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Croatia with kids — top 15 destinations for more than just a family holiday

Is Croatia with children on holiday a good idea? Yes! Firstly, it is a European country (clear legal regulations, no additional documents required, roaming). Secondly, the weather is guaranteed. Thirdly, the distance is comparable to the Polish coast (the distance is covered efficiently by car, in which you can take a lot more things than on a plane). So what to think about? It is worth thinking about the place of accommodation in terms of its proximity to comfortable and safe beaches and available attractions. Here are some places we have tried and tested – during a month’s stay – that are worth visiting and to which we ourselves have returned after 10 years.

City of Pula – Croatian Rome

Pula is the largest city of the Istrian peninsula and an excellent base for exploring the rest of northern Croatia. The city itself is full of attractions.

An obligatory stop on a walking tour of the city is the Roman amphitheater which is a great experience visiting Pula with kids. The arena is among the top three best-preserved and largest of its kind in Europe (4th in the world). The 132×105 elliptical building is impressive from all sides. It is worth simply walking around it, it costs nothing and the view from different perspectives is impressive. It used to hold around 20,000 spectators. The gladiatorial combat arena, battle re-enactments, games, fairs, knights’ tournaments and other stories of the amphitheatre’s function over the centuries can spark the imagination of many a child. Today it is a venue for concerts and important cultural events.

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The Double Gate and the Hercules Gate are examples of urban fortifications. Standing under one of these ancient entrances to the city, it is worth being tempted to tell the little ones how cities were once built and the importance of these gates (guarded entrance).

In contrast, the Arch of Sergius, which also resembles the entrance to the city, is not a gate at all. It pays homage to the family of the Roman Sergius family. The structure is truly monumental. On the city side, it is richly decorated.

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Quite a few Roman traces are found in the main square of the town, where the first century Temple of Augustus and the Municipal Palace (now the Town Hall) stand – its back part is a remnant of the second of the three temples that once stood next to each other. It is also worth taking the trouble to look for the Roman mosaics hidden behind the gate of one of Pula’s houses.

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Approximately 5 minutes from the very centre, there is a small Roman theatre from the 2nd century. It is an excellent example of a cultural building from ancient times, which took advantage of the natural terrain to provide adequate visibility for the audience and excellent audibility for the actors performing on the “stage”. It’s worth checking it out for yourself. Hurry, because the site is falling into disrepair – unguarded, untidy and not secured in any way. It is slowly being overgrown by meadows.

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Croatia – Pula Aquarium

If Croatia with children, then a trip to the Pula Aquarium is a must. The aquarium is set in a 19th century fortress. The fortress is now inhabited by hundreds of fish species from the northern and southern Adriatic, as well as several tropical marine and freshwater species.

What fun for children to run through the maze of this 130-year-old fortress!

However, the enormity of the fauna species gathered here is not the only lure for the youngest visitors. The aquarium also has several educational rooms equipped with research equipment (including microscopes). The park also has a playground and a café. Don’t forget to go out to the ‘roof’ of the fort – the view from there is amazing.

In the vicinity of the Aquarium along the road towards the centre of Pula there is quite a large playground.

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An unusual attraction in Pula might be a walk through the extensive system of underground tunnels built in the early 20th century in Pula – Zero Strasse.

Read more about visiting Pula with kids.

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Zrmanje waterfall – an alternative to the Krka National Park

Don’t feel like spending hours looking for a parking space at the entrance to Krka National Park or wading through crowds of tourists on the park’s paths? We have a tried-and-tested alternative for you – Krka in miniature.

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The recreational area at the small waterfalls on the Zrmanje River is located away from the tourist hustle and bustle. Under the waterfalls, you can swim, jump from a swing suspended in a tree (an amazing attraction for big and small), or even rent a canoe and sail down the river.

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Right next door is a restaurant and a sizable picnic area.

Zavratnica Bay – Croatian fjord

Zavratnica is a narrow bay with a length of 900 metres, steep and steep slopes and a beautiful colour of water – shimmering in shades of green and turquoise. It lies at the foot of a monumental mountain range – the Welebitas. In appearance, it resembles a Norwegian fjord, although geologically it has nothing in common with it. The bay was formed by the flooding of a mountain stream when the water level rose. From its vantage point, it looks spectacular.

