Discover Croatia in Autumn

Croatia is a beautiful country with its turquoise blue waters, a Mediterranean climate, and medieval architecture. In autumn, we could see the most popular historic sites outside of the massive tourist season of summer. The water is still warm for swimming, and the fall colors are amazing. There are various festivals and holidays to appreciate making this the perfect time to visit. This was a wonderful introduction to Croatia and it is now our favorite country in Europe. If you like autumn like we do, find out why this is the best time to visit Croatia.

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Why Autumn?

Brianna is borderline obsessed with autumn, and Croatia has an excellent blend of fall activities and places to visit. We love fall colors and the temperatures are moderate and comfortable. Most of the things you can enjoy in the summer are also available in autumn. Each city we visited had different activities and festivities that were wonderful this time of year. Best of all, no selfie-sticks!

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Zagreb

The capital city of Croatia was the first place we visited. After being in Rome, it was a relief to get away from all the people and enjoy a new culture. It was cloudy most of the time, but that did not stop us. We loved the charm of the city with a cathedral, many old churches, and the main square. It was peaceful walking around the city at our own pace and sometimes purely on our own. The cooler weather made the hot wine more welcoming.

The lower main square, filled with pigeons, in Zagreb, Croatia

Museums and Art Exhibitions

On a rainy day, we visited the Museum of Broken Relationships and the Illusion Museum. Both were much more entertaining than we expected and a perfect way to stay indoors. We also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art that had some unique pencil artworks by Davor Vrankić. We visited so many museums at a discounted rate with a Zagreb Card.

Architecture

The Zagreb Cathedral dominates the skyline of the city and is the tallest building in Croatia. It is a gothic style building built in 1906, which is relatively new compared to many similar style cathedrals in Europe.

The Zagreb Cathedral, in Zagreb, Croatia

The St. Mark’s Church is much smaller and older, being built in the 13th century.  What we liked about this church is the coat of arms of Zagreb on the roof. That is not something we had seen before in our travels.

St. Marks Church in Zagreb, Croatia

Other Things to See and Do

The Gric Tunnel is a former World War II bomb shelter built in 1943 that is free to enter. It is 1,150 feet long and has six exits. We missed this while in Zagreb, but it is on the list for next time. This is a great place to visit on a rainy autumn day.

We walked down Tkalciceva Street to check out the cultural scene. It has many colorful buildings, and it is full of restaurants with outdoor seating. There are plenty of streets to wander and check out the street art without many people around.

Zagreb 360 is the second tallest building in the city and it has a viewing platform where we had a spectacular view of the city below. We enjoyed coffee there and this is also included with the Zagreb Card.

The Lotrščak Tower and Grič Cannon have an interesting history and the cannon fires off at noon each day. We thought a bomb was going off when we heard it the first time and then we looked into it and found where to go see it live. The shortest cable car in the world, the Zagreb funicular, leads right up to it if you don’t want to walk up the hill.


Zadar

Zadar will always have a special place in our hearts. It is the smallest of the cities we visited in Croatia, but this made it remarkable. The old town was nearly empty this time of year, so we could walk around and see the beautiful waterfront with no one else. It became more lively in the evening with its many restaurants and holiday festivities. The city is full of old historical monuments and the sunsets here are awesome with the turbulent autumn skies. Zadar is known as the city of romance and love.

An ornamental gate in Zadar, Croatia

Museums and Art Exhibitions

Zadar has a few Art Galleries and Museums for rainy days. One we went to is the Museum of Ancient Glass, which contains collections of Roman glassware with goblets, jars, and vials from archaeological sites across Dalmatia.

Architecture

The Church of St. Donatus was built in the 8th and 9th centuries. It is in the center of the old town and you can climb the nearby tower up until the end of October when it closes for the season. While we missed the tower, it was beautiful to see without the tourists.

Church of St. Donatus in Zadar, Croatia

Across the sea from Italy, Croatia was heavily influenced by the Roman Empire. These Roman Forum ruins date back to the 1st-century B.C.E. It is easy to spot where giant columns once stood next to this church.

An old Roman forum in Zadar, Croatia

Other Things to See and Do

A couple of our favorite places to visit in Zadar were the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. These are on the waterfront in Old Town and a beautiful place to enjoy the sunset while snacking on some roasted chestnuts.

