Category Archives: Croatia

Things to do in Croatia, Croatian attractions and the best places to visit in Croatia.

Five Reasons to Visit Zagreb’s Maksimir Park

The Maksimir Park is the largest green space in the city of Zagreb. It is named after Bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac, the man who was first responsible for establishing the park in 1794. At the time the park was set up it was on the outskirts of the city, today it is part of suburban Zagreb.

Photo By ruscca

A Green Space – Maksimir Park is a much loved urban escape. It is a sprawling green complex with nooks and corners, lakes and walkways, benches and trails. The traffic sounds coming in from the park boundary are dulled by the thick tree cover and flowing water, ensuring peace and quiet. This Zagreb park is located right opposite a large football stadium, which hosts local and international football events as well as concerts. At such times the thousands of spectators also use the park as the perfect waiting area, both before and after the events.

A Running Track – Maksimir Park is very popular with joggers, runners and even cyclists as the park provides a safe, continuous, and picturesque track. People come in from all over the city to take advantage of this very setting. The park is well connected by the local tram service (take tram no.11 from the Main Square to the Park).

A Pleasant Coffee Break – Maksimir Park is a great coffee place. There are several cafes within the complex that serve good coffee and even better views. If cafes aren’t your thing, find the closest ice-cream vendor and head to an empty bench.

The Zoo – The Zoo is a more recent addition to the Park, and is very popular with young families. There are a number of large (lions, bears, cheetah, bison) and small animals, including endangered species. Of particular interest are the feeding sessions; the sea lion feeding time usually draws quite a crowd. Entry to the zoo is from within the park; tickets (30 Kuna) can be purchased at the zoo entrance.

Photo by Landii

Holiday Concerts – During the summer months (particularly Saturdays) and on bank holidays the park hosts small music concerts. These concerts are free and can be enjoyed by everyone. For more information about the park and the park’s events calendar for the park, head to the information centre located in the Gatekeeper’s cabin, close to the park entrance.

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Day Trips from Dubrovnik

After you’ve explored Dubrovnik’s old town, it’s time to explore the surrounding regions. Dubrovnik is within close proximity of a number of beautiful islands and towns, where you can enjoy natural beauty, history and culture, and the best local food and wine. Here are my tips for Dubrovnik day trips.

The Peljesac Peninsula – The first day trip destination on the list is the nearby Peljesac Peninsula. Known for its vineyards and olive groves, the most popular activity here is wine tasting. There are a number of commercial and family owned vineyards, and many are open to wine tours. You can sign up for a tour group from Dubrovnik or make your own way by bus or ferry.

Elaphite Islands – The Elaphite Islands are another popular day trip from Dubrovnik. These are a group of 14 islands, out of which only the three main islands – Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep – are populated. The Elaphite Islands are known for their beautiful beaches, bays and coves. To get to the Elaphite Islands, sign up for a tour cruise or use the ferry service to from Dubrovnik.

Island of Mljet – Nature lovers should make their way to the island of Mljet. Though the island is a little further off from some of the other stops, this is the place to enjoy local flora and fauna. In fact a part of the island is a designated National Park. other activities on offer include biking, trekking, rafting and kayaking. You can reach Mljet by catamaran and daily ferries that operate on this route. Check local listing for seasonal schedules.

Korcula Island – The walled town of Korcula makes for an enjoyable day trip. However, I highly recommend you schedule more than just one day for Korcula, and explore the rest of the island too. Read more about Korcula here.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Another interesting excursion from Dubrovnik is to the neighbouring country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The town of Mostar in particular is easily accessible from Dubrovnik. The region is known for its local history and culture; Bosnia enjoys a unique cultural mix that gels Turkish influence with the Balkan way of life. Daily buses run from Dubrovnik to Mostar and Sarajevo. Be sure to carry your passport and other vital documentation when heading across the border.

Do you have Dubrovnik day trips to recommend?

