This gluten-free Croatia travel guide will help you plan a safe adventure to Croatia with celiac disease!
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Croatia’s idyllic seaside towns, towering waterfalls, and rich history are only some of the reasons I fell in love with this beautiful country. The other reason is the strong presence of gluten-free products in every town! While celiac disease is not as prominent here as it is in neighboring Italy, Croatia is well aware of the condition. There are ample resources and products available for those who follow a gluten-free diet, and a growing number of gluten-free options in restaurants.
Dylan and I spent three weeks in Croatia in April/May of 2019 as part a six-month round the world trip. In this guide I'm walking you through my top tips for visiting Croatia with celiac!
NOTE & DISCLAIMER
Everyone’s experience with celiac disease is different. Dedicated gluten-free facilities are usually the safest places to go, and you’ll some of those listed here. For non-dedicated facilities and restaurants, I only recommend places I have visited or where clear protocols are in place for celiac diners. My experience is not your experience. This is a guide – a list of suggestions to point you in the right direction. Restaurants can change. Use your own judgment and only eat where you feel safe doing so.
This guide was originally published in Gluten-Free Living Magazine in 2019. It has been updated here for your reference.
Gluten-Free Croatia Travel Guide
- Gluten-Free Croatia Travel Guide
- About Celiac Disease in Croatia
- Croatian Food & Diet
- Staying Somewhere With A Kitchen
- Gluten-Free Groceries "Bez Glutena"
- How To Find Safe Restaurants in Croatia
- Gluten-Free Croatian Dining Card "Bez Glutena"
- Restaurants With Gluten-Free Food in Croatia
- Final Thoughts on Croatia
- Looking for more gluten-free travel posts?
About Celiac Disease in Croatia
Celiac disease is common in Croatia. The Croatian Society for Coeliac Disease has a letter to visitors on their website, informing gluten-free eaters about what to expect when visiting Croatia. Croatian citizens are able to obtain gluten-free flour through their health insurance for free, so many choose to bake their own breads and pastas at home. The gluten-free items you’ll find at the grocery stores and pharmacies are largely imported from other countries.
Croatian Food & Diet
Croatian cuisine has been influenced by the countries surrounding it, and by their proximity to the sea. Of course, Croatian food will vary based on the region you are visiting. Some regions have a larger Hungarian or Turkish influence, where others are influenced by Roman and Greek cuisine. Some common dishes include fish and seafood, along with stews, soups, pastas, and risotto.
Staying Somewhere With A Kitchen
Whenever I travel, and especially during our six month trip around the globe, we always tried to have a place with a kitchen for our accommodation. This helps reduce my risk of gluten exposure by dining out in restaurants for eveyr meal, saves us money, and allows me to balance all the social and mental exhaustion by preparing some easy meals in our accommodation.
This was also really helpful for when we first arrived in Croatia on a Monday morning after a 24+ hour travel day. Dylan and I immediately passed out and slept the entire day. When we finally woke up the next morning, we were absolutely ravenous, and only had to walk a few blocks to the supermarket for food.
I highly recommend booking a place with a kitchen when traveling with celiac disease to keep your stress levels down, promote balance for your travel experience, and allow you to have a safe option in case a restaurant doesn't work out.
You can do this by booking an Airbnb (make sure it's owned by a local, so you are supporting the local community and economy), using Booking.com to find a small apartment, or just reserve a hotel room with a kitchenette, microwave, or refrigerator. When deciding on a location, try to book something close to a market or grocery store, if possible. If it's within walking distance, even better!
During our time in Croatia, Dylan and I stayed in a small apartment in Dubrovnik with a kitchen, a hostel in Split, a small apartment in Zadar, a B&B in Plitvice, and another hostel in Zagreb. Each of these accommodations had a kitchen available, except the B&B, which prepared all gluten-free food for me anyway (more on that below!)
