28 Things Croatia is Known and Famous For

What is Croatia famous for?

Croatia is famous for its major cities such as Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Havar, as well as the Dalmatian coast and islands. Croatia is also known for Krka National Park, as well as unique traditions including the Rijeka Carnival and unique foods such as Pag cheese and Lisitar cookies.

Rovinj

But we’re only getting started! Come and find out 28 things Croatia is known and famous for – we’ve got so much to get through!

1. Zagreb

Zagreb

Croatia is famous for its enchanting capital city, Zagreb. Zagreb is where the Mediterranean and Central and Southeast Europe meet, so it’s a bustling infusion of cultures, industry and unique buildings. 

A visit to Zagreb is a bit like time-travelling. The street lamps in Zagreb are still lit by gas and there are cobblestone squares wherever you look.

What will really strike you about Zagreb is its authenticity. No cheesy tourist stalls here. Just fresh food markets, great places to dine out and a sneak peek as to how most Croatians really live.

But if you do want to see the more depressing side of Zagreb, check out its most unusual museum: The Museum Of Broken Relationships. Read old love letters, see old teddy bears or just wallow in the misery of doomed relationships…yikes!

2. Wine

Vineyards in Croatia

Nothing goes hand-in-hand quite like a vacation and wine, so good news: Croatia is known for its exquisite wines. The choice is all yours but when in Croatia, do as the Croatians do…

Croatia’s speciality is white wine, which encompasses 67% of the Croatian wine market. Croatian wines tend to be sweet and fruity, similar to Slovenian and Austrian wines.

Sparkling wines are also growing in popularity, and I can really recommend you give Istrian wines a try if you’re a Prosecco lover!

3. UNESCO Intangible Goods

Spring procession of Ljelje/Kraljice (queens) from Gorjani
Editorial credit: Marycpilas / Shutterstock.com

The UNESCO World Heritage list encompasses so much more than crumbling ruins (though, we love them too!). Croatia is famous for having 14 recognized entries on the UNESCO Intangible Goods list, covering everything from food and dance to unique traditions.

So what are the most unique Croatian aspects of culture? First, plenty of music.

In the Istria region, expect to hear a unique blend of a two-part harmony sung on a local scale known as Istarska Ljestvica. In Dalmatia, expect to hear Klapa – a usually all-male choir singing songs of love or tragedy. Or both! 

One awesome Croatian tradition is the Spring procession of Ljelje/Kraljice (queens) from Gorjani. Young girls from the village of Gorjani dress up like kings and queens. The “kings” dance, and the “queens” give their verdict on the “kings’” dance moves!

4. National Parks

Krka National Park

Croatia is known for its stupendous natural beauty – but it’s not all about the sand and sea.

Croatia is home to eight gorgeous national parks that all boast magnificent views of virtually untouched nature. All you’ve got to do is pick where and when to go!

One of the most famous Croatian National Parks is Krka National Park. It’s a fan-favorite for bathing as the Krka River flows through the center of it. The giant cascading waterfall is popular with tourists and locals alike, so it will likely be crowded.

If you’re after some tranquility, consider a visit to Plitvice National Park. There are 16 hidden lakes to be found and you’re guaranteed plenty of fresh air and freedom!

5. Havar

Hvar, Croatia

Croatia is known for many of its idyllic islands dotted along its coastline, and the most well known of them is Hvar.

The turquoise sea, terracotta roofs and a mild climate make it the perfect vacation destination, and that’s just a few reasons why people choose to visit Havar.

Hvar bursts with life all year round. It combines the Mediterranean (olive trees, lavender fields and sunshine) with classic Croatian cuisine and customs. Explore the ancient town of Stari Grad, bake in the sun on one of its many beaches, and then hit the town for some classic Croatian nightlife.

In other words, Hvar has something for everyone: peace and quiet, mayhem and music, as well as history and culture. Unmissable!

