The Dawn of Tourism in Croatia: Photos from the Adriatic

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Skyscraper city

There are treasure troves of vintage photographs to be found online, depicting towns and villages on the Croatian coast in a time when life used to be a bit more laid-back. I set out to select a couple of photos, wishing to share some images of coveted tourist destinations before the tourists came along, but as it turns out, there aren’t many.

The Austro-Hungarians very well knew how to benefit from the natural resources they had at hand, and the tourism industry had already been on the rise in some parts before the first cameras found their way to our shores. Of course, this was not a general rule and some destinations developed quicker than the others owing to various circumstances: Opatija has seen the first overnight stays as early as 1844 and all further urban planning was devised to turn the place into a resort town. Multiple hotels used to operate in port cities like Rijeka and Split at the turn of the century, followed by a growing number of restaurants and cafés.

Instead of Croatia before tourism, we’ll have to settle for Croatia at the dawn of tourism. Following images show scenes from everyday life on the Adriatic, ranging from popular resorts to quiet island villages.

Here’s a boat taking passengers from Opatija to Rijeka around 1910:


Café Quarnero in Opatija:


The port in Rijeka with the Grand Hotel Europe in the background, 1900:


Taverns, always a favourite destination of locals and tourist alike – here’s one on Rab Island with ladies and gents enjoying some wine:


Archduke Charles Stephen of Austria with his family and the crew on yacht Ossero, Mali Lošinj, 1898:


Sunbathing at Mali Lošinj in 1914:


Local ladies obviously gossiping in Šibenik:


The port in Split:


And finally, a rare sight – streets and walls of Dubrovnik almost completely empty, around 1950:



Image source: Skyscraper city


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