Zagreb is a pocket- sized metropolis, culturally close to central European capitals but with more than a dash of Mediterranean atmosphere. Zagreb is the political, commercial, cultural and academic centre of the country. It’s home to almost a quarter of the country’s population (over one million).
Sightseeing is easy and the most important cultural and historical monuments are within walking distance (Medieval parts- Kaptol and Gradec, as well as the Lower Town). There are a few good walking tours worth considering (see Zagreb Tourist Board website- www.zagreb-touristinfo.hr – listings: City tours).
If you pick one or two museums to visit: Zagreb City Museum (www.mgz.hr) and Croatian Museum of Naïve Art (www.hmnu.org) are well worth the time and money. Mirogoj cemetery might sound morbid to some but, besides being one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe, it is a cultural and architectural monument that never disappoints (located 20min from the city centre by public transport).
Best Walk in Zagreb
It’s easy to walk the “must-see-route”: from the main square (Trg bana Jelacica) head up Bakaceva Street to Kaptol for a visit of the Cathedral (entrance is free); cross to the Dolac market (largest open food market in the city); head down Skalinska to Tkalciceva Street (pedestrian and bar zone, good place for a break); up Radiceva Street to Gradec where you will find St. Mark’s church, Parliament, Lotrscak (Tower), museums, etc. ; as well as the best view over Lower Town.
Wherever you decide to go you can be fairly sure you’re safe. Zagreb is a city where its inhabitants walk, ride a bike or use public transport day and night. As long as you use common sense while being here your visit will most probably be enjoyable and crime free.
What do you like best about your city?
Zagreb is a clean, compact city with many attractions located in the centre and within walking distance of the main city square. Being neither as popular (or crowded) as the Dalmatian coast nor as other Central European capitals you will never feel stuck- to- the- tourist- route or as if you are going from tourist trap to tourist trap.
There are no bars, restaurants, festivals or areas catering solely for the tourists. So you will always be surrounded by locals. And is there no better way to get to know the city, country, tradition, culture and lifestyle than hanging around with its citizens?
What makes meeting the locals makes easier than in some other destinations- younger generations in Zagreb and Croatia are fairly good at foreign languages (especially English). Also, they are known to be friendly and helpful towards visitors.
Best Restaurants in Zagreb
The cuisine of Croatia is as varied as its landscape; although, we could put the country’s cuisine into two main categories: Continental (being more staple and consisting often of various meat dishes, veggies, potatoes) and Mediterranean (olive oil and seafood being the basis); there is certainly more than that to Croatian cooking (like famous Istrian truffles).
Zagreb offers Croatian specialties from the whole country. For local dishes try: Pubs- Mali Medo (Tkalciceva) or Medvedgrad (Ilica) for various grilled meats and stews that go well with beer of their own production (value for money).
At midday try Bistro Mandusevac (near Dolac market, next to Katedralis restaurant) and have “gablec” (daily menu) at a very reasonable price.
Those that are sweet- toothed- there are numerous pastry shops and bakeries. One of a kind is a place named Ivica i Marica (or Hansel& Gretel; Tkalciceva): offering a wide variety of tasty, “healthy” cakes made with fresh, free range, whole grain ingredients.
There are more and more music and film festivals in Zagreb each year. Majority of these happen from April to October as they are held outside. As of 2010 April ZG Jam is part of Jazz Appreciation Month with numerous concerts and events. These are organised by or in association with JAZZart (www.jazzart.hr). Stroosmartre- is a free “street” festival that’s on throughout the whole summer on Strossmayerovo setaliste (promenade); expect concerts, art exhibitions, free movies, wine tasting and more. Rokajfest- a 3 day open air rock festival (www.rokajfest.com).
Zagreb Summer Evenings- a series of concerts held in the Upper Town: good quality gypsy music, fado, flamenco, jazz…(www.kdz.hr). For movie buffs- some festivals worth checking out: Animafest (World festival of animated film), Zagreb Dox (International Documentary F.F) and Human Rights Film Festival. (Note: movies in cinemas and on festivals are V.O. with Croatian subtitles, only cartoons have dubbed version in addition to V.O.)
Best Nightlife in Zagreb
The nightlife is happening mostly in the city centre or around Jarun Lake. Bars in the centre of the city are open until 1 or 2 a.m.
Clubs are open until 4 or 5 a.m. depending on their licenses.
From spring to autumn, Zagreb enjoys a proper Mediterranean atmosphere when everyone sits or stands outside the bars drinking, chatting and watching people go by (yeah, people- watching is a serious occupation for some).
- Glitzy to Underground- if you know where to look there is something to suit every taste.
- Jazz/ blues- fever: Bacchus Jazz Bar (Trg Kralja Tomislava),
- The Jazz Club (Gunduliceva), Sax (Palmoticeva). Underground/studenty/ alternative: Kset (Unska 3),
- Mochvara a.k.a The Swamp (Trnjanski nasip), Jabuka (Jabukovac). Aquarius club (Jarun Lake) – atmosphere depends on what night/ concert is on so it’s always worth checking first.
Many clubs close in July and August and move down to the coast. Many but not all! So be here in the summer- there are things to do, places to see, people to meet.
Best Day Trip out of Zagreb
There are so many directions you can take: head north for some wine tasting in Zagorje region and castle exploring near Varazdin (Trakoscan castle is impressive). Climb Sljeme (Medvednica) mountain that outlines Zagreb city in the north (Veternica cave is an interesting place to see). You can go to a quaint little town called Samobor for some kremsnite (creamy vanilla cake) tasting.
Go to Plitvice Lakes National Park (remarkable protected area full of waterfalls). If you are up for a dip in the Adriatic sea- Istria is only three hours away. Many destinations (in Croatia, Slovenia and Austria) are easily accessible, as well as fairly close to Zagreb by train, bus or a car.
Something not many tourists would know about in your Zagreb
People-watching is especially “important” on Saturday mornings. After shopping for groceries on Dolac market stroll to Tkalciceva or Bogoviceva Street. You’ll become a part of Spica (read as “Shpitza”; roughly translated as The Peak) as Saturday morning/ noon coffees are known.
And as most Croatian famous-for being-famous people are there (followed by paparazzi of course) you never know if you’ll end up in some Gossip celebrity mag as part of the crowd. You just have to sit close enough. Good luck!