Explore Croatia

The youngest EU member state, a rising tourist destination with a rich cultural and natural heritage, home to many inventors and talented athletes.

The Mediterranean and Central European country of Croatia is located between the Adriatic Sea and the Danubian plain. Both an old nation and a newly independent state since 1991, Croatia is a country of 4 million inhabitants. Zagreb, the capital city, is Croatia’s political, economic and cultural centre. Other major cities are Split, Rijeka, Osijek and Zadar.

Croatia joined the World Trade Organisation in 2000, NATO in 2009 and the European Union in 2013. It held the EU presidency in the first half of 2020, taking on the responsibility for the functioning of the Council of the European Union.

By its geographical position and due to its well-developed transport infrastructure (1,300 km of highways, 9 international airports, 2 major and 19 smaller seaports), Croatia is well-placed to become the Mediterranean gateway to Central Europe.

With one of the strongest and most-developed economies in Southeast Europe, Croatia has a service sector which accounts for two thirds of its GDP, while its industry contributes with another quarter. Agriculture, forestry and fishing account for the rest.

The 24th tourist destination worldwide

The industrial sector generates exports of over €10 billion annually. It is dominated by ICT, mechanical engineering, pharmaceutical industry, shipbuilding, food processing, chemical industry, and textile industry.

Croatia’s key service sector is tourism, which contributes with almost 20% of the GDP. In 2018, with almost 20 million visitors, the Croatian tourist industry generated 12 billion euros. While Croatia is the 24th tourist destination worldwide, it holds the first place in Europe when it comes to the number of visitors per capita.

Croatia’s key service sector is tourism, which contributes with almost 20% of the GDP. In 2018, with almost 20 million In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the capital city of Zagreb was awarded the title of Best Christmas Market in Europe. In 2016, the seaside city of Zadar was voted Best European Destination, while the port city of Rijeka was designated the European Capital of Culture for 2020.

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1,200 islands

Moreover, Croatia has a well-preserved environment and is the third country in Europe in terms of freshwater reserves per inhabitant. It has 10% of its territory protected in 8 National Parks, 11 Nature Parks, and 2 Strict Reserves. The most famous one is the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979, as are the Ancient and Primeval Croatian Beech Forests. In addition, Croatia’s coastline is the third longest in the Mediterranean, stretching for over 6,000 km due to its 1,200 islands and its deeply indented Adriatic seashore.

At the meeting point between the West and the East, Croatia has always been part of Central European and Mediterranean cultural circles. Located at a site where very different European cultural areas overlap – the Austro-Hungarian, Venetian, Slavic, and Ottoman – with Roman and Byzantine legacies still very visible, Croatian culture has been enriched by these multiple influences, while maintaining a strong individual identity, symbolised by the millennium-long use of the Glagolitic alphabet.

Among the most recognisable symbols of this rich cultural legacy are nine monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List:

  • Old City of Dubrovnik
  • Diocletian Palace in Split
  • Historic City of Trogir
  • Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč
  • Cathedral of St James in Šibenik
  • Stari Grad Plain
  • Medieval Tombstone Graveyards – ‘Stećci’
  • Venetian Fortifications in Zadar and Šibenik

The necktie, Nikola Tesla, and Marco Polo

In addition to this, so far 17 traditions have also been included on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. One Croatian tradition that has successfully been adopted worldwide is the necktie. An indispensable attribute of male attire, the tie was born in Croatia in the 17th century, tracing its origins to the scarves that Croatian cavalrymen wore during the Thirty Years’ War.

According to legend, Marco Polo, one of the world’s most famous explorers and travellers, was born on the Croatian island of Korčula, then part of the Venetian Republic. He was among the first Europeans to travel along the famous Silk Road. Today, Marco Polo is considered a universal icon symbolising the development of relations between Europe and China.

Apart from the ‘Electrical Genius’ Nikola Tesla, to whom we owe the invention of the induction motor, the alternative current and the first hydroelectric power plant, Croatia has also been home to many other inventors and innovators, such as Ivan Blaž Lupis (torpedo), Ivan Vučetić (fingerprint identification), Franjo Hanaman (tungsten filament light bulb), Josip Belušić (speedometer), Slavoljub Penkala (mechanical pencil and pen with built-in reservoir) and Tomislav Uzelac (MP3 digital format). Most recently, the young entrepreneur Mate Rimac has inscribed himself within this tradition by designing the Concept_Two, the fastest electrical car in the world.

One of the sportiest nations

Croatia is recognised as being one of the sportiest nations in the world. Although ranking 128th in the world in terms of size, Croatia took an excellent 17th place in the medals table in the last Olympic Games. It regularly punches way above its weight in handball, basketball, water polo, athletics, skiing, rowing, and sailing. In 2018, Croatian Grand master won the European chess championship, Croatia won for the second time the Davis Cup, while its football team managed to reach the final of the World Cup. Its team captain, Luka Modrić, received the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award and the Ballon d’Or as The Best FIFA Men’s Player.

Cover photo – locations and authors: Otok Pag – Photo: Saša Ćetkovič / Maslinica otok Šolta – Photo: Hrvoje Serdar / Slap Soput – Photo: Luka Esenko / Dugi Otok – Photo: Aleksandar Gospić / Arena Pula – Photo: Ivan Šardi / Mala Kolombarica Kamenjak – Photo: Brotherside / Mala Kolombarica Kamenjak – Photo: Brotherside / Dubrovnik – Photo: Ivo Pervan / Telašćica – Photo: Zoran Jelača / Baljenac – Photo: Boris Kačan / Skrivena Luka Lastovo – Foto: Aleksandar Gospić

Photo gallery – locations and authors: Dubrovnik – Photo: Luka Esenko / Blitvenica – Photo: Ivo Pervan / Baljenac – Photo: Boris Kačan / Telašćica – Photo: Zoran Jelača / Galebovi – Photo: Damil Kalogjera / Kornati – Photo: Aleksandar Gospić / Krka – Photo: Ivo Biočina / Kornati – Photo: Aleksandar Gospić / Pag, ovce – Photo: Ivo Biočina / Plitvice – Photo: Luka Esenko / Prološko blato – Photo: Zoran Jelača / Arena – Photo: Ivan Šardi