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Stradun – The Heart of Dubrovnik

If you don’t have too much time to spend in Dubrovnik, the city’s main street, Stradun, is where you hit the ground running to start your Dubrovnik sightseeing. The street runs from the Pile Gate to the Ploce Gate and is lined with Dubrovnik attractions, atmosphere and activity:

The Large Onofrio Fountain – The large Onofrio fountain is located very close to the Pile Gate. It was constructed in 1438 to source water for the city from the Dubrovacka River located 12km over. This is a great place to enjoy street artists and to catch a breath.

The Stairway to the Walls – The Pile Gate is also where you can begin your tour of the ramparts.  One set of stairs begin right opposite the fountain; the tickets for the wall tour are available at the tourist office, located on the other side of the fountain.

The Stepping Stone – While sitting at the fountain you’ll see a number of tourists jumping onto a small stone jutting from the monastery wall, or trying to. The challenge is to get there without support. Given the stone isn’t wide enough, this can be a very entertaining spot.

Franciscan Monastery – The Franciscan Monastery is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. It  has been filling up prescription since 1317. You can learn more about the time at the pharmacy museum inside.

The Sponza Palace – The Sponza Palace was once the local mint. Today it doubles up as a city archive and exhibition hall. Of particular interest is the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders, in memory of soldiers who lost their lives during the war.

The Bell Tower – The bell tower closes or frames out one end of Stradun. It is located between the Ploce Gate and the St. Blaise Church. Be sure to catch the two green bronze structures, the Dubrovnik twins, ringing the bell every hour.

Orlando’s Column– Orlando’s Column on the Luza Square was put in place in the 15th century as a symbol of the kingdom’s independence. Back then it was the point of public gatherings, today it is a focal meeting point in the city.

St. Blaise Church – At the edge of the street is the St. Blaise Church. It was built in honour of the patron saint, and he can be found standing over the church and in the church. The stained glass windows, the newest addition to the church, are worth seeing post sundown.

The other attractions on Stradun are the fancy cafes and boutiques. However, it is important to keep in mind that these establishments can pack quite a punch on the wallet.

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Shopping in Grožnjan, Croatia

Grožnjan is one of my favourite stops in Croatia, particularly in the warm months, when the artists are at work. The town is best seen ducking in and out of studios and galleries, and shopping is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Grozhjan..

My tips for Groznjan shopping.

Jewellery – There are a number of jewellery workshops and studios around Grožnjan that specialize in both contemporary and traditional jewellery. Depending on the materials used and the designs, these pieces could set you back by anything between 50 Kuna to well over 500 Kuna. Don’t buy the first piece you see. Considering how small Grožnjan is, first take a tour of the place, walk into other jewellery stores and once you’ve seen them all and compared prices and styles, pick the one(s) that works for you the best.

Art – A number of artists spend their summers in Grožnjan, and a number of art studios double up as galleries. There is a great mix of styles available in Grožnjan, from local landscape to naive art and even innovative media. Since entry is free, go ahead and visit as many as you can. Walk in, watch the artists at work, browse through an impressive collection and if  one catches your fancy, help the artist put a little red dot next to it.

Wine – Along with a number of wine bars there are also a number of little boutiques and stores where you can purchase the finest Istrian wines. Istria is known as Croatia’s wine country and prides itself for the quality of wines produced. Treat yourself to a bottle, and if you are looking for a special souvenir, these make for great gifts too.

Souvenirs – Instead of spending your time and money at the tacky souvenir stalls in the bigger towns, consider purchasing unique handcrafted souvenirs at some of the local studios in Grožnjan. For one, these souvenirs are authentic made-in-Croatia-items, for another you’ll be helping out a local artist.

For a closer look at Grožnjan, take a look at Karen’s video here.

Dubrovnik Attractions – The Rector’s Palace

Considered by many as one of the best places to visit in Europe, Dubrovnik is always packed; there is a steady stream of tourists and activities all year round. When you add the crazy prices of Dubrovnik to this equation it becomes impossible (rather impractical) to visit every museum and local landmarks in the city. But there are a few you shouldn’t miss out on. The wall walk is one, and the Rector’s Palace is another; it is also my Europe travel tip of the week.

The exterior facade of the Palace is a work of art in itself. Intricately carved figures hold up pillars and trims and run across the length of the building. The Rector’s Palace was the official seat of power in the old republic of Ragusa – it housed the ruling Rector through his reign; the Rector was not to leave the Palace except on urgent matters involving the welfare of the republic. The Rector’s term was also limited in order to curb corruption.

