Susan Bleecher

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

The Art of Croatia

My first trip to Croatia was full of happy surprises. I’d read about the wonderful beach towns and rich history, but the reality was much better than I had imagined. Thanks to its strategic coastal location, Croatia has a long history as a trading and seafaring culture. It has been invaded by, traded with and fought off many nations and its culture reflects a confluence of influences. The Croatian island of Korcula claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo (although Venetians may not agree.) 

Many of Croatia’s cities feel like living museums. Dubrovnik is the most famous. Its Old Town is a gorgeous walled city. Its towers and passageways served as settings for famous scenes in “Game of Thrones,” and fans can take themed tours of the city. From the ramparts, the views of the sea are amazing, and the city has a proud history of fending off invaders. I try to suggest people go in the quieter seasons, as the city can feel almost like a theme park when it is filled with people. 

Zagreb, the capital and largest city of Croatia, has some of the best architecture, art, and museums in the country and beautiful Upper and Lower Old Town areas. The must-take photo is St. Mark’s Church Zagreb with its iconic tiled roof, colorfully designed with the Medieval coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on one side and the Zagreb city emblem on the other. Nearby, the unusual Museum of Broken Relationships displays artifacts and touching stories from all over the world.  

Split, the second largest city, is one of my favorites. It has ruins dating back to the Roman Empire. Diocletian’s Palace, built in about 305 A.D. for the Roman Emperor Diocletian, dominates the city’s Old Town. Built as his retirement residence, it feels like a cross between a palace and a fortress and it had space for a large military garrison. It is an amazing place—all the more so when you think about how many centuries these structures have survived.  

Croatia is also popular for its beaches. The mountain-backed coastal scenery is exquisite and the resorts are sophisticated, with plenty of water sports, from fly-boarding and parasailing to scuba diving and boating. Hvar attracts a lot of celebrities and young travelers with its active nightlife scene, and Zlatni Rat beach, near the town of Bol, is often ranked among the great beaches of the world. 

Croatia is also justifiably known for its great food and wine. The most unique meal we had was when we went out on a boat with oystermen. They take you to a floating platform and show you how they farm oysters, and then you eat them fresh out of the water! Because Croatia is just across the Adriatic from Italy, the food has a definite Italian slant. It also has wonderful wineries and on one of my trips, I enjoyed a tasting in a vineyard that rivals any I have experienced in Italy or France. 

One of the most beautiful spots is Plitvice Lake National Park. You can go as a day trip or stay overnight at a resort with cottages nestled into the forest. It is a great place for hiking, with lakes and lovely waterfalls.  

I fell in love with Croatia, and I’m sure you will too. If you are interested in seeing Croatia for yourself, I would love to plan your dream trip.