Nestled in a riviera along the southern Dalmatian Coast, the lively port town of Makarska doesn’t get as much attention as nearby Dubrovnik. I had never heard of the place until I saw it on the itinerary for my 10-day sailing adventure in Croatia. So I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in Makarska, discovering pristine pebble beaches, fresh seafood, and many exciting things to do. If Makarska isn’t on your radar, and, therefore, not on your Croatia itinerary, I want to share some reasons why you should stop here.
Want to read more about Croatia? You’re in luck! This post is a part of the Croatia series. Here is the complete 15-part series:
Krka National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Krka National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice vs Krka – Krka vs Plitvice National Park: Which One Should You Visit?
Mljet National Park – The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Mljet National Park, Croatia
Where is Makarska located?
Makarska is located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea between Split and Dubrovnik. It is at the center of the Makarska Riviera, a stretch of coastline along the Adriatic Sea that is home to charming towns, pristine pebble beaches, and mountain scenery. The port town of Makarska also lies at the foot of the Biokovo Mountains, Croatia’s second-highest peak.
You won’t find the same crowds as Dubrovnik or Split
Makarska attracts plenty of tourists from Europe and around the world, but not at the same scale as Dubrovnik or Split. It’s relatively less crowded than the other port cities. If you’re looking for a quieter escape on the Dalmatian Coast, Makarska fits the bill. This city has a lot of the same selling points as Split and Dubrovnik – a historic Old Town, beautiful beaches, and lively nightlife – without the hordes of tourists.
The surrounding Biokovo Mountains are the perfect nature escape
Makarska sits at the base of the majestic Biokovo Mountains, where you can escape for a hike, walk one of the many trails, or simply sit in one of the coves and admire the scenery. As Croatia’s second highest peak, these mountains stand at almost 5,800 feet at the summit, known as Sveti Jure. If you’re an experienced hiker, you can climb to the top of Sveti Jure for some of the most splendid views of the Adriatic Sea, the Makarska Riviera, and the surrounding islands.
If, like me, you can barely hike a mile, then there are easier trails to follow to some equally stunning viewpoints. There are the Vosac and Staza trails, which lead to some of the most picturesque, panoramic views of the region. On a clear day, you may be able to see all the way to Italy!
The Vosac trail begins in the nearby village of Tucepi and covers 5.3 miles. It will take you about 4-5 hours to complete this walk and be rewarded with spectacular views. This hike would be categorized as medium to difficult. I would budget an entire day if you plan to go on this hike.
The Staza trail, the longer of the two at 6.2 miles, would also be categorized as medium to difficult. It will take you close to 5 hours to complete. Beginning in the village of Brela, the trail follows a steep uphill climb through dense forests and rocky terrain. Along the way, you’ll pass by several panoramic viewpoints with a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.
There’s plenty of cheap, fresh seafood all around
Walking along the promenade next to the beach, I was in awe at just how many food stands there were. From octopus to squid, the seafood is freshly-caught and cooked with simple ingredients, in keeping with traditional Croatian cooking.
I’d recommend Restaurant Riva and Restaurant Marina right along the promenade for some of the best seafood in the area.
The white pebble beaches are something to write home about
While the beaches here don’t get as much hype as the famous Zlatni Rat Beach in Brač, you should not overlook them. I will admit: the beaches here were a bit more crowded than I had expected. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice they were. With the rays of sunshine beaming down from above, the whole place literally sparkles.
Another draw of the main pebble beach in the city is that you can get a massage right on the beach for just 150 kuna ($20). It was one of the best massages of my life, releasing the tension in my back and shoulders.
There’s no shortage of historical sites to explore
Makarska has a rich history and culture, and there are several historic sites that are worth visiting if you want to explore the history of the region. Here are some of the top historic sites in Makarska:
St. Mark’s Church – This 18th-century church is one of the most important landmarks in Makarska. It features a stunning Baroque façade and houses several works of art, including a 16th-century wooden altarpiece.
Franciscan Monastery – Located in the heart of Makarska’s old town, the Franciscan Monastery dates back to the 15th century. It features a beautiful courtyard and houses a museum that displays artifacts related to the region’s history and culture.
Kacic Square – This historic square is named after the famous Croatian poet Petar Kacic. It is home to several important landmarks, including St. Mark’s Church and the statue of Petar Kacic.
Napoleon’s Fortress – This historic fortress is located on a hill overlooking Makarska’s old town. It was built by the French in the early 19th century and offers stunning views of the town and the surrounding area.
Makarska City Museum – This museum is located in the historic Rector’s Palace and displays artifacts related to the town’s history and culture. It includes exhibits on traditional crafts, local festivals, and the region’s maritime heritage.
