Croatia travel tips: local, delicious and cheap eats in Croatia

Continuing with our Croatia travel tips series we hope to help you get the best from your holidays in Croatia. Every country has its cheap but good eateries. If you want to eat cheap but good in Canada, UK, Brazil or USA you'll look for all-you-can-eat buffets. In Croatia buffets are only served in hotels. And at 10€-20€ per person (unless purchased as a half-board package along with your accommodation), they are not cheap.

Delicious Cheap Eats In Croatia | Croatia Travel Tips
Delicious Cheap Eats In Croatia | Croatia Travel Tips

Croatia travel tips:  Types of cheap eateries in Croatia

In Croatia, there are few types of eateries where you can eat for under 6 €.

  • Restaurants offering marenda or gablec (fixed-price lunch menu)
  • Pizzerias
  • Bakeries

1 I Restaurants offering marenda or gablec (fixed-price lunch menu)

Here, in Croatia we've got neighborhood restaurants serving marenda, gablec or uzina (the word changes depending on the region of Croatia, but it means the same). It means a warm, cooked cheap meal. It takes a spoon or fork to eat it. It's usually served between 11am and 2pm. It costs anywhere between 20 and 40 Kn (2.7€-5.5€).

Although today many meals are called gablec or marenda (even fast food!), don't get fooled. Marenda in a real sense of the word needs to be prepared from the fresh local produce, served warm, and must be a food that's eaten using a spoon or fork (no sandwiches here either!). In Dalmatia traditional marenda is for example a cod stew, meat balls in tomato sauce, boiled veal with potatoes, or a veal risotto. In Zagreb traditional gablec is tripes, goulash, or brat sausages with sauerkraut.

Croatia Travel Tips: Cheap Restaurants in Croatia - typical dish
Croatia travel tips: Typical marenda in Dalmatia can include boiled veal, potatoes and tomato sauce

Croatian take their marenda seriously. Many companies offer this kind of meal to their employees (usually free of charge or for a very small fee like 10 Kn). I love this! And sure the morning conversation is based on what there is for marenda today?

So if you want to eat tasty, but cheap quality meal while on holidays in Croatia, look for the places serving these kind of meals. They usually have chalkboard outside with a choice of three or four different daily dishes written on it.

Croatia travel tips: Where to find these cheap eats in Croatia

These days, due to the financially tough times, almost any restaurant in Croatia offers marenda or gablec. Anyway in many cases, these meals are nothing but a cut-price lunch offer from restaurant's à la carte menu. You can still get a good meal, relatively cheap (from 40 Kn – 60 Kn), and enjoy a lunch at those places. But we talk about local no-frills places where you'll eat traditional hearty Croatian dishes for under 6€.

We've put together great marenda places in the main Croatian tourist towns. Hope you'll check out some of them.

Croatia Travel Tips: Cheap Restaurants in Croatia - a classic
Croatia travel tips: Classical Croatian summer dish: stuffed peppers with mashed potatoes

Popular cheap restaurants in Zagreb 

  • Vallis Aurea (Tomićeva 4; +385 1 4831 305; Sunday closed): located right downtown near the funicular, Valis Aurea offers hearty lunch dishes (gablec) for less than 40 kn. You can check their daily dishes here (Croatian only).
  • Marenda (Kuniščak 24): perhaps the best kept secret in Zagreb, Marenda is actually always full. Here you'll eat dishes that Dalmatian grandmas' used to prepare at home. Even doctors from the nearby hospital eat here. ‘Nuff said! A full meal with a drink  you'll pay around 10€. Read Florence Lince's reflections on the sister restaurant Marenda in Šibenik to get a full idea what to expect.

Find a full list of excellent cheap restaurants in Zagreb or check our list of must-try restaurants in Zagreb.

Popular cheap restaurants in Pula 

  • Tratoria Vodnjanka (Vitezica 4, Pula; +385 52 210 655; Sunday closed;): A mother and son duo run this popular eatery in Pula. Open only for lunch (until 5 pm) they offer a great choice of daily marenda dishes. This place is a temple of real Istrian home cooking. Locals love it.

Popular cheap restaurants in Split 

  • Buffet Fife (Trumbićeva obala 11, Split; +385 21 345 223;): Buffet Fife offers traditional Dalmatian food in a casual setting. The service is a bit rough around the edges, but the food is delicious, fresh and cheap. Locals rave about Fife's cod stew.
  •  Tri volta – Dioklecijan ( ): You'll hardly find a more local place in Split than this one. Tavern Dioklecijan, among locals known as Tri Volta, reminds of  some other times, of old forgotten Split, Split before big cruise ships and backpackers (not that anything is wrong with that!). Don't get discouraged by its weary look, or few semi-drunk regulars. Three different dishes are on a lunch menu here, and if everything is gone by the time you made it to Tri Volta, just order a plate of prosciutto and cheese. It comes with bread, olives and dill pickles.

To find out where locals eat in Split, check our list of locals' favorite restaurants, or read about best restaurants in Split.

Popular cheap restaurants in Rovinj

  • Restaurant Orca (Gripole 70, Rovinj; +385 52 816 851;): Orca definitely offers the best value for money in Rovinj. Located on the main road to Rovinj, in a residential area, it doesn't have the best location or views, but the food is homemade and delicious. Their marenda  start from 40 Kn (5,5 €) onward, and includes dishes like tripes, stuffed peppers with mashed potatoes, and other Croatian classics.

