Ranging from the freshest seafood straight from the Adriatic to delicious pastas, local meat specialties and innovative traditional and contemporary menus, restaurants in Croatia offer a wide variety of styles and influences guaranteed to suit diners of discriminating taste. Century’s old wine production, award winning cheeses, renowned truffles, distinctive local olive oil and breads all add to the rapidly expanding reputation Croatia is enjoying as one of the world’s emerging hotspots for both local and fine dining. The restaurants recommended below offer the best of classic, traditional and modern dishes and have received the highest ratings from our local guides and our returning clients. We know you will enjoy the cuisine of Croatia.
Restaurant name – Location:
Trilogija – Zagreb Pojoda – Vis
Zinfandel – Zagreb Val – Vis
Boškinac – Novalja Meneghello – Palmizana Hvar
Niko – Zadar Kalelarga – Makarska
Tic-tac – Murter Villa Neretva – Metković
Cantinetta – Skradin Nautika – Dubrovnik
Bonaca – Skradin
Dalmatinsko Selo (Solaris Resort- Sibenik)
360 by Jeffrey Vella – Dubrovnik
Zlatna ribica – Šibenik Sesame – Dubrovnik
Nikola – Stobreč Perlica – Klis
Arkada – Podstrana Adio Mare – Korcula
Maja i Tonka – Korčula
Night Life/ Hot Spots
The days when Split was nothing more than a departure point to nearby Brač, Vis and Hvar are gone. Boasting antiquities aplenty, cool café-bars, highly individual restaurants and a rash of new, quality hotels, Croatia’s main ferry port is also the country’s most promising all-round city-break destination.
Indeed Split’s growing accommodation stock continues to make the news, with four-star Hotel Luxe and cool super-hostel Goli & Bosi bringing a new designer edge to the city center.
Despite this progress and property price hikes, Split has not sold its soul to tourism in the way that Dubrovnik has been perceived to have done.
Café terraces on the main promenade, the Riva, fill on sunny days with locals happy to chat all day. Coffee is Split’s source of energy and social glue. Contemporary decor and lighting still grate with some but at least Split’s café society is sacrosanct.
Equally, the city’s prime tourist sight, the former Roman palace behind the Riva, awaits tourists who need pay no admission charge: the grand shell of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, a 30,000-sq-m maze, atmospheric ruin where you will be spending most of your time.
Away from it, you’ll find historic relics from the same era at the Archaeological Museum and the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, in the villa designed by the sculptor himself.
Splićani (citizens of Split) spend much of their lives in bars, by day at terrace cafés on the Riva; after dark, around the maze of alleyways of the palace; and after closing time at 1am (residents need sleep too) at Bačvice.
Some palace bars have entrances in two streets, others in streets with no name at all, and at least one you’ll love but know you’ll never find again.
The Riva is the place to enjoy coffee, cakes and people-watching during the day. At night, music blares from bars hidden away in the dark corners of the Old Town – the staircase linking Figa and Fluid is one of the most frequently trodden corners of the palace come summer evenings; the alleyway known as Majstora Jurja against the northern wall of the palace is also lined with bars.
Na Kantunu Bar
Address: Dominisova 9
Tiny bar within the palace, with a few tables scattered outside. It’s in a major hub of bars on Majstora Jurja on the north side of the palace, Teak, Kala,Porta, Dante, Whisky Bar included, and so easy to find – just follow the noise on a busy summer’s evening.
Address: Iza Lože 5
Just behind Narodni trg, Gaga is a permanently busy cocktail bar filling a tiny old square (check out the authentically retro barber’s signs) with a young, party atmosphere. Cocktails, the only drink served from the counter set up outside, are dangerously cheap. Inside a standard interior, loud mainstream music keeps beer drinkers from too much conversation.
Address: Poljana Grgura Ninskog 3
Seemingly, this cubbyhole of a palace bar has little to recommend it above the others, until you find a table on the terrace, enjoy the jazzy, clubby sounds emerging from within and realise there’s probably no place you’d rather be at that moment in time. There’s not much of a view – generally people’s washing, in fact – but it’s captivating nonetheless.
