34 Interesting Facts About Croatia, The Land of 1000 Islands

Fun and interesting Croatia facts

Today, we’ll introduce some of the more interesting and unusual facts about ancient and modern Croatia.

Croatia is one of the most interesting countries in Europe. From the stunning Dalmatian coastline and ancient cities like Dubrovnik to lush national park landscapes, this gem beckons with its rich culture, turquoise waters, and captivating Mediterranean charm.

General Croatia Facts

1. Croatia is situated in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Its western coastline lies along the Adriatic Sea. It is similar in size to Nova Scotia province in Canada.

2. Croatian is the official language of Croatia, which uses the Latin alphabet. Approximately 95% of Croats use Croatian as their first language. Other languages spoken in the country include Serbian, Bosnian, and English.

A church steeple with colorful designs on the roof, with Croatian flag on the right
St. Mark’s Church in Zagreb

3. 79% of the Croatian population practices the Catholic faith. Meanwhile, other Croatians are Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Protestants. 

4. Croatia is mostly inhabited by Croats, who make up 91% of the population. Minorities in the country include Serbs, Italians, and Germans. In total, there are more than 25 ethnic groups in Croatia.

5. Croatia is famous for its stunning coastline along the Adriatic Sea that stretches for about 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles). It is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, picturesque beaches, and more than 1,000 islands.

6. Ancient Croatia has a history that dates back to the 7th century. Dubrovnik is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world. Construction of the city began around the year 614. However, Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia.

Interesting Facts About Croatian History

7. Since ancient times, Croatia has been influenced by several empires. These include the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more. 

8. The first traces of human life in Croatia date back to the Paleolithic Age (11,000 to 3.3 million years ago). The oldest findings of Prehistoric men were found in Šandalja Caves. Tools found in the caves are believed to be more than 800,000 years old. 

An animal-shaped ancient pottery
Vučedol Dove by LZMK is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

9. The Vučedol Dove, a ceramic vessel decorated with bird motifs, is one of the most iconic artifacts from the Neolithic Vučedol culture. It is believed to be more than 5,000 years old and it was found near the city of Vukovar.

10. According to scientists, the world’s oldest cheese was found in Croatia. Found at an archaeological site in Pokrovnik, scientists discovered fatty acids believed to be from the cheese in a piece of pottery. The find is thought to be at least 7,000 years old.

11. The ancient town of Hum in Istria claims to be the smallest in the world. Built during the 11th century, the town only has a population of 20 to 30 people and spans just 3 kilometers squared (1.15 miles squared).

12. The city of Split is home to the ancient Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century CE. What makes it unusual is that the palace complex was intended to be both a residence and a fortified military camp.

13. The Glagolitic script, an ancient Slavic alphabet, was used for writing Old Church Slavonic and other languages. It was invented by the brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. Croatia’s Baška Tablet is one of the oldest known examples of the Glagolitic script. 

An ancient palace by the sea with palm trees and boats along the coast
Diocletian’s Palace in Split

14. The modern necktie, known as the cravat, is said to have originated in Croatia. It was worn by Croatian mercenaries enlisted by the French in the 17th century. The word cravat is derived from the French word for tie, “cravate.”

15. Traditional Croatian clothing, commonly referred to as the Croatian National costume consisted of white clothing embroidered with colorful geometric designs. Most costumes would display white and blue lacework, flowered headdresses, shawls, vests, and woven sashes.

16. Villages, towns, and cities across Croatia would wear different types of traditional clothing. Some men and women would wear black and white costumes that consisted of blouses, dresses, and shirts. Meanwhile, other towns would wear three-quarter-length trousers and bright red and white dresses. 

17. During the Middle Ages, a pole called the ‘Pillar of Shame’ was used as punishment. People would be chained to the pole, mocked, humiliated, and often tortured by a whip. Whole towns and cities would come to watch the public event.

18. The Feast of St Blaise is an annual tradition in Dubrovnik that began in 972 AD when a patron saint appeared to a local priest to warn of invaders. Every year, citizens would dress in traditional costumes for a procession through the city. 

A single standing column with some Croatian buildings in the background
The Pillar of Shame in Zadar

19. The first man to construct a functioning parachute was a Croatian inventor called Fausto Veranzio. It is believed he stretched fabric over a wooden frame to build his parachute in 1617. He tried it by jumping from a tower in Venice.

20. In 1861, the prototype for the modern-day torpedo was created by inventor Ivan Blaž Lupis. A factory in the port city of Rijeka helped develop his explosive weapon and mass production shortly followed.

Fun Facts About Modern Croatia

21. Croatia only declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Before then, Croatia was part of Socialist Yugoslavia. Serbians living in Krajina proclaimed their independence from Croatia and a four-year civil war broke out.

22. The current population of Croatia is approximately 3.9 million people. It currently sits 128th in the world for population. For context, the population of New York is more than double that of Croatia’s population. 

Dubrovnik and its city wall viewed from the city in the evening

23. In 2023, Dubrovnik was ranked the 4th best city in Europe to retire in. The city was given its position due to its Mediterranean charm, natural beauty, and rich history.

24. Croatia has been ranked the 7th most unhealthy country in the world. In the European Union, Croatia ranks first for obesity rate, second for cancer mortality, and fifth for smoking. 

25. Dubrovnik’s ancient sewage system was so well-developed that it is still in use today. The sewers in Old Town Dubrovnik are more than 800 years old but they still work flawlessly.

26. Croatia has a unique Easter tradition that sees families share blessed food. On Easter morning, families take their Easter baskets filled with colored eggs, ham, bread, and other food items to be blessed by the local priest.

27. In 1995, nine Serbians were killed in the Varivode massacre. They were killed by Croat forces despite the war being over.

A hand holding up a chunk  of truffle that was just found in the ground
Croatia is famous for its truffles

28. In 1999, the largest truffle in the world was found in Croatia. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the white truffle was found in Istria and it weighed 1.31 kilograms (1,310 grams). That gave it a value of $150,000.

29. The best Christmas market in Europe can be found in Croatia. Zagreb Advent was awarded the prize of best European Christmas Market three years in a row between 2016-2018.

30. Mamma Mia 2 was filmed in Croatia. Despite popular belief, the blockbuster film wasn’t filmed on an island in Greece. Instead, the movie was filmed on the Island of Vis in Croatia.

31. Croatia is one of the main filming locations for the popular TV show Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik served as a filming location for King’s Landing.

32. Dubrovnik, already a famous stop for cruise ships, became even more popular after that. It is one of the world’s classic cases of overtourism, up there with the likes of Kyoto in Japan, Barcelona in Spain, and Machu Picchu in Peru. Today, the city has many rules for tourists and a cap for cruise ships.

A black and white image of some electricity shooting through the air, with a man sitting on a chair behind it
Inventor Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia

33. While born in what is now modern-day Croatia, Nikola Tesla is often associated with other countries due to his international work. However, Croatia celebrates his legacy with a museum dedicated to him in Zagreb.

34. Bill Gates once said that his favorite place in the world is Skradin, a small town in Croatia. The town is the gateway to Krka National Park, which is famous for its beautiful waterfalls.

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