Croatia has slowly been creeping up the ranks of the most popular country to visit in Europe as travellers and vacationers rave about the country’s crystal blue waters and pebbly beaches. Unsurprisingly, some more popular destinations, like Hvar, Dubrovnik, and Split, attract swarms of tourists each summer looking to experience their sun-drenched European getaway. Nonetheless, these three major cities aren’t all the country offers. However, many more discrete places provide a just as worthy view when sipping on your sangria or diving into one of the country’s many delicious dishes!
If you’re after some of Croatia’s famous white wines or fresh seafood, check out this list of 5 underrated cities you might want to consider adding to the itinerary before setting off!
Badija is the largest island in the Korcula Archipelago and is home to a gothic-renaissance style 15th century Franciscan Monastery, which will indeed send any history buff’s head spinning. The island also offers plenty of excursions, from hiking up the hill to the ruins of St Catherine, a 16th-century church or stopping for a swim on the many little spots along the island’s edges. If you happen to be visiting at the end of July, stay tuned for the annual Dan Kanjaca festival, which offers music and grilled food to those in attendance.
Samobar is a quaint and pretty little town located only an hour outside of Zagreb and is famous for its delicious kremšnita cream cake; growing up with a Croatian baka (grandmother), I can tell you that this is one dessert you don’t want to miss out on!
Besides all the enticing treats, Samobor is historically known for its highly skilled craft makers and artisans that produce hats, clothing, and other leather or crystal goods, making it an excellent town for souvenir shopping. With plenty of cafés and restaurant selections in King Tomislav Square, you’ll be well nourished before visiting Samobar Castle and the local museum to learn more about the town’s rich history.
Zadar is likely the most popular but frequently overlooked of all the places mentioned on this list compared to some of Croatia’s more well-known cities. Nonetheless, being 3000 years old, walking into Zadar is like walking into a museum, donned with Roman Forums, 9th-century churches, and a Venetian-era bell tower. For adventure seekers and nature lovers, Paklenica National Park is only half an hour’s drive away, allowing you plenty of opportunity to saunter amongst the trees and maneuver the many karst cliffs this park offers.
Opatija’s remarkable history as the birthplace of Croatian coastal tourism adds to its allure. It’s said to have the first hotel on the Adriatic Coast, which continues to welcome visitors to this day, highlighting the town’s longstanding tradition of hospitality.
In addition to its historical significance, Opatija’s architecture contributes to its charm with a stunning array of fountains, sculptures, and architectural gems that adorn its streets and public spaces. Opatija even had a reputation amongst royal families, including Emperor Franz Joseph, who once frequented the seaside city.
Whether exploring the town’s cultural heritage, indulging in the local cuisine, or enjoying the tranquil coastal ambiance, Opatija offers an unforgettable experience that reflects its prestigious past and enduring appeal.
You’ll find Rovinj on the west coast of Istria, offering hot and dry summers to enjoy lounging on the beach or walking along the city’s cobblestone roads. Try to visit in September when the weather is a bit cooler, and you’ll experience fewer crowds from any other tourists coming in for the warmer months. Like most Croatian cities, you’ll be provided with some stunning architecture as you explore the town and plenty of delicious restaurants and café to stop in for a bite. For our wine connoisseurs, Istria is well-known as a wine-producing region, and Rovinj offers plenty of wine tours to experience authentic Croatian wines.
Gatwick airport opens new £250m train station
A new look Gatwick Airport station has opened promising to offer passengers travelling between Brighton and London faster and more reliable journeys.
A bigger £250m rail station with a new second concourse and airport entrance is now available, doubling the space for the millions of passengers that use the station each year.
The first passengers to use the new concourse and airport entrance arrived on the 05.48 Thameslink Bedford to Brighton service on platform 7.
Eight new escalators and five new lifts will provide a step change for accessibility at the airport’s South Terminal. The new lifts and escalators, along with four new stairways and widened platforms, will help passengers move between the train station and the airport more quickly and easily.
Easier journeys between train and plane will benefit passengers across the wider network, helping keep trains running on time by removing the congestion on platforms that delay trains.
“This project is not just for those making their way to the airport, the work benefits passengers right across the route by giving them quicker journeys and a more reliable timetable”, says Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Sussex route director.
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “With millions of people travelling into Gatwick Airport by train each year, this station is a major public transport hub and has been upgraded thanks to Government funding, improving the train-to-plane journey and delivering more reliable services for passengers.
