Your Croatia Travel Guide from HI Hostels
Vibrant cities, stunning coastline, and World Heritage
Zagreb is Croatia’s beautiful capital – combining baroque architecture with a buzzing modern city. It has excellent transport links and is an ideal starting point for exploring Croatia. With plenty of cross-border access points, you can easily start this recommended trip at almost any point.
Where to stay
There is excellent HI Youth Hostel® accommodation throughout Croatia. All HI Hostels are conveniently located for easy access to transport, visitor sights and lively nightlife.
Zagreb city highlights
Stay at either HI Hostel in Zagreb to explore this fascinating city. Combining elements of Eastern and Western Europe, old-world elegance and throbbing 21st century energy, Zagreb is two towns in one!
Donji Grad (Lower Town) is the heart of the modern city – busy streets and large leafy squares. Graceful Austro-Hungarian buildings house elegant restaurants and fashionable boutiques, alongside lively beer halls. Find diverse art treasures in the Museum Mimara or discover contemporary art in the House of Croatian Artists.
The big square Trg bana Jelačića is home to the colourful Dolac market (perfect for a snack while bargain hunting). Close by is Ilica, the main shopping street. Just a short walk or funicular ride away is Gornji Grad (Upper Town), centred on the medieval settlements of Kaptol and Gradec. Explore ancient winding streets, the Cathedral treasures, the Archibishop’s Court and climb Kula Lotršćak (Burglar’s Tower) to enjoy magnificent views across the city to the plain beyond.
On a summer’s day, relax in Maksimir Park or cool off at Lake Jarun (then enjoy some hot nightlife!). Visit nearby Medvednica Mountain for winter sports. Admire the beautiful domes of peaceful Mirogoj Park Cemetery.
Croatia beyond Zagreb
From the city, it is easy to explore the rest of Croatia using the excellent network of buses and ferries.
A busy transport hub and port, Rijeka has plenty to keep you amused by day and night. Stay at the HI Rijeka Hostel to explore the Korzo (pedestrian mall), the tree-lined harbour, old waterfront palaces and beaches. Do not miss the imposing hilltop fortress of Trsat and stunning views across the surrounding area. At night, discover the bar-club capital of northern Croatia!
The HI Hostel in Pula, located on the south coast of the Istrian Peninsula is ideal for exploring the ancient Roman city of Polensium. Among its wealth of ruins is the 2000-year old Roman amphitheatre, often the venue for summer concerts and shows. Do not miss the beaches of the Verudela Peninsula, the rocky bays of the Premantura Peninsula or a day trip to the pretty Italianate harbour town of Rovinj. After dark, Pula has the best nightlife in Istria!
Take a ferry across to Lošinj Island and stop at the HI Veli Losinj Hostel. Explore the pretty town and its 15th century Venetian Tower, swim in the clear Adriatic and look out for bottlenose dolphins.
Zadar is the ancient Roman city of Zara, at the northern end of the Dalmatian coast. Its marble, traffic-free streets follow the Roman town plan. From the HI Hostel Zadar, explore the Old Town and its curious mix of architectural styles; stroll along the tree-lined promenade; visit intriguing museums. Do not miss the nearby Kornati National Park, an extraordinarily beautiful off-shore archipelago of largely uninhabited islands. On your way south, stop at the Krka National Park to enjoy tumbling waterfalls, rapids and gorges.
Makarska Riviera – Zaostrog and Gradac
Stop at either the HI Hostel in Zaostrog or the HI Gradac Hostel. Explore the cycling and walking trails and enjoy delightful scenery, charming traditional villages, the many kilometres of inviting beaches and cultural highlights such as the Franciscan Monastery in Zaostrog.
Once described as ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ Dubrovnik charms at every turn. The HIHostel in Dubrovnik is ideally located for discovering the UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town (Stari Grad). Dramatic curtain walls surround the town and a walk around them is a must – and rewards you with breathtaking views. Explore the beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, palaces, monasteries, museums and monuments. For relaxation, head to the beaches and lush wooded peninsulas just beyond the city.
Other essential trips
- Split: a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage listed old centre is a must! Located within the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, its highlights include the palace ruins, the medieval cathedral and a maze of marble streets.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park: this UNESCO World Heritage listed site includes 16 stunning turquoise lakes linked by waterfalls, all surrounded by hills and woodland. It is located about half-way between Zagreb and Zadar.
Food and drink
Sample some traditional foods such as punjene parika (peppers stuffed with meat and rice), the Dalmatian speciality pašticada (beef and bacon cooked in vinegar and wine), brodet (a peppery fish stew served on the coast) and palačinke (sweet pancakes).
Festivals and events