If you are looking for a good place to eat in Rovinj, check our post on the best restaurants in Rovinj.

Popular cheap restaurants in Zadar

  • Sabunjar (Jadranska cesta 99, Zadar; +385 23 340 355;): Located in an industrial part of Zadar, near Getro, this place doesn't offer haut-cuisine, but solid homemade food. Popular among locals for their daily marenda menu.
  • Stomornica ( ): This place, located in the heart of old town, has always been popular for its fried smelt fish and pilchards, prosciutto, cheese and a glass of table wine. While the other dishes tend to come with a higher price tag, these simple Dalmatian treats are very affordable.
  • Restaurant Veseljak (Franje Tuđmana 161, Sukosan; +385 23 393 050;): Located in a small village Sukošan, 12 km south of Zadar, Veseljak is a place where locals go for marenda whenever possible, or whenever they feel like eating a good homemade meal including anything lamb. The restaurant, located on the main road, is little appealing from outside, but their marenda is delicious, and starting at 30 Kn (4 €) onward, quite cheap.

2 I Pizzerias in Croatia

Croatia Travel Tips: Cheap Restaurants in Croatia - pizzeria
Croatia travel tips: Pizza in Croatia is excellent!

Pizza in Croatia is excellent. Think large, thin crust pie, variety of toppings, and baked in a wood-burning oven. Price of pizza in Croatia range from 35 Kn to 60 Kn depending on size and a choice of toppings. The normal size pizza is big enough for two persons. Pizzerias also serve homemade bread rolls, grilled meat and veggies, salads, pasta, and rice dishes.

3 I Bakeries in Croatia

Bread in Zagreb is excellent. The smaller the town, the less good bread you'll find in town's bakeries. But lately chain bakeries started opening across the country where you can find a really good bread. One of them is Mlinar Bakery, and you absolutely have to taste their whole grain Švedski bread. But besides bread, bakeries offer all kind of delicious pastries (sweet and savory) that can keep you full for quite some time. Phyllo dough pies are extremely popular (greasy but delicious). They come with different fillings and my favorite one is potato pie. Other popular pies include burek (minced meat filled pie) and cheese pie.  Buhtla is another typical pastry sold at Croatian bakeries. It's  made of yeast dough and filled with jam, chocolate spread, or cheese.

We hope that these Croatia Travel Tips will help you better plan your holidays in Croatia.

Do you find our Croatia travel tips helpful? Do you try to cut on food expenses or you rather cut on other costs and indulge in country's specialties regardless of cost? Let us know in comments below.


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23 thoughts on “Croatia travel tips: local, delicious and cheap eats in Croatia”

  1. We plan to visit our ancestral villages of Stupovaca and Veliko Vukovje. How do we get there, where to stay near there and where to eat? Is it far from a good hotel to stay in? Perhaps you can recommend what to see there. I know there is a St Demetrius Church.
    Please help. Thanks.

  2. You don’t seem to have any recent Mail on this site.Is it still active? ,if so would be interested in places of interest To visit and eateries in Cavtat.We don’t travel until June next year.Thankyou.

  3. We are in Croatia now, we have visited Dubrovnik, Hvar and Zadar so far and found the food really expensive. Pizza is closer to 80/90kn. Our tip is to find a supermarket and buy breakfast and lunch there and save your money for dinner. We have spent between €50 – €80 on dinner most evenings (starter, main, wine for two).

  4. Hey frank thanks!! You don’t like Dubrovnik? You don’t post a lot of it, I read all your emails hoping to find information on it but never seem to find much, I am traveling there on September and want to have the local experience as much as possible. Thanks tho!! At least i have an idea of what to look for hahaha

    • Hi Ara,
      we do have a couple of posts on Dubrovnik (like where to stay, what to do, best beaches, best restaurants, etc). Browse through web. Hope it helps.

  5. Thank you for your great tips. My daughter and I will be traveling there in a couple of days and wondered about meals. Don’t want to live on cheese platters and olives. We have all the flights and accommodations and many of the tours already arranged, but because we are picky eaters, this will be a great help.

    • Konoba Kopacina for lamb. And konoba Dol in Dol. Also ther eis a new fine dining restaurant in Supetar – Lemon Garden. We haven’t been, but heard it’s good.

  6. This was so informative thank you ! We arme going for our honeymoon August 17 til sept 14 th we will be trying these places out for sure !!!

  7. Hey, we’re Canadian too, and we’re not usually fans of buffets (unless they’re really fresh and creative). But pizza and vino (or a chilled beer)? That’s always appetizing for a casual bite. And it’s good to know about the “marenda” choice at most restaurants in Croatia :-).

  8. Those are some great tips Frank, especially because the budget is always of my concern. So far I am still not sure if I am making it to Croatia this summer, but if I do, I might be in touch with you and ask for some additional tips. Hopefully that is ok for you. Knowing where to find cheap and good local food always helps to provide a great introduction to any country… :)

  9. Wow, these are great tips. I’m going to pin this for when I finally make it to Croatia. As eating is one of my favorite things to do, I usually don’t skimp on it when traveling, but I sure appreciate cheap eats! And oh man, that pizza looks really delicious!

    • Thanks Julio! Don’t forget that Vodnjanka is open only for lunch. There is another restaurant of the same name in the village of Vodnjan. Great food too, but more expensive (and fancier) than one in Pula. Have a great time in Pula! Let us know if you need any information.

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