When Croatia crops up in conversation, the first place on everyone’s lips is Dubrovnik. But, did you know that the seaside town is not actually Croatia’s capital city? Yup, that title goes to the inland city of Zagreb.
A photographer’s paradise, the relaxed town is full of gothic architecture and bursts with colour at every street corner. Even if you’re only armed with an amateur eye, an iPhone and a snap-happy finger, head to Zagreb and watch your Instagram follower count soar.
Calories don’t count on holiday. Everyone knows that. So, sink your teeth into a kremsnita - a simple yet extraordinary custard cream slice. Available at most cafés, you can pop in and out of nearly every eatery along Tkalciceva Street, if you so wish. Gotta do some field research to find the best ones, right?
For all you lactose-lovers out there, the combo of sour cream and cottage cheese is a staple in Zagreb. On its own, in a basket, encased in dough (called Štrukli); there’s even a song about it in Croatia. Or, for something less creamy, cuspajz – a homemade meat and veg stew – will warm your cold, cheeseless heart. Hike up Mount Medvednica for cuspajz with a view, or head into the centre of town and order at Meštar or Tip-top.
Go on, treat yourself and rest your head at the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, sleeping beauty. With its 1920s art deco style, you’ll be transported to a life of luxury from the moment you step through the foyer doors. The building itself is pretty famous in Zagreb, and they’ve welcomed the likes of presidents, film stars and musicians… yet their restaurant food is still affordable for us mere mortals.
Alternatively, and a bit more purse-friendly, is InZagreb Apartments. With apartments all over the city, you’re sure to find an area to suit you. The lady who runs InZagreb offers up tourist tours too, which is perfect to really get a feel of the city.
From the heights of Zagreb 360 (a panoramic view of the city) to the relatively safer altitude of the botanical gardens, there is SO much to see and do in Zagreb all year round. Head to the city’s central square, Ban Jelacic Square for hustle and bustle, or to the popular Dolac Market for some bargains. If you’re casually walking around the city, you’ll notice the breath-taking street murals that inject spirit to any clinically grey walls or buildings. Perhaps search them out and learn about the artists who create them.
Another quirky destination is Grič Tunnel. Below the cannon in the Upper Town is a 350-metre-long tunnel which was created as an air-raid shelter during World War II. By the time it was finished, it wasn’t needed and the tunnel became a raving area with DJs in the 90s. It now holds fashion shows, exhibitions and will be holding Museum of the Senses pretty soon. Speaking of museums, for those of us totally cynical about love, visit the Museum of Broken Relationships, too. Yeah. LOLs.
If you can get a super quick and cheap flight right this minute, there’s a Zagreb Time Machine project going on this August, where themed evenings welcome locals to listen to music and dance for free! Or, if you love the French culture, head to the Strossmayer Promenade for a taste of ‘Strossmartre’ (like Montmartre - geddit?), which is about until mid-September.
Take some time out from the city’s vibrancy, and head to the Jarun Lake to reflect. The water is picturesque from behind the camera lens, but also really calming to observe with the naked eye, too.
Another location in the city with a soothing water feature is the King Tomislav Square. Grab a detox juice from Dr Nutrition Bar and head over. Super close to the train station, there is a monument dedicated to Croatia’s first king and the square is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
If you’re staying at the aforementioned Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, they have loads of well-being pamper treatments, and they are placed across the road from Zagreb’s first ever fitness park, if you fancy getting your sweat on.
A hidden gem is Alcatraz - the perfect post-dinner, pre-club spot, popular with tourists and locals alike. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in personality; quirky paintings and decor fill the venue and the music booms throughout.
If you’re after a glass (or four) of vino, Sherry’s Wine & Bites is the place to go. Serving around 250 wines from across the region, you can learn about the difference in tastes while snacking on Croatian tapas. The staff are really helpful and you’ll feel at home from the moment you step in.
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