An amazing combination of architecture, parks, delicious food and great museums Zagreb, Croatia was so much more than we expected. We only stayed for two days which was a mistake with so many things to do in Zagreb it just wasn’t enough time.
We traveled by bus from Rovinj, which took about 5 hours. The scenery through Istria is mountainous, lush and full of small towns, a castle and great sea views. It was also really affordable and comfortable to make the trip by bus. Like everything in Croatia it was clean, convenient and efficient.
Directly in front of the main train station in Zagreb is King Tomislav square. As we reached the square all I could say was Wow! The gorgeous green grass, beautiful fountain surrounded by flowers, and white stone walkways are all flanked by benches around the square. Standing opposite of the train station is a massive yellow building with ornate Austria-Hungarian influence. Sitting atop the Art Pavilion building is a gorgeous glass atrium inviting all passer-by to stand inside and enjoy the incredible architecture.
Down the street is the stunning Zrinjevac park. Flanked with massive white trees all leading to beautiful gazebos, floral displays and fountains. Walking through it was like walking back in time when life was slower. The ornate gazebos were a perfect contrast to the elegant white trees shading the walkways. Including one with a indentation large enough to stand in. It was so shocking to find such a beautiful space surrounded by massive buildings decorated with angels, men holding up columns and stunning windows.
Walking further up the street we walked right into the BAN JELAČIĆ Square. This is the central square of Zagreb. A large statue of Ban (or viceroy) Josip Jelačić towers over the lively square. Crossing the street through the maze of trains, buses, cars and pedestrians lands you in the midst of Zagreb. Immediately I felt the vibration of the city. There is a street market selling food, souvenirs and hand-made products. The wooden stalls tempted us with their amazing honey, cheeses, pastries and sweet treats. Surrounding the square are restaurants where we sat outside, enjoying the amazing Croatian coffee and watching the Croats move about their daily lives.
Croatia is one of the safest countries in the world. For some reason as we walked through the town on our first night we could feel that safety. Everyone is so relaxed, laughing and comfortable. Immediately the feeling is contagious. Unlike most big cities we visit we never felt we had to be concerned about where we ended up while we were wandering around at night. So, we aimlessly wandered the streets and ended up in the Old Town section of Zagreb. The old streets are lined with shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
The busiest street is Ul.Ivana Tkalciceva. It is packed with restaurants, cafes and bars each with their own unique decor and atmosphere. Just like Paris the locals sat in tables lining the streets, sipping cocktails, laughing and people watching. J. and I were dying for Indian food so we were overjoyed when we found an incredible Indian restaurant right in the middle of the lively street.
Our second day in Zagreb we headed out to see Upper Town, and the Zagreb Cathedral. The cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia. It towers over the city, linked to old stone walls and tiny village houses. The gothic style of the building is the most monumental example southeast of the Swiss Alps. Knowing this still didn’t prepare us for how beautiful it was. Opened in 1906 it has maintained its beautiful style, and gothic features well. We followed a group of monks inside to take in the beautiful interior, admiring the statues and artwork before we moved on.
Like most cities in Croatia Zagreb has a beautiful green market where locals sell produce, meats, cheeses and locally made products. We stumbled on it by accident while trying to find a building with a roof I wanted desperately to get close to. The vibrant colors of the produce and the lively atmosphere drew us into the Dolac Market. I loved wandering the stalls dreaming of all of the incredible dishes I could make with the produce.
After the Green Market we made our way to Upper Town. Unfortunately we had walked down from Upper Town to take the funicular (J. loves funiculars and cable cars). Sadly it was not functioning so we climbed the many steps to the top. Once there I felt we had been whisked back in time. This perfectly preserved neighborhood is an absolute treat. There is the famed Museum of Broken Relationships (not my favorite), along with St. Mark’s square and church. The homes range in style from little stone houses to more regal Italianesque homes.
For me nothing in this section of Upper Town could compare to St. Mark’s church. The incredible tile roof, with its colorful design, was stunning. It was my first time experiencing architecture like this and I couldn’t get enough! Slowly I made my way around the building checking out each detail and marveling in the workmanship. It is no wonder it is the focal point of the neighborhood and absolutely should not be missed.
We spent the rest of the day wandering up and down the streets of Zagreb taking in the beautiful buildings, more delicious coffee, and watching the lovely Croats as they moved through their daily lives.
Unfortunately we missed the seven other amazing parks, and the incredible old cemetery, since we only had two days. I guess we will just have to make our way back to Zagreb for more great food, culture and fun.
Where to Eat:
Royal India restaurant-Ul. Ivana Tkalciceva, 26
El Greco Greek Restaurant-Ul. Ivana Tkalciceva, 30
Where to Stay:
The Esplanade Zagreb is a beautiful hotel and a great value for the luxury! We loved our stay here, but would have to honestly say I wouldn’t eat there. The service wasn’t great and the food was very overpriced compared to what we could get elsewhere in the city.