Join us on a little journey to learn all about Croatia! Find stunning national parks, great food, crafts, and great fun facts about Croatia for kids. It’s fun, hands-on learning!
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Fun Facts About Croatia
Population: about 4,253,000 (roughly half of New York City’s population)
Size: 21,850 square miles (about twice the size of Massachusetts)
Known as: The Pearl of the Adriatic
The necktie was invented in Croatia in the 1600’s. The French discovered Croatia’s military wearing them and King Louis XIV admired them.
Dalmations were first found in Croatia. They were born in the Dalmatia region and later helped to name the Dalmatia Coast.
Croatia is home to over 1,200 islands
Ancient Greek and Roman ruins reside in Croatia’s borders
Croatia has 8 beautiful national parks. Plitvice Lakes National Parks contains 16 lakes that are all connected by waterfalls!
Croatia used the Kuna as currency (named from it’s national animal, more below). But in 2023, it changed so that Croatia now uses the Euro as its official form of currency.
Flag of Croatia
The flag of Croatia is made of 3 thick horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue. The Croatia coat of arms rests right in the center.
The coat of arms in the middle is a shield of Croatia and designed as a red and white checkerboard. Atop it sits a crown of 5 coat of arms: Croatia’s, Dubrovnik’s, Dalmatia, Istria, and Slavonia.
Cities of Croatia
There are 3 popular cities in Croatia where much of the population live and people tend to visit most.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and is home to 700,000 people. It’s the largest city and has a University, academies, and art galleries.
Split is much smaller at a population of 176,000. Though smaller in population, it’s the second largest city in Croatia. Split can be found in Dalmatia along the coast.
Dubrovnik is also a popular city and much smaller at 28,400 population. It’s a gorgeous coastal town known for its medieval architecture.
History of Croatia for kids
Here is a quick history of Croatia!
Around the year 600 AD, Croats first settled in the land. By 1526, Croatia became part of Austria. By 1918 and after a few failed attempts over the years at independence, Croatia joins the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. By 1929, this kingdom becomes Yugoslavia.
In 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, causing a civil war. 3-1/2 years later, the Dayton Peace Accords are signed, ending the Bosnian War.
Croatia freely voted for presidents through the years and in 2009 joined NATO. By 2013, Croatia became part of the European Union (EU).
Arts in Croatia
Fun Facts about Croatia’s Art and Theater
Theater is a big part of culture in Croatia. Many of the early plays in Croatia were French plays and portrayed bible stories. Theater eventually evolved to include other topics, like peasant life in Croatia.
Art in Croatia is important as well. Zagreb is an important center for art and has been for hundreds of years. Croatian traditional paintings began in past centuries and now have mixed with the influences of European styles.
Croatian art is influential around the world. If you go to the UN building in New York City, you’ll see the statue Monument to Peace by Croatian artist Antun Augustinčič.
Literature in Croatia is led by the writer Miroslav Krleža. His writings were seen as modernist as he entered the new Yugoslavia after World War I. He has over 50 volumes of work which include poetry, plays, short stories, novels, and more.
Besides the typical art traditions, Croatia also has some unique art history. Here are a few more fun facts about Croatia and it’s art:
Gingerbread Craft of northern Croatia is one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage items on the list by UNESCO. Gingerbread making is not just for Christmas time in Croatia, but is a strong tradition and skill. The most famous gingerbread design is one of a beautifully decorated heart, often present at weddings.
Gingerbread is a huge part of Croatian identity. The skill is passed from generation to generation. It used to only include men, but now men and women alike participate in this craft.
Animals in Croatia
Here are some fun facts about Croatia’s animals!
Are there sharks in Croatia?
Yes, there are over 40 species of sharks in the Adriatic Sea. However, it’s highly unlikely to encounter one while playing in the ocean as sightings and encounters are rare.
Popular Animals in Croatia
Croatia is home to many familiar mountain animals, like the bear, wolf, foxes, weasels, and wild cats.
National Animal of Croatia
The national animal of Croatia is the European Pine Marten. It may remind you of something similar to a fox. It has a big bushy tail, brown fur on its body, and light fur on its chest and head.
The Pine Marten is great at catching small rodents, as it is a cousin to the weasel. In Croatian, it is called a kuna zlatica.
Endangered Animals of Croatia
Some of the most endangered animals in Croatia include the griffon vulture, Mediterranean monk seal, and the Eurasian Otter.
The Griffon Vulture is a beautiful bird with a wingspan around 9 feet! They live in many countries that border the mediterranean. Despite having the vulture reputation of being a little gross, these vultures are actually pretty hygienic. They love to meet at watering hole to drink and bathe!
Eurasian Otters numbers are slowly starting to climb back. Factors that have played a role in their endangerment are hunting, pollution, and their short lifespan of 4 years.