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In the middle of the bay, a German transport barge sunk during the Second World War rests on the bottom. The wreck is an object of exploration for divers. It is a Croatian attraction not to be missed with children.

There is a fee to enter (via a trail along the bay), as the bay is part of the Velebit National Park. It is also possible to enter it by boats and motorboats, which take tourists from the nearby marina.

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Nin Museum of salt – Croatia stands for salt – attractions for children in Croatia

When you book a ticket at the Nina Salt Museum, you receive an extremely interesting guided tour of the site dedicated to the crystallisation, harvesting and history of salt.

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A trip to the Nina Salt Museum is a great option for the little ones. Following a storytelling guide (also in English), you walk through the salt pools and learn how organic salt is made, the stages of its crystallisation (visible to the naked eye in the pools that follow) and how it is harvested by hand. The mountains of salt piled up, the white wagons to transport it and testing the white gold of Croatia are quite an attraction for children.

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The vastness of the birds that the salt marshes have chosen as their home, the nests they encounter time and time again, their chirping – all attract the children’s attention.

A great lesson in nature and Croatian tradition. If Croatia with children, then Nin visit a must!

In 2020 (June/July), tours were held free of charge on Wednesdays. There is a well-stocked shop next to the museum with salt in almost every form (spice, sweets, drinks, cosmetics).

Zrmanje – the picturesque canyon where Winnetou was filmed

Do you remember the title character of writer Charles May’s novel Winnetou? Or have you watched the German-Yugoslavian films about the adventures of the son of Chief Inchu-chaun? Even if each answer is negative, it is worth a trip to the canyon where the most popular film in the series, Winnetou: Apache Gold, was set. It is there, standing at the top of the rocky hills, that time stands still. Soak up the sights without stopping.

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The Zrmanje river canyon is located not far from Zadar. Simply type in Pueblo Plato viewpoint in your GPS and your navigation will take you to your destination. If you have a car with a high suspension, you will get there without much trouble. Alternatively, you can leave your car about 900 metres beforehand at a fork in the gravel road and walk the last metres. Well worth it!

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Relatively close by is another attraction, the Maslenica Bridge, from which adrenaline-thirsty volunteers can bunggee jump.

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Croatia with children – Baredine Cave

Baredine Cave is the first cave in Istria open to the public. It is located 6 km from Poreč.

The cave is visited with a guide who takes a group of tourists every 30 minutes 60 metres underground. The cave is very appealing to children – firstly it has an underground lake, secondly it has extremely ornate chambers (as many as 5) and – thirdly – you can meet the cave changeling, an endemic species of amphibian.

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In addition, the cave is safe for children – it is well lit, the paths and stairs have sturdy handrails and the temperature fluctuates around 14°C.

In the vicinity of the cave, there is also the Agricultural Machinery Museum, a sizable geological exhibition and a rope climbing ground.

Brijuni National Park – Brijuni Islands

The Brijuni Islands are a group of fourteen islands located off the south-western coast of Istria. In 1983, the Brijuni National Park was established in the archipelago.

A large part of the largest island is open to visitors, who arrive by ferry departing from Fažana. Tickets can be purchased online or at the National Park office right at the port from where the ferry departs.

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The island can be explored on foot or by train (included in the ferry price). Children have the opportunity to search for dinosaur footprints, discover the ruins of Roman villas, talk to the Koki parrot, have a close look at zebras and giraffes running wild, visit the interactive maritime museum “Boathouse” or admire Tito’s Cadillac (in miniature, but also in all its glory). Croatia with children without the Briońskie Islands? No! Be sure to book your ticket in advance.

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Motovum – Tuscany in Croatia

Motovum is a hilltop town where you can feel the medieval atmosphere – the thick walls surrounding the settlement (where you can walk around after buying a ticket), the old houses, the narrow streets….

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In June 2020, it was deserted for obvious reasons. You could sit quietly in the town’s cobbled main square, smell the truffles (for which Motovum, among other things, is famous) and freshly roasted coffee, which was nice to drink overlooking the vine fields at the foot of the hill.

There is a well-marked road leading into the town. You leave your car in front of the town (lower or upper car park), as only residents and municipal services enter outside the town gate.

