“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
― Pico Iyer
Zagreb was a complete surprise for us and I am glad that we decided to land there to begin our trip. One of the main reasons for us to do Zagreb was its proximity to Plitvice Lakes as well as the Museum of Broken Relationships. As a couple, we are not really into museums– but this little place was super interesting and quirky and hence became a part of our itinerary. Also, the flight from Munich to Zagreb is gorgeous with scenic views of the Alps.
This charming little city is often overlooked by travellers in favour of more popular cities like Split or Dubrovnik. Yes, for some it means less time for sun-bathing or island-hopping, but Zagreb is unlike other European capitals. It has a unique mix of history, symbolic architecture and food! The city is a perfect blend of Central European and Mediterranean culture with its unique traditions and laid back style.
And if you still don’t believe us, Zagreb was listed as Lonely Planet’s No.1 European destination to visit in 2017. We didn’t know about it then but are happy we planned it in our itinerary.
Also, Zagreb is very cool in its own way! 🙂
Fun Fact No 3: Everyday, sharp at noon, they fire a cannon over the city from the Lotrsčak Tower in Zagreb! The tradition is over 140 years old now. The cannon was initially used to communicate with the city churches that it was mid-day. Super cool right! A good way to tell lunch time too ! 😉
Anyways, coming back – Zagreb is divided into 2 parts – the Upper Town (Gornji Grad) and the Lower Town (Dornji Grad). The Upper Town (also the old town) is the historic district whereas the Lower Town is the new Zagreb. You can easily walk from the Upper to the Lower Town or just take the Funicular and reach within a minute.
We ended up spending most of our time in old town.
What all did we cover?
Ban Jelačić Square: The square (also the city center) is at the junction of the upper town and lower town and is the best place to start exploring the Old town. The square has a statue of Josip Jelacic ( a Croatian Army general) and is surrounded by colourful buildings giving it a very European city centre feel.
St. Marks Church: The beautiful St Mark’s church is at the center of the St Mark’s square with the Croatian Parliament and the Presidential Palace on each side. The church is very easy to spot given the multi coloured tiles on the roof which depict the coat of arms of Croatia and Zagreb.
Museum of Broken Relationships: This quirky museum is a global crowd-sourced project that exhibits left over mementos ( including personal objects, notes,) from failed relationships! The stories shared are sad, funny and at times just plain bizarre!
Dolac Market: This is Zagreb’s most famous daily farmers market. Situated near the Zagreb Cathedral, the market is very easy to spot given the red umbrellas. One of the oldest markets in the city – it is a great place to pick up some fruits, cheese, and even souvenirs.
Old Town /Upper Town Walking Tour: The best way to get the vibe of a city is through a walking tour and we always make sure we do one in every city! Given that we only had time in the late afternoon – we did a tour from Wayoudo.
This free walking tour covers most of the attractions in the old town. The tour starts from the Ban Jelačić Square and crosses the Cesarčeva and Bakačeva Street, takes you to the Plateau on Gradec for the best view of the cathedral, up to the Lotrsčak Tower (remember the cannon! ) and then to the St Mark’s Square, Stone Gate and finally to the stunning Zagreb Cathedral.
The tour takes you back at the Ban Jelačić Square and you find an interesting scaled model of Zagreb.
Tkalciceva Street – This colourful street is the main hub for traditional shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. A perfect place to end your day in Zagreb!
Must Explore in Zagreb –
The Coffee Culture : Croatians love their coffee and take it very seriously! The city is buzzing with cafes and you do a see a lot of locals during the day meeting friends or doing business! And unlike in other larger cities, coffee in Croatia is meant to be enjoyed at the table and is never as a take away option!
Go ahead, pick up any café and enjoy some local coffee !
Rajika : Also called Rakia – is a popular brandy which is usually home produced in Croatia. It is fruity and is made with all kinds of fruits plums, grapes, apricots, peaches, pears, cherries, apples. This colourless spirit is very strong with 50 – 80% alcohol by volume. There is a saying among Croatians: ‘if you haven’t tried homemade Rakija, then you just haven’t tried Rakija at all’.
Usually served in shot glasses – Croatians use it as welcome drink at home, it is believed to have medicinal properties and can destroy bacteria and viruses, relieve you of stomach pains and even disinfect wounds.
Who doesn’t love a drink with medicinal properties – must try when in Croatia !!
Where to Eat ?
We had brunch at Kava Tava, a cute little café and had our dinner at Mali Medo, an outdoor restaurant at Tkalciceva street.
Where we stayed?
As mentioned, in the previous blog we stayed at the Hotel Central . Our recommendation is to stay in the Upper Town. The hotel was a 15 min walk from the Ban Jelačić Square and we crossed some beautiful gardens. The hotel is well connected by local transport and was also a pick up point for our Plitvice tour the next day!
Coming up next is Plitvice Lakes – Turquoise Paradise!