Our favourites from Zagreb, Croatia
August 28 – September 2, 2014
Neither Jess nor myself had done much research before arriving in Zagreb, other than our transportation and accommodations. Enter our latest Airbnb hosts.
Not only did they explain all the main attractions of Zagreb, they picked us up at the bus station and gave us a quick tour of the city centre before taking us to our apartment. This time we had a newly renovated two-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, which we made good use of, all for the big price tag of $60/night. We spent four days in Zagreb, eating at a restaurant just once (and it was for lunch, not dinner!). That doesn’t mean we didn’t try Croatian cuisine. We did, we just cooked it ourselves.
Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, and is often used as a hub to get to some of the better known, beach destinations (as Brussels was just a stopover between Amsterdam and Paris). Nonetheless, we had a great time and would definitely consider it more than a stopover. Its trendy, vibrant and chill. Below are our five favorite things about Zagreb:
1. Shop at Dolac Farmers Market
Zagreb has a huge farmers market boasting fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and a separate fish market. Yes, like cathedrals, there’s a farmers market in just about every European city but what made Dolac better was the small crowds, unlike Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria in Barcelona where we were shoulder to shoulder, minding our pockets. We strolled down each aisle, battling wasps for fresh fruit and berries as the farmers priced their goods using an old-fashioned weigh-scale. We paid about 20 kuna ($4 CAD) for two grapefruit, green grapes, and a head of broccoli. We successfully lived like a local in Zagreb.
2. Home cooking
As mentioned, we had our own budget friendly 2-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. This was a welcomed treat as we cooked for ourselves every evening; salmon, steak, pasta, all with fresh ingredients that we picked up at Dolac market! I might add that there was a bakery on the first floor right below us and the smell would fill our apartment in the morning when we opened the windows; the smell alone was easy on the budget. Anything that we couldn’t pick up at Dolac, we could grab at Konzum (grocery chain), which was directly across the street.
We were actually feeling at home in Zagreb, that is until our time was up and we were on the bus to Pula.
3. Enjoy a coffee on Tkalčićeva Street
While cafés tend to be a huge part of European culture, Zagreb has the coffee culture figured out. Tkalčićeva Street (we still can’t pronounce it) is a long street in central Zagreb filled with cafés and bars with tons of outdoor seating. The street is pedestrian only with chairs facing the street so locals can sit, people watch and gossip about what this one and that one is wearing. It’s the perfect set up to enjoy an espresso and admire the well-dressed Croats as they go about their day. We are both huge coffee drinkers, but since we are managing our RTW budget we’ve gotten ourselves used to good old hotel and instant coffee. Every now and then, we splurge, which we did in Zagreb, once. (By the way, Nescafe instant coffee is expensive in Europe!)
4. Get your sweat on and hike Medvednica Mountain
We definitely got our sweat on hiking Medvednica. Despite the fact that we have been walking a ton since starting this trip, we really felt the burn hiking up this mountain that borders Zagreb city to the north. No it’s not even in the same realm as the Rocky Mountains, but for us it provided some much-needed physical activity and the 4-hour hike to the top delivered. We were exhausted, both of us thinking that we saw the ‘summit’ around each new switchback. We were ecstatic once we reached it, even though there was a car park and a restaurant at the top. And no we didn’t hitch a ride back to the city; we hiked back down which was almost as difficult as the ascent. If you are looking for some physical activity when in Zagreb, we highly recommend this hike.
5. Zagreb’s Upper Town
The fact that Croatia is still relatively new to tourists (past 10-15 years) was quite obvious as the number of tourists were about half of what we experienced in other European cities. This made it possible to snap photos without a thousand heads in the way. This worked out perfectly as Zagreb’s Upper Town was built for taking photos. The most photographed site is St. Mark’s Church (in St. Mark Square) with its roof emblazoned in tile, the Coat of Arms of Zagreb.
The Upper Town boasts the quirky, Museum of Broken Relationships. I was skeptical at first, but its pretty interesting and definitely worth checking out if in Zagreb.
The Zagreb Cathedral, yes another cathedral, is the tallest building in Croatia and can be seen for miles. Like ‘the’ cathedral in every city, it is magnificent and holds years and years of history and although neither of us are cathedral lovers, we certainly appreciate their grandeur.
Overall, Zagreb was great for us and again, we went in with little to no expectations. Not because we heard bad things, but because ‘no expectations’ has become our mantra on this trip. We were looking for a relaxing stay and Zagreb delivered with its superb hospitality, limited tourists to compete with and beautiful bohemian architecture. It’s definitely worth a visit when in Eastern Europe. Now lets see if we can keep this ‘no expectations’ thing going as we head south to Croatia’s islands. I expect one thing… SUN. Stay tuned!
jess + trickett
Below are some photos from around Zagreb: