Whenever there is a mention of places to see in Europe, people always choose popular ones like Paris, Rome, London, so on and forth. But if you are someone who likes to explore new places and likes to have different experiences – then Zagreb is the right choice for you. When you think about a trip to Croatia, a lot of people will tell you – yes the coast is where you should head! But this time, I will take you to Croatia which is a little bit different and show you why the capital town, Zagreb is not only worth a visit but a definite MUST. A typical fun day in Zagreb means a relaxed day by the lakes and some swim, beer and burgers by evening and club hopping by night!!
Some general bits about Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is located in the northwest region of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb is a city with rich history dating from the Roman times to the present day. The oldest settlement located in the vicinity of the city is the Roman Andautonia, in today’s Scitarjevo. The name “Zagreb” is mentioned for the first time in 1094 at the founding of the Zagreb diocese of Kaptol, and Zagreb became a free royal town in 1242, whereas the origin of the name still remains a mystery in spite of several theories. In 1851 Zagreb had its first mayor, Janko Kamauf, and in 1945 it was made the capital of Croatia when the demographic boom and the urban sprawl made the city what it is today. A spectacularly picturesque city, happening nightlife and a major gastronomical affair…Zagreb is all this and more!
Let’s take a walk around Zagreb!
First stop is – Zrinjevac (Square Nikola Subic Zrinski) is the Zagreb square and a park with a plane tree alley. Green or Lenuci horseshoe made up of seven Zagreb downtown squares. Every year in summer time, there is an event called “More knjiga” which is hosted here. During this time Zrinjevac is transformed into a big beach. How? Well with a sea of books!! People come here to relax on loungers, sit and read books. You can drink cocktails and enjoy a grand feast that is on offer at the time. Young children can be seen drawing on notes and bags and the older ones on surfboards. All this with a little dash of music completes the celebratory ambiance. are English books available too and if you want to get your own thing to read, you are most welcome to do so. In winter time, it becomes Christmas market. This year, for the second year in a row, Zagreb had the honor of being the Best Christmas market in Europe. You have these cute little houses that are set up during Christmas that are full of lights, food, drinks and gifts. You can find something for everyone. During the whole year, you can attend concerts, markets with sweets and accessories. To sum it all Zrinjevac is fun all through the year!
If you want to rest you can enjoy in Botanical garden. For me, one of the best spots in Zagreb is Botanical Gardens. It is open all through the year for public and the entrance is free. You can visit it every Monday/Tuesday from 9am-2.30pm. And every Wednesday-Sunday from 9am-4pm. My recommendation is to visit it during the spring and winter time, it’s absolutely stunning then.
The major part is occupied by the arboretum, developed in the style of the English landscape garden, where you can find woody plants (trees and shrubs) from various parts of the world. The flower parterre with decorative herbaceous plants (annuals and perennials) and roses in the western part of the Garden near the glass house, is constructed in the French style characterized by strict geometrical lines. Indigenous plant species (representatives of the flora of Croatia) are grown in groups planned according to plant geography (rock gardens). Tropical and subtropical plants and plants needed for research work are grown in the greenhouses (a total of 14). Marsh plants can be seen in the artificial lakes and pools on the parterre. In the systematic field in the southeast part of the Garden, plants meant for students and for university lectures are reared. For visitors, Botanical garden is a supremely scenic place with splendid views.
Maksimir is a city district of Zagreb in which there is a forest park of the same name, and Maksimir Stadium (known for performances of Football Club Dinamo). You can walk through the park and forest. This place is home to ‘Zoo Zagreb’ too and the location adds a flavor of wilderness to it. Here, you can volunteer to help, celebrate birthdays, feed animals and also adopt an animal. If all the walking and exploring makes you hungry, you can head to a restaurant called Maksimir, with a large terrace surrounding it. It is a choice venue for wedding revelry too! Head here, if in luck you might witness a wedding affair right here!
Gradec or Gric is the old part of the city. In 1242, Bela IVissued a Golden Bull declaring it a “free royal city“ on the hill of Gradec of Zagreb”. From 1,242th-1,266th the city was fortified by walls and towers and the entire place has hardly undergone any change since then. In this part of the city, you can find old fashioned City gates that you get to see only in movies or books. There are three big and three small doors. Larger door (Stone, New and Mesnicka) open into a large square tower and served as the main entrance to the city. Smaller gates are simpler and were meant for pedestrians only. Before closing the door, the tower bell of the city hall bell Lotrscak would ring warning to those outside the walls to immediately return to their homes. Of all the gates only the Stone gate is preserved to this day. In this part of the city, there are some museums and galleries that a traveler can visit. Walking along the streets of the city is a surreal experience in itself and transports you to the world that existed long before our times!
So I hope you loved to see this other facet of Croatia that is not about beaches and coasts but still possesses that vibrant Croatian vibe. And I hope you already packed your suitcase and book your flight! 🙂