No longer is Croatia’s capital just a transit point for trips to the Adriatic Sea. With boisterous nightlife, a growing number of museums and art galleries and a sprinkling of Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings, this city of one million has a lot to offer. Reminiscent of other Central European capitals but with only half of the fuss, Zagreb’s old town is filled with cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. A disarmingly easy city to navigate, the Lower Town a few kilometres away will make you feel like you’ve been hurtled towards the future there’re so many bars and boutiques. To top it all off, the recently opened Museum of Contemporary Art is just a sign of what’s to come for this exciting travel destination.
Opened in 2009 at a cost of over 60 million Euros, Zagreb’s cultural flagship, the Museum of Contemporary Art tops the list of things to do in Zagreb. Lauba House and The Mimira are two more places to explore Croatian culture while Upper Town is the place to while away the day in a café and observe the city’s Habsburg-era architecture. There you’ll find Governor Jecacic Square and the horseback statue of Croatia’s national hero. Shadowing the city is the pretty Mount Medvednica, a short twenty minutes from the centre of town and a popular location for hiking or skiing depending on the season.
There’s definitely no shortage of exciting and delicious places to eat in Zagreb. The pedestrianised area of town around Bogoviceva and Preradovicev are particularly buzzing while for an after-hours drink head to Tkalciceva and take your pick from the countless number of open-air bars and restaurants. Grilled meat and fish are popular staples of the Zagrebian diet and Trilogija and Konoba Didov San are two good restaurant options. Those looking for a healthier alternative should try the popular vegetarian restaurant Elixir. Cafes can be found all over central Zagreb and are good place to sample strukli (a mix between Austrian strudel and Turkish borek).
Where to Stay
Choices of where to stay in Zagreb are surprisingly broad, especially considering the relatively small size of the city. Zagreb is particularly well served with mid to high-end hotels, art nouveau The Regent Esplanade being the pick of the luxury options. Arcotel Allegra’s offerings are a little more modern, while The Hotel Central is another good option and lives up to its name with a prime location and affordable rooms. Just remember to keep an eye on the exchange rate to get the best value when booking a room because many of the city’s hotels now quote room rates in Euros, rather than local currency, the kuna.
While mall culture is growing in Zagreb, the best places to fill your suitcase can still be found by wandering the streets and trawling the historic markets. Dolac and Hrelic are Zagreb’s two leading markets and are great places to mingle with the local folk that come from surrounding villages to buy and sell. To shop modern Zagreb, your first stop should be to explore the alleyways, streets and courtyards off Gunduliceva and Frankopanska Streets. There you’ll find many leading international labels while those after something a little more unique should seek out Prostor, an innovative independent store stocking fashion and artworks from local and up-and-coming designers.
Zagreb like a Local
Cafe culture is rampant in Zagreb and the Saturday morning tradition of ‘spica’ is the epitome of the city’s coffee drinking tradition. Translated, the world ‘spica’ literally means ‘the point of something sharp’ and to join in on this weekly tradition you’ll need to be at Zagreb’s city centre on a Saturday between 11am-2pm. Though nominally about drinking coffee and enjoying the morning off from work, this Saturday ritual is just as much about seeing and being seen and you’ll notice locals put much pride into their appearance for this fascinating weekly event.