Family Itinerary: 2 Weeks in Croatia with Kids in 2023
Croatia is a fantastic destination for families and kids of all ages. Two weeks in Croatia with kids is perfect for getting a taste of the major sites in this lovely country. The combination of history, culture, and beaches is phenomenal. You can spend the morning looking at Roman ruins, then take a dip in the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, then visit a museum in the afternoon.
Croatia officially joined the EU Schengen Region and switched to the Euro on January 1, 2023.
We visited Croatia as part of our family year out when our kids were 5 and 7. You may also be interested in our itineraries for Mexico, Peru, Columbia, and Brazil.
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2 Weeks in Croatia with Kids
This 14-day Croatia family itinerary starts in the northern city of Zagreb, and works south to Dubrovnik, with the option of a quick detour into Bosnia/Herzegovina. This two-week itinerary is based on using trains and buses to get around Croatia.
We spent more than three weeks in Croatia, but have provided our suggestions for a shorter trip. You can always choose to stay a little longer in each place or add a stop to your trip. Since we are traveling long term, we find we need rest days, and to move around less often than on shorter trips.
Families have also enjoyed self-driving in Croatia, though we found that the cost of a rental car in 2022 was too high to make it worthwhile. This has since changed, and a rental car is a great way to have more freedom to explore.
When we rent cars we use Discover Cars– they give a good range of quotes, and their pricing is always upfront and clear.
Check Prices: Rental Car from Discover Cars
As you travel around Croatia, you’ll need a few words to get you started: “Zdravo” is “Hello”, “Hvala” is “Thank You”.
Zagreb- 3 Nights
Zagreb is a great place to start your exploration of Croatia. There are so many things to do in Zagreb! It’s the capital city, with some interesting and offbeat museums, and less crowded and touristy than many of the coastal cities. Located inland, Zagreb has a very different climate and feel than the Adriatic coast.
The city is divided into Upper Town, and Lower Town, where the main square is Trg bana Josipa Jelacica. While you can see the major tourist sites in one day, we recommend taking more time to explore the parks and museums of the lower city and wander the narrow alleyways of the upper city.
With an extensive tram system to move you around town and a canon that is fired every day at noon, there is a lot to love about this city!
Getting to Zagreb: Many international flights arrive at the Zagreb airport, which is a 30-minute drive from the city center. You can also take a train to Zagreb. We arrived via an overnight train from Paris.
Where to Stay in Zagreb: This apartment is centrally located, with views of the square, room to cook your own meals, and two double beds. You’ll be walking around the upper and lower town in the central area, so you’ll want to stay close to the main square- Trg bana Josipa Jelacica.
Get the Details: 22 Fantastic Things to Do in Zagreb, Croatia with Kids
Plitvice Lakes National Park- 1-2 Nights
This place has to be seen to be believed! The water in Plitvice Lakes National Park is a bright turquoise color. This is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia and one of the most visited places in the country, and for good reason, make sure you stop here!
You can get a one or two-day ticket to visit the park, with its series of boardwalks around 16 different lakes, and tons of waterfalls. Sorry, swimming is not allowed.
We put together a detailed 2-Day Plitvice itinerary to make the most of this park. Take a morning bus from Zagreb (7:30 am) to arrive by 10 am. This gives you a half day in the park. You can stay one night and take an evening bus onwards, or spend a second night and leave early the next morning. We chose to spend 1 1/2 full days in the park. You can either grab a bus the second afternoon or relax and stay for dinner and head out in the morning.
You must choose a time for your entrance ticket, and indicate your initial entrance. If you buy a two-day ticket, you must use your ticket the first day from the designated entrance but can enter from either entrance for your second day.
Get the Details: Two Days in Plitvice Lakes, Croatia: A Family-Friendly Guide
Rather not plan it on your own? Take a tour that handles it for you, and includes a swim in the river Korana to cool off.
Get Details: Day Trip to Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke
Getting to Plitvice: There are buses running multiple times a day from Zagreb (2 1/2 hours) and Split (3 1/2 hours). The buses stop at Plitvice 1 (entrance 1), Plitvice 2, and Mukinje. Book your ticket to “Plitvice Lakes” to get off at any of these three stops.
Where to Stay in Plitvice: Guest House Wolf is a great place to stay if you are taking the bus and won’t have a car to move around with. It’s an easy walk from the Mukinje bus stop. They offer breakfast and dinner, and there is a market and a pizza place within walking distance as well.