It is also worth stopping by the Motovum Photo Point to see the Motoyum in all its glory.

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Bale Valle – stone town

Bale Valle is a small stone town with a dozen narrow streets and atmospheric buildings. A tower (perhaps medieval), a church (with a la Venetian façade), a market square – in fact, I don’t know if these are monuments, as we didn’t explore the history of the town, but only and until we walked around it all afternoon to get a feel for Croatian towns.

A walk in peace and quiet, possibly the meow of a cat strolling lazily, filled our entire afternoon. We recommend this kind of family wandering around a Croatian town.

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Croatia with children – Kazunas – an integral part of the Istrian landscape

Touring the length and breadth of Istria, every so often we came across round stone houses standing in fields. As it later turned out, the buildings were long ago laid with stone alone – without any mortar.

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Finally, one morning driving from Pula to Vodnijan, we spotted a cluster of them. The place turned out to be the Kazun Park, which showed step by step how these shepherd’s and peasant’s shelters were built right next to the cultivated fields or meadows where the animals grazed.

Today, most of the preserved houses can be found in the Vodnjan area (reportedly as many as 2,000), so while in Istria, you can have a good time searching for Istrian treasures with your children.

Vodnjan – street art and mummies

We were attracted to the village by the mummies of the saints which, until recently, could be seen in the church of St Blaise. Importantly and amazingly – no chemicals were used to preserve the bodies! Unfortunately, we were unable to reach the parish priest who has custody of the crypt with the mummies. Looking for a plan to explore the town, we rested in the shade of the nearby church tower.

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We chose – the option that always works – to walk aimlessly. It paid off! We got to know the Croatian-Italian town, its narrow streets, traces of Venetian architecture and quite convincing street-art, i.e. murals that cannot be missed.

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The icing on the cake, especially for our little car lovers, was a drive and rally of vintage cars, which, coincidentally, ended in Pula, visited on the same day.

Trsat in Rijeka – a castle and a viewpoint in one

Trsat Castle in Rijeka is, for me, the perfect place for a tour – the ruins of a monument, an excellent vantage point and, on top of that, delicious coffee on site, you possibly would like to read more about visiting Rijeka with kids.

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Croatia with children – Zadar

Historic buildings in Zadar are encountered at every turn, but even for children who are the biggest history buffs – Roman columns, ancient gates and medieval churches can get boring.

What is worth looking out for in Zadar when you are with children? Definitely the Water Organ, whose melody is played by the sea itself. It’s all thanks to a mechanism installed in the concrete waterfront structure, including polyethylene pipes of various lengths and widths embedded under the stone steps of the promenade.

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The run around the Sun Salutation light installation (300 plates with solar panels that absorb energy during the day), also proved to be quite an attraction. It is worth knowing, however, that a programme that is a light game in the rhythm of the waves is in operation at night.

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It is also worth climbing the bell tower at the church of St Anastasia, which offers a view of Zadar and the surrounding area.

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Be sure to take a break on the most important square in the old town, Narodni trg. There you will also find a good cup of coffee and interesting reading in the Gradská Loza, which today houses a large bookshop.

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Pag – Moon Island

While in Croatia, there are several Croatian islands worth visiting. One of them has to be Pag. You will be immediately captivated by its rocky structure, which is immediately striking. We recommend an efficient entrance to the island via the “Paški most” bridge, in the vicinity of which lies “Fortica”. From the ruins of the defensive structure, you have a great view of the bridge, part of the island of Pag and the west coast of Croatia.

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Pag also tempts tourists with delicious sheep cheeses. When passing through the island, be sure to stop in the town of Kolan, specifically at the Sirana Gligora cheese factory. You can take a guided tour of the factory, buy a tasting in the restaurant, or stock up in the shop below the factory. Paški sir combined, for example, with the jam served – fingers to the palate.

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We also recommend driving to the very end of the island, to the town of Lun, and actually to the olive grove, located by the coast, which is home to olive trees that are more than 1,000 years old. The whole grove can be explored by taking a route of a few kilometres or simply walking close to the car park, as the oldest tree in the grove (1,600 years old!) is within easy reach.

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From the deserted garden, we recommend going to the main town of the island – Pag. A walk through the atmospheric, narrow streets and over the historic Katine Bridge remains in the memory for a long time.