Majstora Jurja 11
9am-midnight Mon-Thur, Sun; 9am-1am Fri, Sat
One of several busy venues in the busiest bar hub in the palace, up at its northern edge. Teak gets the nod over its rivals thanks to its convivial courtyard and understated, wooden interior, thus making it stand out above the brash and the bland. Drinks prices are reasonable and the background sounds bearable.
Address: Dosud 6
8am-midnight Mon-Thur, Sun; 8am-1am Fri, Sat
A cute recent addition to the Dosud drinking strip, Split Circus is something of a shrine to rakija, with a mind-boggling list that runs to far more than the usual grappa, plum, herb, honey and pear varieties. And if you’ve never had blueberry, quince or strawberry brandy, this is the place to try it. Wines and beers are also available, but take up a lot less space on the menu. A newly-opened branch of Split Circus at Jadranska 1 near Bačvice beach (open 8pm-1am daily) has a bit more space for DJ events and gigs.
Split’s nightlife scene is going through another period of consolidation. Of last year’s ambitious new openings, Imperium is still going strong but unfortunately the more underground Minus 3 has now closed.
There’s always a generous clutch of designer bars (Clo Bar, Hedonist) that serve coffees during the dayime before turning the volume up come nightfall.
A row of late-opening bars in the Bačvice beach-side pavilion stay busy over the summer; the ever-popular O’Hara is on the shore just beyond.
Grungey alternative club Kocka appears to be working again after one of its many long pauses; while Quasimodo has carved a niche for itself as the best all-round place for alternative music and indie-clubbing.
Academia Ghetto Club
Address: Dosud 10
The most bohemian of the bars in the palace, the AGC comprises a front courtyard, a small bar leading to a muralled main room with a vaguely erotic theme (‘Welcome to the House of Love’), and an upstairs gallery, open according to event. Arty locals mingle with tourists happy to hear reliably good music. It forms one end of the narrow, stepped Dosud bar run.
Jungla (Hula Hula)
Address: Šetalište Ivana Meštrovića
8am-midnight Mon-Wed, Sun; 8am-4am Thur; 8am-6am Fri, Sat
At the city end of Ivana Meštrovića, near the ACI Marina, this prominent terrace bar offers relaxation after a day at Zvončac beach. Families and couples gather over evening drinks on the terrace. After dark, the team from underground crew Murall has moved in, with rock and underground techno music, and house DJs such as Craig Walsh and Nathan Coles.
Address: Uvala Trstenik
Just a few minutes’ walk from the new Radisson Blu Resort hotel, lounge bar Stella Mare’s pulls the crowds with a varied summer program and plenty of activity all year round. Facing right out onto the beach and decorated in hookah-bar style, it’s great for relaxing by day and partying by night.
Occupying a sweeping first-floor terrace jutting out over the Adriatic, the Tropic (still known as the ‘Equador’ to many punters) is glitzy enough to be a nightspot, informal enough to be a comfortable café-bar meet-up point. By day it’s ideal for a post-beach sundowner. By night it’s a disco bar, crowds milling finding floor space to dance near the half-moon of starlit patio.
Outside of Dubrovnik, Hvar is the epicenter of the Dalmatian travel industry.
Holidaymakers come to be around the yachts lined along the harbor of the namesake capital and among the revelers forking out more than top dollar (in Croatian terms) to party into the night.
A massive overhaul of key hotels here in the Sunčani Hvar chain has been followed by a slower stage of development as the town comes to terms with its stardom.
The hub of it all is Hvar town harbor. In high season this pretty, petite Venetian capital of 3,000 locals on the island’s south-west tip overflows with 30,000 visitors every day. They swarm the attractive waterfront and adjoining main square, Pjaca, doing coffee, the nearby market and the modest sights by morning, the beach by day and the bars by night.