Gluten-Free Groceries "Bez Glutena"
Most grocery stores in Croatia will have a "Free From' or "Bez Glutena" section with gluten-free products. I had zero issues finding gluten-free products in all four cities we visited in Croatia (Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Zagreb). There was always a ton of variety, especially in the Schar products! I would stop here for snacks during our days of exploring,
Here are some of the grocery store chains in Croatia where I found gluten-free food:
Some of the best gluten-free products I encountered in Croatia were GoFree gluten-free corn flakes, Stark Lisac hard cider, and Moje Malo Zlato gluten-free bread! This bakery is one of the few gluten-free products actually produced in Croatia. They make gluten-free and lactose-free bread which can be found in grocery stores all over the country.
Dylan and I even were able to bring in gluten-free snacks to a movie theatre in Split. I'm a big Marvel fan, and when Avengers Endgame came out, I had to see it! So we went to watch it at a small theater that allowed you to bring in outside food (even drinks!) We went to the local Spar market and grabbed a few things before the movie. It was in English, with Croatian subtitles, and there were no previews. It was awesome!
You’ll also find Schar to be one of the most popular imported products for gluten-free snacks. Having plenty of snacks on hand will make traveling through Croatia a more pleasant experience for any gluten-free visitors.
How To Find Safe Restaurants in Croatia
Locating gluten-free food can be tough when you're traveling - especially abroad. And while it's critical to speak to the restaurant directly to make sure their protocols work for you, sometimes you just want to get an idea of what's available. One of the best ways to do that while traveling is by doing your research first, on an app/website like FindMeGlutenFree.
FindMeGlutenFree can help you get an idea of what gluten-free restaurants, bakeries, and safe menus are available in Croatia. Yes - this app is used around the globe! And with a Premium Subscription, you can filter by most celiac friendly, see what's open now (so you don't drive all the way to a bakery for breakfast and discover it's closed), and what's gluten-free in the direction you're headed. It's like Google Maps, but a gluten-free version. And no Ads!
I've been a FMGF user for over a decade, but I think their Premium version is much more effective. Take $5 off a Premium Subscription with the code THENOMADICFITZ to make your trip to Croatia less stressful.
Gluten-Free Croatian Dining Card "Bez Glutena"
The words you will want to look for on gluten-free products, menus, and groceries is "Bez Glutena" which means "Gluten-Free". As a former Spanish teacher, I can tell you that speaking with proper colloquialisms, grammar, and vocabulary makes a big difference in comprehension. A restaurant card properly translated into the local language allows your host, server, or chef to know what foods you can and cannot eat, and how the preparation of your food is critical to your health and safety. Google Translate is great for identifying individual words (and you can download the app to use when reading menus or products), but it is not ideal for explaining your needs in restaurants.
This succinct and to-the-point Croatian restaurant card from Equal Eats has been carefully written and translated by a local to be sure you are completely understood when eating in restaurants, cafes, or shops in Croatia.
In general, in most touristy areas, people do speak English. But it always helps to try and speak the language of where you are visiting. This is their home, not yours.
Restaurants With Gluten-Free Food in Croatia
I haven't been everywhere in Croatia (far from it!) but I did visit four popular cities as well as two national parks during our 3 weeks here. I did not have any challenges with Croatia because I focused a lot on balancing restaurants with cooking for myself and making easy meals like a salad, sandwich, or picnic for days we were hiking, sightseeing, or exploring.
Balance is my key to sustainable gluten-free travel, so you don't get burnt out nor risk additional gluten exposure. It's the basis of my strategy that I teach in my Gluten-Free Travel Course. Learn more about it here!
Due to the pandemic, there's a lack of updated restaurant reviews on Find Me Gluten Free for Dubrovnik. This is why I highly suggest reserving staying somewhere with a kitchen, so you can buy groceries and make your own easy meals.
Additionally, Dubrovnik is expensive and a popular tourist spot. By staying outside the walled portion of the city, and by preparing easy meals in our apartment rental, we were able to save a lot of money and avoid gluten exposures as we adjusted to Croatia.
To my knowledge, there are no dedicated gluten-free facilities in Dubrovnik. Since my visit to Croatia was 3 years ago, I cannot speak to the current gluten-free safety procedures of the restaurants we visited as they may be outdated.
The one restaurant we ate where they had gluten-free options was Mex Cantina, located within the walled downtown of Dubrovnik, pictured above. This was in the touristy part of Dubrovnik, and was a Mexican restaurant that had safe nachos. But it was pricey! I'm sure there are others too, but it will be up to you to do the research before visiting and make a list to have on your phone.
