8 little things to love about Zagreb

June 22, 2012 in Croatia,Europe,Places

I’m not sure what I expected from Zagreb. The formerly communist capital of Croatia is located inland, a far cry from the unspoiled natural beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park or the thousands of islands dotting the Adriatic Sea.

Horse statue in main square of Zagreb, Croatia

Even though it was sweltering hot without a coastal breeze in sight, I fell in love with the Old World charms of Zagreb: the al fresco cafe tables, the classic Austro-Hungarian architecture, the rows of fashionable boutiques and bars. The only thing I couldn’t understand: no one ever seemed to be eating at the cafes: people were only drinking (coffee in the morning, beer in the afternoon and evenings) and smoking cigarettes at all the adorable outdoor tables!

Graffiti trams in Zagreb, Croatia on a beautiful day with blue skies

Bright blue trams: I’m a big fan of any city with a tram network (i.e. Melbourne, and to a lesser extent, the cable cars of San Francisco). They’re much more efficient than buses and have a better window view than subways. The tram system in Zagreb was easy to use and enhanced by additional local buses; plus, the bold graffiti work on the side of this one brightened my morning.

Tree-lined street and benches in Zagreb, Croatia

Green spaces that people actually use: There are countless parks, tree-lined boulevards and open squares in Zagreb–and it seems like everyone is outside taking advantage of them! In the late afternoon and early evening, all the public spaces fill up with laughing groups of friends, cuddling couples and dogs and their owners.

Dolac market in Zagreb, Croatia

Dolac Market: Under the watchful eye of the Cathedral, this bustling market has everything you need. The open square above features fruit, vegetables and eggs while the covered bit below has meat, cheese and fish. The perfect place to grab fixings for a picnic to take to one of the many green spaces!

Red flowers hanging by a street lamp in Zagreb, Croatia

Flowers: These red flowers are EVERYWHERE: hanging in baskets, growing outside windows, planted in rows. Springtime has to be one of the best times to visit Zagreb, if just to witness this explosion of blooms on every street corner.

Exhibit at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia

Museum of Broken Relationships: A collection of mementos and stories of failed relationships, this incredibly innovative museum manages to turn heartbreak into art. It “offers a chance to overcome emotional collapse through creation” by contributing a personal item to the museum: the resulting collection is an intriguing glance into other people’s lives.

Red bicycle on the streets of Zagreb, Croatia

Bicycle love: I nearly got run over by bicycles every day in Zagreb, as the bike lanes also seem to be pedestrian paths. But the flat terrain of central Zagreb (until you hit the stairs and hilly terrain of the Old Town) makes for easy bike riding, and locals seem to take full advantage of it.

Lunch on the bench under the church steeple and stone wall in Zagreb, Croatia

Catholic faith: I saw more nuns in Zagreb than I’ve ever seen in Rome; most surprising was how young many of them are. The Cathedral overlooks much of the main part of the city, while the Stone Gate is a shrine to a painting of the Virgin and Child that escaped ruin in a 1731 fire. The Catholic faith is a major part of people’s lives in Zagreb, and it was refreshing to see more people in prayer than tourists at the Cathedral: a welcome change from most European cathedrals.

Croatian tile roof St Mark's church and flags in square in Zagreb, Croatia

Hrvatska!: I was in Croatia during the early stages of Euro Cup, so the red and white checkered flag seemed to adorn everything from people’s shirts to their rearview mirrors to entire buildings. From the emblematic tiled roof on St Mark’s Church to the flags flying everywhere, Croatia is an incredibly proud and patriotic country. Love.

What do you love most about Zagreb? 

 

  • You certainly paint a very enticing picture of the place. Might have to pop over and take a look myself.

  • It seems like such a beautiful city! I love all the pops of color everywhere.

  • Jessica

    Amazing pictures, as usual, Christine! Croatia was already topping my list of places to visit, but now it’s been cemented there. 

  • camorose

    It’s definitely a neat little city to explore!