A sailboat in front of a setting sun in Zadar, Croatia

The Sun Salutation lights up at night with various color patterns, and it is entirely solar-powered. Near the sun are the 9 planets spaced out proportionally across the waterfront. It is best to visit this place at night, and without the summer crowds, we had a clear view of the show.

The colorful Sun Salutation just after sunset in Zadar, Croatia

The Sea Organ is an amazing creation powered by nature, where the waves push air up through pipes and create music. If the sea is rough, the intensity of the sounds increase. It is one of the most amazing things we experienced in Zadar.

Speaking of rough seas, we watched a storm come in. The water came right over the sea wall and we had to be careful or else we would have gotten wet. In autumn, there is a greater chance to catch a storm and see such dramatic waves.

Waves crashing during a storm in Zadar, Croatia

The narrow streets of Zadar are also fun to explore and we walked almost all the streets in the old part of town. Look at how this van barely fits in between the walls.

We also walked around Queen Jelena Madijevka Park that has some nightclubs that weren’t yet open, but serve drinks until 4am most nights. This didn’t stop them from playing tunes during the day to entice people to come. This nightclub is called Ledana Lounge Bar, and we will have to check it out when it is open. 

A vacant outdoor bar in Zadar, Croatia


Split

Split is the second-largest city in Croatia, and it also has an old town that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were looking forward to seeing Split after hearing so many good things about it. We loved the dramatic mountains and stellar coastline surrounding Split and the old architecture. We did not spend enough time here and hope to go back again sometime.

The waterfront just outside the walls of Split, Croatia

Museums and Art Exhibitions

The Split Gallery of Fine Arts has a collection of modern and contemporary art with nearly 3500 pieces. There is also a Game of Thrones Museum since so much filming took place in Split and throughout the country. We didn’t go to the museum but we did go to a nearby shop to sit on an Iron Throne replica. We felt powerful!

Aaron sitting on a Game of Thrones Iron Throne in Split, Croatia

Architecture

Diocletian’s Palace and the surrounding old town have some incredible architecture. The white walls and paths are extraordinary.  While we were here, we heard a Dalmatian ensemble singing. The acoustics in this place were amazing. Underground, there are tunnels where you can tour the dragon cave from Game of Thrones.

An open dome in the old city of Split, Croatia

We climbed to the top of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius for some expansive views of the city in almost all directions. The views were incredible, and we even saw a rainbow. The cathedral was built in the 7th century and is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure.

Klis Fortress is a medieval fortress above a village by the same name near Split. It is over 2000 years old and the remains are an incredible location for sunset with views of the entire city of Split below. We love ruins, so this was a real treat to visit. It is another Game of Thrones filming location and we even saw DRAGONS there. We had it all to ourselves as there weren’t many people there.

The ruins if Klis Fortress in Split, Croatia

Other Things to See and Do

Marjan Park is on the west end of the city, and the trees turn copper color in autumn. It has various fantastic viewpoints and is on a large hill. We spotted a cat colony at the top and they appeared to be well taken care of.

We also did a day trip to Omiš, a small town with a fabulous nearby coastline. It was a place we felt at home and could easily stay for a while. There are some spectacular swimming spots along the coast and a couple of fortresses to explore. The water was still warm enough to swim in November.


Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is by far our favorite city in Croatia, even though every other place in Croatia feels like a close second. The history here is fascinating, and we loved seeing a walled city for the first time. It is one of the most well-preserved medieval cities which was enchanting. We are also Game of Thrones fans, and so many scenes were filmed here as well. These St. Jesuit Stairs were used in the walk of shame scene. Shame! Shame! Shame!

The St. Jesuit stairs in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Because of the hit tv series, it has been an increasingly popular city, so we were grateful to see it in autumn. While there were still plenty of people, we managed to be in many empty spaces throughout the city. There are also lots of street cats everywhere to keep Brianna happy.

Museums and Art Exhibitions

There are many museums in Dubrovnik for rainy days, all within easy walking distance. We visited the Ethnographic Museum which displays historical farming, lifestyle & cultural traditions. The museum was built in an old granary where we saw how grain was processed and stored. Others we did not see include the Maritime Museum, and the Homeland War Museum. We learned about the Croatian War from a local but would like to learn more on our next visit to Croatia.

Architecture

The old walled city makes up most of the unique architecture and is a UNESCO Heritage site itself. We walked along the city walls nearly empty this time of year, and it was amazing. Surrounding the walled city are three different fortresses. Fort Lovrijenac is just outside the city walls and has beautiful panoramic views from above.