The kids had lots of room to run around on the grassy area around the complex. Our family room included two twin beds on an upper level, a larger bed downstairs, a table and chairs, a small balcony, air conditioning, and a communal fridge just outside the door.
The hotel claims on its listing to be a ten-minute walk to Entrance 2 of the park. We found it to be more like 20 minutes going to the park (downhill) and 30 minutes returning. There are places that are closer to the park itself, but require lugging your bags farther from the bus stop, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.
Zadar – 3 Nights
There are no cars allowed in the old walled town of Zadar. Once you walk through one of the gates, you’ll find cobblestone streets full of cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. There is a road that runs around the town, most of it can only be driven in one direction.
One of the best things about Zadar is its shoreline- a stone promenade runs along the water, with ladders and stairs at intervals. All along the water, you’ll see people jumping into the water to cool off. Located in a bit of a bay, you’ll find a gentle current, and deep, clean waters. Jump in!
Zadar is a touristy place, where people come to relax in the old walled town scattered with Roman ruins, drink Aperol Spritz’s, and enjoy the cool, clear sea waters. There are lots of things to do in Zadar for all ages- you’ll see lots of families at all hours- strolling along the seafront, enjoying the famous Sea Organ, and watching amazing sunsets.
For kids who can’t safely swim in water over their heads, walk down to Kolovare Beach. A 15-minute walk from the old town, you’ll find a pebbly beach, and lots of families enjoying the hot sun and cool, shallow waters.
Getting to Zadar: Buses run often to Zadar from both Zagreb and Split. When you arrive at the bus station, take an Uber to your hotel. We were quoted about €13 to take a taxi to our apartment in the old town, and paid €5 on Uber!
Where to Stay in Zadar: You’ll want to stay in or close to the old walled town. We highly recommend this apartment. It has a balcony overlooking the Roman Forum and views of the sea as well. Everything was clean and newly renovated. It is located half a block from the road circling the old town, but just around the corner from the Roman Forum and lots of cafes and restaurants.
Check Availability: Zadar Dream Apartment
Split – 4 Nights
Split is larger than Zadar, but has similar charms. The old town of Split has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome. The narrow cobblestone streets and twisting alleys full of restaurants and shops are fun to explore. Don’t miss “Pusti me da prodjem”, one of the narrowest streets in Europe, you’ll find it next to Jupiter’s Temple.
Diocletian’s Palace is the highlight of the old town- the ruins of this impressive palace are just stunning. Add in a wide seafront promenade, and access to more islands and day trips than you can fit into one trip, and you’ve got the essence of Split.
While there are lots of things to do in Split, you can see the historic sites in the old town in one full day. Figure out which day trips are important to you to decide how long to stay in Split.
Day Trip: Krka National Park
Krka National Park is much smaller than Plitvice and can be visited in a few hours, making it a great day trip from Split. Krka used to be popular because you could swim underneath the largest waterfall, unfortunately, they stopped that in 2020, so you can no longer swim in the park.
Check Details: Day Tour of Krka National Park
Day Trip: Five Island and Blue Cave Tour
I had high expectations for this one- five islands and the alluring Blue Cave? Yes, please! However, it ended up being too windy on our tour day, so the Blue Cave was closed. The guides did their best to re-route us, so we visited the Green Cave instead (which was lovely), and then got called back to port early due to high winds.
The islands themselves are lovely- green water, pebble beaches, and stone houses. Definitely worth a visit. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck with the weather than we did!
Check Details: Five Island and Blue Cave Tour
Getting There: Buses run several times a day from Zagreb all the way down to Split, with stops in Zadar and other towns along the way.
Where to Stay in Split: We prefer to stay outside the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, but within easy walking distance to all the ruins and museums the Old Town has to offer.
This apartment has two bedrooms, a comfy living room, and the all-important washing machine to keep up with all the laundry. It’s an easy walk to Old Town and the beach.
Additional Stop: Mostar, Bosnia- 2 Nights
If you have a few days, consider adding a stop in Bosnia to your itinerary. Until mid-2022, if you were traveling from Split to Dubrovnik, you actually had to cross the border into Bosnia. The completion of a long-awaited bridge has changed this, but consider the trip anyway!
Bosnia-Herzegovina feels a world away from Croatia. It has a much stronger Ottoman influence. You’ll find Bosnian Coffee is thick like Turkish coffee, and many of the crafts you’ll see in the old town are similar to those found in Turkey.
Mostar is a beautiful city with a restored old town full of polished river stone streets and small shops. In the greater city, you’ll see reminders of the recent war, with some buildings fully restored, and others left in ruins.
We highly recommend taking a tour to see some of the region’s best sites, as well as to learn about the history of this amazing place from a guide.
This tour of Herzegovina includes Karvice Waterfalls (where you can actually swim!), the Blagaj Dervish House, and more. Best of all, you get a guide to ask all of your questions about Bosnian history and culture. As part of the tour, they share the current political status in the country, as well as some history of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
Book Now: Exploring Herzegovina Day Tour
We did this as a private tour, though very reasonably priced. It was our family of four with one (excellent) guide, so we could set the pace for ourselves at each stop. The educational value for our kids of hearing war stories firsthand and seeing buildings destroyed or riddled with bullets from the war was priceless.
Getting There: Buses run daily from Split and Dubrovnik to Mostar. Expect the bus in either direction to take one to two hours longer than scheduled.
Where to Stay in Mostar: We loved our stay at Hotel Villa Milas, located just outside the Old Town. The room was clean, and bright, and had air conditioning. A large buffet breakfast was provided.
Please Note: There is no Uber in Mostar, you’ll need to take regular taxis. We had to ask restaurants and our hotel to call a taxi for us, but they always ran on meters and were happy to accept marks or euros in payment.
Dubrovnik- 4 Nights
Dubrovnik is the jewel of Croatia- and the most touristed city. It has become even more popular in recent years due to all the filming of Game of Thrones in the area.
Dubrovnik has an Old Town that is walled, with narrow alleyways and restaurants packed in among ancient churches. Dubrovnik also has a lot of culture- from museums to the famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which includes chamber music performances most evenings.
Dubrovnik has a wonderful restaurant scene, but the choices can get pricey. We put together a list of the best budget-friendly places to eat in Dubrovnik.
From Dubrovnik, you can access local beaches, as well as many nearby islands for lots of clear turquoise water. Don’t miss a day trip to forested Lokrum Island, where many Game of Thrones scenes were filmed.
Dubrovnik is the most expensive of the cities in Croatia we visited, with some restaurants equaling or surpassing US prices.
Getting to Dubrovnik: There are many flights into Dubrovnik. There are also many buses coming down the coast. However, be ready for a long ride. Buses coming from Split must cross into Bosnia, and then back out again.
A new bridge just opened in mid-2022 to allow a complete drive without leaving the country, but in August of 2022, the buses were still following the old routes.
We took the bus from Mostar and crossed the border three times- with two different checkpoints at each crossing, which is a lot of times for a bus full of people to line up and get on and off the bus.
We left Dubrovnik via a ferry to Bari, Italy, if you are traveling the reverse route, consider taking a ferry to Dubrovnik!
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik:
We recommend staying nearby, but outside the walls of the old town when visiting Dubrovnik with kids. Renting an apartment allows you to cook for yourselves, and therefore save money on food, versus a hotel with a pool where you can cool off during hot afternoons.
This lovely two-bedroom apartment is just above Old Town. The entrance is across from the main stairs leading down the hill to Pile Gate. With two large bedrooms, and a small balcony you’ll have everything you need to enjoy the city. The bedrooms are railroad-style, so best for a family group.
Can I Drink the Water in Croatia?
Yes, you can drink the water in Croatia, it is supposedly some of the safest and cleanest water in Europe. We still like to use our Steripen to purify our drinking water to be cautious.
You’ll often see people filling water bottles at fountains, or see bottle-filling stations at major parks.
What is the Currency in Croatia, Can I use Euros?
Croatia used Kunas until January of 2023, when they switched to the Euro. Some places only accept cash (ice cream shops, kayak rentals, some restaurants), so plan to have some Euros on hand. As part of this change, Croatia is now part of the EU Schengen Visa Zone.
Is There Uber in Croatia?
Yes, there is Uber in Croatia. We highly recommend using Uber to get to and from bus stations and airports. In Zadar, we were quoted 3x the Uber price by a taxi on-site at the bus station.
Uber makes it easy to move around cities in Croatia with kids- no haggling over price, or worrying about translation issues with the address.
There You Have It: 2 Weeks in Croatia
A 14-day Croatia itinerary with kids gives you a great sampling of the wonders of Croatia. You’ll see the capital city of Zagreb, several national parks, experience the epic coastline, and the turquoise waters that have drawn so many tourists to this beautiful country.