Getting away from it all
The chic capital of Croatia combines cool cafes, quirky museums and some beautiful green spacesé
Why Go? Paris might be known as the fashion capital of Europe but with its impeccablydressed locals, Zagreb could give it a run for its money. Tucked inland and north of the famous coastal towns of Dubrovnik and Split, the city offers a fascinating history, beautifully mismatched buildings and a trendy outdoor cafe culture. Plus, the short flight time, the euro-beating Croatian kuna and great-value hotels mean Zagreb should shoot to the top of your must-see list.
Sleep in Style
We were welcomed to the Arcotel Allegra Hotel with a smile and plenty of recommendations for the weekend ahead. Situated opposite the train station and near one of the main tram stops, you’ll be able to explore every part of the city from here – especially if you’re planning to head a little further afield to lakes Jarun and Bundek, or up to the mountain of Medvednica.
explore by foot
Once you get your head around the grid layout of the city it’s surprisingly simple to navigate. Put on your comfiest shoes and start your day wandering through the succession of parks that form the Green Horseshoe. Save some time for an ice cream outside the Croatian National Theatre with its sunny yellow facade. Then work your way towards the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – its two spires rise above the rest of the skyline, guiding you on your way. Catch a bus out to The Mirogoj Cemetery – it may sound macabre but the architecture will
take your breath away.
Make sure you get to Lotrscak Tower in the Upper Town for the cannon shot at noon and the Changing of the Cravat Regiment in St Mark’s Square on Saturday and Sunday. Full of colour, sound and some impressive moves, the regiment wear uniforms which are replicas of those worn during the Thirty Years’ War. And while you’re there, stop at the Bistro Vjestica; vjestica.eu. It’s just around the corner from St Mark’s Church and the perfect lunch or dinner spot to recuperate after a spot of sightseeing. If you’re in the area at dusk or dawn, keep an eye out for the man who still lights and puts out more than 150 gas lanterns in the Upper Town every day – apparently his record is doing them all in 90 minutes!
affairs of the heart
The Museum of Broken Relationships is a must-visit in Zagreb. One of only two in the world (the other is in LA), this quirky attraction began as a travelling collection of donated items summing up hundreds of failed love affairs. Now it’s found a permanent residence in the Upper Town, inside you’ll find love stories summed up by rows over computer games, relationships ended by Skype and plenty of affairs. But don’t forget your tissues, you’ll need them for tears of both laughter and sadness; brokenships.com.
What’s to eat?
Make like a local, dress up in your finest gear and rock up to one of the many restaurants selling small tapas-like plates. We loved Restaurant Lari & Penati for yummy street food; laripenati.hr. Perch on a stall on the terrace and try the prawns with a cool glass of wine. Make sure to also spend an evening on buzzing Tkalciceva Street, jam-packed with bars and restaurants.
No matter when you visit, Zagreb has something unique to experience. When we visited in July it was Dvorista – an open courtyards festival in Upper Town. While the palace gardens are spectacular, many locals turn their backyards into bars to experience a real taste of Zagreb life with al fresco music, cocktails and dancing; dvorista.in. If you’re planning a trip in winter, consider visiting during their Advent celebrations from 2 December-7 January when the city’s spectacular Christmas market opens.
Don’t miss the colourful changing of the Cravat Regiment guard Zagreb has a thriving cafe culture
The Croatian National Theatre Inside the Museum of Broken Relationships