6. Ancient History

Krapina Museum
Editorial credit: Tamisclao / Shutterstock.com

Plenty of places offer interesting and varied history, but few countries can say that they have the largest collection of Neanderthal remains.

In fact, only one country can say that because Croatia is famous for its ancient, prehistoric history – and yes, they have the monopoly on Neanderthal bones.

In 1899, a Croatian excavator discovered almost 900 human bones that were later discovered to belong to Neanderthal people, ranging from two to 40 years of age.

The bones are now housed at the world-famous Krapina Museum. The museum is a stone’s throw away from the actual excavation site, and it looks like a giant, modern take on a Neanderthal cave.

7. Nicola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Even if you didn’t know Tesla had a first name, you surely recognize that surname. Croatia is known for being the birth country of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest motor engineers the world has even known!

Although he was of Serbian heritage, Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia in 1856. Today, it’s believed he had a photographic memory and was very receptive to language learning. He moved to The United States where he met and worked alongside Thomas Edison. His life was no cinch, however.

Tesla had multiple mental health issues including gambling addiction and depression, and it wasn’t until years after he moved to the U.S that things improved for him. Edison refused to pay him, so he had to move on and quick.

The story ends pretty happily though. At his new job in New York, Tesla managed to make breakthroughs in the production, transmission and application of electric power – all of which are still used to this day!

8. Waterfalls

Waterfalls in Krka Park

Keen photographers and nature lovers, listen up! Croatia is famous for being home to 90 waterfalls, making it the perfect country to visit if you want to ignore TLC’s advice and chase some waterfalls.

Of course, we’ve already mentioned the highly sought-after Krka Waterfall located in Krka National Park, but you can find plenty of Croatia’s other waterfalls nearby. Check out the Roski and Sastavci falls – there are tour buses available from bigger cities such as Split to take you there!

Take the Rastoke waterfall, for instance. The water appears emerald green in appearance and it’s situation right beside an adorable little village complete with timber framed houses and local restaurants.

10. Split

Split, Croatia

Speaking of Split, Croatia is known for its Dalmatian coast and Split has sky-rocketed in popularity over recent years.

Split is the capital of Dalmatia and it exemplifies how diverse Croatia can be. It’s heavily influenced by Mediterranean food and culture (it was founded by Romans) but it also has 2,000 years of Jewish history to its name – and a very rare painting of the Prophet Muhammad. 

This diversity gives Split immeasurable charm. There are eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites located within a two hour journey of Split, including Diocletian’s Palace and the Plitvice Lakes. 

Visitors will be embraced with open arms as Split is a very sociable city. There are outdoor seating areas everywhere, nightlife is abundant and locals renowned for being super friendly and easygoing.

11. Game of Thrones

Lokrum Island

Croatia is famous for being the film location of many epic scenes from Game of Thrones, and fans have been coming in droves to see them for themselves. So where should you go?

Well, if you’re a GoT fan but your partner or friends aren’t, no worries. Major set locations for GoT are in and around Croatian cities, including Dubrovnik, Split and Trsteno.

If you’re up for visiting the “City of Qarth”, you’ll be pleased to know it’s actually called Lokrum Island and is totally open for visitors. It actually dates back to 1023 and has some pretty fascinating “real” history there too!

12. The Yugoslav Wars

Vukovar train station

Even if history isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to be awed when you consider that 30 years ago, in 1991, Croatia had only just declared independence. Croatia is known for being one of the four nations who engaged in The Yugoslav Wars, which began in 1991 and ended in 1995.

Croatia was absorbed by Germany during the Second World War, and following the fall of Nazism, communism dominated for nearly fifty years.

During the Croatian War of Independence, some 20,000 people lost their lives. The Yugoslav Wars, which also included Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bosniak Muslims as a minority group, saw as many as 140,000 people killed.

Croatia, and its neighboring countries, still bear the scars of its recent military history. If you want to learn more about it, I recommend visiting the War Photography Museum in Zagreb. Be warned, however: it is very emotionally distressing.