Inside the Palace opens up into a central courtyard. Rooms run all around the ground level and on the upper floor. The atrium is a popular choice for music concerts during the summer months; it is one of the main venues during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

The upper floor doubles up as a cultural history museum. The rooms are furnished with articles from the old kingdom and also hold artworks created by Venetian and Dalmatian masters. The rooms are luxurious and detailed. There’s also an exhibit on official republic regalia complete with coins, seals, flags and other official documentation from the period.

Along with the history exhibits, the Rector’s Palace also houses a photography exhibit. The photos on display are from the homeland war and document the destruction and damage Dubrovnik had to suffer.

Have you visited the Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik? What did you think of the exhibits?

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5 Art Stops in the Croatian capital of Zagreb

Zagreb is a small city. But for its size it has more than a fair share of museums and galleries such as the Zagreb City Museum. My travel tip is to go Zagreb art gallery hopping during the summer months. This European city empties out during this time; most of the town’s residents head to the coast, for beaches such as Zlatni Rat, leaving the many Zagreb attractions to be explored at leisure.

In today’s post I’m going to share five of my favourite Zagreb art stops.

The Mestrovic Studio – Ivan Mestrovic is one of the most famous Croatian sculptors. His work can be viewed at the Mestrovic Studio located in the Upper Town area of Zagreb. The studio is set up in the home where the artist lived from 1922-1942. Here you can browse through a collection of sculptures, drawings, as well as personal documents and photographs.

Naive Art

Museum of Naive Art – I’ve written about the Museum of Naive Art before (read more here). This continues to be my favourite art museum in the city. You’ll find over 1500 works of naive art here. These include works by Croatian masters as well as other international artist. If there is just one art stop you can make in the city, this is the one it should be.

The Art Pavilion – The Art Pavilion is one of the most spectacular (and recognizable) buildings in the city. It is also one of the oldest. Set up in 1898, the Art Pavilion exhibits collections by both Croatian and international artists. However the gallery doesn’t hold permanent exhibits, so be sure to check current exhibitions before visiting.

Photo by ruscca

Klovicevi Dvori Gallery – Here’s another gallery located in the Upper Town (close to the Museum of Naive Art). Klovicevi Dvori Gallery hosts exhibitions by national and international artists. Along with the exhibits you can also attend a number of associated events here; these included lectures, workshops and auctions.

Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art – Adding a touch of modernity to the proceedings is the Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art. Set up in a glass and steel structure, the museum is best known for its quirky and modernistic exhibitions and installations. It also conducts visual arts workshops for children and adults alike.

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Exploring One of Croatia’s Loveliest Beaches – Zlatni Rat

When summer comes to Croatia, much of the traffic heads south, to the island of Brac. Here, in the tiny town of Bol is one the most popular stops in the country – a beach called Zlatni Rat, my Europe travel tip of the week.

Zlatni Rat is also known as the Golden Horn. The water here is clear and clean (you can’t help but jump in), but this is not what makes this beach unique.

Zlatni Rat has a shifting coast line. Its tip is a thin strip that stretches out into the sea, and how far this tip extends into the waters is determined by the winds and the force of the tide on the day. This means that Zlatni Rat keeps shifting daily; if you happen to be on Bol for a couple of day, this makes for an exciting photography project.

In the peak summer months (July-August), when the sun is blazing down, there’s barely a pebble free on the beach. Beach towels and sun chairs are stacked one against the other, and it’s hard for late comers to hop over the many sunbathing bodies.

The beach offers a lot of entertainment and hospitality. Along the beach small bars operate, playing the latest chart toppers and selling beverages. Most of these beach shacks also rent out beach chairs and loungers. You can also hire jet skies, banana boats and other water sport equipment along the beach.

And when you finally tire of the beach or when the sun finally calls it a day, a number of lounge bars await on the promenade that overlooks the beach.

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Shopping in Dubrovnik: Jewellery Stores

Dubrovnik offers a variety of experiences and memories such as walking the town walls and shopping at the Dubrovnik Morning Market. However the small lanes of the old town manage to fit in century old establishments, footballs games and restaurants with outdoor seating, and all comfortably.