Prices now match those of fashionable hotspots elsewhere on the Med.
Sunčani Hvar’s Amfora Hotel broke new ground when it opened in 2008, its conference center containing an outdoor meeting area and cascading pool area lined by bars, restaurants and gardens.
The agricultural plain around Stari Grad was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008, throwing focus onto this hitherto sleepy but delightful town and surrounds. The plain is an almost unaltered and outstanding example of a Greek land parcel system (chora) dating back to the fourth century BC, and with its new status have come new walking and bike trails, and the likelihood of further investment in the infrastructure of a town which offers a complete contrast to its trendy neighbor.
A burgeoning café-and-gallery vibe fits well with the low-key attitudes of Stari Grad and Jelsa, further east along the coast.
Both are fine examples of old neighborhoods where stone houses, ornate colonnaded balconies and winding pedestrian promenades, polished by centuries of travelers, take top billing over discos and clubs.
In Jelsa’s serpentine alleyways, for instance, quality eateries have sprouted up. Nearby Vrboska is also a delight with its tiny stone bridges, two marinas and just enough restaurants and bars to keep the yachters happy. There’s a sense in these towns that, except for a few mad weeks, it’s just you, the locals and ancient stone decor.
For a real insight into the complete history of this lavender-covered island, a thin strip extending east for 60km to the isolated but charming port of Sućuraj, go inland to Humac, Dol, Malo Grabje, Velo Grabje or Vrbanj. Now mostly uninhabited except for the odd konoba, the original islanders built their old stone houses safe from the pirates of Omiš and worked the land. In Humac you will find a delightful konoba of the same name; it runs tours of the nearby Grapčeva cave (+385 99 577 1770).
In Dol you have Konoba Kokot, another gem of a traditional family restaurant and all around you will see the olives, grapes, lavender and Aloe plants that go into producing some of Croatia’s finest olive oil, wine and honey.
Stari Grad is also the point of entry for car ferries from Split. It was here that Greeks from Paros settled in 385 BC and named it Pharos – later bastardized to ‘Hvar’. Invading Venetians then shifted the center of power (and the name) to the west coast port of today’s Hvar town. While the Venetians were building their capital, the island became the hub of an important Croatian cultural renaissance. The elegant loggias and main square in Hvar town owe their look to Venice.
There’s little question that Hvar town and its harbour are the main focal points along the winding Adriatic coast for tippling. The Hula Hula Beach Bar has become the key after-beach rendezvous spot.
And beyond the mini-umbrella scene, the place to sip wine while discussing Croatian viniculture is Tri Pršuta Wine Bar.
Carpe Diem, the all-in-one café, cocktail bar and quasi-disco is still in operation, as is their venue on an island opposite Hvar town. The nearby BB Club at the Hotel Riva on the harbourfront is a good people watching spot.
A number of venues outside of the party capital are coming into their own. In Jelsa, Tremendo and Libido are dramatic places to catch the last of the day’s rays. Villa Verde is a place for pre-disco cocktails under the stars. In Stari Grad there’s generally something happening on the waterfront and plenty of bars to pick from.
Address: Hotel Riva
In tune with Hvar town’s new cosmopolitanism, the BB Club appeals to the party-minded fraternity whose yachts gently rock on the bobbing waves in the harbor outside the restaurant door. A DJ spins on the waterfront terrace while mixologists fix quality cocktails – note the Hvar Rose Martini of vodka, Vermouth, grenadine and orange bitters. There are burgers, club sandwiches and Mexican dishes too.
Summer 9am-3am daily. Winter 9am-midnight daily
Opened in 1999, Carpe Diem is still the line in the sand and the landmark cocktail-swigging hang-out of celebs and the yachting fraternity. After daytime coffee, ‘Sunset Grooves’ greet the post-beach crowd from 5pm. There’s a fashion show twice a week. Then DJs kick it at night. Behind a loggia façade, it’s surprisingly ordinary inside, with just higher-than-ordinary prices and standard music for the genre. Its reputation stems from its VIP scene in high season, upon which Hvar hype is fuelled. Its reservation-only policy in August (put your name on the list as you pass by in the day) means that the terrace (and separate bar) operates as a celebrity zone. Carpe Diem’s new venue in Stipanska Bay on Marinkovac, Carpe Diem Beach, is a ten-minute boat ride from town. Amid pine forest and beach are bars, terraces, restaurants and a spa area.
