Bursting with history, culture, science, politics and vibrant life, Zagreb is truly the heart of Croatia.
Before arriving, I knew very little about Croatia’s capital but within no time I was filled with awe for the layers of history and sheer beauty of the city. Complementing the striking buildings are many tree filled parks and green areas, with outdoor festivals and street musicians adding extra allure and life to Zagreb.
These are my top five recommendations of things to explore in Zagreb.
1. Wander the Old Town- Gornji Grad
In my opinion, the perfect way to experience a new city is to go for an early morning run or walk before other tourists wake up. You see locals on the way to work and the morning light makes everything a little more beautiful.
Places to look out for in the Old Town include the Bloody Bridge, Stone Gate, Zagreb Cathedral (the tallest and most sacred building in Croatia), St. Mark’s Church with it’s colourful tiled roof, and the firing of the cannon at midday from the 13th century Lotrscak Tower.
Later in the day I also loved hearing a local perspective on the city and it’s history during the Free Spirit Free Walking Tour. The tours leaves from the large horse statue in the middle of the main square (Ban Jelačić) at 11am everyday and provides the perfect combination of history, humor and local insight.
2. Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships
I heard about this place on the walking tour and was intrigued. Entry is around 5€ (40kn) and well worth it. The museum contains hundreds of items of symbolic value from people around the world, with a story about each item and how it relates to the ‘broken’ relationship. Some items are funny, some bizarre and many truly heartbreaking. You can find more info here.
I’d also been recommended the Illusion Museum but found this to be the most disappointing museum I’ve ever been to and extremely overpriced at 50kn.
3. See Mirogoj Cemetery
A 4km walk from the old town or a quick tram ride north (get tram 14 from the main square), this tree-filled cemetery park is huge and beautiful. The cemetery is owned by the city and inters deceased from all religions. The entrance has a stunning church and arcade with ivy covered columns and walls. A truly regal sight in the afternoon sun.
4. Enjoy Local Food
Croatian cuisine varies a great deal from region to region. While coastal areas enjoy a plethora of seafood, the inland capital is famous for hearty food with many meat and cottage cheese dishes. The places below were my favourites, with most recommended on the walking tour.
- Kitchen and Grill PLAC: for meat dishes this places is unbeatable. For true local style try the Cevapcici with Kajmak- small pieces of grilled beef served with onions, flat bread and a delicious cream sauce. I got this “small” portion pictured above for under 4€.
- La Struk: for the traditional Zagreb dish Strukli, a cottage cheese filled pastry that can be either sweet or savory and is famously made by grandmas.
- Food Heritage: for street food. The place is small and doesn’t do take away so you may be waiting a little while but it’s worth it- they have tasting size dishes from all around Croatia. And it’s run by Croatia’s first Masterchef!
- Velvet: for stunning decor, cakes, coffee and cocktails
- The Central Market: for delicious fresh fruit every day (best to go in the morning)
5. Grič Tunnel
It’s not in every city that you can wander down an long underground World War II tunnel and see a photo exhibit! I loved these pictures the most.
Once you’re done exploring the city take a day trip to the stunning Plitvice Lakes. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the world.