Just because you’re visiting doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a local in Slovenia and Croatia. Consider this your cheat sheet to fitting in on arrival, your inside scoop on the lifestyle and culture that makes being in these parts so dynamic.
The Most Important Tradition
First things first: coffee.
Café culture is as vital to life in both countries as the air we breathe. It’s a ritual, it’s where stories are shared, where deals get done and where friends catch up, in other words, coffee is where everything happens.
“Wanna grab a coffee?” is more than just an invitation to a sunny patio or nostalgic, old-world café for some java, even non-coffee-drinkers ask it. Fair warning, a coffee here is known to last a couple of hours.
Sporting Heroes That Inspire the World
In Croatia, the national football team is larger than life, finishing 2nd and 3rd in the last two World Cups. On the hardcourt, Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, Dino Rađa and the formidable Croatia squad faced the Dream Team in the ’92 Olympic finale.
Nowadays, one of the best basketball players in the world hails from Slovenia: Luka Dončić. As you’d expect from a country as stunningly green, rugged and geographically diverse as Slovenia, many of their champs are made in the mountains. From the G.O.A.T of women’s climbing, Janja Garnbret to two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar.
If you’re headed to the sun-soaked Dalmatian coast in summer, be ready to embrace the fjaka mindset. It may look like laziness but in reality, it’s an art form shaped by the sun, sea and stifling afternoon heat. Fjaka takes a moment to understand but a lifetime to master.
With a relaxed lifestyle, comes a relaxed eating schedule. You can skip breakfast, for instance, and enjoy the mid-morning meal, known as marenda along the coast or gablec in central Croatia. Restaurants and taverns (call them “konobas” if you want to fit in) offer a special menu of popular local dishes only served at that time and at more affordable prices.
Cook Like a Local
Of course, too many meals out might have you craving a home-cooked meal, fortunately, living like a local means shopping and cooking like one too and there’s nothing quite like the splendor of strolling through Croatia and Slovenia’s markets.
Full of locally grown, seasonal produce and wonderful, fresh scents, these markets are where culinary traditions were built. The hub of towns big and small, the major ones to check out are Dolac in Zagreb, Pazar in Split and Central Market in Ljubljana.
Know Your History
That last one, Central Market, is also known as Plečnik’s Covered Market. Named after Jože Plečnik, a critical person for a newly minted local like you to know since his visionary genius birthed today’s grand Slovenian capital. His human-centered urban design in Ljubljana is so important, it’s UNESCO listed.
Living amid history and UNESCO World Heritage Sites is just part of life in these parts. Whether it’s Dubrovnik’s magnificent Old Town, Trogir’s Romanesque-Gothic Old Town or Slovenia’s awe-inspiring Škocjan Caves, you’re never too far from a singular, world-defining experience.
The thing about having all that history though is that it looks pretty good on camera, which is why so many films, TV shows and ads are filmed in Slovenia and Croatia, most famously Croatia’s “starring” role in Game of Thrones.
And there you have, your guide to living like a local! Remember, never say no to coffee because as you now know, it can lead you to some magical places.