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Top 5 Croatian Cities and Towns

Updated on April 4, 2014

Here is the list of top 5 Croatian cities and towns.

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1. Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia. It is located at the foot of Medvednica Mountain, near the Sava River, 230 miles (370 km) west-northwest of Belgrade. Zagreb developed its electrical and chemical industries on a large scale after World War II and is now a center of light industry. Serving as the nation's chief transportation center, the city is an important point on routes leading from central Europe into the Balkans and from the Danube River to the Adriatic Sea, and it possesses a large modern airport. Zagreb is also a financial center, and periodic international fairs are held there.

Site of an old Roman settlement, Zagreb first became prominent in 1091 when King Ladislas I of Hungary established a bishopric there. Destroyed by the Mongols in 1242, it was rebuilt and became a royal free city under the Hungarian crown, and from the second half of the 13th century it was the chief town of Croatia and Slavonia. When the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was reorganized in 1867, Zagreb was made the capital of autonomous Croatia and the seat of the Croatian Diet (Sejm). After World War I, when the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia, including Croatia, was formed, the city lost its status as a capital; but it served during World War II as the capital of the Independent State of Croatia, headed by Ante Pavelić,and remained the capital of the Croatian republic in the reconstituted Yugoslav state from 1945 to 1991. With Croatia's proclamation of independence in 1991, Zagreb became the nation's capital.

The center of Roman Catholicism in Croatia, Zagreb possesses a fine 17th-century Gothic cathedral and an 18th-century archiepiscopal palace. For centuries it has been the Croatian cultural center. Among its institutions are the Sveučilište u Zagrebu (University of Zagreb); academies of music, fine arts, and applied arts; the Hrvatska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnoski (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts); and the Institut Rudjer Bošković (Rudjer Bošković Institute) for nuclear energy research.

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2. Rijeka

Rijeka is one of the largest cities in Croatia. The city was formerly known by its Italian name, Fiume. One of the largest ports on the Adriatic Sea, Rijeka serves as Croatia's chief port and a center for its coastal trade. It is also an important naval base and has the largest shipyards in Croatia. Other industrial production includes the manufacture of diesel engines and paper and the refining of oil.

Among Rijeka's monuments are a 1st-century A.D. Roman arch, the 16th-century city tower, and the 17th-century Church of St. Vitus. It also has numerous libraries, museums, a theater, and the Society for Research and Promotion of Maritime Sciences (Društvo za Proučavanje i Unaprendenje Promorstva). The city is home to the University of Rijeka (Sveučilište u Rijeci), which was founded in 1973.

The city first appears in history as a Roman settlement known as Tarsatica or Tharsaticum. Reappearing in the Middle Ages with the name Flumen, the city was under the control of Croatian rulers most of the time until 1466, when it was acquired by the house of Habsburg. The Habsburgs then held it almost continuously until 1918.

In 1719 Rijeka was made a free port. It was attached to Croatia in 1776 and three years later became a part of Hungary, serving as its port. Until World War I it was the object of conflict between the Croatians and the Hungarians.

Although the city was assigned to Yugoslavia after World War I, it was seized by the Italian poet and adventurer Gabriele D'Annunzio in 1919–1920. By the Treaty of Rome in 1924, the Yugoslav and Italian governments agreed that the city would remain under Italian sovereignty, but Yugoslavia was given the suburb of Sušak. The city became a part of Yugoslavia after World War II. With the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991–1992, Rijeka became a part of independent Croatia.

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3. Split

One of the chief port cities of Dalmatia, Split is located on a promontory jutting into the Adriatic Sea. Its two excellent, safe harbors; its central location on the Adriatic coast; and its superior rail and highway links with the interior have all contributed to its growing commercial importance.

Split arose in the 7th century A.D. around the ruins of the magnificent palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian. The palace, built between 293 and 305, is the principal architectural feature of the city and the best-preserved palace of its antiquity in the world. In form it is a virtual square and closely resembles Roman war camps. It covers an area of about 9 acres (4 ha). The Porta Aurea, or golden gate, on the north side of the palace area is the finest of the four gates. In front of it is a 25-foot- (8-meter-) high statue, by Yugoslavia's great 20th-century sculptor Ivan Meštrović, of the 10th-century bishop Gregory of Aenona (Grgur Ninski).

