A small prologue
Have you ever visited a city or a place and just couldn’t decide if you like it or not ? And days passed to discover the charm of it and finally say , YES , you do like it after all? No? Yes? Well , that happened to me in Zagreb , the capital city of Croatia. There are some places in the world that instantly have an impact on you ( like Porto had to me ), that they make you smile from the moment you have that first glimpse ( Ljubljana ) and you feel that you have to come back again. ( Malta , i ll be back )Well..
This city was NOT one of them. I started to appreciate the hidden beauty of it on the second or third day BUT right before i left Croatia , i came to the conclusion that Zagreb is not like any other typical European capital.
Most people visiting Croatia , prefer other cities , usually in the Dalmatian Coast , such as Split or Dubrovnik , leaving the capital almost untouched , something that does not often happen to European countries. Are they right? Well , it depends on what you are looking for.I live on a island , so sandy beaches and cute little sea villages do not make my excitement rise anymore. I look for urban life , nice artsy places , history , parks and great food. And Zagreb had it all , and the best part? I felt like exploring a place almost by myself !
What i did not like in Zagreb
Too much police control. As a non Schengen country , we had to show our Id / Passports when we arrived at the airport. Since we had no passports at the moment , only the Greek Id card , the police officer made me feel kind of awkward when she kept searching and reading it and scanning it , i almost thought she wouldn’t let me in! Also a lot of heavily armed police officers all over the city. Some times it was just overwhelming.
Smile Zagreb people , smile! OK it is a fact that Zagreb is not THE most touristic place on earth. Don’t expect like the finest customers service. They were never rude or anything , most of the times they were more than happy to help us. But people could smile a bit more , they reminded me of people in Warsaw ( sorry) , a bit moody and dull. But i guess some people in some countries are the way they are
Zagreb was a bit dirty . I guess like any other big city , it had some filthy parts especially near the Jelacic Square , which is a pretty central part of Zagreb.
And that is about all. When i dislike something in a place i visit , i try to find an explanation to it and if you consider that Croatia was in a war , only 20 years ago , you can see why some things are in a certain way or haven’t changed yet It needs time for a country to heal and Zagreb is on the process of recovery.
Things i loved in Zagreb
Zagreb is a very vivid city! Don’t forget that you are in a Balkan Country! People are constantly outside drinking coffee ,walking around ,having brunch with friends or a beer in the park! You can find numerous cafes and restaurants for every taste, even in the old town.
Tkalciceva Street is the absolute must , the place where locals spend their time walking around our just having a beverage or a snack . In the begging of that street you will find the beautiful solar clock , just behing the statue of Marija Juric Zagorka , which was a writer and practically the first female journalist of Croatia.
Ζagreb has some Amazing food! Truth is we ate some delicious food in Zagreb , even if that was a burger or gnocchi or Croatia ‘s traditional ” strukli ” , which is basically layers of dough , cottage cheese and peppers or pumpkin or you can try the sweet version of it with fruits and syrups!I recommend ” La Struk ” for the best strukli experience! ( Thanx Marina )
Other food suggestions , ” Plac ” for casual but amazing burgers and ” Le Mika ” for elegant french crepes and if you want something more special try ” Lanterna Na dolcu “
Street art is everywhere! Every turn i took , every alley i walked , there was always i beautiful mural on the wall or a statue , art galleries with great exhibitions and if you are also into street art like me then you just have to visit Art Park , a centrally located small park full of artsy things that also hosts a lot of art related events throughout the year! Don’t miss it!
Zagreb is a budget friendly destination! Zagreb is a – value for money- destination. You can find amazing accommodation in the heart of the old town starting from 40 euros per night , food is delicious and cheap and overall is a totally affordable place!
Walk-able capital : Zagreb is a relatively small capital ( something i totally like) it has no metro just these blue trams taking you from one place to another and all the sights are on walk -able distance! That makes it a perfect destination even for a weekend getaway !
Zagreb’s Must See
Visit St. Marks Church
Probably the most iconic building of the city is this quite small but breathtaking church with the colorful roof! You can’t say you have visited Zagreb without a photo in front of it!
Cry a little in the Museum of Broken Relationships
It’s not actually a museum , more of a place that was created to host and present items from ended relationships along with their stories. Be prepared to read a lot , otherwise you won’t understand anything . Anyone can send their items , so it nice that the exhibits change from time to time.It was one of the most unique kind of “museums” i have been to , some stories were really touching and overall a nice place to spend some time.
Find more info here : https://brokenships.com/
Go up the 360 Zagreb Tower
Do you want to see the best view of the town and get the most awesome photo? Then this is the place! There is also a small cafe inside the building if you want to chill and just look at the spectacular view! You can spot it , in the Jelacic Square.
Take a day trip to Plitvice National Park
I totally advise you to visit Plitvice National Park , no matter in what place if Croatia you stay! From Zagreb , there are many daily bus routes , the journey last 3.5 hours and the ticket costs around 15 euro. It is an extremely crowded place , especially during the spring/ summer season , so prepare yourself for some early wake up , if you want to experience the most of this magical place!
Before visiting Plitvice take a look at this post : A day trip to Plitvice National Park.
So this is basically it. Zagreb was a place i liked a lot , for its mystery , its worn out buildings , for the way it balances between beautiful and ugly. Not a place i would visit twice , but surely i place i will remember for ever. Remember , traveling is not about liking everything , it is about seeing with your own eyes , learning and gaining experiences so for all that thank you Zagreb!
Take a look in our Zagreb Video!