Thinking about moving to Croatia? Believe me, so am I. With so many great cities, an exquisite coast with some of Europe’s best beaches, and amazing national parks, it’s certainly an inviting country. And it’s one of the cheapest countries in the European Union!
But where exactly should you live in Croatia? That depends on what type of lifestyle you lead. It’s one answer if you prefer quiet places, but a different one if you like the fast pace of big cities. Read on to learn what the best places to live in Croatia are!
Zagreb is Croatia’s capital and it’s easily the best place to live in the country. It’s a modern European city with beautiful architecture, vast parks, and all the comforts you expect from a modern metropolis.
Zagreb is the social, cultural, and political hub of Croatia, and it’s connected to most major EU capitals with highways, but there are surprisingly few flights to major EU capitals. If you often travel to other countries, perhaps Zagreb isn’t the ideal place in Croatia for you.
Zagreb is also one of the most expensive cities in Croatia, at least in the terms of living costs. It has the highest rents and most expensive utilities, but it’s still one of the cheapest capital cities in the European Union. Which makes sense, considering that Croatia is the second poorest country in the EU, right after Bulgaria.
The average wage is 1000 Euros, which is enough to live comfortably for a single person. Rent will be your biggest expense, but you can save some money on it if you go with an apartment that’s outside the city center.
Apartments in the city center are the most expensive, and the bigger they are the higher the prices. However, it’s worth noting that Zagreb has a good network of public transportation, and you can easily get around the city even without a car.
Groceries and utilities are cheap compared to other EU cities and even some places in Croatia. Zagreb also has pretty affordable bars and restaurants, at lest when compared to some of the places on the Adriatic coast.
Split is the second-largest city in Croatia offering the best of both worlds. It’s an urban metropolis situated on the Adriatic coast, so it’s perfect if you can’t decide whether you’d rather live on the beach or in a big city. In Split, you don’t have to choose.
Split has everything from tall skyscrapers and massive shopping malls to ancient monuments and historic sites like the Diocletian’s Palace. It’s the second most populated city in Croatia, and it’s extremely popular with tourists in the summer months.
One of the best things about living in Split is that you have so much freedom when it comes to exploring the area. You’re less than an hour outside Trogir and Makarska, and you can reach most large Croatia islands by ferry.
Also, Split is connected to other major cities with a highway, and you can be in Zagreb in just about 4 hours. The airport in Split is certainly not the best in Croatia, but it does offer flights to quite a few major cities in the EU. Plus, Zadar is just a short drive away.
Rent is cheaper in Split than in Zagreb, as are base utilities. However, Split is very popular with seasonal tourists, so it makes up for the discrepancy with more expensive restaurants, bars, and groceries.
Zadar is often dubbed the crown jewel of the Adriatic coast and it’s thought to be the most beautiful seaside city in Croatia. I couldn’t agree more – the ancient old town paired with spectacular panoramic vistas will not leave you indifferent.
Zadar is also one of the largest cities in Croatia and it’s densely populated. There’s no lack of shopping malls, restaurants, and clubs, so you get the experience of living in a proper metropolis. But there’s also the bonus of a charming old town full of historic buildings and beaches.
On top of that, Zadar is a much better place for people who travel often. It has an international airport with direct flights to most EU capitals, which isn’t something many other Croatian cities boast. Zadar is also one of the largest ports in the country, and you can travel by boat to most nearby countries.
What about the cost of living? That’s the tricky part. Zadar has a lower standard of living than Zagreb, with an average monthly wage of 700 Euros. However, real estate is more expensive in Zadar and it’s harder to find cheap apartments to rent long-term. Short-term rentals are mostly apartments for tourists, and you’ll need to dig deep to find a decent long-term place that’s not 50 Euros a day.
Restaurants and bars are also more expensive in Zadar, especially during the high season. But that’s mostly just in the old town – stray a little further away from the cobblestone alleys of the old town peninsula, and you’ll find the locals enjoying their reasonably priced espressos.
Pula is a beautiful seafront city in the Istrian peninsula. It boasts a rich history, beautiful ancient architecture, and some of the best views in the entire country. If you want to live close to the beach but still be in a beautiful city, Pula might be just perfect for you.
The only catch is that it’s a bit pricier than Zagreb, especially during peak tourist season. With the Roman amphitheater, a spectacular 17th century fortress, a Roman Theatre, and the Temple of Augustus, Pula draws in countless tourists even if it’s not your typical vacation spot. Falling in love with this city is effortless, especially if you end up living in it.
A single person needs approximately the same amount of money to live in Pula as they do in Zagreb. The rent is lower in Pula by about 30%, but everything else is more expensive – groceries, utilities, restaurants, etc. The difference is especially noticeable when peak tourist season comes and the prices of everything start to skyrocket.
