As Croatia officially becomes the 28th member state of the European Union from today, we take a look at our newest EU neighbour and some of its star attractions…
Aptly described as ‘heaven on earth’ by Sir George Bernard Shaw, surmised as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ by Lord Byron, the timeless appeal and pure beauty of Dubrovnik is sure to leave a lasting impression. Making a most dramatic comeback from the turbulence of the early 1990s, Dubrovnik effortlessly combines centuries of rich architectural heritage in its stunningly preserved Old Town with a more contemporary Mediterranean vibe, making it one of the Adriatic and indeed Europe’s most popular stomping grounds for the rich and famous.
Continuing north up the Dalmatian coast, Split is Croatia’s second city and offers picture-perfect panoramas of glittering Adriatic waters set against a dramatic backdrop of coastal mountains. As with Dubrovnik, Split successfully blends the old with the new, its seafront promenade or Riva providing a most magical setting for a stroll along both the coast and Old Town. The Diocletian’s Palace however, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly the main draw and justifiably deserves its place as one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments. It also serves as the gateway to some of the most beautiful islands just offshore, Hvar in particular is worth a visit for its stunning setting.
If it is Roman architecture you’re after, then Pula is the place as its star attraction, the beautifully-preserved and somewhat imposing amphitheatre, sits slap bang in the heart of the city and serves as the venue for the city’s annual film festival. Situated at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, Pula is a commercial port hub yet manages to retain an air of small-town charm, buoyed further by its associations with the writer, James Joyce, who taught English here.
And finally, away from the coast the capital, Zagreb, is often overlooked on the Croatian circuit and yet can easily justify itself as a worthy destination for a quick city break or indeed as part of a multi-centre itinerary. A fascinating fusion of eastern and western Europe, this compact and very verdant city not only boasts an Austro-Hungarian air in its Upper Town architecture, but is bountiful in its cultural offerings, too, with no shortage of museums, art galleries and chic cafes.
So with even easier accessibility, visitor numbers on the rise and attractive value for money compared with its popular Mediterranean counterparts (recent Post Office research showed that prices in Split were on average cheaper than Nice, Sorrento, Malta and Bodrum), we can’t think of a better reason to visit as soon as you’re possibly able.