Even though it’s the capital, it’s easy to be tempted to pass up Zagreb for more well known places like Dubrovnik (thanks Game of Thrones). But it’s for this very reason that you should go. Zagreb has all of the charm and history of a major European city but hasn’t been bloated by tourism and the price hikes that go with it. Instead, you can enjoy your $2 wine at an outdoor cafe and pretend you’re a local. 😀
Zagreb is also a lot cleaner than a lot of cities we’ve seen in Europe.
It has so much liveliness, history, and culture wrapped up in an easy to navigate, compact town center.
No Euro-town is complete without a grand cathedral. And Zagreb Cathedral does not disappoint! I love the way buildings in Europe (and elsewhere?) cover their construction work with scrims to hide the scaffolding. Check out the upper right side of the cathedral. Guess she’s getting a bit of a makeover. 🙂
Despite a lot happening in the city center, there are a lot of wide open spaces. This is the square just in front of the cathedral. I’m sure it gets packed on big Catholic holidays like Christmas and Easter. We heard from many folks that Zagreb’s Christmas market is second to none! It was voted Best Christmas Market three years in a row by European Best Destinations. So this means I will definitely be back.
There are so many parks! Some are big, some are small. All are filled with greenery and character and this one even had a cool graffiti painting of what I think is Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels.
You can’t miss the big market in the town center. Dolac Market is huge and is open every day. A farmer’s market that is open daily is my dream come true. It was filled with tons of local, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as local olive oil, cheese and honey. (Lots of the bees came along with the honey it seems. Brian had to come to terms with his bee phobia very quickly.) There’s an indoor section underneath the market with butchers shops and stands selling homemade sauerkraut.
The other must see Church is St. Mark’s which is also Roman Catholic. It’s unusual because of the unique colored tile roof – very different from most cathedrals! The picture on the left is the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia, and the one on the right is the emblem of Zagreb.
St. Mark’s is supposed to be open only on Sunday for Mass but I got lucky and was able to see the inside and snap a photo on a weekday. That was before I realized it was open because there was a wedding rehearsal happening. Whoops! Still glad I got to see it though. 🙂
We spent some time in the Museum of Illusions which was quirky and fun and cost about $6.
Luckily there is better food to eat in Zagreb than Brian’s head on a platter!
Just walking around the city was awesome. It’s a little hilly at times and you can choose to walk the hill slope or go up staircases. Either way, it means you get some pretty amazing views over the rooftops.
Did I mention Zagrebians know how to drink? Forget 40 ounces to freedom – how about 2 liters to blacking out?
Of course, the beautiful parks and fountains provide a great back drop to sit for a moment and contemplate life. (Or at least appear to be, for posterity.)
Our hotel was right outside Ban Jelačić Square which is a main area in the town. That’s him behind me! There was a cool organic/vegan outdoor market set up in the square when we arrived (remnants of the stands are to the right) and I bought that t-shirt I’m wearing from an animal rights group. The lady who sold it to me translated it as saying something like “those who bark are good.” Agreed.
This was our first stop on the Croatia tour and I’ll admit, we came partly just for the cheap airline ticket. But we were pleasantly surprised at the magical carpet ride we found ourselves on!