Best of Zagreb
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, unlike many other metropolises across the EU, seems to be a magical combo of history and urban lifestyle.
You may head to see a Medieval castle and yet along your way you will witness creative graffiti or ultra-modern buildings. You will walk along a street that boasts with both historical sights and contemporary architecture. You will feel confused, but also intrigued.
At least that’s what Zagreb did to me.
First Impressions of Zagreb, Croatia
We arrived in Zagreb, Croatia in the middle of a Sunday. The streets weren’t too busy and there were barely any people outside. After we checked into our Airbnb accommodation and decided to take a stroll. Our accommodation was around a 10 minutia-walk from the city center, and we literally saw no people until we reached the popular tourist spots.
I must say, that was weird for us and even a bit creepy as we were walking along empty streets. At that point, the city seemed deserted and somehow basic. I was disappointed as all we could see were random buildings; some of them seemed old and some were new. Anyway, nothing to get excited about.
All this changed once we reached the city center and all the marvelous landmarks Zagreb boasts with. It was like entering another dimension, with people (mostly tourists) everywhere. There were restaurants full of happy customers and even random bands performing various acts at the square.
Basic Travel Tips and Comments on:
The place in general
Generally speaking, Zagreb Croatia is a nice city. There are many places to go out at, parks to relax at and museums to visit. The streets seemed clean and the atmosphere was nice. To me personally, the place lacked something to make me excited to be there; however, I believe that most travelers will enjoy it;
Luckily for us, our host offered free parking and registered our car, so we could park anywhere in Zagreb except for the few central parking lots. However, here you can find more info regarding parking in the city. For example, Zone I is 12 HRK per hour, while Zones II are 5 HRK per hour. Certain zones come with restrictions like 2 hours maximum allowed parking time;
When the Zagreb weather is nice, there are lots of things to do for nature lovers. Those that want to relax in nature can visit the Zrinjevac Park or the Maksimir Park. Plus, I enjoyed my visit to the Park Bundek, where you can even take a dip in the Lake Bundek. I didn’t cause the water was too warm during the hot summer day, but there were people and dogs enjoying a swim;
Finding any kind of shop (open one) outside the central area was tricky, especially on weekends and at night. However, the central area of Zagreb was filled with grocery shops, souvenir shops, clothing shops etc. So, I advise you to explore the area where you’re accommodated and get information regarding shops and their working hours;
I believe that everyone can find something to like when it comes to food and beverages in Zagreb. The country’s cuisine is rich and tasty, with lots of meat specialties. There were numerous vegan and vegetarian shops and options as well. Restaurants – national, international and fast-food chains – are easily found i.e. no need to worry about this. Several traditional dishes to try would be Cottage cheese and sour cream, Shtruklji, Zagreb steak, roast turkey with flatbread and walnut rolls;
Even though part of the European Union, Croatia still uses their national currency the Croatian Kuna – HRK. According to Google, 1 USD is 6.53 HRK, 1 EUR is 7.43 HRK and 1 GBP is 8.38 HRK. There are lots of exchange offices in the central area, just pay attention to the exchange rate as some of them may rip you off;
Unlike its neighbor Slovenia, Croatia has pay-tolls rather than vignette. So, getting to Zagreb by car will probably include certain toll fees you will have to pay. You can use this helpful site to calculate the total fee cost for driving across Croatia by entering your starting and ending point.
Things to see:
Amazing Neo Gothic cathedral, standing tall in the old town of the city;
St. Mark’s Church
The church of St. Mark is an old medieval, Orthodox church located right by the Parliament building in Zagreb. It a very distinctive roof-top.
Built in 13th century, this tower was made to protect the city. Travelers can enter inside and have a magnificent view of the city. It is open 9am-9pm on business days and 10am-5pm on weekends; price is 20 HRK for adults and 10 HRK for children;
Those that love exploring green markets should give the Dolac Market a try for sure;
Built in 1888, this short, yet steep, funicular railway takes you to the upper town of the Capitol. It is open from 6:30am to 10:00 pm and it costs 4 HRK per person in one direction;
Bana Jelacica Square
Wherever you go, it’s impossible to miss the main square in the city. It is a place where both locals and tourists meet to relax and plan the rest of their day;
Museum of Broken Relationships
I must admit that I didn’t go inside the museum as it was too hip for my taste. Those who like to read stories about items related to failed relationships must visit this top Zagreb museum. Ticket price for adults is 40 HRK, while students can enter for a discounted price of 30 HRK;
This is a mysterious and quite creepy tunnel that connects the Radićeva and Mesnička streets. It was used in the WWII as a shelter against air raids, but now it serves as a spooky shortcut as well as a tourist attraction;
This is a small and popular urban park where visitors can enjoy all kinds of activities from June to October. Some events include painting sessions and film screenings;
Nature lovers should certainly visit the Jarun Lake, where they can swim, sunbathe, rent kayaks or pedal-boats etc.;
Honestly, the list of Zagreb sights is huge, so I will just add some more options here. Make sure to visit or at least check out the buildings of Mimara Museum, Croatian National Theater, Croatian Archeological Museum, Tech Museum Nikola Tesla and the Concert Hall. Other options are the Zoo Garden and the Botanical Gardens as well as the Stone Gate with the Virgin Mary shrine.
Verdict: Happy and Sad to Leave Zagreb
All in all, I was neither happy nor sad to leave Zagreb.
To be honest, Croatia’s Capitol was like the middle point of our great 20-day road trip. Before arriving there, we have already visited the magnificent Budapest and the charming Ljubljana. On the other hand, ahead us was the unforgettable Adriatic tour preceded by Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park.
In other words, it was pretty hard for us to truly focus on our Zagreb experience and fully enjoy it; we were already full of impressions, plus focused on what comes next.
So, in that regard, my conclusion regarding this EU metropolis is that I must visit it again. The city in general was nice, yet somehow lacked the lively spirit of other cities of its size. It offers lots of sights, urban lifestyle and many things to do. Hence, if I give it a proper visit in the future, I may be able to fall in love with it.
Everything set aside, if you get a chance to visit the city, I advise you to do so even if it’s not your cup of tea. Zagreb is an experience a traveler should have, regardless whether they will love it or not.
- Lots of sights
- Example of an urban EU metropolis
- Close to many other Croatian landmarks
- Good public transport
- Relaxed lifestyle
- Lacks something in terms of spirit
- Areas outside city center seemed deserted
- Lots of tourists during high summer season
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