Croatia is fast becoming one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. The mix of history, architecture, shops and cuisine will impress even the most hardened sightseers. If you’re on a cruise to the Adriatic, or even if you’re not, excursions to Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia’s two largest cities, should definitely form part of your bucket list.
As your liner sails towards the 12th century walled city of Dubrovnik you’ll discover one of the gems of the Adriatic on your cruise. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and those with a keen eye will spot reminders of Roman, Venetian and Byzantine rule at every turn.
Architectural highlights include Onofrio’s Fountain (part of the city’s medieval aqueduct system) as well as the world’s oldest pharmacy, established by Franciscan monks in the 14th century. You can also visit the city’s Franciscan Monastery, home to a statue of the Piéta carved in 1498, said to be one of the great examples of its kind.
Once you’ve seen the sights, it’s good to meander through Dubrovnik’s winding side streets as they’re full of shops, independent galleries and pretty restaurants. In the evening why not treat yourself to dinner at one of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants — though it’s likely you’ll have to book ahead.
There are so many reasons to your leave your cruise and go exploring in Croatia’s second largest city, another UNESCO heritage site. The 4th century Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian is a must see — it’s thought to be the best-preserved example of a period imperial palace in the world.
For natural beauty, visitors can take a trip to Krka (pronounced ‘kur-ka’) one of the country’s seven national parks just outside the city. Woodland, lakes and waterfalls abound in this 100km wide area of unspoilt beauty.
For bargain hunters you’ll find lots of small shops in Split’s old town selling curiosities as well as more mainstream fare. Lacework, oil paintings and ceramics are good buys. But be sure to carry cash with you as there may be shops that don’t accept credit cards.
Thought Venice was nice? Your Adriatic cruise will be twice as satisfying with a visit to Dubrovnik or Split – or both! These cities offer a privileged glimpse into the past with all the modern comforts you’d expect from a fine cruise holiday.