With safe beaches, hiking and biking tracks to suit all abilities, a clutch of interactive museums, and lots of ancient towns and fortresses for would-be knights and princesses to explore, Croatia offers entertainment aplenty for those with children in tow.
Best Regions for Kids
- Northern Dalmatia
Kids are fascinated by Zadar's nature-powered Sun Salutation and Sea Organ. Šibenik hosts an excellent children’s festival.
- Dubrovnik & Southern Dalmatia
Offers lots of beach action and unique experiences; let the little ones off the leash in the car-free old towns of Dubrovnik and Korčula.
- Split & Central Dalmatia
Wander the maze that is Diocletian’s Palace and then head to the beaches of the Makarska Riviera.
Poreč and Rovinj are great bases for exploring nearby caves, dinosaur parks and beaches.
Sandy, toddler-friendly beaches on Rab Island, and beaches for all the family on Krk, Cres and Lošinj.
Ride the funicular, check out the many museums, get active at Jarun and Bundek, and hike up to the mountain peak of Sljeme.
- Inland Croatia
Savour a slice of Croatian country life at Vuglec Breg and Grešna Gorica, tour the interactive Neanderthal museum in Krapina and visit medieval castles.
Croatia for Kids
Croatia has a lot of open spaces, playgrounds aplenty and pedestrian zones where there’s no danger of traffic. Most seaside towns have a riva (seafront promenade) away from the water’s edge that’s perfect for strolling and letting the toddlers run around.
There are beaches galore, although some of what are referred to as 'beaches' are rocky indentations with steep drop-offs. Many of the sandy beaches are extremely shallow: perfect for toddlers but not so great for the teens. The numerous pebbly beaches tend to offer better swimming.
Keep in mind that some of Croatia’s smaller seaside towns can be too quiet for fun-seeking teenagers. They (and you in turn) will be a lot happier in the more happening coastal destinations where there are buzzy cafes and seasonal funfair rides.
Children’s discounts are widely available for everything from museum admissions to hotel accommodation. The cut-off age is often nine, when student discounts kick in. Many attractions offer free entry for the little ones.
Eating with Kids
Croatia's relaxed dining scene means that you can take children almost anywhere. Even the more upmarket restaurants will have a kid-friendly pasta, pizza or rice dish on the menu. Children’s portions are easily arranged. However, you won’t often find high chairs for the tinier tots, and dining establishments are rarely equipped with nappy-changing facilities.
Locals are quite happy to take their children out for dinner to restaurants, and you'll often see kids running around on the square while the adults are eating, drinking and chatting. Children eat mostly the same food as the adults, and everyone tucks into an ice cream at the end of the meal.
Specific baby-friendly facilities are still thin on the ground, although that is slowly changing. Baby food, disposable nappies and powdered baby formulas are easily found at supermarkets and pharmacies. Breastfeeding in public is generally fine, if it's done discreetly.
Those spending a lot of time in forests during spring, summer or early autumn should make sure that they check the kids for ticks. If you do find one, go to a doctor immediately. Be mindful of the numerous sea urchins in the shallows, particularly on rocky beaches; invest in some plastic water shoes for safer playing.
- Baška, Krk Island A 2km-long crescent of beach with a little water park at one end.
- Cres & Lošinj Islands Lots of family-friendly campsites set right by the beach.
- Crveni Otok, Rovinj Two connected islets awash with pebble beaches.
- Lopar, Rab Island Shallow, sandy beaches that are perfect for toddlers.
- Mljet National Park, Mljet Island The smaller of the saltwater lakes is warm and perfect for babies.
- Krka National Park Have a dip in a cool lake underneath cascading waterfalls.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park Stroll along the paths and take in the turquoise lakes, towering waterfalls and dense forests.
- Lokrum Escape to this forested island and take the little ones for a swim in the saltwater lake.
- Mt Medvednica Tire the tweens out on the verdant tracks of Zagreb’s favourite mountain.
Museums & Sights
- Museum of the Krapina Neanderthal, Krapina Get up close and personal with our ancestors' neighbours.
- Sun Salutation, Zadar Come sunset, tots have a ball racing around this marvellous light display.
- Kumrovec Staro Selo Museum, Zagorje An entertaining slice of traditional village life.
- Istralandia Shoot down the slides and ride the waves in this big water park northeast of Novigrad.
- Museum of Illusion, Zagreb Full of optical illusions, mirrors and holograms.
When to Go
- The coastal city of Šibenik hosts a renowned International Children’s Festival in late June/early July, with craft workshops, music, dance, children’s film and theatre, puppets and parades.
- July and August coincide with the European school holidays, so they tend to have the most laid on for kids.
- If you'd prefer fewer people and lower prices, June and September are the best times, as the sea is warm enough for swimming and the days are sunny.
- Consider renting a private apartment – they're usually cheaper than a hotel room and give you more flexibility. Make sure you ask for specifics about the facilities – whether there’s air-conditioning, a full kitchen and laundry facilities, and how far away the beach is, for example.
- Hotels may have cots, but numbers are usually limited and sometimes there’s a surcharge. Kids under three often stay for free, while those under nine get a considerable discount.
- Most properties in Croatia are family friendly but few are family specialists. Of those, the best are Rovinj's Amarin Family Hotel, Zadar's Club Funimation Borik and Mali Lošinj's Hotel Vespera.
What to Pack
Don't stress too much about the packing as anything you forget can almost always be purchased after you arrive. Beach gear is a must, including sunhats and plastic water shoes to prevent sea-urchin injuries.
Before You Go
- Children under five years old are required to travel in a suitable child seat, so make sure you're very clear with your hire-car company about your needs before you turn up.
- No vaccinations are required for Croatia.