11. Incredible Islands

Trogir

Croatia is famous for its many incredible islands and vast coastline, so it figures that many of them have ended up as perfect havens for tourists! In total, Croatia has 1244 islands, isles, islets and reefs – and just 48 of them are inhabited.

As there are so many islands to pick from, to really narrow down your perfect Croatian Island you may need to try quite a few. Other than Hvar, which we’ve already mentioned, I’d recommend paying a visit to Rab or Korčula.

Beauty isn’t just above the surface in this part of the world, though. Croatia is a top European destination for scuba diving due to its clear waters, many shipwrecks and warm waters. Bol, in Brač Island, is also a favorite destination for playful dolphins who’ll happily show you their backyards!

12. Dalmatians

Dalmatian dog

Dalmatians are the most talked about dog breed at the moment, and yes, that’s mostly thanks to the new Disney movie, Cruella. If you’re like me, though, then you’ve long harbored an adoration for these spotty pups.

And if the name sounds familiar to you and you’ve been paying attention: yes, Dalmatians (officially) come from the Dalmatia region of Croatia!

The origins of Dalmatians are sadly unknown, and, rather unhelpfully, everyone seems to lay claim to them. The French, for instance, call them Danish, the English call them English Coach Dogs, etc. But the Croatians have officially recognized the Dalmatian as their own.

One thing is certain: if you love Dalmatians then you have to go and check out the many Dalmatian souvenir shops dotted (pardon the pun) around the region. Maybe you’ll even “spot” a real one around town? (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

13. Christmas Markets

Christmas market in Croatia
Editorial credit: Ivan Nemet / Shutterstock.com

With all that sun and sea, it’s difficult to imagine Croatia as a “Christmassy” country. Be that as it may, Croatia is known for its giant Christmas markets that pop up every winter, and they’re every bit as charming as you could imagine.

It might surprise you to learn that Zagreb’s Christmas Market has been named the best European Christmas market three years running now (2021).

There’s something incredibly cozy and romantic about Croatian Christmas markets, which they call “Advent Markets” instead. As well as the traditional food and gift stalls, there’s also live music and concerts that take place making them a perfect place to visit for some winter cheer!

14. Pag Cheese

Pag cheese

Croatia is famous for many delicacies, but one of the most sought-after is definitely Pag Cheese.

Pag Cheese is the eponymously named dairy delicacy of the Adriatic island of Pag. It’s made from sheep’s milk and has a distinctively salty taste, reminiscent of its nautical home.

The Croatian name for Pag Cheese is Paški sir. The cheese is made from some of the smallest sheep in the Mediterranean (aww) and because their diet gets a natural sprinkling of sea water, the cheese is consequently pretty salty.

15. Ancient City of Vinkovci

Telephone box in Vinkovci
The English telephone box was an unusual gift from the U.K to Croatia in the 1990s after the Yugoslav wars…and it’s now a symbol of Vinkovci!

Here’s another fact that might surprise you: Croatia is known for having the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. Its name? Vinkovci.

People have lived there some 8,300 years and two Roman Emperors were actually born there: Valentinian and Valens.

As if that wasn’t enough, Vinkovci is also home to the oldest calendar in Europe, known as Orion. In 1978, some construction workers unearthed a 2,600 year-old pot with the then astronomy based dates inscribed on it!

Vinkovci is also home to a famous craft beer festival, Beeram domaće. Emperor Valens was a big beer fan, and one of the local brews is actually named after him!

16. Zlatni Rat Beach

Zlatni Rat Beach

Croatia is famous for being a sunseeker’s paradise, and it’s home to one of Europe’s top beaches. Zlatni Rat beach is sometimes known as The Golden Cape – probably because of its narrow spit that extends two kilometers into the ocean. 

If you want to sunbathe at Zlatni Rat, however, you’ll need to hire or bring your own sunbed or chair. It’s a pebble beach, but the clear, turquoise waters are an Instagrammer’s dream.

You’ll find Zlatni Rat beach on the island of Brač, Dalmatia. 