Be sure to also stop at the viewpoint, from where the town of Pag can be seen in all its glory.

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Croatia with children – Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Croatia (established in 1949). In addition, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can find a wide selection of trails, attractions and current hiking announcements on the park’s website.

We entered the park through entrance No. 1 – Velika Paklenica and took the route leading, among others, through the Manita peć cave. All in all, we spent the whole day wandering along the trail and exploring the cave. We encountered numerous beetles and a really long snake, which unfortunately we did not manage to identify, but caused a lot of excitement for the youngest part of the trip.

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If you plan to visit the cave, be sure to plan ahead, as it is only open for a few hours a day. The tour is guided. The cave abounds in a variety of rock formations and stalactites. Stalagmites, stalactites and columns have interesting names (e.g. helmet, organ and witch), which is sure to spark the imagination of the little ones.

Zagreb: A Vibrant Capital

Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, offers a plethora of activities for families. Start your exploration with a visit to the Zagreb Zoo, home to a variety of exotic animals and interactive exhibits. Take a stroll through the Maksimir Park, where your kids can enjoy playgrounds, cycling paths, and even encounter deer roaming freely.

For a dose of culture, head to the Museum of Illusions, a unique and interactive museum that will captivate both children and adults. Don’t miss the Zagreb City Museum, which showcases the city’s history through engaging displays and exhibitions all for visiting Zagreb with kids.

Split: Sun, Sea, and History

Split, located on the stunning Dalmatian Coast, offers a perfect blend of sun, sea, and history. Start your adventure by exploring the ancient ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your little ones will be fascinated by the underground passages, ancient walls, and fascinating stories of the past.

Spend a day at the Bacvice Beach while visiting Split with kids, known for its shallow waters and sandy shore, perfect for young swimmers. Take a boat trip to the nearby islands of Brac or Hvar, where your family can enjoy pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.

Dubrovnik: A Fairytale City

Dubrovnik with kids, often referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic, is a city straight out of a fairytale. Begin your adventure by walking along the ancient city walls, offering breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea. Explore the Dubrovnik Aquarium, where your kids can learn about the diverse marine life found in the area.

Don’t miss a visit to the Lovrijenac Fortress, known as the “Gibraltar of Dubrovnik,” which will transport your family back in time. Take a cable car ride to Mount Srd, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.

This is the last attraction on our list “Croatia with children – top 15 places for more than just family holidays”. Do you have other places worth recommending?

Frequently Asked Questions about a trip to Chroatia with children

What are the best attractions for children in Croatia?

In Croatia, children can enjoy a variety of attractions. These include the city of Pula with its Roman amphitheatre and Aquarium, the Brijuni National Park, the Baredine Cave, as well as beautiful beaches and water parks. In addition, the bay of Zavratnica and the Zrmanje Waterfall offer picturesque landscapes and opportunities for active recreation.

How to prepare for a trip to Croatia with young children?

Preparing for a trip with young children to Croatia should include taking the necessary items for children, such as snacks, toys, UV sunscreen, and beach equipment. It is also important to plan routes and places to stay with the needs and comfort of children in mind.

Is Croatia a safe place for families with children?

Croatia is generally considered a safe place for families with children. It offers clean beaches, a friendly environment and is well prepared to welcome tourists with children. However, it is always advisable to take basic precautions, especially in public places and on beaches.

What are the best modes of transport in Croatia for families with children?

For families travelling in Croatia, the car provides the greatest flexibility and comfort. It is also possible to travel by train or bus, which are well developed and offer connections between most major cities.

What are the best beach destinations in Croatia for families with children?

There are many family-friendly beaches in Croatia. Among the most recommended are beaches in cities such as Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik, as well as smaller towns like Nin, where the beaches are shallow and safe for children.

Are there any special discounts or facilities for families with children in Croatia?

Yes, in Croatia many tourist attractions offer discounts for families with children, and some even offer free entry for the little ones. It is worth checking the offers online or at tourist information centres.

What outdoor activities can you recommend for families with children in Croatia?

Croatia offers many outdoor activities, including cycling, hiking in national parks, and water sports such as kayaking and snorkelling. In addition, nature parks and reserves are great places to explore nature with children.

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