by the Lijić family, the 13-room Hostel Dvor (‘Courtyard’) provides dorm lodgings and private rooms in an atmospheric property in the equally atmospheric Varoš quarter of Split. Air-con and a communal kitchen feature in this three-storey establishment, topped with the prime accommodation space of the loft. In guest rooms, a white-and-cream colour scheme is offset by tasteful black-and-white photos of bathing beauties from the radio era.
City Walls Hostel
An easy stagger to and from the legendary cliff-facing Buža bar, ideally suited to midnight swims, the City Walls Hostel fills a tall house with bunk-bed dorms. All is neat and tidy, with a sea-blue and white colour scheme to remind you what’s on your doorstep. An intimate double awaits couples on the top floor. A washing machine is handy if you’ve been on the road for a while and towels are included. Reception is open limited hours so it’s a case of arranging your check-in ahead of time.
A unique concept, Cast Away crosses Robinson Crusoe with upscale camping in beach tents, taking in gorgeous sea views and idyllic isolation. Each of the 10 permanent tents contains two mattresses, linen, pillows, shelf space and a mosquito net. Communal facilities include electricity, a gas stove, cutlery and utensils, a small fridge, a bathroom with shower and toilet, a rainwater shower, and five hammocks. A guitar and snorkelling gear are also provided. There’s also a free shuttle service to and from the ferry port at Stari Grad every morning.
One of the first of the modern hostels to open in Croatia’s second city, a short walk from the bus station and ferry port, Split Backpackers comprises dorm rooms for eight and, conveniently, two people. There are also private rooms for two, with their own bathrooms. Guests can help themselves to tea and coffee, print out boarding passes or tickets, use the microwave, fridge and computer. The WiFi is strong, the showers powerful. Paid extras include a washing machine, pub crawls, and airport transfers.
If you’ve come to the Croatian capital looking for fun, then there’s no better place to stay than Tkalčićeva, the bar-lined thoroughfare behind the main square. Called Main Square Hostel, this modern Zagreb-themed 51-bed lodging is manned by a 24/7 reception and offers its guests two big-screen LCD TVs, and fresh linen and pillows. There’s even a scanning machine, a washing machine and dryer, and an airport shuttle service, all paid extras. Dorms come in two-, four-, six-, and eight-bed varieties with shared bathrooms, while the private room with two beds that has its own facilities is an absolute steal.
Woo-hoo! With drinks promotions, pub crawls, and all kinds of active recreation by day, Villa Skansi is a party-focused hostel whose dorm accommodation has an upper age limit of 35. Situated within easy reach of Hvar town harbour, bleary mornings are spent in the al fresco lounge area and communal kitchen, before the trek to the beautiful beach nearby or trips around Hvar island by boat or scooter. The evening then warms up with drinks on the patio bar and perhaps pizza in the sea-facing dining area. The night then takes its course, until another bleary morning.
Swanky Mint is a hostel with a difference. Sat on Zagreb’s most revered thoroughfare of Ilica, Swanky Mint occupies a former textile factory set up by a Czech entrepreneur in the Habsburg era. There’s something of the entrepreneurial spirit about it today, with a popular garden bar downstairs, and airport transfers among the services offered. A pool opens for five months of the year. Dorms are either mixed or female-only, with the option of a three-person bedroom.