17. The Croatian Language

Croatia postcards

Croatia is famous for its language, Croatian, which has had a fascinating journey over time. Croatian belongs to the South Slavic language family. It shares similarities with its neighbors, but after Croatia declared independence, the language was reformed to give it more of its own identity.

That said, Croatian is still an official language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbian and Bosnian. Previously, Croatian has been written in three different alphabets: Cyrillic, Glagolitic or Latin. These days, however, words are spelled using Gaj’s Latin alphabet.

One of my favorite Croatian phrases is: “Doće maca na vratanca”. Literally translated, it means: “the cat will come to the tiny door”. It’s a proverb that basically means “this may come back to haunt you”. An adorable way to tell someone they’re doomed, don’t you think?

18. National Flower of Croatia

Flowers in Croatia

Croatia is known for its bountiful and beautiful plant life, but it’s not all about lavender fields (though, you’ve got to see those. They’re super impressive too!).

Since the year 2000, Croatia has had the iris as its national flower. There are no less than 12 wild species of iris that grow in Croatia – and it’s illegal to pick them. So, gorgeous as they are, let them flourish where they are!

Interestingly, the Croatian word for “iris” (“perunika”) is derived from Croatian mythology. The god Perun, and his wife, Perunika, were beloved deities, and Perun had the ability to cause lightning to strike. Legend says that wherever the lightning struck, irises would grow.

19. The Leaning Tower of Završje

The Leaning Tower of Završje

Move over, Pisa, there’s a new leaning tower in town! Croatia is famous for having its very own leaning tower known as the Leaning Tower of Završje.

Završje is a small, picturesque town located in the province of Istria, and the bell tower of the Church of St Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, leans 40cm to one side. 

The first mention of Završje was recorded in the 11th century, though it was built upon a prehistoric fort. This tiny, inconspicuous town was actually named the Second Best European Film Location in 2020, after the movie Robin Hood was filmed there in 2017.

This town has been concealed from tourists for quite some time, but it’s remarkably well-preserved probably because of that. These days, it’s open to visitors and you’ll find it just east of Sibinj.

20. The Rijeka Carnival

The Rijeka Carnival
Editorial credit: Happy window / Shutterstock.com

Croatia is famous for its biggest festival, The Rijeka Carnival. Each year on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, the city of Rijeka is transformed into a sea of color and celebrations. 

In the 1800s, a variant of the Rijeka Carnival was one of the largest in Europe. It wore “many hats” so to speak: The Austrian Habsburgs attended, as did Russian Princesses and German Aristocracy. However, the tradition died away but was reborn again in 1982 – and it’s been going since then.

The Rijeka Carnival starts at midday and can draw crowds with as many as 100,000 people. Expect lots of music, brightly colored clothing and antics. Psst: in recent years, carnival “after parties” have been held where famous Croatian DJs play.

21. Croatian Inventions

necktie is invented in croatia

Do you know who doesn’t get enough credit for their inventions? The Croatians. Seriously, Croatia is famous for so much, but their inventions are so under the radar. And actually, a few of them are things we see and use every day. 

Take the mechanical pencil, for instance. It was invented by Slavoljub Penkala (the clue is in the name, really) in 1906. And yes, he also invented the first fountain pen shortly after.

Secondly, the humble necktie. Croatian soldiers were the first to don them in the 17th Century, and the “kravat”, as neckties are also known, hints at its Croatian origins. 

Other Croatian inventions include fingerprint identification and the parachute!

22. Sunshine

Omis landscape

Croatia is famous for its glorious weather, and it can actually boast more sunshine on a yearly basis than Sydney, Australia! The Croatian climate varies, of course, but temperatures typically vary from 39°F to 89°F (4°C to 32°C). 

Of course, expect it to get cooler and wetter around mid November when winter settles in. But compared to many other European countries, Croatia gets off pretty lightly.

Spring comes earlier to Croatia than its central and Northern European counterparts too, and you’re pretty much guaranteed warmth and coastal breezes!