The city was settled about 639 by Croats, after the invading Avars had destroyed the nearby town of Salonae. It became a Catholic episcopal see, then an archiepiscopal see. Split came under Hungarian rule in the early 12th century and during the next 300 years belonged successively to Venice, Hungary, Bosnia, and then Venice again. Its flourishing trade and handicrafts made it a leading Dalmatian commercial center, along with Dubrovnik and Zadar, from the 9th century to the 14th. In 1239 the city obtained a charter that gave it considerable autonomy. The Venetians regained control over the town in 1420 and ruled it until 1797. After a brief French occupation (1805–1813), Split and the rest of Dalmatia were ruled by Austria until they became part of Yugoslavia in 1920. Split and Dalmatia have been part of Croatia since 1991, when Croatia proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia.

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4. Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a city in southern Dalmatia. It lies on the Adriatic coast at the base of Mt. Srdj (Mt. Sergius), a rugged limestone mountain that overlooks Dubrovnik. The Italian name for the city is Ragusa.

Dubrovnik is one of the principal tourist attractions of Croatia. A medieval walled city, it has not changed much since it was restored following an earthquake in 1667. It is situated on a promontory, and the city walls, which are 9 to 12 feet (2.5–3.5 meters) thick, rise from the water's edge. From the top of the walls one obtains an excellent view of the entire city. The main street (Stradum) of Dubrovnik is lined on either side with impressive late Renaissance buildings. The very narrow, winding side streets are lined with attractive old houses. The most important architectural monuments are the Benedictine and Franciscan convents, the churches of Sveti Spas and St. Vlaho (the patron saint of Dubrovnik), the Sponza Palace, housing the city museum and state archives, and the famous Rector's Palace, dating from the 15th century.

Every summer Dubrovnik sponsors a music festival featuring performers from all the European countries and the United States. It also has impressive theater productions, at times by foreign companies; the productions of Shakespeare's Hamlet on the walls of Fort Lovrijenac, just outside the city walls, are well known.

The city can be reached by rail from Belgrade and Zagreb by way of Sarajevo, by air direct from most European countries, by ship from Brindisi in Italy or Rijeka in Croatia, and by a modern highway that runs the length of the Adriatic coast.

In addition to tourism, Dubrovnik, through its nearby deepwater port of Gruz, serves as an outlet for the goods produced in the region. The principal products are wood, olives, grapes, milk, and cheese. Dubrovnik's busy marketplace attracts villagers from the surrounding area.

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5. Zadar

Zadar is a town in the Dalmatian region of Croatia. Zadar is located on the Adriatic Sea, 72 miles (116 km) northwest of Split. Situated at the tip of a peninsula, it is separated by the Zadar Channel from the islands of Ugljan and Pašman and possesses a fine natural harbor. Zadar's chief industries are liqueur manufacture and food processing.

Zadar has had a turbulent history. About 100 B.C. the Romans occupied the Liburnian town of Iader and renamed it Jadera ("the sail"). The town was spared during the invasions of Dalmatia by the Avars and Slavs early in the 7th century A.D., and soon afterward it was occupied and made the capital of Dalmatia by the Byzantine emperors. The Croats took the town in 923 but were forced to abandon it to the Venetians before the end of the 10th century. After reverting to Croatian rule (about 1100), it was sacked by the Crusaders (1202) and turned over to Venice. It was subsequently conquered by the Croat-Hungarian kingdom but was sold back to Venice in 1409. After the dissolution of the Venetian Republic by the French in 1797, Zadar was incorporated into the Illyrian Provinces. In 1813 it was obtained by Austria along with the rest of Dalmatia, and it remained under Austrian rule until 1918, when it was captured by the Italians during World War I. The Treaty of Rapallo (1920) confirmed Italy's title. On Nov. 1, 1944, during World War II, the town was captured by Yugoslav forces and awarded to Yugoslavia by the peace treaty with Italy signed in Paris on Feb. 10, 1947. Zadar has been part of Croatia since 1991, when Croatia proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia.

The town contains important architectural monuments of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Notable are the Church of St. Donato (early 9th century) and the Basilica of St. Anastasia (13th century), which is decorated with paintings by Jacopo Palma.

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