Hula Hula Beach Bar
Mid May-late Sept 9am-9pm daily
This is the place for in-the-know locals up for daytime partying and après-beach relaxing. The spot is a short walk round the coast from the Hotel Amfora on a reasonably isolated jut of coastland called Majerovića. The decor is Bali-meets-Adriatic with comfy wooden recliners, fringed umbrellas and a wooden bar. The owner, Wolf, has lived all over the world and has brought his own concepts to Hvar. While lounging with a Piña Colada or Margarita, listening to the soulful tunes and watching the sunset in one of the few spots in town where it actually disappears into the sea, you can order a meal from the bar’s adjoining sister bistro, Bubba Gump – salads, Thai curry or big snacks.
Apr-Nov 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-midnight daily
This wine bar is as close to traditional as downtown Hvar can get: candles in old holders; ham legs hanging from the ceiling of a stone restaurant; oars everywhere; ropes, nets, goatskins and farm implements; wicker lampshades above the wooden tables and serious looking ancestors in black-and-white photo form. The menus are strapped to tools. Dry red wine from the family vineyard on the island of Sveti Klement is the main item on the menu. This is accompanied by various offerings equivalent to Croatian tapas: Pag cheese, Dalmatian pršut from Drniš; marinated anchovies, and the hard-to-get-hold-of Forska pogača (Hvar anchovy pie). Opt for figs with almonds steeped in rakija to finish.
Tri pršuta wine bar
Petra Hektorovića, Groda, Hvar town
(+385)98 9696 193
Pršuta is your sanctuary when Groda is groaning elbow-to-elbow in high season. Affable owner Vidan won’t hesitate to discuss the history and/or the culinary specialties of Croatia. Wooden beamed ceilings and antique furniture surround sofas, pršut hams hangs from above. A glass of top-quality red (30kn-70kn), such as a Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru, matches perfectly with a plate of regional sheep’s cheese or whatever Vidan decides to bring out that day and share with the room. It is not uncommon for perfect strangers to become friends and sample each other’s tipples. The wine cabinet even contains a ’47 Bourgogne. There is, at any given moment, more than 1,000 euros’ worth of wine open behind the bar – and a guitar sitting in the corner for anyone who feels the inclination.
Dubrovnik is a one-town tourist industry on its own. As stunning as the clear blue sea around it, the former centre of the independent Republic of Ragusa invites superlatives and attracts the lion’s share of year-round visitors.
When a foreigner thinks of Croatia, he thinks of Dubrovnik’s proud, pristine fortifications set on an azure background.
The travel brochure covers need little touching up. Anti-clockwise currents running up the coast from Albania mean that the Adriatic is crystal clear here.
Dubrovnik has the cream of Croatia’s five-star hotels and attracts the most notable celebrities. With the opening of the cablecar to Mount Srđ and continuing talk of a golf course, Dubrovnik is expanding its attractions beyond the Old Town.
By day, stylish cafés at the clock-tower end of Stradun do a brisk trade from breakfast time past dusk.
By night, 360 degrees does superb cocktails on the terrace by the Old Port, while SkyBar still has a buzz about it.
Escape the crowds at two rocky terrace beach bars cut into its seafacing city walls, named simply Buža I and Buža II. Both stay open late in summer, although by then half the world has flocked to the landmark Hard Jazz Caffe Troubadour.
And for drinks right on the beach, try the East-West club.