The city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Bokar Fortress is on the opposite side of Dubrovnik West Harbour from Fort Lovrijenac. It is an iconic 15th-century fortress and is uniquely cylindrical.

The city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, as viewed from across the bay

The Minceta Fortress acted as the highest point of the defense system protecting Dubrovnik. It sits at the northernmost point of the city walls with incredible views in all directions.

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The Pile City Gate is the entryway into the city walls. Upon walking through the gate we entered a different world from long ago. We had even more street cats greeting us when we arrived.

A cat lounging on a wall just outside of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Other Things to See and Do

Rector’s Palace is a gothic-style building that also combines renaissance and baroque elements. It is a cultural history museum with prison cells, a courtroom, arsenal, and the quarters of the rector. In autumn, we could see these stairs completely empty with a little patience.

Rectors Palace Stairs Dubrovnik

One of the most interesting places we went to was the Belvedere Hotel. A local took us to this hotel that was destroyed in an attack by Serbian forces during the Croatian War of Independence. The hotel structure still remains, and it was recently purchased by a Russian investor. She explained some history of the place and her time living through the war. We do not recommend you go inside as it can be dangerous. We did enter with the help of a local familiar with the building and its weak spots.

Walking the narrow streets of the city needs mentioning because that is a lot of fun in itself. Getting lost in the narrow streets and petting some cats is a relaxing way to spend a morning any time of year.

A cat sitting in a narrow alley in Dubrovnik, Croatia


Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park is very popular in the summer, but the fall colors here are incredible. With a bit of added snow, we were in eye-candy land. Best of all, there is hardly anyone there this time of year. We had so many trails all to ourselves. This natural landscape makes for an easy day-trip from Zagreb or Zadar.

Festivals, Events, and Holidays

We arrived in Zagreb in November and just barely missed All Saints’ Day. On November 1st people all across Croatia head to graveyards to lay flowers and candles for the deceased. We did visit the largest graveyard in Croatia, Mirogoj Cemetery, which is the best place to enjoy this holiday. The fall colors there were gorgeous.

Graves in Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia

The Zagreb Film Festival is the largest film festival in the country and lasts 9 days in November. If we had a longer stay in Zagreb, it would have been fun to see this festival.

Just like other Croatian cities, Zadar was well decorated for Christmas in its old town. This time of year there are many sailing events, runs, and boat shows. There is also a traditional mass on St. Nicholas Day on November 6th.

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In late October in Dubrovnik, there is an Autumn Music Festival with a variety of music events. There is also a Food Festival with local culinary specialties. Since we arrived in late November, we enjoyed the Advent in the City Winter Festival. The festival starts in December and goes into January. Dubrovnik is very festive with Christmas trees, decorations, and lights everywhere.

Food

Fall is the season of food. We had to try some local Croatian dishes, hot wine, and even some dessert dough balls. The Christmas season starts early, and it was already in full force so we enjoyed the festivities.

Aaron eating a delicious sandwich at the Heritage restaurant in Zagreb, Croatia

Just about every bakery we stumbled upon had burek, which is a regionally traditional dish and good for a quick bite. These are very inexpensive and filling, which is perfect for travelers like us. Every coastal Croatian town will specialize in many seafood dishes as well. Fritule was a dessert we had frequently which are little dough balls covered in chocolate or other sweet sauces. Aaron also loved trying different craft beers throughout the country.

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Final Thoughts

Croatia is an amazing country and we want to spend more time there on our next visit. After seeing so many places in Europe, we keep thinking about our time in Croatia the most. We loved the people, the food, and the architecture. There is still so much more for us to see and we keep adding more places to visit. It is a beautiful country to visit any time of the year ,but we particularly liked it in the fall.

What country would you want to travel to in autumn?


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Discover Croatia in Autumn | Croatia is a beautiful country with its turquoise blue waters, a Mediterranean climate, and medieval architecture. In autumn, we could see the most popular historic sites outside of the massive tourist season of summer. Read more here! | BIG tiny World Travel | #bigtinyworld #travel #Croatia #AutumnTravel Discover Croatia in Autumn | Croatia is a beautiful country with its turquoise blue waters, a Mediterranean climate, and medieval architecture. In autumn, we could see the most popular historic sites outside of the massive tourist season of summer. Read more here! | BIG tiny World Travel | #bigtinyworld #travel #Croatia #AutumnTravel

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