We just got back from an amazing spring break trip to Croatia, and I wanted to share some of my best finds from our voyage.
While trying to quickly research for this trip, I really struggled with finding any information on Split with kiddos. I hope this is helpful!
I of course prefer that you come to Paris... BUT I just can't not share how amazing Croatia is!
We spent a week in Croatia, and visited Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik, with several day trips mixed in. The beauty of the Croatian coast is stunning, with bright colors and clear turquoise water. It is really shocking just how beautiful it is. Both the Old Town of Split and Dubrovnik are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The people were friendly and welcoming, and pretty much everyone working in restaurants, boats, etc spoke English. I was surprised at how expensive Croatia was - it was not the bargain vacation I was expecting! At restaurants, most main courses were minimum 20 euros, and attractions could go up to 35 euros for adults! We visited in May, before the height of tourism season, and found most places delightfully empty!
Here's everything we did, including restaurants, attractions, gelato spots and where we stayed:
We spent 2.5 days in Split, and I’d say that was perfect. The Old Town is pretty small and walkable. We were doing between 10-15k steps / day - I'd say it was just as walkable as Paris, with plenty to see and snacks all over, so it went over surprisingly well (my kids are 4 and 7)! We were there in the beginning of May, and the temperatures were delightful - high 60s at night, 70s during the day. It also was not too crowded at this time of year - if you can get out the door by 8:30, you can have the city to yourself!
The Old Town is basically made up of Diocletian’s Palace, built to be the Roman Emperor’s retirement home in 305AD!
Cafés - there are not lots of specialty coffee shops, but luckily the average coffee at cafes or restaurants is pretty good. D16 had great coffee, with the option for plant based milk.
I cannot recommend Luxor more - it is on a little square facing the church, and you can sit outside on the steps on a little cushion with a wooden table. You’re basically just relaxing on the steps of Diocletian’s Palace - NBD! Get there early to have it to yourself! Then come back after dinner to see the candlelit nightly live music performances - kids and couples dance in the square and it’s very entertaining! I can't vouch for the food, and would probably avoid eating there. BUT for drinks it is a great spot!
Pastries - Bobis pastry shop - In the morning we would make a beeline for Bobis, a chain of local pastry shops. The kids loved their jam filled beignets, while I opted for a spinach and cheese filled croissant:)
Villa Spiza - we went here on our last evening, and I wish we had discovered it sooner! No reservations, so get there early. Local dalmatian cuisine - lots of fish and pasta dishes (their pasta sauce was to die for). They do half portions for kids - lots of restaurants in Croatia seem to do this rather than have a kids' menu, and it is genius. The ambiance is excellent - the owners are so jovial and crack jokes constantly, which leads to all the customers talking to each other. The server said Paul would get a prize if he finished his enormous bowl of pasta (no half order for him!) - challenge accepted! The prize was a slice of decadent chocolate cake dusted with sea salt! Their local rosé wine was excellent too. Highly recommend!
Bokamorra Pizzeria - this spot right on the port serves up excellent pizzas, made before your eyes. The kids loved watching the pizza bar. Friendly service, great location for when you finish visiting the port or the Marjan park.
Gelato spots - with Croatia bring right across the sea from Italy, they seem to have adopted some excellent ice cream techniques! Ice cream shops abound. We really liked Gelateria Emiliana, but they are all good I'm sure!
Spend a 1/2 day visiting the Marjan Park - this was maybe 3 hours total? We hiked up to the 1st and 2nd viewpoints, with stunning views over the city and sparkling blue Adriatic Sea. There was a great playground along the way. Bring water and snacks because there’s not much once you’re in the park!
Visit the Cathedral of Saint Domnius - this is a quick visit, and a must! Buy tickets the the square across from the church entrance. The best part was climbing up the bell tower for a gorgeous view of the orange tiled roofs of Split and the blue sea. The church is the oldest Catholic Church in the euros that is still in its original structure without undergoing a major renovation. We were there during a practice session of monks chanting!
We also had a good time walking the port, and visiting the Pazar market (open everyday til 1PM), located right next to the east wall of the Diocletian Palace, and around the church of St Dominic. This is a great spot to pick up fresh fruit. I always make it a point to visit a local market while traveling - they are often the heart and soul of a city, and you can see what locals ACTUALLY eat! We saw these tiny delicate asparagus at almost every stand, and knew to seek them out thanks to that sighting.