Until recently, nightspots in Dubrovnik were solely typified by mainstream establishments such as Latino Club Fuego by the Pile Gate or slick joints such as the East-West beach club. The highly individual setting and musical variety of places like Club Revelin and Park Orsula offer hope of much more. Another port of call should be the regular DJ sessions at the Lazareti.
360 Degrees – cocktail bar
Address: Sv. Dominika
Jeffrey Vella’s high-end restaurant also has a cocktail bar set high on the ramparts of this medieval-fortress location. The strong selection starts with the standards in the 70kn range (Cosmopolitans, White Russians and so on), moving on to White Ladies, Gin Fizzes and powerful Mojitos. With views of the old port down below, this is one of Dubrovnik‘s finest venues for an intimate drink.
Address: Accessed from Ilije Sarake
Summer 8am-late daily. Winter varies
The more haphazard of the two open-air bars cut into the sea-facing rocks, Buža I welcomes sunbathers, divers, drinkers and film fans. Its entry faces the terrace of the Konoba Ekvinocijo; on the wall is daubed ’8-20 Topless Nudist’. Down a stone staircase are bar tables and metal steps towards the sea. Films are also shown.
Crijevićeva 9; 10am-late daily
The more well known of the cliff-face bars; tourists follow the ‘Cold Drinks’ sign from the open square of Rudjera Boškovića. Prices are a little steeper but you get a thatched roof and table service. Buža II also the same jaw-dropping view – if you can find a table in high season.
Address: Palmotićeva 4A
Mar-Dec 10am-2am daily
Opened in 2008, Dubrovnik’s first real wine bar is presided over by Australian-Croatian Sasha and his friendly and informative team. D’Vino manages to stock more than 100 varieties, 76 available by the glass. Every decent Istrian, Slavonian and Dalmatian label is here, including Grgić Plavac Mali and Zlatan Plavac. The house wine begins at 25kn and the venue lays on wine tours. Savoury meat-and-cheese platters are tailor-made to complement the wine. It’s a comfortable, modern, intimate space to enjoy a drink – with a few seats outside in summer.
Hard Jazz Caffe Troubadour
Address: Bunićeva poljana 2
Summer 9am-3am daily. Winter 5-11pm daily
The most famous bar in town, formerly run by Marko Brešković (1942-2010), one-time bass-player with the Dubrovački Trubaduri and an accomplished jazz musician to boot. Brešković used to preside over nightly jams on the Troubadour’s terrace, turning Bunićeva poljana into an essential stop-off on any nocturnal tour of the city. Despite Brešković’s departure the Troubadour remains its old self, with its commitment to live music intact and its traditional clientele still loyal. Drink prices are somewhat inflated on gig nights, and coffee isn’t served after 8pm – but it’s still hard to find a seat here on a summer evening.
Address: Banje beach, Frana Supila
Summer 10am-6am daily. Winter varies
A café-restaurant by day, by night this is a clubby beachside cocktail bar. The clientele is chic – it’s hired for fashion parties – but the place is far from intimidating and prices are reasonable.
Revelin Culture Club
Address: Sv. Dominika 3
Summer 11pm-7am daily. Winter Fri-Sat and for special events
A club venue since summer 2011, the angular 16th-century fortress that marks the eastern end of Dubrovnik‘s Old Town has become the place to go after drinking-up time has been called in the town center’s other bars. Luckily, Dubrovnik’s military architects had the foresight to construct what is an ideal venue for a club: the stark interior of bare stone blocks, complete with arched aisle spaces and lofty barreled roofs, provide the perfect backdrop for the state-of-the-art light-show. What Renaissance Ragusans might have made of the lithe females dancing in cages is another question entirely. With an elongated bar, large dance floor and plenty of surrounding nooks and crannies, it’s the kind of place that can cater for large numbers of people without making them feel pushed around. A lot of leading Croatian pop and rock acts perform here throughout the year. In summer, there’ll probably be an international DJ appearing here every weekend throughout the season – 2012 saw Fat Boy Slim, Martin Solveig and sundry others lug their record boxes up Revelin’s stone steps.