It’s one of the best places for shopping in Croatia
When I arrived on my sailboat to explore the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, one of the first things I learned was to wait until we got to Makarska to go shopping. It didn’t disappoint. From traditional markets to modern shopping malls, you’ll find a variety of shopping experiences in the city center. Here are the best places to shop in Makarska:
Makarska Market – Located in the heart of Makarska’s old town, the daily open-air market offers fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local products. It is a great place to experience the local culture and sample traditional foods.
Kacic Square – This historic square is home to several souvenir shops that sell traditional Croatian crafts, jewelry, and other souvenirs. It is a popular shopping destination for tourists.
City Center One – This modern shopping center is located on the outskirts of Makarska and features over 60 shops, including international brands such as Zara, H&M, and Mango.
Makarska Shopping Center – Located on the main road leading into Makarska, this shopping center features a range of shops, including fashion, electronics, and home goods.
Beach Stalls – During the summer months, several vendors set up stalls along the beaches in Makarska, selling a range of souvenirs, clothing, and accessories.
The nightlife is pretty lively
Hvar may be the party island of Croatia, but Makarska isn’t too far behind in terms of nightlife. While the town is definitely more family-friendly, you find plenty of bars and clubs. I went out to a club called Club Deep one night with my sister and had a great time. I should note that, just like in Spain, people don’t arrive at the club until around midnight.
Some of the other popular clubs and bars to check out include Club Barbarella, Makarana Club, and Laguna Beach Bar.
Know before you go
The best time to visit Makarska
The best time to visit Makarska depends on your travel preferences and what you plan to do during your trip. Here are some things to consider when deciding when to visit:
Weather: The summer months from June to September are the most popular time to visit Makarska because of the warm and sunny weather. Temperatures during this time range from the mid-70s to low-90s Fahrenheit, making it perfect for beach activities and outdoor adventures.
Crowds: Makarska can get quite busy during the peak summer months, especially in July and August when many Europeans are on summer vacation. If you prefer a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere, consider visiting in the shoulder season (May-June or September-October).
Prices: Prices for accommodations and activities are higher during the peak summer months. If you’re on a budget, consider visiting during the shoulder season or even in winter when prices may be lower.
Events: Makarska hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Makarska Cultural Summer in July and August and the Olive Harvest Festival in October.
How to get to Makarska
The closest airport to Makarska is Split Airport, approximately 46 miles away. From Split Airport, you can take a taxi, shuttle bus, or rent a car to reach Makarska. Several airlines offer direct flights to Split from major cities across Europe.
If you rent a car in Croatia, Makarska is easily accessible via the A1 highway, which connects Zagreb and Split. From Split, take the coastal road (D8) towards Makarska. The journey takes around 1.5 hours, depending on traffic.
Makarska has a central bus station with regular services from Split, Dubrovnik, and other major cities in Croatia. Buses are a convenient and affordable way to get to Makarska, and the journey from Split takes around 2 hours.
There are also regular ferry services between Makarska and nearby islands such as Brac and Hvar and between Makarska and other coastal towns in Croatia.
How to get around Makarska
Once you arrive in Makarska, the town is compact and easy to explore on foot. Alternatively, you can rent a car, bike, or scooter to explore the surrounding area.
There you have it: 7 reasons to visit Makarska. Did I persuade you to visit? Comment below.
Frequently asked questions
Is Makarska worth visiting?
Makarska is worth visiting, with hiking trails to explore the Biokovo Mountains, pristine pebble beaches, fresh seafood, and plenty of historical sites. If you’re exploring Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, you should add Makarska to your list of places to stop.
What is Makarska known for?
Makarska is known for its beaches, nightlife, water sports, and proximity to the Biokovo Mountains. The Makarska Riviera attracts millions of tourists every year who come to relax at the beaches, hike the Biokovo Mountains, and experience the rich history of the Old Town.
Does Makarska have an old town?
Yes, Makarska has an old town home to several historic sites, including St. Mark’s Church, a Franciscan monastery, and Kacic Square.
Is Makarska busy in June?
June generally kicks off the peak travel season in Makarska and Croatia, so you can expect to see more tourists during this time of the year. It is generally busier in Makarska during the summer months of June-August than during the other seasons.
How many days do you need in Makarska?
I would budget 2-3 days to explore the best Makarska offers. The town is relatively compact, so you can explore the Old Town in 2-3 hours. You’ll also want time to relax at the beaches and explore the nearby Biokovo Mountains.
How many tourists visit Makarska?
Before the pandemic, Makarska received about 2.1 million visitors a year, according to the Croatian Tourism Board. Most of the visitors came from other European countries.
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