It is on these back lanes that you’ll find the many tiny jewellery boutiques of Dubrovnik.

First there’s the familiar window display – strings of coral and pearl, silver earrings with filigree work and coral drops, chunky blocks of turquoise strung together with crooked corals, all dangling together against the window. Inside, depending on the store the setting varies – from the cold and clinical designer boutique to the chaotic but warm family establishment.

The jewellery is handcrafted in backdoor workshops or in roomier ones beyond the gates of the old town. Many jewellers have been in the business for decades, taking over from their parents and grandparents. On offer are traditional necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, buttons and broaches. And the prices range from 250 Kuna upwards depending on the piece and the materials used.

I stepped into one such family run establishment on a street parallel to Stradun. The cases on the wall held traditional jewellery designs, or designs inspired by traditional Croatian designs along with ageing authentic pieces. The originals, of course were not for sale. These were family heirlooms to be enjoyed at a distance. They however did make a good reference point to compare the new designs with the old. I ended up with two sets of silver earrings, each with coral drops. The filigree work on them is breathtaking as are the coral drops – a day well spent.

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The St. Mark's portal

Five Things to do in Korčula, Croatia

Last week I wrote about the walls of Korčula. This week we venture inside; walk along the lanes, explore the squares and climb the towers of this tiny town. There’s a fair bit to see and experience here – from cultural performances to historic sites. This is what makes Korčula a top European destination in my book.

The St. Mark's portal

1. Visit the Cathedral

For a town this size Korčula has its fair share of churches. But the most impressive and important of these is the St. Mark’s Cathedral (Cathedral Sveti Marko). It towers over the main square and above the town – its bell tower can be seen from a fair distance. But the real treasures are inside in the form of renaissance art and ancient manuscripts.

2. Step into the Town Museum

The Town Museum is located on the main square, right opposite the St. Mark’s Cathedral. In this 16th century renaissance palace you’ll find the history of the town told through ancient relics, artworks and hand carved stone sculptures.

A poster of the Moreška dancers

3. Catch a Dance Performance
Korčula is known for its traditional Moreška sword dance. The dance tells an ancient story of a battle between two armies (the red king’s and the black king’s) over a beautiful girl. If you are in town long enough catch a weekly performance. Tickets and show information are available at the tourist office.

4. Visit Marco Polo’s Home
Legend says that the renowned explorer Marco Polo was born here in 1252. And he is everywhere in town. From Marco Polo shops and souvenirs to restaurants that claimed Marco Polo and his family ate there. The home he was born in has been converted into a museum and is open to the public. If nothing else, visit for the great views it offers.

One of the many jewellery stores in town

5. Buy some jewellery
This region of Croatia offers a great variety of silver and coral jewellery. Other popular semi-precocious stones like turquoise and jade are also available but if you are looking for something authentic opt for a traditional designs.

Have you been to Korčula? What did you think of the sights on offer and which one did you enjoy the most?

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The Croatian walled town of Korčula

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the walls of Dubrovnik. But Dubrovnik is not the only Croatian walled town in this part of the Adriatic. You can experience the same setting, but on a smaller scale in ‘Little Dubrovnik’ – Korcula.

Korčula Town is the centre of the island of Korčula and is encircled within walls. These walls of Korčula are my travel tip for the week.

When seen from the above, the walls and the city within form a fish bone – a herring bone, to be precise. Go ahead look at a map, the resemblance is uncanny. These town walls were constructed around the thirteenth century by the ruling Venetians. A significant part of the fortification, particularly on the eastern end, continues to stand in its original avatar.

The wall system is punctuated by stocky watch towers along the corners. There are eight towers in total, overlooking the sea. They date from the 15th century onwards. Today a couple of the towers – including the Veliki Revelin Tower are open to visitors (doubling as museums and heritage exhibits); some stand in ruin, some are under construction, and one hosts a terrace cafe.

End the day at the cafes and restaurants along the wall. Grab a table against the wall, and watch the sea – the boats and cruises coming in and out of the harbour, and the little boys fishing with bits of string.

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