There are only an estimated 600-700 Mediterranean Monk Seals left, with only 25 left living in Croatia. They are endangered due to hunting, fishing nets, and their homes being destroyed. In Croatia, they live on Šćedro and Brunsnik, an uninhabited island.
Holidays and Festivals in Croatia
Fun facts about Croatia for kids include the many fun festivities and celebrations throughout the country.
As most of the population of Croatia is Catholic, the major Christian holidays like Christmas, Easter are celebrated. Catholic holidays are a big deal as well, like Assumption, Epiphany, Corpus Christi, and others.
Lent is also widely celebrated in Croatia, which is the 40 days leading up to Easter that involved some sort of sacrifice for 40 days. Carnival takes place just before Lent begins and includes festivities, costumes, parades, music and celebrations. Many towns hold their own Carnival celebration.
One festival filled with strong Croatian pride is the Alka Festival. This 3 day festival celebrates the victory over Ottoman soldiers at the Battle of Sinj. Back in 1715, this battle brought 60,000 soldiers against only 700 Croats, leaving the Croats victorious.
The Alka Festival is filled with jousting and horseman galloping to lance a hanging ring.
Watch some highlights of the Alka in this 3 minute video.
The Days of Diocletian is a summer-long festival that celebrates when the Roman emperor came to the city of Split in the year 300 AD. The town is filled with a huge parade celebrating the arrival of Emperor Diocletian, who someone plays and ride thru town.
In addition to these celebrations are more typical festivals. Summers are filled with art festivals, summer festivals of theater and dance, concerts, and more.
One of the more unique festivals in Croatia takes place in Istria, where they hold an annual Asparagus festival. The event begins in Spring and runs through the fall, providing gourmet experiences for festival-goers. The first day is all about wild asparagus dishes.
Fall brings more food festivals featuring truffles, chestnuts, and wine. One such is the Good Food Festival each October in Dubrovnik.
Sports and Games in Croatia
Croatia has some fun, unique games you probably haven’t heard of!
For one is balote, a type of bowling game first created in Dalmatia.
Alka is another sport, mentioned in the festivals above. People ride on a horse and gallop to shoot a spear through a hanging ring.
The most popular sport in Croatia is football (soccer). In fact, Croatia is very competitive, despite competing against better developed and richer countries. They came in 2nd during the FIFA world cup in 2018.
Besides football, Croatia also really enjoys basketball, water polo, and tennis.
Foods of Croatia
Fun facts about Croatia and its food: there are so many different cuisines that Croatia enjoys in the various regions. Regions to the north favor meat-and-potatoes cuisine, while the coastal areas enjoy more mediterranean dishes.
Many meals are often cooked along with strukli, a baked cheese dumpling, or served with potato soup. Gulas, (goulash) is also a popular food in Croatia. Palaćinka is a popular pancake (more like a crepe) filled with jam and chocolate.
Croats love desserts as much as the next person. Popular desserts include orahnjača (a walnut, dough roll) and kremsnita (custard cream cake).
We tried many of these Croatian dishes.
Orahnjaca was delicious. It’s basically a really thin, rolled out pastry that you then roll up with filling and walnuts. We used this recipe.
Cheese Strukli was a favorite as well. We used this recipe.
Struckli is kind of like a cheese lasagna but with bread instead of noodles. It’s a lot of cheeses, a little egg, and rolled up in a bread-like recipe.
Hands on Activities About Croatia
For some Croatia inspired activities, check out a few simple things below that we did to learn about Croatia with the kids!
Hold an art festival
We have done a lot of painting over the years (mainly during 2020 when we were home a lot). So I dug out all of our artwork and hung it on a wall to create an Art Gallery.
Since art is such a big part and influence in Croatia, we decided to take a few moments and appreciate our own art as well.
If you don’t have saved art, just have the kids start painting, drawing, sketching, or whatever else a week or two before. Have each child (and yourself!) make some artwork a few times over the week and hang it up for them to enjoy!
If you need ideas, check out YouTube for tons of drawing or painting tutorials.
If you’d like to go all out, then bake up some gingerbread to make traditional houses or cut out hearts, which are very popular at Croatian weddings.
To simplify, we designed some cool heart printables and decorated them. Feel free to grab them below.
Fun Facts About Croatia for Kids
As you can see, it’s fun learning fun facts about Croatia. We love doing a little learning, and then some fun activities for Croatia and testing out some new foods.
From culture, food, animals, and to the arts, hopefully you have a better idea all about Croatia and it’s history and culture. We love learning about other countries in this fun way.
Lonely Planet – Croatia. Dragicevich, Peter; Ham, Anthony; and Lee, Jessica. Lonely Planet, April 2019
Cultures of the World: Croatia; Cavendish Square, New York; 2020
Websites: linked within the text
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