  • camorose

    The red flowers were my favorite! Such a nice little pop of color 🙂

  • camorose

    Yay! There will be plenty of posts in the upcoming weeks that will probably convince you to book a ticket 🙂

  • louloufrance

    I too was surprised by how much I loved Zagreb. 
    I arrived with absolutely no expectations and found the city easy to explore and navigate and offering a wonderful café culture (with some of the best espresso I’ve had outside of Italy!) and great markets. We loved the restaurants, the bars, the friendly locals and the zoo. Did you go to the zoo? It was brilliant!

  • I don’t want to rain on your parade, but patriotism in the Balkans makes me shudder. I was in Zagreb just before the war. The city itself was fine — we liked it a lot — but the atmosphere in rural areas of mixed Croat-Serb population was creepy. Horrible things happened in the name of Croatian and Serbian national pride.So I’d rather they weren’t patriotic.

  • How is it trying to communicate with folks? Do they generally speak enough English that it’s pretty easy? 

  • LostInCheeseland

    Yep, must go here pronto!!

  • Dolac market looks amazing! I might have to plan a round-the-world food market trip. Any other great markets you’d recommend?

  • mrsgilly

    Thanks for the info.  My husband and I are going there in the Fall of 2013 for our annual European trip.   also going to Plitvice Lakes….

  • Great summary of Zagreb…I’ve never heard of that museum but it sounds really unique. I would think it would be therapeutic for those dealing with a break up.

  • Choco_mademoiselle

    :)) so true! 🙂 It’s always like that during competitions, either football or handball .. a little bit less for other sports. we like cheering for out teams and we’re indeed very proud because we’re such a small country but have lots of great sportsmen! 🙂 about the cafés, I’ve never thought about it, but that’s true, we don’t have the habit of eating in the cafes.. I say ”we” even though I don’t live in Zagreb, but it’s like that all over Croatia, as far as I’ve noticed. Dalmatians are especially famous for their habit of drinking coffee for hours. I love it! 🙂 great post! cheers,
    Angela 🙂

  • H3llas

    Zagreb also has beautiful zoo.

  • I’ve never been but I LOVE that photo of the red bike and the white wall. That is frame-worthy 🙂

  • camorose

    I didn’t go to the zoo, but I did hear it was wonderful! I had a lovely time just wandering and exploring and sitting in all the parks!

  • camorose

    I suppose I didn’t see that side of the patriotism–I just saw a country fully supporting their football team, and it was all quite positive.

  • camorose

    I was able to do just fine with English–a bit of pointing and gesturing here and there, but particularly in restaurants and museums and hostels, the level of English was excellent!

  • camorose

    Flights direct from CDG to Zagreb! Easy weekend away 🙂

  • camorose

    Hmm I loved Chiang Mai night market and the Cours Saleya market in Nice is always lovely 🙂

  • camorose

    That’s awesome! It’s a wonderful place to visit 🙂

  • camorose

    Yup, that’s apparently the point–a way of getting a certain closure on a relationship. Quite interesting to see!

  • camorose

    I know, I had the hardest time figuring out where to eat because there were all of these awesome terraces so I kept peeking to see if the food looked any good–but no food! Really enjoyed Zagreb and all of the Dalmatian Coast!

  • camorose

    I’ve heard that! Perhaps next time 🙂

  • camorose

    Isn’t it great? Really love that shot 🙂

  • I love that photo with the red bicycle!

  • camorose

    One of my favorites 🙂

  • I have only heard good things about Zagreb.  I think it is one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities.

  • camorose

    Totally agree–such a perfect weekend-away city!

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  • mariana

    This is way late, and I’m sorry to barge in like this, but: I’m a Croat, and if we haven’t been patriotic back in those days you’ve mentioned, there wouldn’t be a Croatia today to talk about. We were attacked, and we defended ourselves. To state it was because of the national pride is oversimplifying things (there’s a lot of convoluted history in the background), and, frankly, your last sentence sounds offensive, sorry.

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  • Kristin

    i love Croatia because they have Maksim Mrvica :), Great Pianist, Croatian people sure are very lucky to have such a beautiful country. i would love to visit Dolac Market if i ever had a chance, seem like a very cool place to find the perfect fruits and vegetables. you are doing great after the war.. congrats

  • camorose

    Adored Croatia–well worth a visit!

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