Another city along the coast of the Adriatic is Split. Influenced by Roman architecture, this town was so much fun to visit and we loved our time here. We stayed in a hostel here to have a place to cook easy meals, and did lots of picnic lunches.
To my knowledge, there is 1 dedicated gluten-free restaurant in Split - called SALT Gluten-Free House with sandwiches and pizzas. Since my visit to Croatia was 3 years ago, I cannot speak to the current gluten-free safety procedures of the restaurants we visited as they may be outdated. We ate at Toto's Burger Bar, which had gluten-free burgers and buns, plus Don Dino for gelato in gluten-free cones, but they've closed. *Sigh*. Check out my friend Jazzie of the Israel Bites on TikTok who has some Split recommendations!
In Zadar, we stayed in a small apartment rental in the maze of the streets of Zadar. This was another beautiful coastal city with lots to explore along the water.
To my knowledge, there are 2 dedicated gluten-free facilities in Zadar! I did not visit these places during my time here. According to FMGF, The Garden Lounge and Food and Wine Bar Pomalo are reported to be dedicated gluten-free. Make sure to double check with them directly!
Since my visit to Croatia was 3 years ago, I cannot speak to the current gluten-free safety procedures of the restaurants we visited as they may be outdated. But we visisted 2Ribara restaurant for dinner one night, which had excellent choices, gluten-free options listed clearly on the menu, and scrumptious food. The vegetable risotto medley was perfect and gluten-free. We also ate at Protto Food & More, where I had a burger without a bun with some potatoes and veggies. No problems at either restaurant.
Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, speaks strongly to its history as part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. And they have multiple dedicated gluten-free places! We stayed at a hostel here in Zagreb, doing a mixture of cooking for ourselves and dining out, plus a few late night picnics. (And hey, when a bottle of wine is cheaper than a bottle of water, you sometimes gotta go for it!
Make sure to visit Vis a Vis Vincek, a 100% gluten-free facility with cakes that will knock your socks off! Try the chocolate or carrot cake, and enjoy a slice with a cup of tea or coffee. Yum! There are four other gluten-free facilities listed on FMGF, including Kata brunch bar, Bez Glutena (literally means Gluten-Free in Croatian, this is a good sign!), Melt - Gelato & Brunch Bar, and Lipa Kavarna. Amazing! Be sure to double check with these places, but that's so much more than when I was there!
Since my visit to Croatia was 3 years ago, I cannot speak to the current gluten-free safety procedures of the restaurants we visited as they may be outdated. We also visited Submarine Burger for a lettuce wrapped burger and fries from a dedicated fryer. Again, double check as this may have changed!
Shoutout: B&B Millenium House in Plitvice Jezerce
Even in smaller, family run establishments, I was well taken care of. For my birthday, Dylan and I visited B&B Millenium House, just outside Plitvice Lakes. After spending the entire day wandering the waterfalls and boardwalks of this gorgeous national park, we had a delicious birthday dinner! The host, Dragon, went out of his way to make sure everything was safe for me to eat. He specifically ordered gluten-free bread, cereal, and pasta to include in their daily breakfast and dinner menus, and was diligent about preparation in his kitchen!
Upon learning it was my birthday, the host even tried to contact a baker to inquire about a gluten-free cake! The kindness and generosity of B&B Millenium House, as well as the careful attention to my dietary restrictions went above and beyond anything I anticipated. Rather than a cake, the staff sang me “happy birthday” with a plate of fruit, and presented me with a bottle of local white wine after a gluten-free dinner. I've never had a better birthday!
Final Thoughts on Croatia
Croatia has become one of the most visited places in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. For those traveling with a gluten-free diet, it can be one of your next destinations too! You can explore the beauty of Croatia with the knowledge that eating gluten-free won’t be an impossible task. There’s a wide range of gluten-free choices calling your name in this wonderful place!
Looking for more gluten-free travel posts?
Have you been to Croatia?
How was your experience eating gluten-free?
Let me know in the comments where I should visit next time I'm there!