Day trip to Trogir- this little UNESCO world heritage city is about a 30 minute drive from Split. We took an Uber there, and then a local bus back (this takes about double the time of a taxi... But I love taking local transport when visiting a new place!). It is quite charming and pretty. We went to the Saint Lawrence Cathedral (another bell tower with treacherous stairs to climb… I scoffed that kids weren’t even allowed to try going up, til I got to the last flights - the stairs were about the height of my daughter! The view is worth it.), and the Kamerlengo Fortress (more pretty views from the tower).
We had lunch at Vanjaka - they had a daily menu that was a good deal, with plenty of seafood and pasta.
In Split, we stayed in this AirBnB and I highly recommend it! Perfect location in the Old Town, rooftop terrace with a hot tub an gorgeous views, a sauna, 2 bedrooms with comfortable bedding... Loved it. Would stay there again in a heartbeat.
After Split, we took a 45 minute ferry boat ride to the island of Hvar. This is apparently one of the glitzier Croatian islands, which doesn’t surprise me based on the beauty of the island, and all the fancy-pants yachts moored at the port.
We did 24 hours on the island, which was enough for a private boat ride to neighboring semi-deserted islands, hiking up to the old fortress, walking along the coast, and a nice dinner on the port.
The boat ride out to the islands was a must, and will probably be the highlight of the whole trip. The 4 hour rental through Hvar Boats with a skipper / guide got us out to some of the most beautiful islands. First stop was the Bacchus restaurant, situated under a canopy of olive trees, with jaw dropping views over the bright blue bay. Lunch was excellent, and the kids were thrilled when they opened up a treasure chest full of toys. A must.
Next stop was a deserted island with a beach for swimming, then onto one more bay to see more coastline. The skipper let Paul drive the whole way back to Hvar, while Lucie had a nap in the sun. This was 300 euros total, which is a great deal the more I think about how special it was to get out to these hidden islands!
Then we hiked up to the fortress - it was ok but I would not say it’s a must... at this point we had already seen a couple Croatian fortresses, and there are plenty others in Dubrovnik - and grabbed a gelato at Aroma on the port. Dinner was at Dva Ribara right on the port with incredible views - everything was delicious, including the local sausages, and the huge Greek salad I ordered. This was probably one of my favorite meals of the trip.
We stayed right on the port at the Adriana Hotel, which had a double room for families. This was our most expensive lodging of the trip, and the hotel was very nice - huge pool and rooftop deck with magnificent views, and an excellent breakfast on the terrasse on the port. Worth it!
After Hvar, we continued onto Dubrovnik via a 3 hour ferry. You arrive in the main port, and then have about a 15 minute taxi ride to the Old Town, where most tourists stay I imagine.
Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, is a stunning city surrounded by stone walls dating from the 13th century. The colors are quite striking - bright orange tiled roofs, gleaming white stone bleached by the sun, and turquoise water.
There are a few must dos in Dubrovnik:
First up, and most importantly, walk the walls of the city! This elevated 2 kilometer walk gives you a great perspective over the city. Arrive early to have the walls to yourself, and to beat the heat in the summer. This activity was surprisingly expensive - the equivalent of 35 euros for adults, and 15 for kids. Yikes! It was still worth it.
The other activity we did was taking the Cable Car up to the top of the city for a panoramic view. I had no idea how expensive this would be - another 30 euros for a round trip ticket for a ride that lasts less than 5 minutes. My recommendation is to take an Uber one way for about 1/4 the price, and then do the cable car the other way. At the top there are free viewfinders for seeing the city.
Our last morning, we did a boat ride over to Lokrum island - so fun, you could easily spend a whole day here. Bring swimsuits - the water at the little swimming hole is a bit warmer than the sea. There is a shower located on the beach too! There are restaurants and cafes for meals, a playground, a monastery (where Game of Thrones was filmed), botanical gardens... and the best part... peacocks are roaming freely ALL OVER THE ISLAND. Like, there are hundreds! Catch the boat from the main harbor in the Old City, where you can purchase tickets the day of.
Our favorite meal was at Carmen, for homemade pasta with creamy burrata, calamari and a beet and feta salad. YUM! Don't miss out on ordering a serving of their homemade bread, so you can dip it in the local olive oil!
And the best gelato was Pepinno - the self-declared best gelato shop in Dubrovnik:) We agreed! The yogurt and pomegranate was to die for - I miss it!!!
There you have it - all the highlights of our week in Croatia. After spending a vacation there, I can say this is a great family vacation spot, where you will truly feel like you are on vacation. There is a great mix of history and nature, the people are welcoming, and the food delicious. 10/10 from the Petits!
Have you ever been to Croatia? Is it on your list? I would love to hear what you thought of it, or if you get to try any of these recommendations!