Pula is also a great place for families, especially with so many family-friendly attractions within driving distance of the city. From vast amusement parks to the best beaches in Istria – you certainly won’t be left wanting for anything if you decide to settle down in this spectacular city.
Rijeka is a beautiful port city in Croatia, and it’s perfect for everyone who enjoys living in a more peaceful area. If the busy streets of Zagreb are too quick-paced for you, Rijeka should be more your speed. It boasts a charming old town with beautiful architecture, wonderful beaches, and a magnificent hilltop castle complex that overlooks the city.
This is the largest and most important port in the country, at least in terms of economic trade. It’s also a gateway to most islands in this part of Croatia. It’s a pretty big city, but time somehow passes slower here.
Rijeka is a great city for families, both because of the slow-paced setting and because of the cost of living. Rent in Rijeka is around 30% cheaper than in Zagreb, and it’s estimated that a family of four can live comfortably with around 2000 Euros of income.
A single person needs some 600 Euros plus rent for a comfortable month in Rijeka. Restaurants and bars are somewhat pricier than in Zagreb, but mostly the ones down by the sea.
Another great thing about Rijeka is that, although it’s a coastal city, it’s not that popular with vacationers. Sure, there’s an influx of visitors in the summer months, but it doesn’t drastically alter the dynamic of the city.
The city is connected to other major cities in Croatia and the rest of Europe with highways, plus you can travel to so many different islands by ferry. There is an international airport in the city but the flights offered from it are honestly disappointing.
Šibenik is one of the oldest cities in Croatia, and one of the most charming ones. It features a breathtaking old town with ancient monuments, an impressive Cathedral, and spectacular sea views no matter where you look. It gets even better if you head to one of the fortresses that surround this charming town – the view from Barone Fortress is reason enough to move to Šibenik.
Šibenik is not exactly a small town but it’s not a metropolis either. It’s just the right size with some 35,000 residents. Also, no matter where you are in Šibenik, it normally doesn’t take you more than 20 minutes to get to the next place. You can walk almost anywhere, and scooters and bikes are a decent alternative to walking.
The location of Šibenik is perfect for exploring the rest of the Adriatic coast, even all the smaller islands. Also, it’s much cheaper to live in Šibenik than in Zagreb – rent is about 60% higher in Zagreb than in Šibenik. The disparity between the cost of groceries, utilities, and restaurants is much smaller. Šibenik is not an expensive town to live in, but it’s best to avoid all those places in the old town that cater to seasonal tourists.
Osijek is Croatia’s fourth-largest city with a population of more than 100,000, and it’s the social and economic hub of the Slavonia region. Slavonia enjoys a continental climate with mountains, vast plains, and rivers. If you don’t want to live by the sea and you’d rather not be in Zagreb, Osijek might just be the best place to live in Croatia for you.
Osijek is a beautiful city with spectacular river views, huge parks, countless museums, and historic architecture. It’s not as fast-paced as Zagreb, so it’s a great option if you generally enjoy a more peaceful lifestyle, without the hustle and bustle of busy metropolises.
Also, it’s much cheaper to live in Osijek than in Zagreb. The rent alone is 70%+ higher in Zagreb than in Osijek, with a 10-20% price difference for other necessities. Utilities, groceries, and even restaurants are all much more affordable in Osijek, making it the best place for remote workers on a budget.
If you’re looking for a serene city in Croatia that’s populated but not too busy, family-friendly but still fun, and historic but not boring, Osijek is just what you want.
Living on a remote island might seem like a good idea, but trust me it’s not. It’s all fun and games until there’s a blackout, forest fire, or the high season starts and you can’t afford to buy a carton of milk because it costs as much as a bottle of premium champagne.
Croatian islands are incredibly beautiful and they’re my favorite destination for vacations. But living there is not for everyone and certainly not for people who are used to good WiFi and plenty of entertainment. Most Croatian islands are only busy in the summer – there are very few crowds in the off-season, and by the end of September, most restaurants start closing.
By mid-October, most islands are deserted, except for the locals. A lot of them will try to live off the land as much as they can, so it’s not uncommon to see chickens running around and gardens full of fruit and vegetables.
It’s worth noting that islands mostly have smaller shops, with just a few supermarkets in the bigger towns. The smaller shops raise their prices to extortionate levels during peak season, which in turn makes most locals head to mainland Croatia for grocery shopping.
Also, it’s pretty rare to have a stable supply of water and electricity on the islands, especially in the off-season. Blackouts are common even during peak season, let alone when it’s raining cats and dogs in the winter. Don’t even get me started on the quality of WiFi.
Summertime almost always means a wildfire somewhere, usually on the islands and peninsulas. The Pelješac peninsula is particularly susceptible to forest fires, and they’ve almost become an annual event. Also, late fall and winter often mean constant rain on the islands and it’s not uncommon for the streets to flood.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.