23. Soccer

Rijeka soccer stadium

Again, if you’ve spent any time around Europe, you’ll know soccer (or football) is the sport that reigns supreme. Croatia is known for its soccer team that gained recognition by FIFA in 1991 and started playing competitive matches in 1994. 

Although a relatively young team, the Croatians more than make up for their youth in league tables. In 1998, Croatia played their first FIFA World Cup and finished third. More famously, Croatia reached the 2019 FIFA World Cup final where they lost to France 4-2.

One of Croatia’s most famous footballers is Luka Modrić, who was named Best Player at the end of the finals in 2018.

24. Mountains

Croatian mountains

Croatia is also famous for its varied landscapes, and that includes some pretty impressive mountains. There are four major mountains and peaks in Croatia, including Ilica or Ujilica, Sinjal or Dinara, Troglav and Kamešnica.

The tallest mountain in Croatia is the Sinjal (sometimes written as Dinara) mountain. It stands at an impressive 1831m (6007 ft) and occupies a vast wedge of the Dalmatian hinterland. 

The Troglav mountain is shared with Bosnia and Herzegovina and was named after a Slavic God named Triglav. And, just as an extra bit of trivia, the name literally translates to “three-headed”. 

25. Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol in Dubrovnik

Of course, we’ve established that Croatia is known for its wine and even its beers, but did you know that Croatians are the 8th biggest drinkers in the world per capita?

In fact, the average Croatian drinks so much (roughly 12.18 liters a year) that WHO actually investigated it as a public health issue.  

Be that as it may, however, alcohol is quite an integral part of Croatian culture. Locally made wine is the favorite drink of Croatians, making up around half of their total intake.

As for beer, Croatians are the 9th biggest beer drinkers in the world! If you want to sample some of Croatia’s craft beer scene, look into Zadar Craft Beer Festival. The legal drinking age in Croatia is 18.

26. Sports Stars

Basketball court in Dubrovnik

Since Croatia gained independence, it’s been clamoring for a place as a nation of keen sportsmen and women. Croatia is famous for plenty of huge names when it comes to sports – and it’s not all soccer, either. 

In total, Croatia has won a total of 44 medals in the Winter and Summer Olympics. There are also four Croatians currently playing in the NBA (2021), including Bojan Bogdanovic, Luka Samanic, Dario Saric and Ivica Zubac. 

As if that wasn’t enough, the only “wildcard” player to ever win Wimbledon was Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. More recently, however, Croatia has made a comeback in tennis with Marin Cilic. He managed to make his way to the final where he played Roger Federer without losing a single set!

27. Licitar Cookies

Croatian Licitar Cookie

Croatia is famous for its adorable, heart-shaped honeybread cookies called Licitar. Licitar cookies were added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2010, but the recipe goes all the way back to the Middle Ages.

The history of the Licitar cookie is fascinating. Originally, only men would bake them, passing on their knowledge to the oldest male in their family. Christian Pilgrims also bought them as souvenirs, and then they became a token of affection or Christmas decoration!

Traditionally, Licitar cookies are red, heart-shaped and some even contain messages. Taste-wise, they’re sweet and similar to German Lebkuchen.

28. Rivers

Danube river in Vukovar

Everyone makes a big deal out of Croatia’s coastline and ocean activities, but just wait until you see Croatia’s freshwater rivers.

Croatia is famous for having some of the cleanest water in the world, making it a paradise for marine wildlife and organisms. There are 26 rivers in Croatia, the three largest being the Danube, and the Sava and Drava rivers.

If kayaking or canoeing is your thing, you’re in luck! Croatia is almost made for exploring by vessel – whether you choose sailing, sea or freshwater kayaking or even paddle-boarding, you can be sure of an excellent itinerary and activity!

Dubrovnik beach

So there you have it, 28 things that Croatia is known and famous for. Did we forget anything? What was the best thing about your visit to Croatia? Let us know in the comments below!

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