5 cultural experiences to have in Croatia

With its long, storied history dating back nearly 13 centuries, and its finger on the pulse of contemporary art and world class music, Croatia’s cultural offerings are a fusion of past and present

Team Wanderlust
24 February 2023
Promoted by
Croatia Travel

The UNESCO-listed Historic City of Trogir (Ivo Biočina)

1. Museums

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb (Shutterstock)

Croatia’s near-300 museums (there are more than 30 in Zagreb alone) are as eclectic and, at times, eccentric as the country itself. In the capital, Zagreb, there’s something for everyone. From the traditional City Museum housed in a reconstructed former 15th-century convent and with over 75,000 artefacts charting the city’s rich, varied history, to the totally different experience offered by The Museum of Contemporary Art, which promotes and collects recently produced artworks of younger generations. Ever creative, Croatia’s most unlikely hidden gem could easily be the capital’s Museum Of Broken Relationships. Winner of the Kenneth Hudson Award for Europe’s most innovative museum, this place is dedicated to exploring heartbreak through artefacts.

2. Art galleries

Greeting to the Sun in Zadar (Shutterstock)

In recent years Croatia has become world renowned for its sprawling, unconventional art scene. For the Croats, art quite literally spills out onto the streets, as is the case in north western Zadar where an installation called Greeting to the Sun captures the radiance of sunbeams via solar panels embedded in the ground. Having stored up sunshine until sunset, the energy is then unleashed into a hypnotic public light show, and all for free. If that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, then southern Split’s The Museum of Illusions should do the trick with its playful, interactive exhibits of giant optical illusions. This bounty of contemporary art is, of course, built on a foundation of tradition and technique. The Museum of Fine Art in Split contains master works dating back as far as the 14th century. Most notable, though, is the focus upon Croatia’s own, internationally renowned abstract art movement.

3. Music events

A traditional Croatian music performance – Kravat pukovnija (Shutterstock)

Music isn’t just something Croatian locals enjoy, it’s part of the country’s fabric. The nation’s musical roots lie in its most popular instrument, tamburica, a folk string fusion of the Russian balalaika, the Ukranian bandura and Italy’s mandolin, though in recent years it’s the electronic music that has taken centre stage. The island of Pag’s lunar-like landscape has long been host to many of Europe’s leading music festivals such as Hideout Festival, and the now legendary Sonus. For old school drum and base fans, Outlook Festival has now settled back in its original Dalmatian home of Tisno, the so-called gateway town between islands and mainland Croatia. If that’s not your bag, then there’s over 40 other music festivals to choose from.

4. Architecture

Diocletian’s Palace (Shutterstock)

One of the biggest achievements in Croatian architecture has been the balance between the old and the new. Contemporary structures such as the 7,000 sq m Maslina Hotel on the island of Hvar feature low-intrusive architecture built using sustainable materials that blend seamlessly into the natural landscape. Likewise, head south to Split and you’ll find the 22m white stone walls of Diocletian’s Palace (named after the Roman Emperor who built it from limestone dragged all the way from Brač island) assimilated neatly into the bustling, modern city that surrounds it. Head to the coastal towns for an arresting mix of well preserved styles, ranging from Romanesque to Renaissance to Baroque. Stepping foot in some of Croatia’s architectural hotspots can truly feel like going back in time. Ancient Korčula is in the process of becoming an UNESCO World Heritage Site, of which the country already boasts ten others to choose from.

5. History

Pula’s Roman Ampitheatre (Shutterstock)

With its remarkable and varied topography, and geographical position between east and west, north and south, there’s an eclectic array of influences in Croatia’s history from the Romans to the Venetians and the Habsburgs to the Hungarians. Head to Trogir near Split to explore one of the oldest seaside towns and climb the bell tower of the the 14th century Cathedral of St Lawrence for panoramic views over the historic island. Further north in Pula is the surprisingly well preserved Roman amphitheatre. Built between 27-68AD, it’s designed to seat 20,000 spectators and has the only complete circle wall in the world. To explore the country’s more modern history, take in Opatija, famed as the luxury retreat for the 19th century elite, with its famous Lungomare Promenade spilling out from bright, colonial villas.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and inspiration about this incredible country, head over to the official Croatia website.

Explore More

More Articles