“Today’s opening demonstrates this Government’s commitment to funding improvements to our rail network, transforming a vital station into an impressive gateway to the UK and helping more British and international passengers to travel by train.”
The new concourse will now act as the new entrance for people accessing the airport terminal, while the existing concourse will be for people exiting. The existing station concourse, station footbridges and the South Terminal linkspan have been refurbished and reconfigured to provide a seamless one-way system to the airport from the train station.
Travelers are spending more on ‘affordable luxury’, study says
A new research from World Travel Market London 2023, has revealed that “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular – despite the squeeze on many holidaymakers’ budgets.
The exclusive WTM Global Travel Report – compiled in association with researchers at Oxford Economics – has revealed that consumers generally remain determined to go on holiday and plenty are still prioritising upmarket options.
The report, unveiled on 6 November during the travel and tourism event taking place in London, says “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular “amid promising sentiment overall”.
It explains that this growth area in travel aligns with a broader trend for consumers to seek out new and unique experiences on holiday.
“After the pandemic and restrictions on travel, many have wanted to upgrade their experience…as consumers proactively catch up on missed tourism experiences,” says the report.
The report notes: “Consumers unaffected by economic downturns are likely to continue opting for luxury destinations.
The report cites United States consumer data from MMGY which suggests that the cost of living is having more of an effect on households with annual incomes under $50,000.
However, those earning more indicated a “high likelihood” of future travel.
Nonetheless, the report warns that some of the post-pandemic drivers of travel demand may have “gone into reverse in recent months”, posing a risk to continued expansion.
It points to persistently high costs and the recovery of sterling and the euro, which is making the purchasing power of the US dollar weaker in Europe.
The price of jet fuel is significantly higher than at the start of the year, putting pressure on air fares.
Consumers’ personal disposable income is also under pressure as their own transport and other living costs rise.
Despite these headwinds, the report notes: “Higher costs have not yet been a significant deterrent to growth and travellers appear willing to pay higher prices.”
“We are witnessing a remarkable resilience as people are still prioritising travel and many are seeking ‘affordable luxury’, such as higher rated accommodation or premium economy and business cabins instead of economy”, says Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at WTM London.
Meanwhile, the travel industry continues to face supply side problems, amid geopolitical events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and staff shortages still affect many markets because large numbers of workers switched to other sectors during the pandemic.
London is the most searched-for destination for flights in 2023
Travel subscription platform eDreams, one of Europe’s largest e-commerce businesses, launched its ‘Year in Travel’ report today. The study, which analyses searches and booking data from its customers in all key European markets and the USA, reveals the evolution of travel, including top destinations, booking habits and growth destinations.
London came third as the most popular booked destination globally, behind Paris in 1st place and Barcelona in 2nd. However, the British capital pipped Paris to the post as the most popular destination for flight searches from all markets globally during 2023 – followed by Paris, New York City, Bangkok and Barcelona.
London was the 2nd most popular booked destination for Germans, the 3rd most popular booked destination for Portuguese and 6th on the list for departures from Spain. For in-coming arrival by air to the UK during 2023, the largest percentage were from Spain (19%), followed by Germany (12%) and Italy (11%). French arrivals made up 10%.
British travellers instead had their sights on Dublin as the most popular booked destination and all top destinations were short-haul, reflecting the overall picture of the distance Brits travelled during 2023: 76% continental, 15% intercontinental and 9% domestic.
“Our research shows that travel continues to be a very important part of people’s lives. When we look at the global travel map for 2023, traditional hotspots like Paris, Barcelona and London remain firm favourites. But, we have also seen long-haul destinations like Bangkok, Las Vegas, and New York grow in popularity this year. That’s really exciting as it shows how travellers are embracing the plethora of choice, information and inspiration available to them thanks to new technologies like AI and increasingly influential social media platforms like Tik Tok”, says Dana Dunne, CEO of eDreams ODIGEO.
As 2024 is packed with major international sporting events – including the Olympics, the Paralympics, Grand Prix, the Euros and the T20 cricket, eDreams’ data shows where interest is already heating up. Global searches for travel to Paris during the Olympics in 2024 vs the same dates in 2023 are up by +41%. 2024 will be the 20th anniversary of Bahrain’s Grand Prix and global travel searches for the weekend of 2 March are up +183% compared to last year.
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