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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Croatia (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Sibenik, Croatia

Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Croatia (Plus, Itineraries)

By Joshua Wood, LPC


Summary: For those contemplating a move to Croatia without a specific locale in mind, embarking on a look-see or exploratory journey to explore various expat havens can provide invaluable insights. Here are some top suggestions for places to explore while scouting out Croatia.

Embarking on a Look-See trip to Croatia is an essential step for anyone considering relocation. This exploratory journey offers a firsthand experience of the country's lifestyle, culture, and communities. It allows potential expats, retirees, and digital nomads to assess the suitability of various cities and towns for their personal and professional needs. By visiting different locations, one can gauge the cost of living, local amenities, expat communities, and the overall vibe of each place, ensuring a well-informed decision when choosing a new home.

Recommended Itineraries

For a comprehensive Look-See trip in Croatia, consider two itineraries based on the length of your stay. A 10-day trip could focus on the highlights, starting in Zagreb, then visiting coastal gems like Split and Dubrovnik, and exploring the Istrian Peninsula with stops in Pula, Rovinj, and Pore?. A 20-day trip allows for a deeper exploration, including the aforementioned locations, plus additional towns such as Zadar, Šibenik, and the islands of Hvar and Kor?ula. Inland, add Varazdin and Osijek to your itinerary. This extended trip provides a broader understanding of the diverse living options across Croatia.


Zagreb, the capital city, is a vibrant hub with a population of around 800,000. It offers a blend of historical charm and modern conveniences, with a lower cost of living compared to coastal cities. Expats and digital nomads appreciate the city's cultural scene, green spaces, and well-connected public transport. Its proximity to the Medvednica mountain provides a quick escape to nature.

Travel Tip: While in Zagreb, visit the Museum of Broken Relationships for a unique cultural experience, and enjoy a meal at Vinodol, a restaurant known for its traditional Croatian cuisine.


Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and a favorite among expats for its Mediterranean lifestyle, historic Diocletian's Palace, and bustling Riva waterfront. The cost of living is moderate, and the city's population of around 180,000 enjoys access to beautiful beaches and a ferry port that connects to nearby islands. Split's growing tech scene is also attracting digital nomads.

Travel Tip: Savor the seafood at Konoba Marjan, a local favorite, and take a stroll along the Marjan Forest Park for stunning views of the city and sea.


Dubrovnik, known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," is renowned for its stunning Old Town and crystal-clear waters. While it's a tourist hotspot, expats find the city's beauty and history compelling reasons to stay. The cost of living is higher here, especially within the Old Town walls, but the surrounding areas offer more affordable options. The city's population is about 42,000.

Travel Tip: Experience fine dining at Restaurant 360, set within the Old Town walls, offering panoramic views and exquisite dishes.

Istrian Peninsula

The Istrian Peninsula is a gastronomic and cultural delight, with Italian influences and a relaxed pace of life. Key towns to visit include Pula, known for its Roman amphitheater; Rovinj, with its charming old town and artist community; and Pore?, featuring stunning Byzantine mosaics. The region is ideal for those seeking a balance between rural charm and access to amenities, with a generally lower cost of living than the major cities.

Travel Tip: In Rovinj, dine at La Puntulina, a restaurant perched on the rocks, offering fresh seafood and a view of the sunset over the Adriatic.


Zadar is a historic city on the Dalmatian coast with a population of around 75,000. It's known for its Roman and Venetian ruins, and modern attractions like the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. The cost of living is reasonable, and the city offers a good mix of urban life and natural beauty, with national parks nearby.

Travel Tip: Enjoy a meal at Pet Bunara, a restaurant specializing in Dalmatian cuisine, and visit the nearby Kornati Islands for a day trip.


Šibenik, a city with a population of about 34,000, is often overlooked but offers a rich history and stunning architecture, including the UNESCO-listed Cathedral of St. James. The cost of living is affordable, and the city has a growing expat community. It's also close to the Krka National Park, known for its waterfalls.

Travel Tip: Dine at Pelegrini, a restaurant near the cathedral that has earned a Michelin star for its innovative take on Croatian cuisine.


Varazdin is an inland city known for its baroque buildings and medieval castle. With a population of around 47,000, it offers a quiet, small-town feel with a lower cost of living. The city hosts numerous cultural events, including the famous Varazdin Baroque Evenings.

Travel Tip: Visit the Varazdin Castle and enjoy a meal at Angelus, a restaurant offering local specialties in a cozy setting.


Osijek is the largest city in eastern Croatia, with a population of approximately 108,000. It's known for its Austro-Hungarian architecture and the tranquil Drava riverfront. The cost of living is among the lowest in Croatia, making it an attractive option for those on a budget. The city has a strong sense of community and is surrounded by natural beauty, including the nearby Kopacki Rit Nature Park.

Travel Tip: Sample the regional cuisine at Kod Ruze, a restaurant with a tradition dating back to the 19th century, and explore the Tvr?a, the old fortified town.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.



Sibenik, Croatia

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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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