The Essential Guide to Arts & Culture in Croatia

The land of Game of Thrones palaces and historic museums has more to offer than just beaches

By Google Arts & Culture

Croatia is a boomerang-shaped country that boasts more than 3,600 miles of coastline and 1,244 islands along the turquoise-blue Adriatic Sea. For a small country, it has an amazingly diverse geography: the rugged Dinaric Alps, flat plains, caverns, river canyons, waterfalls, lakes, and the Danube River forming the northeastern border with Serbia. The epic landscape is made up of Roman ruins, medieval towns, cathedrals, fishing villages, sophisticated cities, and world-class museums. If that hasn't convinced you, here are a handful of reasons to visit this gem in Southern Europe.

Act out Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik’s Old City

The Old City is a maze of narrow cobbled streets dotted with quirky shops selling handmade trinkets. The aroma of homemade Mediterranean dishes lures the hungry to quaint tables and chairs. Impressive monuments and cathedrals show the town’s rich history, and museums display masterpieces from antiquity to the present day. After dark, city squares light up with musicians, actors, acrobats, while nightclubs and discos pump out electronic dance music.

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you may want to walk the stairs that lead from Gundulić Square to St. Ignatius Church, and relive the “walk of shame” from Season 5. Other locations featured in the series include Old Margarite Street and St. Dominick Street.

Old City of Dubrovnik, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
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Be a spectator at the Pula Arena

The Pula Amphitheater dates back to 68CE as a spectator arena. At its height, 23,000 spectators gathered to cheer on gladiators engaged in “games” that were something between sport, theater, and pure cold-blooded murder. During the Middle Ages, jousting knights were the main attraction, but today you’re more likely to catch an elaborate theatrical production with more modern knights such as Elton John. The arena has attracted past performers such as Moderat, Sting, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Plate 23: Amphitheater of Pola in Istria near the sea (Anfiteatro di Pola in Istria vicino al mare), Giovanni Battista Piranesi, ca. 1748, From the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Visit the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb

In 1880, the Museum of Arts and Crafts was founded to display the work of master craftspeople, and now it houses Croatia’s leading collection of applied arts. These are not your ordinary crafts ― the museum is home to over 160,000 objects and 3000 exhibits, with everything from ceramics, contemporary posters, pre-World War II Jewish heritage pieces, clocks, Croatian art deco artwork, and even historic clothing.

The museum also houses an extensive wedding collection as part of its Collection of Textile and Fashion Accessories. Donated by brides, former owners, and designers, each dress has a story to tell.

wedding dress, 1905, From the collection of: The Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb
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A particularly poignant exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Crafts contains the silverware and items of religious significance that memorialize Zagreb’s Jewish community prior to World War II.

Explore the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik

If the impressive collection of 3,000 pieces of 19th and 20th century art spread over three floors is not reason enough to visit the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik, then perhaps knowing that it was once a residential mansion in Gothic, neo-Renaissance style will peak your curiosity. The setting lends itself to art with a large terrace overlooking the sea, surely a deliberate choice on the part of previous homeowner Božo Banac who had a passion for the ocean.

The Museum of Modern Art exhibits an array of contemporary work such as paintings, sculptures, photography, installations, and videos, featuring artists with ties to Dubrovnik, from the 19th century up to World War II. The museum also has a collection of Antun Motika’s work, one of Croatia’s leading artists of the 20th century.

Interior, Antun Motika, 1956, From the collection of: Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik
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Roam the Roman ruins

Diocletian's Palace in Split is an imposing Roman ruin. But don’t let the name ‘palace’ mislead you. The 4th-century building is more a fortress than a palace, built with glistening white stone from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. It also encloses an intriguing maze of streets and alleyways, bustling with people enjoying cool shops, bars, and restaurants.

Get to know illustrator Josip Generalić

Generalić was a man of many talents. He illustrated children’s books, made tapestries, etched in copperplate, painted portraits, and produced oil on glass paintings. His lasting legacy, however, is due to his participation in the Hlebine Art School, a coterie of painters who made ‘naive’ art popular, using it as a political statement to depict the harshness of rural life.

mailman, Josip Generalić, 1946 - 2004, From the collection of: Galerija Josip Generalić
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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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