6 insanely cute towns in Istria you should visit

Small towns in Istria

The small quaint towns in Istria are one of the things I love most about Croatia (aside from the amazing food of course).

Some of them are fortified and have a well-preserved medieval style.

Others are colourful or just plain charming. If you’re going to Istria and looking for off the path places, this is where to go. 

Ready to be swept away?

Ok, here goes:

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How to get around in Istria

The best way to get around Istria is by car. Busses can take you between the major cities, but you’ll need a car to explore the hilltop towns and beaches.

You’ll most likely fly into Zagreb or Pula, so you should pick up your car at the airport. It’s important that you book the car before your trip to make sure there’s one available.

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Best towns in Istria

1. Vrsar

The first town in Istria I want to introduce you to is the super romantic Vrsar. Aside from having a name I dare not pronounce, it was described as “a place of good wine and beautiful women” by the legendary Casanova.

This was my second visit to Vrsar and I keep discovering new beautiful spots around town.

Vrsar has so many view points, charming houses with small benches in front, and narrow alleys with old houses, chairs and seats.

Also, it has a beautiful marina with the best seafood restaurant (Trost) I’ve visited thus far.

Small towns in Istria
Small towns in Istria
The marina

2. Vodnjan

Another Croatian town I like is Vodnjan. It’s not as colorful as many other towns in Istria, but it has plenty of charm. The streets are smooth and shiny, and the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture brings something extra to the table.

If you’re visiting, make sure to pay a visit to the mummies in the St. Blaise church basement.

Find the best sights in Istria here: 12 highlights of Istria

Small towns in Istria
Small towns in Istria

3. Zminj

The village of Zminj is very small, but there are a few interesting things to see around the area. I tried cheese tasting and was introduced to truffle cheese with great delight.

And just outside Zminj there is a cave with an impressive inside view. It takes about 20 minutes to walk around it and it’s a fun experience.

* Photography tip: The cave is dimly lit so bring a tripod to get good, clear photos.

Small towns in Istria
Traditional stone cottage (kazun)
Small towns in Istria
Festinsko kraljevstvo (Kingdom of Festini)

4. Groznjan

When you visit Istria, make sure to include Grožnjan. This charming, little Medieval town is a former 14th century Venetian fortress turned into the most important arts and music centre in Istria. 

Make sure to see the Renaissance loggia from 1587 ↓

Read next: Grožnjan Croatia: How to visit the town of music and artists

Groznan Istria hilltop towns

5. Svetvinčenat 

Panoramic views, a relaxed vibe and a medieval Morosini-Grimani Castle await you in Svetvinčenat. Don’t miss the Renaissance square and the frescoes in St Vincent church.

Svetvinčenat is definitely worth a visit.

Svetvincenat
Photo by Canva

6. Bale

I’m saving the best for last!

This year I was introduced to a few new towns in Istria – Bale was one of them and I instantly liked it.

Bale is built on a hilltop and has narrow streets and a charming bell tower. It’s one of those places you just love, but can’t really put your finger on why.

So far Bale is my favourite discovery this year and I have a feeling I’ll be back for more.

Looking for more charming Croatian towns? Find the best Istria hilltop towns here.

Small towns in Istria

Many thanks to Visit Istria for hosting me in Croatia. Whenever I travel, there will always be full disclosure about whether my stay was hosted by a tourism board. And even if I’m on a press trip, my view will never be swayed one way or the other.

Istria towns FAQ

What is the nicest area of Istria?

My favourite place is Istria is Rovinj, a picturesque coastal town with a lively harbor, colourful buildings, and a well-preserved old town.

I also recommend Motovun, which is a charming hilltop town.


What is the main city in Istria?

The largest city in Istria is Pula.


What are the mountain towns in Istria?

The best mountain towns in Istria are Motovun, Opalj, Hum, Roc and Groznjan. Find the most beautiful hilltop towns here.


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20 Comments

  1. Love those narrow cubblestone streets! Usually pictures can’t really give back that exact same atmosphere of the real place, but these pics about the streets are very close – at least that’s our feeling while watching them.

  2. The names of some of the towns would really be difficult to pronounce by a non native. 🙂

    but by the way, how is their markets and shopping? is it expensive as compared to near by towns or countries? I hear things are cheaper on eastern European border towns compared to western European border towns 🙂

    1. Yes, definitely go! I’m falling more and more in love with Croatia every time I go. It’s a really beautiful country and still has that unique Balkan vibe.

  3. Beautifull pictures you made! Really love it. Last summer i was in croatia and fell in love with the town Rovinj. Have you been there? It s also at the sea and has the most beautifull cafe s and restaurants on the cliffs who are so romantic at night with all the cute lights.

    1. Thanks a lot, Amalia. I went to Rovinj and adored it. In fact it’s my favorite town in Istria and I also wrote a post about it. It’s very lovely.

  4. Hi Miriam, your website is very informational! It is very hard to find stuff in Croatia. We just went to some of your recommended cities in Istria. They were super cute! I have one question. Where did you eat oysters in Lim Fjord? I couldn’t find restaurants around Lim Fjord in google map. Thank you!

    1. Hi Satoko,
      I’m glad you found my article useful! I had oysters at an oyster farm at Lim Fjord, which was more or less a house boat. I went there with the local tourism board and I don’t think it’s open to the public. However, I’ve heard that Restaurant Viking Lim Fjord is very good for seafood and oysters and it’s located right by the water. I haven’t been there myself yet, but it receives great reviews!

  5. Groznjan, Labin and Motovun are the most beautiful hilltop towns in Istria and the most well known. Did you make it to them?

  6. Thankyou for your article. Looking for some inspiration as we have been to a lot of places in Istria and are based near Pazin. May need to give Vrsar a go today. Am suprised you have not listed Groznjan! Such a pretty little town high up on a hilltop. With its arty vibe I prefer it to Motovun in some ways.. They also have an antique market every so often. If you are in a hire car. Also check out Orpatilj and the Observatory in Visnjan is def worth a visit (on thurs evenings it is open to public-weather permitted) and close to that is a Lavender farm which is very pretty!. If you like beaches. Check out Kamenjak and Rabac!

    1. I hear you – Groznan is at the top of my list for my next visit! I’ve written about Kamenjak and Rabac in other blog posts – and you’re right, they’re gorgeous! Had the best meal ever in Orpatilj.

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